Ok, the Alia ad has set a lot of tongues wagging.
One side applauds, denouncing “regressive” practices and questioning why women are demeaned and equated to “dhan”. Why should a girl be given away, why not the boy as well?
Another side questions the intent of the advertisement. Who are they to interfere with age-old practices?
I did see the ad. Designed to question, which is valid. But passing a judgement? That should take more than a ten-minute ad brainstorming session. Was this researched through?
The issue is that people go with Google, rather than actually bothering to go into the depth of the ritual.
There is सन्धि involved in the word कन्यादान.
The correct way to split the word should be as follows,
कन्यादान = कन्या (Daughter) + आदान (Receiving to one’s self and/or bringing near). However, this is usually split without using the सन्धि and hence interpreted as कन्या (Daughter) + दान = Donate.
The Vedic system of marriage is ritualistic and is based on the divine union of Sri Vishnu (the groom) and Sri Lakshmi (the bride).
अद्येति………नामाहं………नाम्नीम् इमां कन्यां/भगिनीं सुस्नातां यथाशक्ति अलंकृतां, गन्धादि – अचिर्तां, वस्रयुगच्छन्नां, प्रजापति दैवत्यां, शतगुणीकृत, ज्योतिष्टोम-अतिरात्र-शतफल-प्राप्तिकामोऽहं ……… नाम्ने, विष्णुरूपिणे वराय, भरण-पोषण-आच्छादन-पालनादीनां, स्वकीय उत्तरदायित्व-भारम्, अखिलं अद्य तव पतनीत्वेन, तुभ्यं अहं सम्प्रददे। —–ॐ स्वस्ति।
The brides father sees the groom as Sri Vishnu, and presents his daughter in marriage, with a promise from the groom that the bride is a dharmapatni, meaning a person who is a companion in the dhārmic journey of life. That is why it is dharmapatni, and not just patni.
Dhan in Sanskrit is not wealth. It is something or someone invaluable. For instance,
विद्याधनं सर्व धनं प्रधानम् – the greatest dhan is knowledge. Dhan here refers to knowledge.
Daan again is not donation. Vidyadaan – the gift of learning, jeevandaan – the gift of life – these have much deeper meanings than the literal translations that often accompany them.
Only a superficial interpretation of such a beautiful ritual could take literal meanings and miss the essence of it all.
Kanyādana signifies the father, on the behalf of his family, giving the girl to the boy’s family, as Sri Lakshmi – the Goddess of prosperity. The boys family accepts this “dhan” since it is through the girl that the family lineage lives on. This is the sanctity of the ritual, so easily thrashed by a celebrity whose intellect doesn’t really need any introduction.
Decide – condemn – accuse – should be avoided.
Debate – deliberate – seek. That is true vidyā. Pursue it!