Image: Republic World
Art of Living founder and global humanitarian Sri Sri Ravi Shankar weighed in on the hotly debated topic of Manyavar Mohey's viral bridal-wear advertisement featuring Bollywood actor Alia Bhatt. The spiritual guru delved into the interpretations of the Vedic traditions and reiterated his oft-stated belief that the practice of 'Kanyadaan' should be done away with. He also shared a profound insight on the ancient Vedic tradition of 'Panigrahan'.
In an interview with Republic Media Network's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, 'Gurudev' Sri Sri Ravi Shankar shared his thoughts on the viral Kanyadaan ad which has triggered a debate between some who believe that the advertisement is an affront to a Hindu tradition and others who believe it to be a progressive take on gender equality in marriage. Rather than the debate between Kanyadaan and 'Kanyamaan' (respect to women) which the ad suggests, the spiritual guru revealed that he believed in the practice of 'Paanigrahan' instead. He stated,
''In the Shrutis, especially, there is nothing like Kanyadaan. In the Smritis, later on, what is there is Paanigrahan- holding the hand. This is the Vedic Sanskrit word that you hold hands. I hold the hands of so and so, as my wife or as my husband. Gender equality is so much there in our Vedic cultural system. What had happened through the time and through the ages is that there has been a distortion of it and then Kanyadaan has been made into a part of it. Kanya is not an object to be given as Daan.''
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar also believes that the idea and meaning behind the age-old practice has been distorted through the years, adding, ''I would always prefer to say the Paanigrahan where the father says 'You handhold my daughter'. This is the right connotation of it, but it has been distorted as 'Daan' somewhere in the middle ages. Kanyadaan, I would say, should be taken away. When you take it away, it will not in any way lessen our Vedic status or principle or philosophy. It will not affect the philosophy; in fact, we are doing justice to the Vedic philosophy.''
For the unversed, actor Alia Bhatt’s latest endorsement for bridal wear brand Manyavar Mohey offers a commentary on some of the things that women may feel while getting married. In the advertisement, the actor can be seen sitting in the mandap with her husband-to-be as she thinks back to the times in her life when her grandmother, father and mother each said things, intending no harm, that made her question her true belonging. Just before the Kanyadaan ritual, Alia ponders, ''Am I a thing to be donated? Why only Kanyadaan?'' The two families instead perform a 'Kanyamaan' in which both families tweak the ritual in such a fashion that both the bride and groom are entrusted responsibility for each other, and there is no 'daan'.