Kanyadāna? Kanyamaan?

Recently, I came across an advertisement that portrayed the meaning of Kanyadāna as giving away the bride thus showcasing the girl as an ‘object’. My concern isn’t the advertisement because I understand how poorly researched such advertisements are including the people who work for them.

I am also well aware of the fact that a huge amount of money goes into running propaganda to malign the Vedic culture and rituals of Bharat India and brainwash people’s minds.

My concern in writing this article is for people who were justifying the ad by saying ‘I am not an object so why dāna?

What is Dāna/ Dāna?

It is sad to see that Sanskrit has been anglicized in a way that the real meanings and essence have been lost. It is hard to fit Sanskrit words that have subtle meanings to just one English word. Just like the word Dāna which has been poorly translated as donation or giving away. Out of the multiple meanings, Dāna means purification, teaching, preaching, communicating, imparting, and sharing.

To make it easier to explain, I will refer to the video of Shri Narasimha Rao on the dharmic perspective of Kanyadāna.

He has very beautifully explained what dāna is and isn’t. He talks about Vidyadāna which is about imparting and sharing knowledge. Similarly, he talks about Pranadāna which is about saving someone’s life. He mentions that Vidyadāna doesn’t lessen or take away the knowledge from the person who is sharing or imparting it. It also doesn’t objectify Vidya or Prana. Dāna isn’t simply cutting off from the one who is doing it.

The ad is based on the notion that kanyadāna is about donating/giving away the daughter because she is an object. The English phrase/idea of ‘giving away’ is quite different from the word Dāna.

Shri Rao also talks about the Samskara of marriage which is about sharing the happiness and dhana you have with another family. While the ad shows that the girl is not a property or wealth that can be shared or given away, it fails to establish the true meaning of Dhana.

The Sanskrit word Dhana isn’t material wealth or property. It is any form of knowledge and resources acquired through Dharma and also put to use for good of humanity as per Dharma.

It is interesting to note that Hindu Succession Act, 2005, gives the daughter equal inheritance rights as the son even after her marriage. If kanyadāna was really about giving away the daughter and objectifying her, then this wouldn’t have been possible.

What is Kanyadāna actually?

During Vedic rituals of marriage, the girl leaves her father’s Gotra and enters into the Gotra of her husband. Kanyadāna is dāna of bride’s current Gotra to Agni so that she can take upon the Gotra of her husband in the presence of Agni, Vayu, Jal, Aakash, and Prithvi.

In very simpler terms, Gotra is the lineage. People belonging to the same Gotra are descendants of same ancestors.

Why Gotra-Dāna?

The Samskara of marriage in Sanātana Dharma involves marrying outside your own gotra which applies to both boys and girls. The idea behind this is to avoid people getting married into their own lineage. Since the people belonging to same gotra will have same ancestors meaning similar chromosomes. The result of such marriages can be children born with genetic disorders, poor life, and even death.   

To maintain genetic purity, the practice of marrying outside one’s gotra has been in place for ages in Vedic culture.

Please don’t confuse gotra with caste or inter-caste marriages.

So, the whole idea of Vedic marriage vows and rituals isn’t objectifying the women or establishing the superiority of the male. It is coming together of two families to support the Vivaha and new beginnings.

As the mantra of Saptapadi/Saath Phere says-

धर्मेचा अर्थेचा कमेचा मोक्षेचा.. नाति चरमी |

This applies to both the bride and groom who promise to stand by each other in all situations of Dharma, Kama, Artha.

For those wondering about the meanings of some Sanskrit words used in the article above:

Agni is not Fire

Vayu is not Air

Akasha Is not Space

Samskara is not ritual or ceremony

Kama is not Lust

Dharma is not Religion

Prana is not breath

I will leave you here wondering about the meanings of the above words which require whole other series of articles. However, if you are really keen on exploring their meanings, I would recommend reading, ‘Sanskrit Non-Translatables’ by Rajiv Malhotra and Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji.

6 thoughts on “Kanyadāna? Kanyamaan?

Add yours

  1. I am short of words to appreciate your write up. Srishti, you have explained ‘ Kanyadaan’ with great intricacies. We all must try to understand each word properly.
    Hats off to you . God bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

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