Marriage in Hinduism

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Marriage in Hinduism

Hindu marriage harmonizes two individuals (mostly male and female) for ultimate eternity, so that they can pursue dharma (responsibility/duties), arth (meaning), and kama. It is a union of two individuals as spouses, and is recognized by liveable continuity. In Hinduism, marriage is not followed by traditional rituals for consummation. In fact, marriage is considered complete or valid even without consummation because the marriage is between two souls and it is beyond the body. It also joins two families together. Favorable colours are normally red and gold for this occasion.

Importance of Marriage[edit]

1. Meaning of vivah (Marriage)[edit]

Taking the bride from her father’s home to one’s own home is termed as ‘vivaha’ or ‘udvah’. Vivaha means Panigrahan, meaning the groom holding the hand of the bride to make her his wife. Since the man holds the hand of the woman, after marriage the woman should go and stay with the man.[1] A man going and staying with the woman is inappropriate.

2. Importance of marriage sanskar – A spiritual perspective[edit]

A. Hindu Dharma has prescribed four Purusarthas (Four basic pursuits of life), that is Dharma , Artha (Wealth), Kama (Pleasure) and Moksha (Liberation). The purpose of the marriage sanskar is to fulfill the Purushartha of ‘Kama’ and then gradually advance towards ‘Moksha’.[2]

B. Several important things in the life of a man and woman are associated with marriage; for example, love between man and woman, their relationship, progeny, various happy events in their lives, social status and prosperity.[3]

C. In Hindu Society a married woman is viewed with utmost respect.

The Sight of a woman with kumkum on her forehead,[4] wearing a mangalsutra around her neck,[5] green bangles, toe rings and six or nine-yard sari automatically generates respect for her in the mind of an observer.

3. Age for marriage[edit]

In the earlier times, at the age of eight after the upanayan sanskar, a boy would remain in his Guru’s hermitage for at least twelve years. Thereafter, before entering the stage of gruhasthashram (Householder), for four to five years he would make efforts to develop the ability to earn a livelihood. Giving due consideration to all this, the age group of twenty-five to thirty years was considered as ideal for a boy’s marriage. Once the girl crossed her childhood stage, for the next five to six years she was taught how to shoulder worldly responsibilities. Hence, the age group of twenty to twenty-five years was considered ideal for marriage for a girl.[6] From the spiritual perspective in the current period too, the above mentioned age groups are ideal for marriage of boys and girls.

4. Matching of horoscopes while arranging a marriage[edit]

Before arranging a marriage, it is required by dharma to match the horoscopes of the prospective bride and the groom. Hence, it is essential that the horoscopes of both are accurate. The individual who makes the horoscope should be proficient in his task too.[7]

Arranging the marriage[edit]

The use of jathakam or Janam Kundali (astrological chart at the time of birth) of the son/daughter to match with the help of a priest is common, but not universal. Parents also take advice from the brahman called 'Jothidar' in Tamil or 'panthulu or siddanthi ' in Telugu and Kundali Milaan in northern India, who has details of many people looking to get married. Some communities, like the Brahmans in Mithila, use genealogical records ("Panjikas") maintained by the specialists.

Jathakam or Kundali is drawn based on the placement of the stars and planets at the time of birth. The maximum points for any match can be 36 and the minimum points for matching is 18.[8] Any match with points under 18 is not considered as an auspicious match for a harmonious relationship but still it depends liberally on people they can still marry. If the astrological chart of the two individuals (male and female) achieve the required threshold in points then further talks are considered for prospective marriage. Also the man and woman are given a chance to talk and understand each other. Once there is an agreement then an auspicious time is chosen for the wedding to take place.

In recent years, with the onset of dating culture in India, arranged marriages & horoscope analysis have seen a marginal decrease, with prospective brides and grooms preferring to choose a spouse on their own and not necessarily only the one whom their parents find agreeable; this has been more pronounced in urban and suburban areas than rural regions. Today the culture of marriage among Hindus is such new concept of Love-Arrange Marriage or Arrange-Love Marriage.

Eight types of marriage[edit]

Hindu symbolic marriage: eloping couple exchange garlands under a tree. Illustration from Sougandhika Parinaya
:M.V. Dhurandhar’s Scene Of Hindu Marriage Ceremony

According to Hinduism there are eight different types of marriages. Not all have religious sanction.[9]

The eight types are:

  1. Brahma marriage - The Brahma marriage is the marriage of one's daughter to a man of good conduct learned in the Vedas, and invited by oneself. A Brahma marriage is where a boy is able to get married once he has completed his student hood, or Brahmacharya. Brahma marriage has the most supreme position of the eight types of Hindu matrimony. When the parents of the boy seek for a female, they would consider her family background, but the girl's father would make sure that the boy that wishes to wed his daughter had the knowledge of Vedas. It is these things that make the basis for Brahma marriage, not a system of dowry. Dowry is considered sin in these kind of marriage.
  2. Daiva marriage - The type of marriage that is considered inferior because it is degrading to womanhood. This is where the woman's family will wait for a specific time to get her wed. If she doesn't get a suitable groom, then she would be married off to places where family choose by matchmaking through priest who duly officiates at a religious ceremony, during the course of its performance. This used to be the practice followed by many Royals in ancient times to forge diplomatic ties with allies and enemies alike.
  3. Arsha marriage - An Arsha marriage is where the girl is given in marriage to a sage. The bride used to be given in exchange for some cows. Agasthya married Lopamudra accordingly. Kings often could not refuse the sages who had such power and standing in society and hence the numerous stories in Mahabharata that portray this practice.
  4. Prajapatya marriage - Prajapatya is when a girl's father gives her in marriage to the bridegroom, treating him with respect, and addresses them: 'May both of you perform together your duties'. Unlike in Brahma marriage, Prajapatya matrimony is where the bride's father goes in search of a groom, although this isn't considered as good as the grooms parents searching for the perfect bride. Also, unlike Arsha marriage, monetary transactions are not a part of the Prajapatya marriage.
  5. Gandharva marriage - The voluntary union of a maiden and her lover on own is called Gandharva marriage. When it comes to ‘love’ marriage, it is Gandharva marriage that is the most similar. This is where a groom and his bride could wed without their parents knowledge or sanction. This is how Dushyanta married Shakuntala. Note that this is not same as dating. Here the bride and the groom exchange vows in the presence of some person, creature, tree, plant or deity before any further action.
  6. Asura marriage - Asura marriage is when the bridegroom receives a maiden, after having given of his own free will as much wealth as he can afford, to the bride and her kinsmen. It is Asura marriage that sets itself apart from the other types of marriage. This is a matrimony where the groom may not often be compatible with the bride and may even possess some abnormality but either greed or compulsion on the part of the bride's father coupled with the groom's desire and wealth may render it. At all times this type of marriage was considered lowly. In modern times this is unacceptable because it is much like buying a product off the shelf and against common Indian law.
  7. Rakshasa marriage - Rakshasa marriage is the marriage of a maiden involving her forcible abduction from her home after her kinsmen have been slain or wounded. The groom will force battles with the bride's family, overcome them and carry the bride away to convince her to marry him. Because of its use of force this marriage is essentially rape in modern parlance, and it was never considered right - hence the pejorative name rakshasa attached to it. This is condemned in the Manusmriti as a sinful act. In modern times it is a crime. Arjuna's marriage to Subhadra was made to look like this but in reality it was a Gandharva Marriage because both of them were in love and they had the consent of Subhadra's brother Sri Krishna who actually suggested this subterfuge to preempt Balarama from dissent.
  8. Paishacha marriage - When a man by stealth seduces a girl who is sleeping, intoxicated, or mentally challenged, it is called Paishacha marriage. This is condemned in the Manusmriti as a sinful act. In modern times this is called Date Rape and is a crime in most countries.[10]

The wedding[edit]

A Hindu Marriage Ceremony in progression

Wedding ceremonies can be expensive, and costs are typically borne by the parents. It is not uncommon for middle or upper-class weddings to have a guest list of over 500 people. Often, a live instrumental band plays. Vedic rituals are performed and the family and friends then bless the couple. Many delicacies are served to the invitees. The wedding celebrations can take up to one week depending on the practice in different parts of India.

Types of Hindu marriage and rituals[edit]

Historically the Vedic marriage was but one of the few different types of Hindu marriage customs. Love marriage was also seen in historical Hindu literature and has been variously described by many names, such as Gandharva vivaha. In certain poor vaishnav communities there is still a custom called kanthi-badal which is an exchange of bead-garlands as a very simplified form of ritual in solitude in front of an idol of Krishna, considered a form of acceptable love marriage.

Elopement has also been described in old Hindu literature. Lord Krishna himself eloped with Rukmini on a horse chariot. It is written that Rukmini's father was going to marry her to Shishupal, against her wishes. Rukimini sent a letter to Krishna informing of a place and time to pick her up.

Symbols of Hindu marriage[edit]

The married Hindu women in different parts of India follow different customs. Mostly sindoor, mangalsutra and bangles are considered as signs of a married woman.

The Mangalsutra, a necklace that the groom ties around the bride’s neck, is considered to protect the married couple from the evil eye and symbolize the longevity of the husband’s life, making it inauspicious if the mangalsutra is lost or breaks.[11] Women tend to wear it every day as a reminder of their duty to their husbands.

Sindoor (vermilion) is another significant symbol – when a woman no longer wears sindoor, it usually means widowhood.[12] A bindi, a forehead decoration mostly worn by wives, is thought of as a “third eye” and is said to ward off bad luck.[12]

These symbols have been around for centuries, with appearances in ancient paintings, such as one of the Hindu god Rama and the Hindu goddess Sita’s marriage.[13] Mangalsutras and bindis, have even survived British occupation in India.[14]

In some places, in especially Eastern India, instead of mangalsutra they put only vermilion on the hair parting, wear a pair of conch bangles (shankha), red bangles (pala) and an iron bangle on the left hand (loha) while their husband is alive. In southern India, a married woman may wear a necklace with a distinctive pendant called a thali and silver toe-rings. Both are put on her by the husband during the wedding ceremony. The pendant on the thali is custom-made and its design is different from family to family. Apart from this, the married woman also wears a red vermilion (sindhoor) dot on her forehead called kumkum and (whenever possible) flowers in her hair and bangles. In medieval times a married woman used to be encouraged to give up all of these when her husband died. This is no longer the practice in many progressive communities any more. In the Kashmiri tradition, women wear a small gold chain (with a small gold hexagonal bead hanging from the chain) through their upper ear which is a sign of being married. The married woman in Kumaon Uttarakhand wear a yellow cloth called pichoda. At the actual wedding, Hindu brides wear bright colored outfits. A red sari or lengha, is usually what the bride wears, she may even choose to wear more than one outfit. The first one is the one she comes to the ceremony wearing from her family, and the second one she gets to change into half-way through the ceremony, which is given to her by her husband and his family.[15]

The reach of these symbols is expanding as they have been adopted by other cultures and religions as well. Some Muslim women have started wearing mangalsutras under their burqas, a one-piece Islamic veil.[16]

History[edit]

In earlier times, women were seen as someone else’s property and it was thought that unmarried women couldn’t be kept at home – this belief is still held by some.[17] It was – and in some places, still is – thought that one’s daughter was only temporary, she was always meant to be her husband’s, and her parents’ main duty was to arrange her marriage.

After marriage, a woman was seen as a guest when visiting her natal home, not as part of the family.[17] In India, the main duty of a woman was serving her husband and family, and several Hindu festivals reflect this by reinforcing the tradition of a woman fasting or performing other rituals to pray for her husband’s long life.[17]

Dowry, the practice of the bride’s family gifting property or money to her husband, is still prevalent despite the enactment of the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961.[17] Historically, if the amount of dowry was seen as insufficient, the groom’s family would take it as an insult and harass the new bride to ask her family for more dowry.

The Fight Against Dowry.png

Modernity[edit]

Many people believe that arranged marriage is the traditional form of marriage in India; however love marriage is a modern form, usually in urban areas. Love marriage differs from arranged marriage in that the couple, rather than the parents, choose their own partner. There are various instances from ancient scriptures of Hinduism, of romantic love marriages that were accepted in ancient times, for example Dushyanta and Shakuntala in the story of the Mahabharata. Somewhere in the course of time, arranged marriages became predominant and love marriages became unacceptable or at least frowned upon, some historians believe that it happened in the foreign invasion period. Despite some love marriages, the vast majority of Hindus continue to have arranged marriages, though the prospective couples usually have more agency in the match than they did historically.

Same sex marriage[edit]

There are 8 types of Hindu marriages, and all of them are defined as between a man and a woman. Further, Shri Krishna preached that the ultimate goal of marriage is to procreate together to raise God-conscious children. Since homosexual couples cannot procreate together, gay marriage is technically not valid in Hinduism, regardless of opinion. There are both conservative and liberal views about homosexuality and same-sex marriages in Hinduism with Hindu priests having performed marriage of same-sex couples. In 2004, Hinduism Today asked Hindu swamis (teachers) their opinion of same-sex marriage. The swamis expressed a range of opinions, positive and negative.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "What does Hinduism say about family life? - Hindu relationships - GCSE Religious Studies Revision - WJEC". BBC Bitesize. Retrieved 2021-05-18.
  2. ^ "What does Hinduism say about family life? - Hindu relationships - GCSE Religious Studies Revision - WJEC". BBC Bitesize. Retrieved 2021-05-18.
  3. ^ "What does Hinduism say about family life? - Hindu relationships - GCSE Religious Studies Revision - WJEC". BBC Bitesize. Retrieved 2021-05-18.
  4. ^ "Hindu marriage rituals: Know the significance of Sindoor". www.timesnownews.com. Retrieved 2021-05-18.
  5. ^ Staff, India com Lifestyle (2020-11-01). "Karwa Chauth 2020: Keep These Factors in Mind On the Day of Karwa Chauth, Know the Importance of Mangalsutra". India News, Breaking News | India.com. Retrieved 2021-05-18.
  6. ^ Chandra, Jagriti (2020-09-04). "Should the age of marriage for women be raised to 21?". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2021-05-18.
  7. ^ "What does Hinduism say about marriage? - Hindu relationships - GCSE Religious Studies Revision - WJEC". BBC Bitesize. Retrieved 2021-05-18.
  8. ^ Kapoor, Abhinav. "36 points need to be acquired for an auspicious Gunn Milan method and happy marriage". TrustedTeller. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  9. ^ Manusmriti 3.24 & 26.
  10. ^ Manusmriti 3.27-34.
  11. ^ Das, Subhamoy. “Why Do Hindu Women Wear Mangalsutra Necklaces?” Learn Religions, 24 Feb. 2019, www.learnreligions.com/the-mangalsutra-necklace-1770471.
  12. ^ a b “Significance of Indian Women's Adornments - Sindoor, Bindi, Toe Rings and Bangles.” Astroyogi.com, Astroyogi.com, 16 Jan. 2017, www.astroyogi.com/articles/significance-of-indian-womens-adornments-sindoor-bindi-toe-rings-and-bangles.aspx.
  13. ^ "Hampi-Vijayanagar: Virupaksha Temple Int.: Ceiling Painting of the Mandapa: Rama's Marriage." 16th C. Artstor, library-artstor-org.ezproxy.bu.edu/asset/ARTSTOR_103_41822003472907.
  14. ^ Mayer, Tara. “From Craft to Couture: Contemporary Indian Fashion in Historical Perspective.” South Asian Popular Culture: Designing (Post) Colonial Knowledge: Imagining South Asia, Vol.16 (2-3), p.183-198.
  15. ^ Noor, Javed (June 10, 2010), What to wear? Bridal fashion: Choosing one wedding dress for the big day, The Toronto Star, p. 1
  16. ^ Akram, Maria. “Beneath Burqa, a Mangalsutra and Chooda.” The Times of India, global-factiva-com.ezproxy.bu.edu/ha/default.aspx#./!?&_suid=160157326370209083106209683041.
  17. ^ a b c d Sharma, Indira et al. “Hinduism, marriage and mental illness.” Indian Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 55, Suppl 2 (2013): S243-9. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.105544.