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Title: Swayamvara  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Vichitravirya, Karna, Amba (Mahabharata), Adi Parva, Draupadi
Collection: Ancient India, Marriage, Unions and Partnerships in India
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Damayanti's Swayamvara.

Swayamvara (Sanskrit: स्वयं‍वर), in ancient India, was a practice of choosing a husband, from among a list of suitors, by a girl of marriageable age. Swayam in Sanskrit means self and vara means groom in this context.

In this practice, the girl's father decides to conduct the Swayamvara of the daughter at an auspicious time and venue, and broadcasts the news of this to the outside world. Kings typically used to send messengers to outside lands, whereas commoners arranged to spread the news within the local community.

On the appointed day and venue, a list of suitors arrive at the girl's home and ask for her hand. The girl and her family get to choose among the suitors, sometimes through evaluating the completion of various tasks assigned. When the girl identifies the husband of her choice, she garlands him and a marriage ceremony is held immediately.


  • Examples 1
    • Sītā 1.1
    • Draupadī 1.2
    • Damayanti 1.3
    • Sanyogita 1.4
    • Modern literature 1.5
  • Kitayun 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4



In the Hindu epic Ramayana (रामायण), Sītā (सीता) marries Rama (राम), the only one strong enough to lift the Shivа Dhanushа (Lord Shiva's bow) and string it. There is mention of swayamvara in Valmiki Ramayana.[1] but in Tulsidas Ramayan Ram Charit Manas this swayamwara is described. In Valmiki Ramayana Janak raja tells that he has promised to marry Sita to the person who can lift dhanusha and string it. No one could do before Rama. Rama did it. This condition of lifting dhanusha was called by Janak as virya shulka, cost to be paid by suitor for marrying Sita.


The Swayamvara of Panchala's princess, Draupadi

For Drāupadī (द्रौपदी), the daughter of King Drupada of Paanchal in the Mahābhārata (महाभारत), aspirants had to hit a fish's eye with a bow and arrow. This fish was just an image on a rotating wheel, which was rotating on a rod. The rod was placed in a pan filled with water. The many suitors had to pierce the eye with a bow and arrow only using the reflection created by the water in the pan. Prince Arjuna, the third among the Pandavas, succeeds in hitting the fish, after Karna being rejected by Draupadi.


Another famous swayamvara from the Mahabharata is found in the story of Damayanti, who chooses Nala for her husband, against the wishes of the gods.


Married a man, who had been given a task to kill 1,000 crocodiles in a pool and did it in a fraction of a second; after killing he is said be cursed with a birth in Kalyug and based on calculation then he is supposed to take birth in mid 1980s and recently it has been claimed by people that he took birth in a holy city in India called Ujjain, formerly known as Ujjaini.

Modern literature

The Bearded Prince tells the story of Princess Roopali, whose father holds a swayamvara for her to select her groom.[2]


The Shahnama of Fardausi records a similar tradition in pre-Islamic Iran, of one Kitayun, eldest daughter of the Emperor of Constantinople, selecting the Iranian Gushtasp. With a view to procure a husband for one of his daughters, the Emperor determines to hold a grand assembly of illustrious and wise men for her to see and select from. She does not find a suitable husband in the first assembly and a second one is held, where she places the crown on Gushtap's head. Gushtasp, also known as Vishtaspa, returns to Iran with his bride and is crowned King.[3]

As per the custom of Rum, when a princess reached marriageable age, all the princes and nobles would gather in a hall where the princess would enter with her handmaidens and would select one of the princes to be her husband.[4]

Rum (literally "Rome") was the common name used for the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantine Empire by Middle Eastern people.[5]

See also


  1. ^ "I was given thus to Rama in that Svayamvara, a process of self-choosing marriage. I became devoted, by my good works, to my husband who is excellent among men of strength."
  2. ^
  3. ^ The Shah-Namah of Fardausi, translated by Alexanders Rogers, LP Publications page 280
  4. ^ Mazda-Yasni and Zorastranian Tales (Book Two) as retold by Kuku S Shabbir, PAGE 28, ISBN 81-85684-06-5, ISBN 81-85685-01-0,
  5. ^ Mazda-Yasni and Zorastranian Tales (Book Two) as retold by Kuku S Shabbir, Page 33, ISBN 81-85684-06-5, ISBN 81-85685-01-0
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