The source of knowledge for this series of blogs on the Mahabharata, are the talks by Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati. Any error in understanding is mine alone..
This blog is on three kinds of vivAha (marriages) and we would see each of these in different situations in the Mahabharata.
The epic Mahabharata begins with the vivAha (marriage) between Shantanu, a king belonging to the Paurava dynasty (the lineage of King Puru) and Ganga, a celestial born as a mortal being. The background to this – Shantanu between his different births, visited one of the lokas where he met Ganga and took a liking to her and she also to him. She was a celestial and he was a mortal. That she liked him angered the devas and they cursed her to be born on Earth. Whether this happened or not we don’t know, but reading this brings with it an imagery of a romance in the air. When King Shantanu and she met on the banks of River Ganga, it was a Déjà vu for them. They recognised each other from the time in the loka where they first met; and decided to marry. This vivAha is called gandharva vivAha. In this type of vivAha, the decision to marry is that of the man and the woman. The reason for their decision to get married is their liking / love for each other. The lineage they belong to doesn’t matter to either of them. The gandharva vivAha is always between two adults. This seems quite like a marriage of these days where two people in love decide to marry. Their past may not matter to each other nor that of their forefathers. What matters is the fact that they like / love each other.
The second kind of a vivAha is the swayamvara, where the marriage is amongst the royal families only. When the family of the princess thinks that she is ready to get married, a swayamvara is called for. Swayam means self and vara means groom. The princess chooses a groom for herself. The invitation for the swayamvara is sent to many kingdoms and princes from the various kingdoms assemble for it. The choice of the groom is to be made by the princess who walks across the room, where the princes are assembled, with a garland in her hand. A friend accompanies her and gives a small biography of each prince the princess crosses. Each of the princes wait with a bated breath and a question of “Will she? Will she not?” And finally she garlands the prince of her choice, drawing an end to the swayamvara. This ended with the royal period. After that I think the man decided that enough is enough and that it is now his turn to choose. Thus was born the arranged marriage where the man would ‘see’ the girls identified (or should I say lined up) by his parents and decide which one he wants to marry. Needless to say the lining up happened only if the boy’s and the girl’s horoscopes matched. Though in an arranged marriage, I am not sure if the choice of the girl the boy would marry, is that of the boy’s parents or that of the boy; or both.
The third kind of vivAha is the rAkshasa vivAha. The protagonist is the King who belongs to the kshatriyas. He would carry away or abduct the princess and would challenge anyone else who likes her, to a battle. The abduction happens against the wishes of the family of the princess. If the princess who gets carried away or abducted also likes the prince who is carrying her away or abducting her, then all is well I presume. Lord Krishna is said to have got married this way to Rukmani. They liked each other but Rukmani’s family members decided to get her married to someone else. Lord Krishna hearing about it decided to carry her away by abducting her and marrying her. It is not within the scope of this blog to say whether this is right or wrong but just to say that this is one kind of a vivAha.
What happens after the gandharva vivAha between King Shantanu and the celestial Ganga?
Wait for the next blog to know about this…