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Significance of “Kanya Dan” in Hindu Marriage

The Hindu Marriage is much more than just the meeting of hearts of the bride and the bridegroom. The tradition of the Hindu Wedding is as complex and as ancient as the religion itself is, with its rich cultural heritage and in a wide range of customs and traditions. And one of the most important parts of wedding rituals is Kanya Dan, a process where the bride and responsibilities associated with the bride are handed over to the groom.
Kanya Dan, or Kanyadaan, literally translates into ‘gifting of the virgin’. The daughter is brought up in her family with much love and care, till a suitable match is found for her. According to Hindu tradition, the daughter is ‘gifted’ on the occasion of the wedding to the groom, where the life and responsibility of the daughter are transferred from her own family to that of the groom.
Kanyadaan is typically performed by the bride’s father. The idea is that the best gift that the bride’s father can give to the bridegroom is the girl herself. During the wedding, the groom becomes a personification of Lord Vishnu; with this in mind, the bride’s father performs the ‘Kanyadan’ and hands over the bride to the groom, which is supposed to be a very holy ritual. The groom, on his part, touches the bride’s shoulders when he receives her as the ultimate gift in marriage, symbolically signifying the acceptance of the gift.
Kanyadaan and Gothra: There is another significant aspect of Kanyadaan in Brahmin Wedding – the concept of Gothra or Gothram. Gothram signifies the lineage of an individual through the male ancestry. Gothra relates to descendants from a common ancestor. People belonging to the same Gothra, and hence having been born in the same male lineage, are said to have similar nature and characteristics.
The Hindu tradition stipulates that a man and a woman belonging to the same Gothra are not to get married to each other, since, having hailed from the same male lineage, they are supposed to be siblings. The Hindu tradition prohibits marriage of bride and groom belonging to the same Gothra.
However, with changing lifestyles and circumstances, and with new needs, there is also the provision of the bride’s maternal uncle or aunt adopting the daughter before the wedding takes place. The Gothra changes both with wedding as well as with adoption. When the girl is adopted by the uncle, the girl’s Gothra changes from her parents’ to that of her uncle. This paves the way for the bride to get married to the groom, in case they happen to be of the same Gothra.
Kanyadaan is one of the most important rituals to be performed in the wedding, and is accompanied by many songs, some expressing grief at the daughter being ‘given away’ to the groom’s family, while some extolling the groom, who is expected to be as noble as Lord Rama. With so much significance attached to Kanyadaan, a Hindu marriage conducted in line with the traditions is only expected to lead to a happy married life for the newly wedded couple.

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