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Holy water is poured onto the palm of the groom's hands, allowing it to flow through his fingers onto the bride's hand and later into the groom's hand.

Kanyadaan which translates to a donation of a daughter (Kanya meaning daughter and daan meaning donation) is a ceremony performed at Hindu weddings by a senior male figure from the bride's side symbolizing him giving away their daughter to the groom's family. Unlike today's perception of kanyadaan as trading a daughter from one family to another, originally kanyadaan was a moral concept revolving around acceptance, a ceremony performed to represent that the parent is asking the groom to promise to accept, respect and treat their daughter as their equal in all manners while the audience bears witness to the promise.

Story and Origin of Kanydaan

In a Hindu wedding, the groom is considered to be an incarnation of Lord Narayana whereas the bride is considered to be the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity and the parents are assisting in the union of the two 'Gods'. This belief is the reason behind another ritual of welcoming the bride to her in-laws with the plate of Alta (a liquid mixture of water and vermillion powder) where she is asked to step on the plate and then enter the house. The red footprint of the bride signifies the arrival of Goddess Lakshmi.


Bride's grah pravesh The bride is asked to step on the plate and then enter the house. The red footprint of the bride signifies the arrival of Goddess Lakshmi.Adobe Stock

How the Kanyadaan ceremony is performed.

Kanyadaan is performed as the father places his daughter's right hand into the groom's right hand asking him to accept her, the joining of both their hands is called 'Hastamelap' (meeting of hands), then the Mother of the Bride pours holy water on to the palm of her husband's hands, allowing it to flow through his fingers onto his daughter's hand and later into the groom's hand. Rituals are chanted during this process and the veils on the faces of the couples are lifted once kanyadaan has been observed. Later the groom's sister ties the end of his scarf, to the bride's sari with betel nuts, copper coins, and rice – symbolizing unity, prosperity, and happiness for the couple. The knot represents the eternal bond that comes with marriage.

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It is believed that the practice of Kanyadaan did not exist during The Vedic Period, instead, the women had the right to choose if they wanted to get married or stay single, they had the right to pursue education. But as the social system of society changed women were barred from the rights they always had. As the concept of class, caste, superior gender and other factors rose the social norms changed and the false notion of kanyadaan came into existence. There was an increase in child marriage which led to seeing the girl-child as a "burden" to the parents. And not just kanyadaan adding to these were traditions like giving gifts, jewellery, cash to the bride that took the form of dowry. Women were asked to wear sindur (red dye worn in the hair), mangalsutra (thread worn around neck), bichiya (toe rings) and bangles to signify that a woman is married. However, there is no mention of any such practice in The Vedas, women had the independence to choose to wear any ornament of liking.

Even the practice of washing the feet of the groom and his family upon their arrival originated in older times because usually the groom and their family would travel to the bride's village on foot or otherwise due to the unavailability of vehicles at the time. Hence, the bride's family used to offer their dirty feet after the long journey as an act of service and kindness. These days we have vehicles to travel to so, there is no need for such practice anymore.

Revolts against Kanyadaan

During today's era Kanyadaan is perceived as a misogynistic practice and whatever moral meaning it held in olden times has been lost in time. There has been an increase in the number of people choosing to do away with misogynistic systems. Feminists view kanyadaan as a practice of sheer objectification of women. Several women have also revolted against it stating they are not a physical property neither of their father nor their to-be husband that can be traded through a practice like kanyadaan with additional practice of dowry, which makes it almost look like that the bride's father is paying the groom to take away his burden. In some weddings "putradaan" has been performed where the bride makes all the promises instead of the groom during the wedding.

However, deeply religious people continue to believe that the practice is not about objectification rather it holds value for the bride and her parents as it is the moment in a woman's life where she is transformed from a daughter to a wife. They argued for the age-old practice should not be criticized.

ALSO READ:The History and Evolution of Marriage System

Traditions and logic have been in conflict with each other in India for a long time. Whether one believes in the system or not is a matter of personal choice. But it is imperative to make an informed and educated choice. India is trying to adopt a reasonable and progressive point of view, and each small effort can make a huge difference.


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