All of Life Is Religious: Samskaras and Hindu Family Life

The Hindu marriage is also a significant samskara.  Marriage is a highly elaborate affair that involves all manner of religiously significant rituals and ceremonies. Marriages are typically arranged according to caste, and the proper match is determined on the basis of astrological charts and with the help of a pundit, a particularly learned Brahmin. Marriage often begins with a ceremony focused on the god Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, weeks before the actual ceremony. The marriage ceremony itself is long and involves dozens of steps, nearly all of which are religious significant. One religiously important aspect is the kanya dana, during which the bride's father pours out sacred water, and the groom recites Vedic hymns (particularly to the god Kama, the god of love) and promises to help his bride attain three of the four sacred ends of life: dharma (duty), artha (purpose), and kama (love). Moksha (salvation) is the fourth sacred goal, but is not attained through marriage.

In the modern western world, the separation between the sacred and the secular, between aspects of life that are and are not religious, is taken for granted; in Hinduism there is no such separation. Life is fundamentally religious, and religion is fundamentally about life -- all aspects of life, from the most mundane to the most sublime.

6/1/2010 4:00:00 AM
  • Rites and Rituals
  • Community
  • History
  • Ritual
  • Hinduism
  • Jacob Kinnard
    About Jacob Kinnard
    Jacob N. Kinnard is an expert in Indian Buddhism and in the comparative study of religion. He is Associate Professor of Comparative Religious Thought at the Illiff School of Theology. He teaches and lectures on a wide range of topics.