Kanyadaan is a strong word on its own. And in the first instance, it could provoke anybody to think that the word means giving women in charity. But is it so?
Ahead of the wedding season, Mohey has launched an ad called ‘Kanyamaan’. The ad attempts to celebrate marriage with Kanyamaan instead of Kanyadaan. The campaign is about achieving gender equality, eyeing mutual respect for all.
Though the thought behind the ad is fine, however, Mohey miserably fails to achieve exactly what it seeks to achieve in the first place – balance. To explain, the writers of the ad only looked at the literal meaning of the word daan, however, didn’t mind exploring it in the broad sense.
So what’s wrong with the ad? To find the answer, we need to explore three things that the ad highlights.
Explaining the misinterpretation of the word ‘dhan’ in the video, author Nityānanda Miśra explains that dhan is not a sinful word as people tend to make it here. Taking the help from a Sanskrit dictionary, he explains, dhan, apart from wealth, also means ‘something that is loved and considered to be valuable’.
As per Sanatan dharma, a son is also considered Dhan (Putradhan) so is the knowledge (Vidyadhan) and so is God – “Payo ji maine Ram ratan dhan payo”
So when we call someone dhan – in this case the bride – it simply means something of so much value.
The second question Alia Bhatt ask in the ad is why daan a woman? Or why should the woman be given away as charity at the time of marriage?
We have a tendency to look at things from a small perspective. But once you pick up the ancient books to find the real meaning behind these words, you will find that they are more liberal than our modern thought.
In Hinduism, charity cannot be equated merely to wealth or money. In Sanatan, the concept of ‘daan’ expands from knowledge to even son.
When Vishwamitra taught or gave vidya to Lord Ram, it was written by Tulsidas in a way that Vishmitra gave a daan to Lord Ram. But Vidya is linked with Goddess Saraswati, right? So are we donating (as per modern definition) Saraswati? No.
Similarly, we have Prandaan, Jeevandan, Putradaan (which has been mentioned in Mahabharat adhyay 83). So daan is not just materialistic.
Like we said how Kanyadaan could be a strong word to hear. However, Misra Ji explains such a word is not to insult women. Explaining the same, he quotes the mantra recited by pandit during the ritual of Kanyadaan.
In the mantra, the parents are referred to as Varun Devta (the lord of the oceans) while the daughter is referred to as Surya Devta (the lord of the sun). Also, the groom is referred to as Vishnu Devta (one who resides in the sky).
So when we say Kanyadaan, it simply means the sun rising from the horizon (that is the sea as we see it) to meet the sky, and begin a new day or start a new life.
Now one could ask why Surya ‘devta’ is considered female? Explaining the same, Misra ji says, in Sanskrit, the word ‘dev’ is used to refer to male, ‘devta’ to female and ‘daivyatam’ to trans.
As the woman is called Laxmi, the simplest logic behind Kanyadaan is making the daughter a grace of someone else’s house and in no way lessening her respect or autonomy.
It’s good to be liberal, respect women and empower them. However, one should also understand that scribbling their tiny Google knowledge about any religion to please a client is disrespecting the more liberal writers and sages of the past. Creativity is best when it is well researched and in this case, simply taking a bit extra effort to study the broad meaning of ‘dhan’ would have done the job.