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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Desire, Love and marriage in Ancient India

One aspect that stands out is that men covet women. One can call it lust or give softer word like love, but at the end of the day it is physical desire that rules. This was the reason that the Mughul emperor Jahangir got one of the courtiers killed and married his wife who was later known as Noor Jahan. Women in history were not only to be wooed but won as a prize. Thus in Hindu custom the Swayamwara was introduced. It involved a massive ceremony where the suiters gathered to show case their prowess in arms and weaponry. The winner got the woman or princess as wife. Thus the god Rama won Sita in a swayamwara. I dont think love played a part in any swayamwara as the girl had perforce to select the man who had bested all other suiters. Thus a man who coveted a particular princess, could win her by his strength and skill though the princess may have loved another man.
In Hindu thought one other aspect of marriage accepted is marriage by abduction. This is not peculair to India, but in Europe also it was prevelant. Thus when Bishma appeared at the swayamwara of Ambika, spirited her and her sister from the palace by beating all the warriors present it was abduction. Raja Salya the man who loved Ambika was defeated and shamed by Bishma. Bishma had abducted the princesses for his brother and he himself did not want to marry, but that is another tale. Both forms of marriage were recognized in India till the 12 century. But they petered away with the advent of Muslim raj. Modern India does not recognize these forms of marriages, but we can read about them and savor that glorious age. The bottom line is that the driving force in both forms of marriage was the desire to covet and own the woman.