By Swami Harshananda
Kanyā literally means ‘unmarried girl’.
The marriage of a girl was primarily the responsibility of her father or brother, in case the father is not alive. She was free to select her husband in case they failed in their duty. The qualifications prescribed for a kanyā or a bride have changed over the centuries. A few of the most common and general qualifications include:
- Bāndhavam or purity of the family
- Rupam - beauty
- Prajñā - intelligence
- Vittam - wealth
Kanyās without brothers, with awkward names and whose virginity was in doubt were avoided for marriage purposes.
In kanyāśulka system parents of boys gave some fixed amount of rupees to the girl's family. This system existed in ancient times and was also prevalent in many countries. This system was severely condemned by the dharmasutras and nibandhas (digests). The money or property taken by the girl’s father as kanyāśulka from the bridegroom’s family, was to be given back to the newly married couple for their maintenance.
During the period 600 B. C. to CE 200, the age of a girl for marriage was not seriously considered and mostly the marriages happened at an early (pre-puberty)age. Reasons cited by some competent authorities for this trend include:
- Spread of Buddhism and a cheap kind of monasticism
- Laxity of morals among the nuns
- Lack of education among girls
Marriage age for the girls was equivalent to the upanayana age for boys. Hence we can assume the age for marriage of girls was eight years. Generally it was disliked for a girl to remain unmarried and die as a spinster.
Kanyā, A Zodiac Sign
- Handsome in appearance
- Learned in many sciences
- Wealthy religious by nature
- Bhāradvāja Grhyasutras 1.6
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore