This is one of the most important and holiest sacraments, found practiced in all major religions. The Vedic marriage or Vivaaha too is guided by the lofty ideal of the man-woman relationship for the betterment of society. This is no mere license for conjugal pleasures but is to derive an important idea of mutual trust, inter-dependence, and upholding of high moral values.
But, Vivaaha as a ceremony has certain restrictions too, which down the age has come around as conditions.
The bride and groom have to be from the same varna preferably. If not, the girl from the higher varna cannot be married to the groom from the lower. This system led to the rigidity of marriages with varnas, caste, sub-caste to the present day micro-segregation.
The marriage ceremony is performed differently by Hindus living in different regions and speaking different languages. But, the most important rite which is part of any Hindu marriage performed in any region is called Saptapadi i.e. walking seven steps together, with Agni (Fire) as a witness. The said ceremony contains mantras which signify that the bride and groom take seven steps together for mutual co-operation and declared thereby that “now they have become friends”.
In between Vivaaha and the last rite which a person would undergo after his death, called Antyeshti there are minor sacraments, which have now mostly become defunct due to elaborate ritualistic implications involved in them.
It is so-called, as the body becomes, at last, an offering to Lord Agni, called Kavavaahana. (Antya – last; Ishti – sacrifice). The surviving son or grandson or any paternal relative performs this ceremony for the deceased person.
This is an annual ceremony performed for the satisfaction of the manes. This is an essential obligatory duty that the son owes to his ancestor. Since the ceremony is to be performed sincerely (Shraddha), it is called Shraddha.
The Conclusion of Shodasha Samskaaras