The Common Man Speaks


Kanyadan: Why donate your daughter?

By: Keyur Seta

In a conservative society like ours, questioning rituals has always been a strict no-no, leave alone speaking against them. Like some of us, I too found some rituals quite weird, especially the ones related to Hindu marriages. But I never used to speak against them or question them, until recent years.

One such ritual is Kanyadan, wherein the bride is presented to the groom by the girl’s parents. There are mainly three reasons why I find this practice quite weird as well as insulting to the girl.


The learned priest

There are as follows:-

- The bride is not a commodity or a non-living thing to be ‘presented’ to the groom.

- She is supposed to marry, and subsequently stay with her husband, out of her own will and not because she is being ‘presented’ to someone.

- Most importantly, the meaning of dan is ‘donate’. Donations are done as acts of charities. How can you ‘donate’ a human being to someone through an act of charity?

- You do charity to the poor and needy. Is this how you describe a groom? Poor and needy?


Recently, my views on this issue were reinforced by a learned person.

I never show interest in attending those lethargic marriage rituals for two reasons 1) I find them boring and 2) The patriarchal angle. But I was keenly interested in attending the wedding rituals of my cousin Hardik Naik simply because they were supposed to be carried out in Arya Samaj by the aforementioned priest through Vedic practice.

And the priest’s method of performing rituals more than lived up to my expectations and eagerness. Being from the Arya Samaj tradition, the pandit ji was against patriarchal beliefs and rituals, which was truly heartening. He was especially against the practice of Kanyadan for more or less the same reasons mentioned before.

He was also not those typical marriage priests who simply recite mantras, make the couple perform rituals and leave. He believed in explaining his stand and views.

Vedic-marriageSome of his statements, while performing the marriage, are as follows:-

- “The girl is not a thing to be presented to someone.”

- “If I donate (dan) this glass to someone, I won’t have any right over it. So, do the parents of the girl lose all rights over her after marriage?”

- “In India, women are considered backward as compared to men. But this was never the case during vedic age.”

- He asked the bride and the groom to welcome each other as wife and husband; something I have never heard before.

But despite my clear views on this issue, I used to avoid speaking on it. However, after listening to this practical and sensible person, I won’t.

There is nothing wrong in being traditional, but not at the expense of embracing patriarchy and objectifying women.