Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Brief history of Hindu Marriage - 1 - Evolution of Human Pair Bonding as seen from Puranas and Vedas

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I time and again refer to real meaning of term "sanaatana" (stretched from origins). 

Sanatana - Sat + Aa + Tan  = One which shows continuity since "Sat".

The basic drive to excel and evolve is not changeable since it originates from Sat. That drive is the real Dharma. Other rules which facilitate this movement of every player from darkness towards light ("Tamaso ma Jyotirgamaya") are Bahya-Dharma and are changeable. Thus Bahya-Dharma (Set of rules) is changeable and is subset of the "Sanatan Dharma" which is intrinsic drive to move towards completeness (poornatva). Sanatan Dharma is the Dharma which shows continuity with (or since) "Sat"

Puranas are folk-lores of pre and post Vedic era. The vedas themselves are conglomerate of various "peer-reviewed" opinions. Those oral traditions and stories which did not make into Vedas, Vyaasa very painstakingly wrote them in form of Puranas. He also compiled the haphazard Vedic "memories" into 4 distinctive categories which today refer to as four vedas. The main reference for this series is seminal work in Marathi by Itihasacharya V K Rajwade titled as "Bhaartiya Vivaha sansthecha itihaas".

While Vedas are "memories" of human being from just before development of speech (in form of bird songs) to speech, Puranas are not only memories but also "theories" of human beings about the origins. As Bhimsen of Mahabharata very correctly identifies, "Kaama" as mother of all other purusharthas and hence the superior to all three (dharma, artha and moksha). Our memories have stories when there were no "names" for relations. Only relation was that between a fertile man and woman. Here we have stories of Brahmadeva and his daughter indulging in coitus in beginning of time. There are many stories as such.

Later, when numbers grew, the basic relations and prohibitions started appearing. The dialogue between siblings Yama and Yami where Yami proposes her brother Yama to have intercourse with her and Yama refuses, elevates Yama to the position of "Dharma-Raaja". It is hereafter that a fertile sibling was referred to as "brother" or "sister" and was off limits for procreation. Relationship with a fertile sibling got a "name". This shows evolution of man. There are many references towards such relations as well.

The conversation of Yama and Yami from Rigveda is very fascinating. Yami asks "what is use of brother, if he cannot fulfill his "Svasu". The sanskrit term for brother "Bhraataa" and for husband "Bhartru" come from same word root "BhR" which means "to fulfill". Yami refers to herself as "Svasu". स्वान् सरति इति स्वसा. One who imitates (bad translation for Anusarana which means to behave in accordance to) her "own" (in hindi "Apne"). जो अपनों का अनुसरण करती हैं वह स्वसा. Here, it means one who cohabits with one's kin is svasaa. 

Yami asks - "किं भ्राता सद्यद् अनाथं भवति? किमु स्वसा यत् निरऋतिः न गच्छात्" 
What is (the use of) brother, who keeps me "Anaath (Uncovered/Unprotected)"? What is (meaning of being) Svasaa who cannot even follow her drive"?

Later as man graduated to social hunter-gatherer, we slowly see emergence of matriarchal identities. There was yet no need for an offspring to be identified by its father as no one was sure who the father was. But one was sure about one's mother. Here we see the categories of people referring to themselves as Aadityas (lineage of aditi), daityas (lineage of Diti), Vainateyas (lineage of Vinita), Kaartikeyas (lineage of Kritikaa), Daanavas (lineage of Danu) so on and so forth. 

All these are "women of Prajapati" but none of the offsprings are identified by father's name. But this shows beginning of "Sahodara (belonging to same womb)" relationships among humans and Indics. The fact that the necessity arose to have some "clan name" also shows evolution of man into higher level of social organization.  The evolution seen from Indian scriptures from early human to modern human is somewhat as follows.

Alpha male system (one dominant male owing all females in clan) >> many males many females cohabiting together without defined pair bonding >> many males and many females of same lineage cohabiting together without defined pair-bonding >> one male cohabiting with multiple females of same lineage  AND one female cohabiting with multiple males of same lineage >> multiple females cohabiting with with one male of different lineage (emergence of Gotra system). 

There are stories of each of such systems in our Puranas. It shows the lineage from Prajapati (origin of species) until Kaurava-Pandavas and Parikshita. The lineage continues until Mauryas. This is the real "sanaatana" dharma. 

This also shows the emergence of Brahmacharis and Brahmanas. The story of Sanakaadi sages show that certain individuals voluntarily sacrificed their "share" of women to go live in forests. This "sacrifice" earned them high respect as they could think above the petty constraints of belonging to a particular lineage or clan. A system of counselling developed which evolved in parallel and which was based on altruistic sacrifice of one's primal drives in favor of something higher and more meaningful. 

One must thank Vyaasa Rishi to have chronicled all these stories, theories for us, when it is clear that he himself did not approve many such practices. Most of these practices were considered "Garhya" (something which is frowned upon, prohibited) by the time of Vyaasa rishi. But he honestly chronicled them. My homage to this great soul.

The references of free cohabitation, sibling cohabitation, offering one's "stri (woman)" to friend OR guest" (note that the word "patni" had not evolved), references towards intercourse with alive and dead animals, intercourse with wife of one's guru (much later stage, when humans understood that knowledge is important), cohabitation with multiple males, temporary cohabitation, contract marriage all these are referred to in our Itihaasa. 

There is story of Daksha prajapati and Aasivaki giving birth to 5000 children then a brahmachari named Naarada appears and counsels them about economy. This discourse of Narada found in Harivamsha is first of its kind in human history which talks about economics and necessity to keep numbers less and spread across different regions for efficient utilization of resources without burdening the earth. 

Those 5000 sons agreed with Narada and scattered in all directions and settled in distant lands, never to return. Seeing that children are gone, Prajapati and aasivaki gave birth to 1000 more kids who also spread in all directions like their predecessors. This not only shows expansion of aryans all over earth from here, but also shows how certain individuals by sacrificing their primal drives earned knowledge and respect from rest. Thus this prajapati system resulted in 3 important changes in humans and dharmiks.

1. Emergence of Gotras
2. Tendency to spread out and colonize other lands
3. Tendency of few to indulge in Brahmacharya willingly. 

Bhishma beautifully explains this succinctly in three verses from chapter 207 of Shanti Parva.

न चैषां मैथुनो धर्मो बभूव भरतर्षभ  
संकल्पादेवैतेषां अपत्यं उपपद्यते  - 37

ततः त्रेतायुगेकाले संस्पर्शात् जायते प्रजा 
ह्य भूः मैथुनो धर्मस्तेषां अपि जनाधिप - 38 

द्वापरे मैथुनो धर्म प्रजानां भवन्नृपःतथा 
कलियुगे राजन द्वन्द्व मापेदिरे जनाः - 39 
"In satya yuga, intercourse happened as desire arose in minds of fertile men and women. There were no words for mother, father, sibling etc. In Treta Yuga, when men and women touched each other and welcomed the touch, dharma allowed them to copulate for time-being. (this is stage where concept of "favourite" mate started emerging). IN Dwapara Yuga, Men and women started cohabiting as couples but not as stable and committed pair-bonding couples. In Kali Yuga, the stable pair-bonding (what we refer to as institution of marriage) emerged."

It is interesting that by the time of Vyaasa Muni, all these extensive family relations which we use even today were well-established in society. The societal norms about which women are off limits and which are not were also in place, gotra system was in place, patriarchal identification had become norm. Yet he did not shy away from chronicling the earlier times when they were not. He did it proudly, without any shame.  

Emperor Janamejaya was visible shaken and expressed horror and disgust at earlier stories of copulating siblings, parent-offspring duos, parent-siblings with offsprings along with others. Rishi Vaishampayana replied,"Oh king, in those ancient times, that was the yuga-dharma".

Continue to Part 2

1 comment:

al brazzakh said...

Wah, good one.

Also I see the post ends with Kaliyuga. Which means that Vivaha is a means of attaining and working with one's Karma phala in Kaliyug and you seem to be ready to face it :P