Concept of Marriage in Rig Veda revolved around the holy union of the bride and the groom. Here the bride married his wife to carry out the sacred duties of life. Usually the parents had authority over the marriage of their offspring. Earlier the bridegroom's father approached the father of the bride for the purpose of marriage. Girls also had the right to choose their husbands. During the marriage ceremony the bridegroom held the bride's hand and moved three times round a fire, reciting some verses and hymns. The couple took the pledge of remaining faithful to each other and leading a healthy and living married life.
Child Birth Ceremonies
Many ceremonies in relation to the birth of a child were celebrated during the Rig Vedic period. The ceremony of 'Garbhadbana' was performed to secure the baby. The 'Pumsavana' was also performed to determine the male sex of the infant. Another ceremony 'Garbba-rakshana' was performed for the safety the child in the womb from any danger. After the birth of the child the ceremony of 'Jatakarma' was celebrated. For the prolonging life of the child the ritual called 'Medha-jananam' was organised. On this occasion, the parents kept a secret name of the child. On the tenth day after the mother got up from the childbed, a general name of the child was given. When the child became six months old the well-known ceremony of 'Annaprashana', was observed where the child was given varieties of food to eat.
Tonsure Ceremomies (Chudakarma)
In the first or third year, the ceremony of 'Chudakarma' was observed where the child's hair was shaved chanting certain mantras. Some hair was left on the crown. On the sixteenth or eighteenth year of the boy the beard was shaved. This ceremony is called 'Godana-karma' or 'Kesanta.' Another important ritual, the initiation ceremony (Upanayana) gave the child the true life to a 'twice-born' boy. The boy had to wear a sacred thread. After the ceremony he began his study of the Vedas and performed various sacrifices.
Many ceremonies related to the death of a person were also observed. Upon the death of a person his relatives carried the sacrificial vessels and elderly men and women shouldered the dead body to the burning ground. After the cremation was over the bones were collected in an urn and buried in a pit. During that period the 'Sraddha' ceremony was also performed. Learned Brahmans were invited and were presented with gifts like perfumes, garlands, incense, lights, and clothes. Food was prepared for panda-pitri-yajna and was mixed with ghee before sacrificing in the fire or in the hands of the Brahmans, with other food. Verses were read out by the sacrificer from Rig Veda.
The ceremony of 'Parvan' was observed on the new and full moon days. It consisted of fasting and offering cooked offerings to the gods. The ceremony of 'Sravani' was observed in the month of Sravana on the full moon day to appease serpents. This ritual has been replaced by the present Manasa Puja. The ritual of 'Aswiayuji' was performed on the full moon day in the month of Asvina (October). The ceremony comprised of offering oblations to Sita, the goddess of the field furrow. This ritual of worshiping Sita and Lord Indra, the rain-god, has been probably now replaced by the worship of Goddess Lakshmi on the full moon night during the month of harvest. 'Agrahayani' is another festival observed during the New Year.
The ceremony of 'Ashtaka' serves as a remnant of our modern pausha parvan. This ceremony was celebrated when rice was harvested and wheat and barley flourished. During the ceremony of 'Pausha Ashtaka' people in the Vedic age relished beef. Other significant festivals were also celebrated on the full moon day of 'Chaitra', i.e. the last month of the year. Sacrifices were offered to Rudra and the other constellations appeased.
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