Divorce, Widow Remarriage Allowed By Vedic Hinduism

In Hinduism, India on July 24, 2013 at 09:16


Gandharva Marriage-Shakuntala and Dushyant.

Gandharva Marriage-Shakuntala and Dushyant.

Marriage in India, Hinduism is a bit complex in that Marriages are intertwined with Religion ,Spirituality, Disposition and place in the Society.

As I have mentioned in my earlier posts, the Social Organisation , incorrectly called as ‘Caste’ Marriages were classified into Eight Types, based on the couples disposition and their Social Status.

The Eight Types of Marriages ,Vivaha.

  1. Brahma Vivaah:Brahma vivah is considered the best marriage. In this the boy and girl belonging to good families and the same varna get married. The boy should have completed his Brahmacharya Ashram (studenthood). There is no dowry involved and the girl enters the boy’s house with two sets of clothes and some ornaments. In this marriage, the boy’s family approaches the girl’s family. “Kanyadaan”, which is the handing of the bride by her father to the groom, is an important ritual of the Brahma Vivah..
  2. Prajapatya Vivaah: This type of marriage is the same as the Brahma vivaah in all respects, except that the bride’s father gives her away as a gift, not to the groom, but to the groom’s father. This type of marriage is resorted to when the groom and bride are both very young. Thus, the protection of the bride or daughter is handed over by her father to the groom’s father during the Panigrahan (hand-receiving) ceremony. The wedding ceremony involving the young bride and groom may take place immediately afterwards, but the wedding may not be consummated for several years, until the bride and groom are old enough.
  3. Daiva Vivaah: In this type of wedding, there are no feasts or celebrations that are specific to the wedding, but the wedding of the daughter of a poor family is held as an act of charity by wealthy people. It was customary for kings, landlords and rich merchants to hold religious ceremonies and sacrifices where many gifts would be given and charities performed for the benefit of learned Brahmins and the poor. During these great events, a poor man would sometimes approach the wealthy host and seek the charity that his daughter’s wedding be performed at this time. This type of marriage may take place if the girl’s parents are unable to locate a suitable groom within a reasonable period (several years) after the girl has attained puberty. Often, the reason for this would be that the parents of the bride cannot afford the expense of their daughter’s marriage. It was considered improper or unsafe to keep a girl unwed past her teens, and anyway the chances of an aging girl getting a good husband were not better than the same girl getting a good husband at a younger age. So the girl would be bedecked with flowers and whatever small ornaments the parents could provide and taken to the venue of the religious ceremony or sacrifice being performed by a rich magnate. She would be offered in marriage to any willing man and generally this would be one of the priests, young or old. The wedding ceremony would be performed in short order and the feasts which were anyway being hosted as part of the festivities would suffice for this extra wedding also. According to the Dharmashastra, Daiva marriage is considered avoidable but is still respectable since poverty is not culpable; lack of virtue is reprehensible but honest poverty is acceptable.
  4. Arsha Vivaah: In this type of marriage, the family of the groom pays kanya-shulkam or bride-price to the parents of the bride. According to certain texts, the prescribed bride-price is a cow with a calf and a pair of bulls. The sacred texts provide various lists of specific communities where this custom prevailed and imply that it is unfitting in general society. However, several instances are found in the puranas of marriage between a man from mainstream communities and a woman from one of the bride-price seeking communities (Pandu-MadriDasharatha-Kaikeyi, etc.). In nearly all cases, the man willingly pays the bride-price and brings his bride home. Also in nearly all these cases, the woman thus obtained comes to dominate her husband and causes havoc and ruin in his family.
  5. Asura Vivaah: In the Asura type of marriage the groom is not at all suitable for the bride. In no way is he a match for the girl but he willingly gives as much wealth as he can afford to the bride’s parents and relatives. In Arsha type cows are given in exchange for the bride but there is no such limitation in the Asura type of marriage. Generally the groom is of lower social rank or caste than the bride. This type of marriage is highly disfavored.
  6. Gandharva Vivaah: When a man and a woman marry for love and without the consent of their families, that marriage is called Gandharva Vivaah or ‘love marriage.’ This type of marriage is considered impious and degrading because it is motivated by lust. In Hinduism, a man is supposed to marry a woman who will aid him in performing his duties towards his parents, clan and society, and to have sons to perpetuate his lineage. Love marriages are seen as taking a man away from all these duties and making him besotted to a beautiful, lustful woman, mindful only of his own selfish pleasures and unmindful of his duties. Hence this form of marriage is reprobated.
  7. Rakshasa Vivaah: This is essentially marriage by abduction. In cases where the girl is willing to marry the boy but her family is against the alliance, the girl may be abducted and married. It is essential that the girl be willing, because otherwise, the puranas and shastras simply treat the incident of abduction as rape, with consequent vengeance and retribution. Instances of such marriages include Krishna-Rukmini and Arjuna-Subhadra, in all of which cases the girl was willing and the results were good.
  8. Paishacha Vivaah: In the case where the bride is intoxicated, possessed or not in a conscious state of mind when being married and thus is married unwillingly, is an example Paishacha vivaah, and which has been outlawed by Manu.(Wiki)

Of these eight,  in the first Two Case, Brahmana Vivaha and Prajapati Vivaha, Divorce and Remarriage and Widow Remarriage were not allowed.

This is because of the elevated status these two groups, which perform these types of Marriages belong to.

Normally  these were performed by the Brahmana, Kshatriya and Vaisya Communities.

What is important to note is that the ‘Caste’ is determined based on wedlock and Wedlock is not determined by the caste, in the sense that those who marry other than these two types of Marriages no longer belong to the Group and are not constrained by  their original groups laws.

An example is the marriage of  Asura Guru,Sukra’s daughter’s marriage.( Devyani).

Sukracharya, a Brahmin was the Guru of Asuras .

His duty was to get his daughter married  in the style of Brahmana Vivaha.

Since it he did not do it, for no fault of his, he separated himself from his daughter, who later married  a King.

In these cases, the Laws of Manu ,proscribing remarriage or Divorce do not apply.

The Laws of Manu forbidding Remarriage and Divorce are related to the two types of marriages and not to other Varnas.

In all the other six cases, laws of Manu do not apply and there is no bar for remarriage.

As has been the vein of Sanatana Dharama, stricter laws are applied to Barhmains, Kshatriyas ans Vaishyas.

Therefore Divorce and Remarriages were allowed  except in the case of the Brahmanas ,Kshtriyas and Vishyas,

In case people from these groups decide to marry in a form other than what is prescribed, Namely Brahman Vivaha and Prajapati Vivaha, tey acn, but they are no longer controlled by the laws that were applicable to them earlier.

The which group do they belong to and what rules should they follow?

This will be dealt with separately in another post, where I will be discussing how many so-called caste groups came into being.


Indian History By Reddy.



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