Zoroastrian / Mazdayasnian Marriage Rites

After the Navjote initiation, the next major event in the Mazdayasnian life is marriage, which may take place starting from the age of 15. There are a number of details and preliminary events which are done among the Parsis of India today, but which were not necessarily done prior to their migration to India. What is certain is that the functions involving the priests are very ancient.

The wedding should preferably take place on an auspicious day, of which there are plenty. Before the day is appointed, the couple must be betrothed. The betrothal is confirmed by a mutual exchange of gifts. The groom’s family brings silver coins to the bride’s family, and the bride’s family brings a gift to the groom’s family. After this, the bride begins using the groom’s name. Nuptial songs are often sung on this occasion.

The next preliminary event is the Divô (light). Early in the morning, an oil lamp is lit in the house of each betrothed. The women of each family go to the other party’s house and place a silver coin in the lamp. They also exchange gifts, such as wedding rings. On a later day, the The Âdarni, the bride’s family gives the dowry to the bridegroom’s family. Nuptial songs are often sung on this occasion. Some time after the betrothal, a day is fixed for the wedding.

On the day of the wedding or the day before, the bride and groom are required to take a sacred bath. Among the Parsis of India, the bride wears a loose dress with folds and curls. The bridegroom holds a shawl in his hand, and wears a garland of flowers around his neck. They both have red pigment on their foreheads. The bridegroom’s pigment is vertical and long, and the bride’s is round. The vertical pigment of the male symbolizes a ray of sunlight, and the lingam, while the round pigment of the female symbolizes the moon, and the yoni.

Every wedding should have a fair amount of people present. The wedding should take place in the evening, just after sunset. The unification of day and night symbolizes the unification of the masculine and feminine principles. An hour or several before sunset. the families exchange gifts. The dowry of 2,000 silver dirhams is gifted to the bride. The houses of both families are sprinkled with chauk, a sand-like wedding powder. Nuptial songs are sung, and the marriage may be announced in town with music.

The groom goes to the bride’s house, where he is greeted and blessed by the bride’s mother and priests. The bride and groom may throw rice at each other. An egg may be passed around the groom’s head three times, then thrown on the ground. A coconut may also be passed around his head thrice and broken. He may also have a tray of water passed around his head thrice, after which the water is thrown at his feet. The threshold of the house is then crossed with the right foot. He should be welcomed with song.

The bridegroom waits for the bride in the room where the marriage is to take place. It is customary for the bride to procrastinate at this point. When the bride comes in, the groom sits on her right and she on his left. They both face the East. Beside them each are trays of rice, a symbol of prosperity. There are also candles beside them. Next to the bride is a small pot with ghee and molasses. The ghee symbolizes  “gentility, courtesy, and obedience,” and the molasses symbolizes “sweetness and good temper.”[1] A servant stands by with a censer of fire in one hand and frankincense in the other.

The bride and bridegroom sit opposite each other, and two people hold a cloth between them to veil them from each other. Once the cloth is taken away, the bride and bridegroom sit side by side. This symbolizes their unification after having been separated. Two priests pass around their chairs with a piece of cloth, enclosing them in a circle symbolic of their unification. They tie the ends of the cloth together with a recitation of the Ahuna Vairya. Then the priests bring the bride and bridegroom’s hands together and recite the Ahuna Vairya again. Their hands are tied with a raw twist, which is wrapped around their hands seven times, then around their bodies seven times with repeated recitals of the Ahuna Vairya, and then around the cloth around their chairs seven times. This symbolizes the strength of their bond. The servant with the frankincense and fire places the frankincense in the fire, which signals for the couple to throw rice at each other. Whoever throws the rice first is said to win. The assembly then claps, and the actual ceremony begins.[2]

Beside the bride and bridegroom are their witnesses, who should be family members or friends. The senior priest stands before the bridegroom and the junior priest stands before the bride. The senior priest blesses the couple, wishing for them a great progeny, long lives, and prosperity. He asks the witness by the bridegroom to pay 2,000 dirhams of pure silver and two dinars of Nishapurian gold to the bride.[3] The witness agrees. He then asks the bride’s witness if they and their family agree to give the bride in marriage to the groom. The bride’s witness agrees. Then the priest asks the couple if they want to marry each other, to which they both reply in the affirmative. The questions are repeated three times.

Once the couple is married, the priests give them admonitions and advice on how to behave. Then they pray for Ahura Mazda to bless the couple with virtues. They mention the names of venerable people of ancient Iran, asking for the couple to be blessed with the same great qualities as them. During the blessings, they sprinkle the couple with rice. The ceremony is then concluded with the Tan-dorosti prayer, which is the same prayer of blessings that is recited at the end of an initiation. The festivities last for three days after the wedding day. The ceremony may be repeated at midnight, though this is by no means necessary.

After the ceremony, a song is sung and the bride is taken to the husband’s house. Another song is sung when she enters her husband’s house. Then a feast is held, in which the auspicious dish of fish is essential. Sweets are also necessary. Later that night, the marriage should be consummated unless the couple is too tired.

Polygamy is legal in cases where the wife is barren. Divorce is legal only under particular circumstances. According to Parsi law, divorce is legal if one of the partners was insane at the time of marriage and their partner did not know, or if the man is impotent, or if either of them commits adultery, or if the husband commits rape or an “unnatural offence”, or if one of them completely disappears for seven years.

[1]   http://www.avesta.org/ritual/zwedding.htm

[2]   Some of the details of these preliminaries  may be unique to the Parsis.

[3]   This is a Persian tradition which presumably did not go all the way back to the prophet Zarathushtra (as).

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