Marriage and family are considered to be the oldest and the most primary and
fundamental institutions in the sub-systems of the society that plays a
significant role in order to regulate the sex life of human beings. Both are
important for the transcendence and functioning not only of society, but also
for the sustenance and perseverance of human being. Marriage can have different inferences in different
cultures, its goals, functions and forms may vary from society to society.
Marriage is not merely a legally recognised union of two people but it is a
live social bondage. In the Indian context huge importance has been given to
marriage since time immemorial. In our country marriage is almost obligatory
and inescapable for an average Indian. It is a long-standing and deeply rooted
tradition believed as a basic ritual of our country. Marriage is an institution
created by society to sanction the union of male and female for purposes of 1)
entering into sex relations, 2) reproducing, 3) establishing a family.
in the marriage institution
The changing trends by passing time over many established institutions and
concepts. The institution of marriage still remains widespread and seems to be
under an awful assault from shifting social trends. As the family norms are
changing in the contemporary society, the pattern of marriage is also changing
along with that. Some of the changing standards are currently posing problems
to the traditional model of marriage, are; (1) Increasing acceptability of
singlehood, (2) Increasing popularity of cohabitation and (3) Increasing rate
of divorce. Men and women of today are eagerly stepping out of their customary
demarcated responsibility and moving towards a more egalitarian concept of
Walk from polygamy and polyandry to monogamy
Polygamy and polyandry was prevalent in former times. marriage came to be
recognized as a religious, divine and indissoluble sacramental bond as the
civilization process went ahead. Wife was considered to be a respectable member
in the home. Vedic literature supported monogamy and was considered the best
practice of the highest uprightness. Polygamy was approved by the ancient
lawgivers under certain scenarios, such as the barrenness or lack of religious-
mindedness, that is, if the wife was proved to be unfit to participate in the
performance of religious rites and requirements and was failed to deliver a
male child, Then the husband had the right to remarry.
Marriage (Vivaha) was one of the
holy sacraments from which every person had to undergo and was also the second
stage, Grihasthashrama (householder) between the four stages of life prescribed
in the Ashrama dharma. According to the Rig Veda the aim of marriage was to
enable a man, by becoming a house owner, to perform sacrifice to the gods and
to reproduce sons. In the Rig vedic period the term dampati was given as the
mistress and also the master of the house which means the husband and his wife.
status of women in ancient india
In Vedic age, women occupied a high rank in society.
She had equal privilege with men and enjoyed freedom in choosing her life
partner; Women of the proto and pre-historic India were much better with regard
to their freedom, their living status in general, education, carrier option,
marriage option, family and religion, cultures and choices. The status of women
was extremely rich in culture, lifestyle and stands supreme for its glory. This
gave them equal opportunity for survival with self-respect and dignity. At the
dawn of Indian history, women hold a high social status and some of them were
widely reputed for their learning, women went to Guru Kula to receive education
and married only after obtaining education. Gradually, the condition changed.
The social background by the authoritarian and caste with its power in all
spheres of life, rendered no scope for the recognition of any personal
interests, aspirations and wishes of woman in the family. There is absolutely no reference to Divorce/Dissolution
of marriage. In the Vedic text or in the post vedic literature.
As the law givers have opined that a bride is given to the family and not to
the groom only, a childless widow was allowed to have sexual relation with the
brother of her husband to beget a son. This act was known as the
custom of Niyoga. Tallying of horoscope played no part
in the settlement of marriage in ancient India.
MEDIEVAL INDIA : WOMEN’S DARK AGE
Medieval India was not women’s age
it is supposed to be the ‘dark age’ for them. Medieval India saw many foreign conquests,
which concluded in the decline in women’s status. When foreign conquerors like
Muslims invaded India they brought with them their own cultures and traditions.
For them women was the sole property of her father, brother or husband and she
does not have any will of her own and they treated them like that. This type of
thinking also crept into the minds of Indian people and they also began to
treat their own women like this. One more reason for the decline in women’s
status and freedom was that original Indians wanted to shield their women folk
from the barbarous Muslim invaders. As polygamy was a norm for them so the
invaders use to pick up any women they wanted and kept her in their “harems”. Due
to this reason their freedom also became affected. They were not allowed to
move freely anywhere and not suppose to do anything by their own will and this
lead to the further deterioration of their status. These problems related with
women resulted in changed mindset of people and their attitudes towards woman.
Now they began to consider a girl as misery and a burden, which has to be
shielded from the eyes of intruders and needs extra care. Thus a vicious circle
started in which women was at the receiving end. All this gave rise to some new
evils such as Child Marriage, Sati,
Jauhar and restriction.
in medieval India and especially in Hindu society were not
given formal education. They were
given education related to household chores only.
Many social evils were prevailing at that time for example the ritual of dying
at the funeral pyre of the husband is known as “Sati” or “Sahagaman”. Women dying at the funeral pyre of her
husband go straight to heaven so it’s good to practice this ritual. Sati was
considered to be the better option then living as a widow as the widows in
Hindu society was regarded as even worse. Child Marriage was a norm in
medieval India. Girls were married off at the age of 8-10. They were not
allowed access to education and were treated as the material being. Also there
was a lot of Restrictions on Widow Remarriage, the condition of widows
in medieval India was very bad. They were not treated as human beings and were
subjected to a lot of restrictions. Sometimes heads of widows were also shaved
down. They were also not allowed to remarry. Any woman remarrying was criticized
by the society. This cruelty on widows was one of the main reasons for the
large number of women committing Sati. Purdah System was also one of the
practices which was widely prevalent, it was used to protect the women folk
from the eyes of foreign rulers who invaded India in medieval period. But this
system curtailed the freedom of women.
During the British period, some workers like Ram Mohan Roy, Maharishi Dayanand
Saraswati started movements for social reforms in families.
concept of codification of Hindu Marriage laws was given a legal shape.
In 1829, the Legislation of Hindu Marriage Laws started, when Sati Pratha was
abolished by law at the instance of Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Hindu Widows Remarriage
Act was passed in 1856. In 1860, Indian
Penal Code prohibited Polygamy in Hindus. In 1872, Special Marriage Act was
passed but it excluded Hindus. In 1923, The Special Marriage Act was further
amended to legalize interreligious marriage between Hindus, Budhists, Sikhs and
Jains. In 1929, Child Marriage Restraint Act or Sarda Act was passed. In 1946,
Hindu Married Women’s Right to Separate Residence and Maintenance Act was
.After independence with the declaration of The Constitution of India 1950, the
personal laws of marriage particularly of Hindus have been codified and all the
citizens irrespective of sex, colour, caste or creed have been given equal
rights in the eyes of law. The magnificent characteristic of both The Hindu
Marriage Act, 1955 as well as The Special Marriage Act, 1954 is the initiation
of monogamous form of marriage.
Public opinion is being shaped by many NGOs and other organizations to
enlighten women in particular to assert their political, legal and personal
rights. Many progressive legislative measures have been passed to empower women
to assert their individual as well as spousal rights. Courts are also becoming
sensitive to social causes and various steps have been taken in favour of
In the modern era the social
institution of marriage has observed many changing trends. The Indian youth are
now getting more influenced by the modern and western values and the ones who
are responsible to bring about those changes are the youth for whom the
meaning, significance and purposes of marriage have entirely changed, their
perceptions and ideologies are getting reshaped within the structure of
westernization, modern education, urbanization and reformed Legislations, and
this has also impacted the implications of marriage within our Indian society.
Following are the changing trends of marriage among the Indian youth of the
Change in the Aim or Purpose of Marriage: In the modern era the young
group perceives marriage as a bonding of a man and a woman as the life-long
companions. Marriage is not just a performance of religious duties for them but
for obtaining a life-long companionship of an individual of the opposite sex,
an emotional support.
Change in the Process of Mate Selection: The youth no more find their mate on their parent’s choice, they choose
them by their own terms and choices.
Change in the Field of Selection: Their selection have got enough options
by including the inter-sub castes or inter-caste marriages as well. They look
for a good person with good compatibility now rather than sticking to the caste
or an ethnic identity, or on some established rules or conditions.
Change in the Age of Marriage: The youth of today focus more upon
personal and professional growth, their career, stability and success. They
believe that one should concentrate on acquiring higher education and good job
at first, they like being independent and then should get settled in the bond
of marriage. They believe to make themselves economically and mentally strong
before they step into the phase of marriage and that is why most of the young
individual now get married at an older age.
Increase in Divorces and Desertion: Most of the youth today are
independent and financially strong, well educated because of which they tend to
think firstly of self and then of others. Becoming more practical and less
dedicative and lack of selflessness leads to arguments, disagreements and
disputes with their partners and that is why the instances of divorce and
desertion are on increase.
Thus, we can say that however the
youth of the modern era perceives the institution of marriage with modernized
and westernized visions, marriage has not been reduced to the level of a mere
civil contract although the sanctity of the same is little affected. The youth
rather trying to embrace the companionship of a husband and a wife on the
foundation of empathy, trust and mutual consents. Although the values of the
youth are individualistic but those also provide space for each other’s growth