According to contemporary, orthodox Hindu theories, giving their virgin daughter to the husband's family not only increases and ensures the parents' prestige, but it is also believed to purify them of sin. Kanyadan mainly reveals that the wife is a form of Puruṣārthas like Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. The ritual makes the bridegroom to think that his wife is the most precious gift given by the god Vishnu and the bride to think that her husband is a form of Vishnu.
In communities where kanyādān is performed as part of the actual wedding, the ritual is carried out through a variety of kanyādān songs. These songs may include the parents lamenting the loss of their daughter, as well as regretting their economic sacrifice for the wedding. Other songs focus on the groom, for example comparing him to the "ideal groom", the god Rama, in the epic Ramayana. Finally, a kanyādān song may express the daughter’s humiliation for being given away by her father, thus conveying that she has been betrayed. Importantly, the kanyādān ritual occurs right before the Sindoor ritual (sindurdan), which marks the bride’s symbolic loss of virginity.
The Newars of Nepal, for example, celebrate kanyādān as part of what is called mock-marriage (ihi) or bel marriage, often also referred to as first marriage. This first marriage occurs before a girl menstruates and is meant to initiate her into adulthood. Through kanyādān, the girl is symbolically married to the bel fruit, which is a symbol of the god Shiva, ensuring that the girl becomes and remains fertile and that she will never be a widow, even if her husband dies. Besides the virgin-gift offered by the father of the girl, the ceremony also includes a fire sacrifice. Neither of these rites are part of the ceremony accompanying the girl's second marriage to a human husband. Unlike traditional Newars and many South Indian communities, most North Indian communities combine the first and second marriage in one ritual.
- Gellner, David N. “Hinduism, Tribalism and the Position of Women: The Problem of Newar Identity.” Man (March 1991). JSTOR. 20 February 2008.
- “India.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 20 February 2008. <http://ripley.sbc.edu:2080/eb/article-46444>.
- Enslin, Elizabeth. “Imagined Sisters: The Ambiguities of Women’s Poetics and Collective Actions.” Selves in Time and Place: Identities, Experience, and History in Nepal. Ed. Debra Skinner, Alfred Pach III, and Dorothy Holland. Lanham; Boulder; New York; Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1998 (269-299).
- Henry, Edward O. “Folk Song Genres and Their Melodies in India: Music Use and Genre Process.” Asian Music (Spring-Summer 2000). JSTOR. 20 February 2008.
- Gutschow, Niels; Michaels, Axel; Bau, Christian (2008). The Girl's Hindu Marriage to the Bel Fruit: Ihi and The Girl's Buddhist Marriage to the Bel Fruit: Ihi in Growing up - Hindu and Buddhist Initiation Ritual among Newar Children in Bhaktapur, Nepal. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, Germany. ISBN 3-447-05752-1. pp. 93-173.