By Swami Harshananda
Svayamvara literally means ‘choosing the husband by a girl by her own choice’.
Need of Svayamvara
In the olden days, if a girl who had attained puberty was not married off to a suitable young man by her father or guardian, she would wait for three years and then choose her husband herself. This was a well-known as svayamvara which is common to all the castes. Sāvitrī choosing Satyavān is quoted as an example for this kind.
Examples of Svayamvars
But the svayamvaras described in the two great epics are often more elaborate and spectacular affairs. They were confined to the royal families only. In some cases, the svayamvaras did not depend upon the will of the bride at all but upon some heroic deed set by her father, as in the case of Sītā and Draupadī.
The svayamvaras of Damayantī and Indumati may also be quoted as examples. The writers of dharmaśāstras include this under the category of gāndharva vivāha.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore