History of Marriage in India

Marriage binds a couple in a sacred relationship, and this is one of the many reasons why it is considered a very sacred institution. Known as the “sanskara” ceremony, and as per the belief of most Hindu families, the bond is made in heaven. Also, once a man and woman get married, their bond is said to last for seven lifetimes. Marriage is also an important phase in the man’s life as he enters the ‘Garhasthyaashram.’ As per Vedas and various other scriptures, an unmarried man is allowed to perform various religious rituals. 

However, with changing times, the way a couple sees this relationship has changed, along with a few rituals and ceremonies. Weddings these days are fun and a way for both the families to bond with one another. But, did you ever wonder what the history of marriage is in India? Let’s have a look.

Existence of Matriarchal Society

Do you know that during the Indus Valley Civilization, women were given a goddess’s stature, and were very respected? This led to the concept called the Matrilocality. This is a practice where the groom stays with the bride’s parents after the wedding. Due to this, the female offspring always stayed close to or with their parents, helping in the formation of families of a large clan. However, such a concept is rarely seen in this generation of nuclear families. 

Inter Caste or Cross-Cultural Marriages Are Not New

A wonderful discovery was made in the year 2011 at a Harappan burial site, in a village of Haryana. The remains indicated that inter-caste or cross-cultural marriages were prevalent during the Copper Age and Indus Valley Civilization. Studies further indicated that they were involved in such nuptial bonds for a constant copper supply. 

Polygamy & Polyandry

While these terms might sound new to most of us, they were the concepts of marriages during ancient times. As per both polygamy and polyandry, the wife or the husband can have more than one spouse. This was allowed under certain situations, and we can find references to the same in Indian history and mythology. Polygamy was quite common with the Kshatriyas, where the man was allowed to remarry if his wife was unable to give birth to a male child. There are mentions of these concepts in Mahabharata, the popular one being the marriage of Draupadi to the Pandava brothers. 

These incidents also show that this was not a customary practice, and monogamy replaced these as times passed by. As civilization evolved, marriage was and to date seen as a holy and sacramental bond, with the wife holding respect in the house. 

The Practise of Swayamvara or Gandharva Marriage

Though both men and women these days have the liberty of choosing their life partners, the practice of Swayamvara sounds astonishing. The roots of Swayamvara can be traced back to the Vedas, and the mention of the same can also be seen in both Ramayana and Mahabharata. 

Swayamvara was a tradition arranged by the father of the girl, where she gets to choose an eligible suitor for herself, from those present. The interested men were invited, and the girl would show her choice by garlanding the suitor she wishes to marry. 

Another popular variant of this was called the Gandharva marriage. This involved the mutual consent of the couple based on their love or attraction. This can be compared to the live-in relationships these days. 

Modern Changes We Get to See in Hindu Marriage

Call it the influence or evolution, the marriage system in India has undergone a lot of changes. Some noticeable ones are mentioned below.

No More Compulsion

In earlier days, marriage was a ceremony that was compulsory for both men and women. A few Hindu scriptures also mention that the person who does not have a son does not have a place in heaven. However, both men and women in the modern era do not consider this compulsory. A wedding and having a child have become more of a financial and emotional responsibility these days. Many women are independent and do not wish to accept the slavery of a male a marriage brings upon them. 

Breaking Some Norms 

As per Vedic scriptures, a man and a woman from the same pravar or gotra are not allowed to marry. Though a lot of families follow this to date, a few are believing in their choice of a life partner, rather than following the ancient tradition. 

No More Child Marriages

We can hear a lot of incidents of child marriages from the medieval period in India. However, the number of child marriages has reduced to a bare minimum after the passing of the Sarada Act. As per this act, child marriage is considered illegal and can lead to severe punishment as per law. 

No More Polygamy

A man was allowed to remarry several times, and the same was mentioned in various religious and historical books. However, as per the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, polygamy is now illegal. No one can remarry when the spouse is still alive, and this applies to both men and women. Remarriage is possible when the couple has separated via legal means of divorce. 

Final Thoughts

With the advancement in our society, marriages in India have also gone through some major changes. The value attached to marriage has drastically changed too. Being tied in a relationship no longer involves a compulsion, but it involves the needs and wants of the couple. However, marriage is still considered a sacred relationship, and many couples follow age-old rituals and traditions during their wedding ceremonies. An Indian Wedding nowadays is more cheerful, and reflects the culture and tradition of both the families involved, making it a union of two equal individuals. 

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