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Features Of Hindu Marriage That Are Changing And Evolving

Hindu marriage is a significant institution centred on religion, religious rites, and religious pursuits. Monogamy, the absence of widow remarriage, the lack of easy divorce, and chastity are all considered important ideals in Hindu marriage. However, due to a variety of factors such as urbanization, industrialization, secularisation, modern education, the impact of Western culture, and marriage legislation, changes are occurring in Hindu ideals, forms, and values of marriage.

In India, marriage is regarded as a sacred institution. Every Hindu is required to participate in this'sanskara' or purification ceremony. Marriage has been enjoined as a responsibility in Hindu religious texts because an unmarried man is unable to undertake some of the most significant religious activities. In our country, there are numerous sorts of marriages, with monogamy being the most common.

Hindu marriage has undergone numerous transformations as civilization has progressed. Even the monetary values associated with it have shifted dramatically. Individuals are now choosing their partners based on their own preferences. Due to a variety of issues, many people are unable to form marriage connections.

In Hindu civilization, the family system is important not only for man-woman relationships, but also for procreation, healthy child rearing, psychophysical sustenance, economic stability, cultural continuity between generations, and reinforcing the foundation of human society as a whole.

Marriage is a very old and popular institution in most regions of the world. Because it contains various religious rites that promote the family system, marriage is widely accepted and encouraged by society. It is a ceremony in which the husband and wife submit to each other unconditionally.

The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 was intended to secure the rights of marriage for the bride and groom who are Hindu and are bound under the sacred bond of marriage under any ceremony. The law does not define the kind of ceremony since there are several ways a man and a woman may carry out this religious act.

This act was floated after several cases were seen where both man and woman were petrified or humiliated under a fraud case in the name of marriage. This act is binding to any person who is Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhists and is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew and is governed by some other law. This law is binding to any person who is Hindu by Birth or Hindu by Religion. There is a complete definition of Hindu under Section 2 of Hindu Marriage Act.

This law was enacted to avoid the various consequences which were prevalent due to immature Hindu law for marriage under British Rule.

Applicability of the Hindu Marriage Act
The Hindu Marriage Act is applicable to the following group of people:
  • A person who is a Hindu including a Virashaiva, a Lingayat or a follower of the Brahmo, Prarthana or Arya Samaj.
  • A person who is a Buddist, Jaina or Sikh.
  • A person who is residing in regions where this act is applicable and the person should not be a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew.
  • A child both legitimate or illegitimate whose parents are Hindus, Buddhists, Jains or Sikhs.
  • A child whose parents is a Hindu, Buddist, Jaina or Sikh and is raised as a member of a tribe, community, group or family to which their parents belong.
  • Any individual who is a convert or re-convert to Hindus, Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh religion.
According to Clause (25) of Article 366 of the Constitution, this is not applicable to members of any Scheduled Tribe unless the Central Government issues a notification in the Official Gazette.
Conditions for a Hindu Marriage:
A marriage between two Hindus will be solemnized if the following conditions are fulfilled:
  • The couple should not have a spouse living during the wedding.
  • Neither of the couples is incapable of consenting to the marriage due to unsoundness of mind
  • Neither of the couples should be suffering from any mental disorders which makes him/ her unfit for marriage and the procreation of children.
  • Neither of the couples should not be suffering from attacks of insanity or epilepsy.
  • The bridegroom has to complete 21 years of age and the bride has to complete 18 years of age at the time of their wedding.
  • The couple should not be in a prohibited relationship unless their custom permits them to get married.
  • The couple should not be sapindas (cousins) unless their custom permits them to get married.
According to the Hindu Marriage Act, any text, rule or interpretation of Hindu Law or any custom or usage as part of the law in force immediately before the commencement of this Act shall cease to have an effect to any matter for which provision is made in this Act. Any other law that has been in force immediately before the commencement of this Act ceases to have effect in so far as it is inconsistent with any of the provisions contained in this Act.

Hindu marriages are solemnized according to the customary rites and ceremonies of either of the couple's custom. One of the rites and ceremonies include the saptapadi where the bridegroom and the bride take seven steps before the sacred fire. The marriage is bound and completed when the seventh step is taken.

As proof for Hindu marriages, the State Government has implemented rules that provide the particulars relating to their marriage and conditions that are prescribed in the Hindu Marriage Register. The State Government provides that entering of the particulars as in sub-section (1) wpi;d be compulsory in the State for some cases as per the direction that has been issued.

However, violating this would lead the individual to pay a fine of Rs. 25. The Hindu Marriage Register is to be opened for inspection at reasonable times and would be considered as an evidence of statements. This is given by the Registrar on payment of the prescribed fee. The validity of the Hindu marriage will in no way be affected by the omission to make the entry.

Any marriages that are solemnized before or after the commencement of this Act, will be voidable and declared invalid in the following cases:
  • When the marriage is not consummated due to the impotency of the respondent.
  • When a marriage is infringed as per the conditions that are specified in Clause (ii) of Section 5.
  • When the consent of the petitioner or the guardian in the marriage of the petitioner is required under Section 5 before the commencement of the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1948, the consent of the guardian was obtained by force or by fraud or by any material fact or circumstances that are related to the respondent.
  • If the respondent is pregnant by a person who is not the petitioner.
Due to the influence of Western culture and English education the Hindu marriage system has undergone considerable changes. Some of the important ones are:

The Transforming Features In The Marriage System Of Hindus

  • Marriage is not held as compulsory:
    Marriage was once regarded to be an absolute requirement for both male and female Hindus. The universality of marriage was a unique characteristic of Hindu civilization, as a son is required for achieving heaven and ancestor redemption. A marriage was also required for him to fulfil his dharma and religious obligations.

    However, today's educated boys and girls do not hold ancient religious ideals in high regard. Many young women are unwilling to tolerate boys' enslavement. Until they find a suitable partner, many economically independent girls will remain unmarried. As a result, in Hindu society, marriage is no longer universal or obligatory.

    Section 8 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 lays down the element of registration in a Hindu marriage even though it does not make the provision compulsory for parties in a marriage:
    1. Section 8(1) says that as a proof of the Hindu marriages, the State Governments will be granted authorities to make rules which will provide that the parties involved in the marriage have been so in terms with the conditions that are provided by the Hindu marriage Register and along with this the documents that are associated with the marriage should also be kept with the parties for future references.
    2. Section 8(2) provides that it is the responsibility on the part of the State Governments to ensure that the parties to the marriage have abided with the rules that have been provided in Section 8(1) and if there are any signs of contravention by the parties, then it is the State who will charge a fine of twenty-five rupees from the parties.
    3. Section 8(3) says that the rules that have been talked about in Section 8(1) should be provided to the State Legislatures after their formation.
    4. Section 8(4) lays down the duty of the Hindu Marriage Register that is to inspect the marriage in order to have sufficient evidence as to the marriage concerned to prove it to be legal.
    5. Section 8(5) summarises the fact that the validity of the Section will not be affected in any way if the registration of a Hindu marriage does not take place in the course.
  • Change in the process of Mate Selection:
    It was the parents' or guardians' choice of bride and groom. This practise of choosing a marriage partner for sons and daughters persisted until the end of the nineteenth century, but the situation changed when liberalism and industrialism were adopted into Indian society as a result of the influence of Western culture.

    As a result, certain incidences of individual mate selection have been discovered. The tendency to choose one's own mate has risen dramatically in post-independence India. Nowadays, the younger generation is less supportive of parental choice when it comes to marriage partners. A new trend is emerging in the process of mate selection among the middle and upper class educated youth in urban areas. In some cases marriage partners are chosen by children. In most of the cases the parents allow their children to have a say in the selection of partners.1
  • Same Gotra marriage restriction removed
    The central issue in Madhavrao vs. Raghavendrara 2 was whether 'sagotra' marriage, or marriage within the same gotra, was legal under Hindu law.

    "Under the Hindu system of law, clear proof of practise will trump the textual text of the rule," the Privy Council stated in a key 1868 ruling. A custom that differed from the written text of Hindu law, on the other hand, had to be ancient, certain, and reasonable in order to be accepted by the court.3

    The bench determined that the marriage in question between a husband and wife belonging to the same gotra was legitimate after reading over previous court opinions on the evidence to prove a custom.

    Sagotra and sapravara weddings were legalised by the Hindu Marriage (Removal of Disabilities) Act of 1946. The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 recognises such unions as legal. Inter-caste, inter-sub-caste, sagotra, and sapravara marriages were no longer prohibited.
  • The Age at Marriage:
    Child marriage became the most common kind of marriage in India over time. As a result, child marriage was used to protect female chastity and purity. Even in the twentieth century, the practise of child marriage was prevalent. The Child Marriage Restraint Act of the twentieth century, also known as the Sharada Act, set the minimum age of marriage at 14 for girls and 18 for boys.

    The age of marriage was then raised by the Indian Parliament. The minimum age for girls is 18 and for boys it is 21. The marriage of boys and girls under the age of 18 has been considered a criminal offence.

    Various sociological research undertaken over the previous several decades have showed that the trend in marriage age has been changing steadily since 1930. People nowadays desire marriage at a later age due to changing socioeconomic situations.
  • Changes in Marriage Rituals:
    Traditionally, Hindu marriage is a religious sacrament and the Hindu marriage can take place only through the performance of certain rights and rituals. Some of the most important rites and rituals connected with Hindu marriage are Kanya Dana, Vivaha Home, Panigrahana, Agni Parinayana and Saptapadi etc. But today the situation is that some changes have taken place regarding the rites and rituals of marriage.

    Some weddings, on the other hand, are performed in civil courts. As a result, the hallowed aspect of rites and rituals has been greatly decreased. Aside from that, the Arya Samaj organisation has reduced marriage customs and traditions. Another aspect contributing to the reduction in marriage's religiosity is that Indian society as a whole is transitioning from sacred to secular, and as a result, traditional values are changing dramatically.
  • Change in the Stability of Marriage:
    Divorce was traditionally not readily granted or accepted in Hindu society. The prohibition on divorce made the family and marital institutions more secure and long-lasting. Divorce rates in India have been progressively rising as a result of marriage and family regulations, as well as a variety of other causes. 4

    Divorce rates are on the rise, indicating that the institution of marriage is changing. The stability of marital life is deteriorating with time. The level of marital instability is steadily rising. There was a time when a lady could hardly imagine herself divorcing her husband. Women, on the other hand, have begun to seek the rupture of marital bonds.
  • The Problem of Remarriage:
    Although widow remarriage was authorised in some instances, it was not considered as sacred as the original marriage. Once a virgin is given in marriage, the remarriage is no longer considered marriage.

    Widows were allowed to remarry under the Widow Remarriage Act of 1856. In addition to this rule, the Arya Samaj Movement supported widow remarriage. We come across infrequent occurrences of widow remarriage throughout the early twentieth century. The number of widow remarriages has grown dramatically since independence. As a result, we might conclude that our traditional values are shifting.

    The attitude of hatred and abhorrence which was associated with the idea of widow remarriage is being replaced by more liberal ideas of accepting the widow remarriage.

    The Hindu Widows Remarriage Act of 1856 made it permissible for widows to remarry. Under the requirements of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, it is lawful and legal. 'When a marriage has been dissolved by a decree of divorce and either there is no right of appeal against the decree or if there is such a right of appeal, the time for appeal has expired (without an appeal having been presented or an appeal has been presented but has been dismissed), it shall be lawful for either party to the marriage to marry again,'5 according to the Act of 1955.
  • Shift from old Hindu law to recent Hindu marriage act regarding forms of marriage
    In terms of marriage forms, there has been a shift from old Hindu law to a more current Hindu marriage legislation. There were eight types of weddings recognised by Hindu law, four of which were authorised and four of which were not. Brahma, Daiva, Arsha, and Prajapatya belong to the first group, whereas Asura, Gandharva, Rakshasa, and Paisacha belong to the second.

    The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 does not specify a specific type of marriage. It simply spells forth the requirements for a legal marriage. Weddings solemnised under the Act are referred to as Hindu marriages, and they may be done in line with the customary rites of the bride's community.
  • Inter Caste marriage
    In the past, inter-caste marriage was frowned upon in Hindu society. It is now legally permissible. Inter-caste marriages are increasingly seen as evidence of progress, thanks to the rise of co-education, women's education, and the democratic ideal of equality and liberty.

    The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 outlined the requirements for a Hindu marriage. The partners to a Hindu marriage do not have to be from the same caste, according to Section 5 of the Act. As a result, Hindu law now recognises inter-caste marriages as legal. This Act allows "any two Hindus" to marry. 7

    The requirement of pure Hindu law that both parties to a marriage be of the same caste has been modified from time to time by legislation allowing inter-caste weddings. Similarly, restrictions based on gotra and pravara were loosened by law. Marriages between Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists have also been made lawful. The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 recognised such unions.
  • Prohibition of Polygamy:
    Previously, a guy may marry many women in order to have a son. Women are demanding equal rights in marriage as their education levels rise. Polygamy is prohibited under the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955. While the previous spouse is still living, no one can marry again.
  • Condition for marriage
    A lawful marriage has to meet three prerequisites according to Hindu law. These were:
    1. The parties' caste identities. Unless custom allows otherwise, the partners should be of the same caste.
    2. The parties to be in a connection that is beyond the forbidden degrees of relationship. i.e., they did not belong to the same gotra or pravara and did not share the sapinda;
    3. Proper marriage ceremonies performance.

However, with the passage of the Hindu Marriage Act in 1955, the situation altered. Section 5 of the Act of 1955 specifies the requirements for a lawful Hindu marriage. 8

Any two Hindus may marry if the following conditions are met:

  1. Neither party has a spouse living at the time of marriage;
  2. Neither party has a spouse living at the time of marriage;
  3. Neither party has a spouse living at the time of marriage;
  4. Neither party has a spouse living at the time of marriage;
  5. Neither party has at the time of the wedding, none of the parties:
    1. Is incapable of providing legitimate consent to it as a result of mental insanity; or
    2. Although being capable of providing legal permission, has been suffering from a mental condition of such a nature or severity that he or she is unsuited for marriage and childbearing; or
    3. Has been subject to recurrent attacks of insanity (or epilepsy) 14
iii. the bridegroom has completed the age of 21 years and the bride, the age of 18 years at the time of the marriage;
iv. the parties are not within the degrees of prohibited relationship, unless the custom or usage governing each of them permits of a marriage between the two.
v. the parties are not sapindas of each other, unless the custom or usage governing each of them permits of a marriage between the two.9

Marriage is regarded a sacrament in Shastric Hindu law, since it was an indissoluble union of a man and a woman for all time, but as society has evolved, so has the notion of marriage, and it has now become comparable to a civil contract. The industrial revolution, with its lofty aspirations of liberty and equality, gave birth to the contemporary understanding of marriage as a contract.

Marriage is a culturally sanctioned relationship between two or more individuals that provides specific rights and duties between the spouses and their offspring, in-laws, and the rest of the world. Varied cultures have different definitions of marriage, but however, it is primarily a place where interpersonal ties, typically intimate and sexual are recognised.

Our country is well-known for its diverse cultural and historical history. Every effort should be made to maintain the institution of marriage in order for our future generations to be able to stabilise their lives and weave morals into them. It is up to the government and the courts to investigate the situation thoroughly and defend the institution of marriage, as well as, in the long term, the institution of family, which is the bedrock of a strong legal system.

  • Dr. Paras Diwan on Hindu Law, 2nd edn. 2005, p.584, Orient Publishing Co. Allahabad
  • Prof. G.C.V.Subba Rao- Family Law in India, Hyderabad
  • KM Kapadia, 'Changing Patterns Of Hindu Marriage And Family' (JSTOR, 2019)
    ps:// nging&searchText=aspect&searchText=of&searchText=hindu&searchText=marriage&searc hUri=%2Faction%)
  • Ronojoy Sen, 'Same-Gotra Marriage Legal, Court Had Ruled 65 Years Ago - Times Of India' (The Times of India, 2018)
  • studies-essay.php
  1. KM Kapadia, 'Changing Patterns of Hindu Marriage and Family' (JSTOR, 2019)
  2. AIR 1946 Bom 377.
  3. Ronojoy Sen, 'Same-Gotra Marriage Legal, Court Had Ruled 65 Years Ago - Times Of India' (The Times of India, 2018)
  4. Section 15 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
  5. Prof. G.C.V.Subba Rao- Family Law in India, 9th edn. 2009, p.178, S.Gogia&Company, Hyderabad.
  6. Dr. Paras Diwan on Hindu Law, 2nd edn. 2005, p.584, Orient Publishing Co. Allahabad
  7. Section 5 Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
  8. Section 5 Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

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