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20 Nov


Marriage has exhibited changes with the changing times and social processes as an institution. Marriage as an institution in India has some unique features. In Hindu Religion marriage is a spiritual sanskara having three objectives of dharma (fulfilment of religious duties), rati (sex gratification) and praja (procreation). Regulation of mate selection in Hindu groups was based on the following forms of marriage:
Polygyny: It is a form of marriage in which one man marries more than one woman at a given time. Polygyny is more popular than polyandry. It is of two types – Sororal polygyny and non sororal polygyny
Sororal polygyny: It is a type of marriage in which the wives are invariably the sisters. It is often called sororate. The Latin word ‘soror’ stands for sisters. When several sisters are simultaneously, or potentially the spouses of the man, the practice is called ‘sororate’.
Non-sororal polygyny: It is a type of marriage in which the wives are not relate as sisters. For social, economic, political and other reasons, both the types ar practiced by some people.
Polyandry: It is the marriage of one woman with more than one man. It is less common than polygyny. It is of two types Fraternal Polyandry and non-fraterna polyandry.
Fraternal polyandry: When several brothers share the same wife the practice can be called alelphic or fraternal polyandry. This practice of being mate, actua or potential to one’s husband’s brothers is called levirate. It is prevalent among Todas.
Non-fraternal polyandry: In this type the husband need not have any close relationship prior to the marriage. The wife goes to spend some time with each husband. So long as a woman lives with one of her husbands, the others have no claim over her.
Monogamy: It is a form of marriage in which one man marries one woman. It is the most common and acceptable form of marriage.
Serial monogamy: In many societies individuals are permitted to marry again often on the death of the first spouse or after divorce but they cannot have more than one spouse at one and the same time.
Straight monogamy: In this remarriage is not allowed.
Rules of Marriage
No society gives absolute freedom for its members to select their life partners. Rules regarding who should marry whom always govern such selection. Endogamy and Exogamy are the two main rules that condition the marital choice.
Endogamy: It is a rule of marriage in which the life-partners are to be selected within the group. It is marriage within the group and the group may be caste, class, tribe, race, village, religious group etc. We have caste endogamy, class endogamy, sub caste endogamy, race endogamy and tribal endogamy etc. In caste endogamy marriage has to take place within the caste. Brahmin has to marry a Brahmin. In sub caste endogamy it is limited to the sub caste groups.
Exogamy: It is a rule of marriage in which an individual has to marry outside his own group. It prohibits marrying within the group. The so-called blood relatives shall neither have marital connections nor sexual contacts among themselves.
Forms of exogamy:
Gotra Exogamy: The Hindu practice of one marrying outside one’s own gotra. Pravara Exogamy: Those who belong to the same pravara cannot marry among themselves.
Village Exogamy: Many Indian tribes like Naga, Garo, Munda etc have the practice of marrying outside their village.
Pinda Exogamy: Those who belong to the same pinda or sapinda (common parentage) cannot marry within themselves.
Isogamy: It is the marriage between two equals (status).
Anisogamy: It is an asymmetric marriage alliance between two individuals belonging to different social statuses. It is of two forms Hypergamy and Hypogamy.
Hypergamy: It is the marriage of a woman with a man of higher varna or superior caste or family.
Hypogamy: It is the marriage of high caste man with a low caste woman.
Anuloma marriage: It is a marriage under which a man can marry from his own caste or from those below, but a woman can marry only in her caste or above.
Pratiloma marriage: It is a marriage of a woman to a man from a lower caste which is not permitted.
Changes in Hindu Marriage System
Changes in marriage system among Hindus may be analyzed in seven areas:
Object of marriage: Traditionally Hindu marriage has been treated as a sanskara, having three objects of dharma (fulfilment of religious duties), rati (sex gratification) and praja (procreation). Marriage performed for dharma is called dharmik marriage. Marriage was a social duty towards the family. and the i.e., Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, socio cultural awakening, education and urban employment etc., have weakened the sacred ethos and objectives of Hindu marriage.
Process of mate selection: Earlier parents used to select bride for the grooms; now mate selection is increasingly becoming an individual choice.
Form of marriage: Changes in the form of marriage refers to change from polygyny to monogamy and prevalence of both hypogamy and hypergamy marriages.
Change in age at marriage: It refers to change from pre-puberty marriages to post-puberty marriages. It is realized that pre-puberty marriages are harmful on health grounds and also result into higher number of widowhood. Education and employment are considered more or less as valuable for girls as for boys. Hypergamy and concomitant constraint on dowry also contribute to increase in age at marriage. In other words, change in the outlook, values and increased awakening as cultural factors and education, occupation, migration and dowry as structural factors have contributed to change in age at marriage.
Economic aspect of marriage (dowry): The Anti-Dowry Act, 1961, has made giving and taking dowry as a legal offence.
Stability of marriage (divorce): Hindu Marriage Act of 1954 and 1955 prohibit bigamy and permit divorce also on various grounds.
Widow Remarriage: The Widow Remarriage Act, 1856 permits widows to remarry but forfeits them the right of maintenance from the property of the first husband.
Various laws were enacted in India related to age at marriage, field of mate selection, number of spouses in marriage, dissolving marriage, dowry and remarriage. The important legislations relating to these aspects are:
The Child Marriage Act, 1954, dealing with age at marriage, freedom to children to marry without parental consent, bigamy and dissolving marriage.
The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, amended in 1986 and dealing with age marriage with parents consent, bigamy and annulment of marriage.
The first three Acts (of 1929, 1954 and 1955) pertaining to the age of marriage prescribe the marriage age of girls as 18 years and for boys as 21 years. The difference in the Acts is that the 1929 Act (amended in 1978) does not invalidate the marriage for violating the provisions in the Act. It only prescribes punishment for the bridegroom, parents, guardians and the priest (but not for violation of the age provision). The 1955 Act converse marriage performed with the consent of parents but the 1954 Act covers marriages performed through courts, with or without the parental consent. Both these Acts (1954 and 1955) prohibit bigamy and permit divorce also on various grounds and put restriction on marriage within the degrees of prohibited relationships, unless custom permits such marriages.
The Widow Remarriage Act, 1856 permits widows to remarry but forfeits them the right of maintenance from the property of the first husband.
The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, has given share to wife and daughters in man’s property equal to that of sons and brothers.
We agree that social legislation is necessary for providing new direction to culture and society and permitting change and removing evils by filing up the gap between social opinion and social needs of the people. Dr. Radhakrishnan, at the time of introducing the bills related to marriage in 1952, said: “The ancient history cannot solve the problems of modern society. The function of the social legislation is to adjust the legal system continually to a society which is constantly outgrowing that system. While social legislation is essential, the will to implement it is more crucial

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