In Santana marriage tradition “kanyaadanam” is misunderstood as “donating a bride”. Its wrongly interpret it as “kanya (girl) + daana (donation)”.
Kanyadana really means taking / receiving / bringing a bride to home. (आदान = receiving). आदान [Monier Williams Sanskrit English Dicionary) [L=23783] receiving , taking for one’s self , drawing near to one’s self Ragh. iv , 86. In Sanatana vivaaha (marriage) the groom sends out a search party to find a suitable bride.
He conveys through the Purohita that for his sake he wants to choose a bride (madardham kanyaam vruneemahe) – this particular usage of word “Vruneemahe” conveys a very reverential meaning. It means he wants to choose a wife with love and respect. A wife who he could treat properly. In Veda where ever the word “Vruneemahe” is used it is always invoked with respect and reverence. For example see below verse from Rigveda where the invocation says:6/n “hotaaram tva vruneemahe”.agne vishvebhir A gahi devebhir havyadAtaye | hotAraM tvAvRuNeemahe || (Rigveda 5.026.04) O Agni, come with all the Gods, come to our sacrificial gift: We choose thee as Invoking Purohita.
Hence kanyadana does not mean “donating a bride” it rather means ‘the groom is choosing a bride’. Also the groom further gives an explanation why he is choosing a bride. He says that he is choosing a bride “so that he can make the Gods feel happy, so that he can make the society feel happy, so that he can make the bride feel happy, so that he can beget children lawfully (dharma praja).” Interestingly, it appears like there is no personal happiness in such an act (of chosing a bride) for him, at least there is no such thing mentioned in the wedding hymns. It is seen as by getting married the man is fulfilling his grihasta dharma.
Though It is true that bride’s parents do give the bride into the hands of groom, they still hold life-long parental bond and parental responsibility towards the bride. It is understood that they are giving their daughter into the hands of an able groom who promised them ‘that he will fulfil his moral obligation towards her as a husband (dharma);that he will provide her financial security(artha);that he will have conjugal relations with her (kama). It’s the responsibility of the husband to make sure that his wife is happy in his company’. Sanatana marriage is seen as two souls come together in union of love. Both bride & groom are two consenting adults.But the husband has to keep up to his promises.Therefore he has to look after her well,he also should fulfill the wedding promises he made to her & her parents
In Ramayana we all know the story of Kikeyi. She asked her husband a boon. She wanted to send away Rama to forest. Dasaratha obliged that. This sounds absurd. Why can’t Dasaratha simply overrule his wife?! Sure he can do such a simple thing. Why did he send Rama to forrest when he knows that his wife is asking him for something wrong? Though he chose to disagree with her,plead her,he obeyed his promise to her. He sent away Rama to forest! Dasaratha did that because he is honouring his conjugal responsibilities. Same is the case with Sita. Rama knew how absurd it is to find a golden deer in the forrest, yet when Sita wanted to capture such a deer he obliged! I mentioned these two instances as an example to convey you how how Hindu marriage custom was set. It is plain and simple “A good husband must Honour his wife’s wishes”
आत्मा हि दाराः सर्वेषाम् दारसम्ग्रहवर्तिनाम् |
A wife is very self to all, who constantly care for their wives.[Vaalmiki Ramayana 2-37-24] Valmiki Ramayana contains pearls of wisdom towards marriage. Sita was about to follow her her husband into the forrest. She goes to seek the blessings of her mother-in-law Kausalya. And the words of wisdom Kausalya offers are memorable:
ताम् भुजाभ्याम् परिष्वज्य श्वश्रूर् वचनम् अब्रवीत् |
अनाचरन्तीम् कृपणम् मूध्नि उपाघ्राय मैथिलीम् || २-३९-१९
असत्यः सर्व लोके अस्मिन् सततम् सत्कृताः प्रियैः |
भर्तारम् न अनुमन्यन्ते विनिपात गतम् स्त्रियः || २-३९-२०19/n एष स्वभावो नारीणामनुभूय पुरा सुखम् |
अल्पामप्यापदम् प्राप्य दुष्यन्ति प्रजहत्यपि || २-३९-२१
असत्यशीला विकृता दुर्र्गाह्याहृदयास्तथा |
युवत्यः पापसम्कल्पाः क्षणमात्राद्विरागिणः || २-३९-२२20/n न कुलम् न कृतम् विद्या न दत्तम् नापि सम्ग्रहः |
स्त्रीणाम् गृह्णाति हृदयमनित्यहृदया हि ताः || २-३९-२३
साध्वीनाम् हि स्थितानाम् तु शीले सत्ये श्रुते शमे |
स्त्रीणाम् पवित्रम् परमम् पतिरेको विशिष्यते || २-३९-२४
Meaning: Embracing in her arms that princess of Mithila (Sita), who never behaved in self-pity, and smelling her head(as a token of affection), her mother-in-law(Kausalya) spoke as follows:(19) “Dishonest women, even-though adored all the time by their husbands, cease to esteem their husband who has come to pass into evil days, throughout this world.”(20)23/n “Having enjoyed happiness in the past, they become spoiled and even desert their husband, on obtaining even the least misfortune: such is the nature of (bad) women.”(21) “Young women, who are evil-minded, are untruthful in their disposition, are affected by passion and their essence, incomprehensible. They get aversion within a moment.” (22) Neither a noble descent, nor an accomplishment, nor learning, nor a gift nor even entertainment can capture the heart of women. They are unstable of their heart indeed!” (23) “But, for women established in good conduct, truthfulness, sacred learning and mental quietness, their husband alone is the most sacred entity, the best of all.”(24)
So you can see from the above pearls of wisdom that “for women established in good conduct, truthfulness, sacred learning and mental quietness, their husband alone is the most sacred entity, the best of all.” Only in spite of her genuine efforts,when a wife finds herself in a situation where she is not happy in her married life then she has every right to do what she wishes!There is no scriptural sanction against it unlike other panths.She has every right to break a bad marriage. She can walk away!
For example in Vishnu Purana we find a story of Lord Vishnu & Goddess Lakshmi. Following a spat with Lord Vishnu, Goddess Lakshmi left her heavenly abode and came down to the earth. She walked away from him and settled down in Alimelumangapuram.30/n This is the story of Lord Balaji of Tirupati. Lord Vishnu came down in search of his wife and settled down as Lord Balaji in Tirupati.
As far as I understand, in Santana tradition a man can’t break his marriage no matter how ever much he wishes to do so,but a woman can break her marriage & walk away.A man has to obey the wish of the lady and let her go free! In Hindu marriage a wife can make or break the marriage. So it is the parent’s responsibility to educate their daughter towards noble qualities. It is the parents responsibility to teach their son how to be a good husband. Its the responsibility of the wife & husband to live with each other in mutual love & respect. Such a marriage based on the understanding of our tradition never breaks! But the moderen day living devoid of understanding our scriptures is causing a lot of marital distress.
The only way out of this predicament is for the couple to start understanding our Sanatana scriptures and traditions. Especially all everyone must read Valmiki Ramayana and Vyaasa Mahabharata and get proper understanding on our ancient Vaidik life and culture. So refusing to do ‘Kanyadaan’ is not an acceptance of modernity but a sign that u are trapped in fancy looking facade of non-civilisational trait. Our civilisation is indeed great but we fail to understand its worth. It’s better that we wake b4 it’s too late