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Damayanti's Svayamvara.
Damayanti's Svayamvara.

Svayamvara (Sanskrit: स्वयंवर, romanizedsvayaṃvara), in ancient India, was a method of marriage in which a woman chose a man as her husband from a group of suitors. In this context, svayaṁ in Sanskrit means 'self' and vara means 'groom'. The bride wishing to marry would select an auspicious time and venue and then broadcast her intentions. Kings typically sent messengers to outside lands, while commoners simply spread the news within the local community. On the appointed day, suitors would gather at the venue and declare their qualifications. The bride would place a garland on the man of her choice and a marriage ceremony was held immediately.

Examples

Sīta

In the Hindu epic Ramayana, King Janaka proclaimed that Sita would be wed to the man who could lift and string the Shiva Dhanush (Shiva's bow), calling this feat vīrya śulka, meaning the cost to be paid by a suitor.[1] Sita married Rama, the only man strong enough to lift and string the bow.

Kunti

King Kuntibhoja arranged a svayamvara for his adopted daughter Kunti in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. Many kings and princes from the Aryan region attended her svayamvara. Among them was Pandu, the king of Hastinapura. Kunti chose Pandu as her husband.

Draupadī

The Svayamvara of Panchala's princess, Draupadi
The Svayamvara of Panchala's princess, Draupadi

For Draupadī (द्रौपदी), the daughter of King Drupada of Panchala in the Mahabharata (महाभारत), aspirants had to hit a fish's eye with a bow and arrow. This fish was just an image on a rotating wheel placed over a pan filled with oil. The many suitors had to aim using the reflection of the fish in the oil.

Damayanti

Another famous svayamvara from the Mahabharata is found in the story of Damayanti, who chose Nala for her husband, against the wishes of the gods.

Modern literature

The Bearded Prince tells the story of Princess Roopali, whose father holds a svayamvara for her to select her groom.[2]

Roshani Chokshi's The Star-Touched Queen has the heroine Maya's father stage a svayamvara for her early in the novel.

Kitayun

The Shahnama of Ferdausi records a similar tradition in pre-Islamic Iran, of one Kitayun, eldest daughter of the Emperor of Constantinople, selecting the Iranian Gushtasp. With a view to procure a husband for one of his daughters, the Byzantine emperor determined to hold a grand assembly of illustrious and wise men for her to see and select from. She did not find a suitable husband in the first assembly, so a second one was held, where she placed the crown on Gushtasp's head. Gushtasp, also known as Vishtaspa, returned to Iran with his bride and was crowned King.[3]

As per the custom of Rum, when a princess reached marriageable age, all the princes and nobles would gather in a hall where the princess would enter with her handmaidens and would select one of the princes to be her husband.[4]

Rum (literally "Rome") was the common name used for the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire by Middle Eastern people.[5]

See also

References

  1. ^ "I was given thus to Rama in that Svayamvara, a process of self-choosing marriage. I became devoted, by my good works, to my husband who is excellent among men of strength."http://www.valmikiramayan.net/ayodhya/sarga118/ayodhya_118_frame.htm
  2. ^ "Review of the Bearded Prince".
  3. ^ The Shah-Namah of Fardausi, translated by Alexanders Rogers, LP Publications page 280
  4. ^ Mazda-Yasni and Zorastranian Tales (Book Two) as retold by Kuku S Shabbir, PAGE 28, ISBN 81-85684-06-5, ISBN 81-85685-01-0,
  5. ^ Mazda-Yasni and Zorastranian Tales (Book Two) as retold by Kuku S Shabbir, Page 33, ISBN 81-85684-06-5, ISBN 81-85685-01-0