Evolution and History of Hindu Marriage

By | August 13, 2020
Evolution and History of Hindu Marriage

Introduction

This article deals with the evolution and history of Hindu Marriage in Indian society. It is divided into several sections for better understanding. The historical point of view from the nomadic lifestyle to the present laws and relevant provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act has also been covered within this article.

Different types of marriages, across civilizations, rituals, traditions, and core beliefs of Hindus towards marriage has been discussed as well. Lastly, the caste system and rules and traditions which are expected to be adhered to by Hindu society as a whole, including the man and the woman are also included.

Historical Aspect of Evolution of Hindu Marriage

The men and women of ancient times lived in a nomadic lifestyle. They didn’t spend their lives looking to find marriage or companionship. However, the society became an agricultural oriented one with time, following that shift in culture and way of life.

The sense of true self and ownership eventually became crucial to humanity. Sexual activity and having a progeny had nothing to do with parentage, as it was hard to ascertain the child’s paternity due to lack of legislation. But the need for boundary arose, with changing times. Ownership and possession became significant because it gave a sense of security.

After that, there was a need to ascertain the paternity which would require an exclusive relationship between the man and woman. The men ‘s goal in society became to track down their seeds of life and, consequently, created the need for marriage institutions.

Men and women then started living together, procreating and having their bloodline and instilling, among many other values, not only ancestry but also a sense of responsibility and unity. Marriage now plays an extremely vital part of the life of a person. The concept itself has become more individualistic in modern times, but it upholds a sense of stability and companionship in life since its inception.

It also instils the feeling of being. This marriage institution limits itself not only as an agreement and contract between man and woman but also as a social institution for the couple to live in a society with specific values and behaviour.

Definition of marriage

Several scholars have defined marriage in their several distinct ways. These are the perspective of some of these:

According to a sociologist named H.T Mazumdar “marriage is a socially sanctioned union for a male and female to establish (a) household (b) sexual relations (c) procreation and (d) care of offspring.”[1]

George Andrew Lunderberg said it was to ensure that each party, the man and the woman, should know their right and also their marriage duties and responsibilities. He treated the marriage institution more like a means or method of providing man and wife with rules and regulations.[2]

In Shobha Rani v. Madhukar Reddi[3] the Indian courts have defined marriage in which the need for such an institution was more crucial as marriage also has its legal implications. It helps to ascertain different aspects of conflicts and protect a child’s rights. Besides, a union also illustrates cultural values and ideologies and also helps to safeguard it.

There is one commonality, according to various other scholars, where it is observed that marriage failure and instability in the union could be causing financial stress. It could also be called one of the major contributors to poverty, a hunger which ultimately leads to robbery.

Hinduism and marriage under it

Hindu contains a very diverse range of people in it. It’s like a bigger umbrella with a wide range. It is followed by millions of people but has no unique faith or deity. It encompasses a diversity of followers. It is an Indian Personal Law. Where personal life matters and shortcomings can be resolved through them. Hindu law in India includes wedlock, guardianship, divorce, maintenance, and much more.

Hinduism isn’t like Islam or Christianity. It’s more of a way that one leads one ‘s life. Hinduism is like cultural identity and not religion.

Despite technically being non-Hindus, all Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists are included under the definition of Hindu under the 1955 Hindu Marriage Act. Section 1 of the Act signifies that all Hindus in the Indian union, including Jammu and Kashmir, are subject to the application of this Act. That will include those Hindus who are not residing in India as well.

In India, the marriage concept explores a much fuller insight. It doesn’t just involve the idea of marriage. But that is seen as a sacrosanct entity. It is an integral part of Hindu cultures and traditions. It is a part of the Indian ‘Sanskaar.’ A matter of two families and individuals being united in holy union.

Matrilocal marriages: Indus Civilisation

The marriages between man and wife were matrilocal during the civilisation of the Indus Valley. Meaning it was a matriarchal society where, after getting married, the man would live next to the house of the women’s parents. Their off-springs would live there, too. A whole clan of female descendants would thus be living together.

Cross-Culture

In the year 2011, there was a discovery where it was observed that there have been people who also had marital relations during the Harappa Civilization. The people of Harappa provided the Chacolith people with finished goods which is another modern civilization.

Polygamy and Polyandry

There is enough evidence to reflect that plural marriage or polygamy (how we know it in common parlance), and polyandry relationships existed in those eras. A reflection of that can be seen in the religious texts such as the Mahabharat where five Pandavas were married to ‘Draupadi. The principle was based on the idea that if the woman of the family or wife were unable or unable to perform the religious rites and ceremonies, then the husband or man was entitled to re-marry another woman.

However, with the passage time, this was also replaced. Polygamy and Polyandry practices lost their significance and Monogamy came into force. Monogamy was given preference later since the union of two people was now considered holy and spiritual in mature. Hence it became high in virtue.

Roots of Patriarchal norms

This patriarchy found its roots from the Vedic period. Women were considered property during this time and became men ‘s responsibility. Women have begun to lose their independence and their rights as an independent individual have now been placed upon the shoulder of patriarchy. Moreover, the men know where those who were thought capable of assuming responsibility were.

Women were now either their father’s responsibility until marriage, and after marriage, they became their husband’s responsibility.

Marriage Rituals

The rituals of the marriage were to be conducted and blessed by a Vedic priest. This holy sacrament then wove the man and the woman in holy matrimony. After this, the family life of the women and men would begin. Following which they have offspring for their family. Thus, this is how society evolved from ancient times to the present scenario. It shifted from an unregulated society to a modern society where monogamous marriages have prevalence.

The ceremony of the marriage itself is quite a long and tedious process. It includes several cultures and traditions which are performed by both the families i.e., the grooms and the bride’s family. This is a celebration in Hindu culture, which is shared with family, friends, and neighbours.

Core principles of a Hindu’s life

  • A man who has renounced the world for taking up renunciation. This man should get married and lead a family life. It is the Dharm meaning it is his responsibility to get married and live that life.
  • The man’s life has been divided into four stages. i.e. Bramhacharya, Grishasta, Vanaspratha, Sannyasa. Out of all the stages, the Grishasta which means home and family includes the stage where a man is expected to get married and live a family life. He is also supposed to do it as a matter of dharma. The concept of marriage was first discovered in Smritis and Vedas.
  • If one is married under the Hindu tradition it is expected of the man and woman to lead their entire life together and to be only devoted to each other. This also reflects the value that the marriage is not just a contract but a sacred and holy union of two souls.
  • Furthermore, it is also believed that marriage is supposed to last even afterlife and for the next seven births of the couple. The concept of divorce is a modern tradition included in the Hind marriage act.
  • According to the Act, marriage can take place between two adults and the man should be the age of 21 years old and the woman can be 18 years or above. The concept of child marriages has prohibited and so is the concept of polygamy.
  • In Hindus, the woman is considered a holy and sacred whose role in the marriage is to take up household chores and live a simple and decent life. Furthermore, she is expected to liver her life with her husband and his parents. And to enjoy the care and protection of her husband.

Caste System

The Hindu’s have been divided into many castes. Law of Manu includes for major categories:

  1. Brahmin
  2. Kstariya
  3. Vaishya
  4. Shudras,

Marriage is allowed within one’s caste and marriage in the caste system is usually not accepted. According to Manu, to produce legitimate offsprings, a man should marry within the next lower caste itself. This caste system has been prevailing since time immemorial and is still pretty relevant and adhered to by the Hindus in Modern India also.

Conclusion

With the passage of time and the changing society, the laws and rules within the Hindu culture have witnessed several changes and evolution. From being nomadic to living a family life after the union of two souls of marriage. The Hindu Marriage Act 1955 also includes provisions related to divorce. Hence, the concept of non- dissolution does not hold any prevalence in current times.

The marriage amongst the Hindu community is governed by two laws in India namely; Hindu Marriage Act and Special Marriage Act under a circumstance where a Hindu marries a Non-Hindu. These laws protect the interest and rights of the person and help them live a peaceful, happy life.


[1] H.T. Mazumdar, Grammar of Sociology, 502 (Asia Publishing House 1966)

[2] Sociology 133 (Harper and Brothers, New York, 1958).

[3] AIR 1988 SC 121.


  1. Hindu Law; Notes, Case Laws And Study Material

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