Introduction: In India, The Hindus give great importance to the Hindu marriage system and traditions. Hindu customs presuppose that every man, in his normal conditions is expected to marry. It means that every man is expected to undergo the “vivaha samskara” and run a family (kutumba).
As far as the Hindus are concerned, Marriage vivaha is generally considered obligatory tradition for every person, because, in the first place, the birth of a son is said to enable one to obtain Moksha. “To be mothers were women created, and to be fathers men; therefore, the Vedas ordain that dharma must be practiced by man together with his wife.”
A sacred institution: With the Hindus, marriage is a religious duty, and not a civil contract. It is regarded as one of the most sacred of the sacraments symbolizing the holy and indissoluble union of a couple who thereafter are mutually dependent and indispensable in the performance of religious duties.
Manu considers it as a social institution for the regulation of proper relations between the sexes.
Progeny instrumental to happiness: The Hindus believe that “one’s progeny is connected with and is instrumental to happiness both in this world as well as hereafter” [Manu Smriti]. Manu Smriti clearly states that “he is a perfect man, who consists of his wife, himself and his offspring.”
Mahabharata also stated that it was impossible for a lady “to gain the ultimate bliss as long as she was not sanctified [asamskrita] by marriage rites.”
Marriage is a necessary social tradition: The birth of a son is conceived to be particularly contributory towards helping the father to execute his obligations which are due to the departed ancestors, called “pitri rinas.” It is a social obligation for every Hindu to fulfill the “pitri rinas.”
Vedas have enjoined that dharma must be observed by man together with his wife. Sacrifices performed or pilgrimages undertaken will have no effect, if the wife is not a partner in those holy duties. Mann considers vivaha (marriage) a necessary social tradition for practicing the Grihastha dharma.
Importance of marriage: Hindu shastrakaras have highlighted the necessity of marriage for both man and woman. Mahabharata clearly states that a:
- “wife is the very source (mutan)] of the purusharthas, not only of dhanna, artha and kama, but even of Moksha.
- Those that have wives can fulfill their due obligations in this world (kriyavantah);
- those that have wives, truly lead a family life;
- those that have wives can be happy; and
- those that have wives can lead a full life [sriyanvitc]. “
The early shastras permit unmarried girls to take the whole responsibility upon themselves of choosing their life-mates and enter into wedlock with them. They need to wait for three years only after puberty for some responsible elder to arrange for their marriage, but no more. “Vatsyayana too, advises a young maiden who has attained youth (prapta-yauvana) to select a husband for her and get married without waiting for the assistance and permission of her elders.”
Modern Hindu Marriages
Selection of bridegroom and bride: Among the Hindus, a bridegroom and a bride generally do not know each other till they are actually married. The first preliminary is the selection of the bridegroom and the bride, and for this purpose the services of a match-maker are sometimes called for.
When the selection is made the ceremony of ashirbad, (i.e. blessing the pair) takes place and is performed in an auspicious hour. Amongst some, there prevails another practice which comes along with the ashirbad, namely patra (i.e. the formal contract), that penalizes withdrawal from the proposed marriage.
The ceremony: The marriage ceremony is celebrated in the house of the bride’s father. On the night of the marriage, the bridegroom’s relatives, friends, a priest and a barber, arrives at the bride’s house. They are welcomed with sounds of conch-shells.
The bridegroom is conducted to a seat reserved for him; while round him sit the guests. Then the sampradana (bestowing of the bride) takes place.
The bridegroom is taken inside the bride’s house where the ceremony known as stree-achar is performed by a number of women.
Then comes the most serious item of actual wedlock (i.e. the pledge or solemn vow) entered into by the bridegroom, on one side, and the father of the bride on the other. Then the father (or some guardian) of the bride, after reciting the sacred mantras appropriate to the occasion, makes over the bride to the bridegroom along with presents.
The feast: As the ceremony goes on the invited guests are treated to a sumptuous feast by the father of the bride. Friends and relatives of the bride give presents to her as tokens of their love and affection on this happy occasion.
After the ceremony: When the ceremony is over, the bridegroom and the bride sit side by side, surrounded by a bevy of young an elderly ladies who come to talk away the night in jesting and merry-making at the expense of the newly-married couple. The bridegroom now becomes the center of attraction, and every eye is turned towards him. It not infrequent that he is put to a awkward and miserable position by the ladies, who play various pranks with him.
Bride’s admission into the new family: The newly married husband and the wife performs some religious ceremony and take a solemn vow that they will be true and virtuous all though their lives. This completes the marriage ceremony.
The bridegroom now returns home with his newly-married wife. The family of the bridegroom welcomes the groom and his wife. They perform some religious rites and formally admit the new girs into her husband’s family.
Some Views about Hindu Marriage Tradition
Numbers of Indian thinkers, writers and scholars have expressed their opinions about Hindu marriage. Let us consider a few of them.
- “Marriage is not for sense enjoyment but to perpetuate the race. This is the Indian conception of marriage.”
- “Marriage is a social duty towards the family and the community.”
- “It is a social and an ethical relationship established for the purpose of begetting children and the repayment of parental debt.”
- “Marriage is a religious sacrament which is considered primarily a complex of obligations, religious and moral, on the one hand, and social and economic on the other.”
- Among Hindus, “marriage is a Sanskara [tradition], and a religious sacrament, not a contract. It is a holy union of the two souls and not simply of two bodies, for the performance of religious rights. It is an indissoluble bond which could be broken only by death.”
- “Marriage was and is considered a ceremonial gift of the bride by her father, or other appropriate relative, to the bridegroom in order that both may together fulfill three of the standard purposes of human existence. The ends mentioned are: Dharma, Artha and Kama. The first, i.e., religious duty, includes the fourth end known as Moksha or salvation — we may take it that the marriage union was declared to be entered into by the two partners for the fulfillment in common of the cherished goals of human existence.”