Swayamvaram – was a marriage of self-choice, wherein, the bride could decide among the eligible suitors gathered in the palace. In this practice which used to happen during ancient times –the bride’s father used to conduct the Swayamvaram of his daughter and break this news to the different states and neighbouring territories. On the appointed day and venue, lists of suitors would arrive at the girl’s home or palace and ask for her hand. When the girl identifies the husband of her choice, she garlands him and a marriage ceremony is held immediately.
In the longest narrative episode in the Mahabharata, Princess Damayanti chooses her husband Nala at a grand ceremony. Nala, who had been parted with Damayanti, is re-united with her when Damayanti plans to hold a second Swayamvara.
Another famous Swayamvara was that of Arjuna (one of the Pandavas), Lord Rama won the hands of Sita at a Swayamvara, after he was the only contestant among many other princes to lift the Shiva Dhanusha (Lord Shiva’s bow).
As per historical records, Swayamvara marriages had been conducted in ancient India as late as 11th century B.C. Vikramaditya VI, one of the greatest rulers of the Chalukyan dynasty is said to have won the hands of his bride through a Swayamvara.
In yet another instance of Swayamvaram, King Jaichand of Kanauj held a Swayamvara for his daughter Sanyogita, who was in love with Prithviraj Chauhan, a staunch rival of her father. In order to insult Prithviraj, Jaichand installed a look alike statue of Prithviraj as the gatekeeper to the swayamvara. Sanyogita went and garlanded the statue; Prithviraj, who was hiding nearby, took Sanyogita on his steed and eloped with her.