Image Courtesy: M P Singh Photography

Kanyadaan is a Sanskrit word which literally means ‘giving away the daughter’. And as the meaning suggests it is the tradition or ritual in which parents give away their daughter to the groom. The symbolism is deep-rooted in the belief of those of the Hindu community.

While every one of us knows about kanyadaan as we see it every day in Indian shows and movies, the meaning behind it is barely understood through these mediums. Why does it takes place, when it was started, the history behind it, and many more questions just come to our mind and is lost with time till we again witness or hear about a kanyadaan.

So, if you are getting married, or someone dear is, it’s high time you get your questions answered. So, here we are, with all the details jot down at one place. Let’s comprehend what Kanyadaan actually is all about:

1. The historical significance of Kanyadaan

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Not only kanyadaan, but each of the rituals that take place during the wedding ceremony is passed down from many generations before. But if we talk about the Vedas, there’s hardly any evidence to say that Kanyadaan was mentioned there.

As per the Vedas, the consent of the bride was primary and the couple entered into the union of marriage as equals.

So, from where does the concept of Kanyadaan came? It’s from Manu Smriti texts and comparatively a new ritual. As Hinduism eventually accepted the Manu texts and the teachings of it, the position of women changed somehow. A male guardianship was deemed to be necessary for her being. So, the father was the guardian when she was unmarried, carried down to the husband after marriage.

 

And from here roots the kanyadaan, which is not only an important ritual based on the texts but also a very emotional moment for the family as they give away their most prized possession. The ‘kanyadaan’ is also said to be the greatest gift of all given by the bride’s father to the groom.

2. The hidden meaning behind Kanyadaan

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During a wedding ceremony, the bride is considered to be a form of the Goddess Laxmi, while the groom is a form of Lord Vishnu. The parents of the bride are initiating the union of two Gods through this ceremony.

3. The Kanyadaan

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The ritual of kanydaan is also meant to be the consent of the bride’s parents on accepting the groom as their son-in-law. As per other explanations, it also means to request the groom to accept their daughter as a wife.

4. How is it done?

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The ritual of kanyadaan takes place after the Varmala (exchanging of garlands).  During the ritual, the father of the bride takes her right hand and places it in the groom’s right hand.

After that, the mother of the bride pours sacred water on the palm of the father (of the bride), which flows through the daughter’s and the groom’s hand eventually. Mantras are chanted by the Pandit Ji throughout the procedure.

This is the standard method of doing the kanyadaan. But keeping in mind the diversity of people in India, there are certain diversions to the method as well. Sometimes, coconut or other things like betel leaf, rice, etc. are kept in the bride’s hand (followed by the groom’s) and water or milk is poured over it.

Every community has their own way of doing it, but the essence behind it remains the same for all. The emotion and feeling of that moment are similar for every parent giving away their daughter during the kanyadaan.

5. And then?

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And then the wedding continues. A Hindu Indian wedding involves long and meaningful rituals that take place during the ceremony. Right after the kanyadaan, the sister of the groom ties the end of the bride’s Dupatta to that of her brother’s scarf. After that, other rituals like Pheras, application of Sindoor, etc. take place.

6. Conflicting Views

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As the times are changing and women are being seen from a different lens than the traditional weaker one, many people have their own objections to the concept of Kanyadaan. As per feminists, it is sheer objectifying of the women.

On the other hand, religious people stick to it as their tradition which shouldn’t be touched. It is not objectification, but more value is being provided to the bride and her parents. It is the biggest transition in a woman's life, from daughter to a wife and hence shouldn’t be criticised.

We are a little bent over both arguments and would like to hear what you think about it. Write down your views in the comment section!