Vivaha (Marriage ceremony )
This is even today the most important and sacred ceremony in anybody's life. It is done to enter the house holder's order by getting married and performing the duties of married life. Marriage in India is a sacred ritual. Much thought is given and partners are selected by the parents, relatives and friends. Horoscopes of both the partners are matched to ensure compatibility. Age, health, education, social and economic status of parents are taken into consideration. Young adults when they choose their partners on their own it is usually based on physical appearance and it is not very reliable. Cohabiting without commitment usually drains much energy and frequent separation intensifies the feeling of rejection and lack of worth.
Marriages in ancient India were not always arranged and there were many types of marriages to suit individual needs. There were Brahma vivaha, Prajapatya , Arsha, Deva, Asura, Pishach and Gandharva vivaha.
Anteshti (Last rites )
This is life's last ritual but considered very important as well. This is done generally by the eldest son after death. The body is decked with flowers and sprinkled with the holy waters of the Ganga and carried to the cremation ground chanting the phrase, ‘Rama Nama Satya Hai' the Lord's Name is the Truth. The body is cremated. This is considered good for the departed soul. If the body is not burned the soul hovers near the dead body because of its attachment to it. Its onward journey to the celestial worlds is interfered with. The son conducts ‘Sapindikarana' ceremony that helps the soul to move from the Preta loka ( A lower, heavier and denser part of the astral plane ) to the Pitri loka the astral plane proper. The son walks three times round the dead body and then lights the fire to the pyre. The ashes are then collected on the next day and carried to Haridwar or Varanasi and immersed in the Ganga waters. For the peace of the departed soul on the 11th or the 13th day after death, a mass feeding and donations are done. This is called Shraddha. This gives much satisfaction to the dead souls who are called Pitris and reside in Pitri loka the Astral plane. Performance of Shraddha and Tarpana (offering of rice balls and water) relieves the hunger and thirst of the departed soul during its journey to the astral plane. Those who go to hell ( certain specific dark, dense parts of the astral plane ) are extremely oppressed by hunger and thirst. Performance of Shraddha and Tarpana relieve their sufferings. Those who go to the astral plane or in Heaven also gets satisfaction, strength and nourishment.