Marriage is a ritual people are successfully binding themselves into since years. And to carry out the rituals often the male Brahmins came forward to offer their services and interpretations in their way. Never has it happened that I went to a marriage function without the invitation of the host, but the priest. Rohini Dharmapal invited me and assured that there will be no objection from the hosts of the marriage.
On 26th February 2020, as I reached near the gates of ITC Royal Bengal, questions were knocking the mind about the real Vedic rituals of marriage. However, on reaching the beautiful decoration of #RAES grabbed my attention, well decorated and quiet ambience where the general humdrum of marriage was absent and excitement was in each one’s eyes as such a marriage was rare to witness. The common rituals like – ‘Subho Dristi -Eyes covered with Paan’, ‘Kanyadaan’, ‘Piri-ghora’ etc were absent. I was not supposed to ask questions on the spot but the next day when our meeting was scheduled at her house in Fern Road.
“If we go back to the old days of Vedas one can know that both the genders were equal. In fact, except Sudra, all the other Varnas had the Sacred thread. The Holy ritual of the Sacred thread had mantras for women as well”, says Rohini Dharmapal on asking about the patriarchy system of the religious rituals in our society, sitting at her house and getting enlightened on the Vedas and Upanishads. The interview went long, but the crisp take from it are –
- The times of Vedas and Upanishads were modern where every verse mentioned ‘WE’ that can both male and female, any varnas, or anything or anyone. But clearly, the verses tried to encompass every one under the sky.
- In Upanishad, there is a story where a child goes to a Rishi for enlightening with knowledge, in short, getting admission in a Gurukul, on asking about his parentage he replies that he is not aware as his mother is not sure as to who is his father and further says that he will love to be known by his mother’s identity. Later on, he was known as Satyakam Jabala (his mother’s name became his surname). He was also declared as Brahmana as he stood on truthfulness and righteousness.
- Brahmana was given to those who at that time showed some traits like – firm knowledge, truthfulness, righteousness and meditation. But it was not a transferable property that would pass from father to child. It was supposed to be acquired through the traits.
- The marriage verses in the Veda were written by ‘Surja’, a Rishika (female Rishi). In the scripture of Mahalaya, the verses of the ‘Devi’ were written by a woman Rishika named – ‘Baak’.
In 14th December 1967, Late Gauri Dharmapal and her husband got married as per the Vedic rituals by Anirban, Vedacharya and his niece; Narayani Devi helped him in the rituals. The Lady of Sanskrit, Gauri Dharmapal, always wondered how to make the mantras of marriage rituals more effective and she came up with a translated verse equally rhythmic for everyone to chant complementary to the Sanskrit mantras so that people can understand the verses. There was an incident when the Sankarcharya of Jagannath temple visited the then Calcutta and on the occasion, Arundhati Holme Choudhury was reciting Veda Verses. The Sankaracharya stopped her and asked her to get down as she was not authorized to recite the verses and it was only meant for men to chant. But not all protests are loud; this one by Gauri Dharmapal was quiet but strong and impactful. After the marriage ceremony of Aparna Sen’s eldest daughter and Bani Basu’s daughter, Gauri Dharmapal was in the news all for the right reasons.
“I never got myself involved in what Maa did, but I closely followed and knew the things. When she died I did all the rituals myself instead of having a brother. I always felt that if I can do everything else for them (parents) then why not this?” says Rohini in an affirmative tone.
Rohini took the step forward to carry on her mother’s works –
“I realized this only when a sad incident had happened that one of my mother’s student, named Nandini Bhowmik, started proposing to the national and regional media that the entire work of ‘Vaidic rituals’ and omission of ‘Kanyadaan’ has been her initiative and that she is the first woman Priest doing this work. The myth went to the extent that a renowned film director has made a film taking the full guidance from her and including her interview. On the contrary, the entire work has been started and initiated by my mother, Gauri Dharmapal, who has also received Award from the President of India for her contribution to the Sanskrit literature. Despite repeated letters to the media house, they did not respond and that makes me sad from the core. Later, I was being asked to take this forward and since 2018 I am getting calls to conduct marriages. The most interesting thing that I find is that people have started accepting the fact that ‘Vaidic Rituals’ are crisp and logical to the core. I got a call from a girl who is Hindu marrying a Muslim boy and both the families are excitedly looking forward to the marriage that will be conducted by me and my team.
Not only marriages but funeral rights are also being done as per Vaidic way and the same has been written by Maa in her book. I too have conducted the ‘shraddha’ as per the rituals of the book”, quotes Rohini Dharmapal as her eyes glow with pride for her mother.
Rituals are not for domination but for equality and right rituals will only help the progress of the society and nation as a whole. A Professor of Education in a renowned college, Rohini is hopeful to spread her mother’s work across the globe.