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3 Main Conditions Required for a Valid Marriage under Old Hindu Law

(2) Parties to marriage must be beyond the prohibited degrees of relationship i.e., they should not be of the same gotra or pravara, or sapinda of each other;

(3) There must be proper performance of marital ceremonies.

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(I) Identity of Caste:

If in a marriage bride and bridegroom did not belong to the same caste, the marriage was considered to be invalid unless sanctioned by custom.

Ancient Hindu scriptures prohibited “Pratiloma marriage i.e., a marriage between a girl of higher caste and the boy of lower caste. But “Anuloma marriage i.e., males of higher caste and females of lower caste was permitted and recognised by the text. As the caste system became more and more rigorous with the passage of time, identity of caste between the parties to marriage became one of the essential conditions of marriage.

But during the British rule several legislative provisions were enacted which validated inter-caste marriages viz., Arya Samaj Validation Act, 1937, Special Marriage Act, 1872, Hindu Marriage Disabilities Removal Act, 1946, Hindu Marriages Validity Act, 1949.

(ii) Parties to be Beyond Prohibited Degrees:

Vishnu, one of the principal Dharmasutra writers declared that they should not marry a wife belonging to the same gotra or pravara. Similarly no one could marry a girl who comes within his sapinda relationship. Hindu jurists prohibited marriage between persons related to each other within certain degrees probably for physiological and social reasons so that a marriage is invalid if it is made between persons related to each other within the prohibited degrees, unless such marriage is sanctioned by customs.

The law of Sagotra and Sapravara prohibitions was not applicable to the Sudras as they did not have any gotra of their own. Amongst the persons of higher castes too customary law could validate a marriage between persons of the same gotra. So far the prohibition of Sapravara marriage is concerned, it became disapproved according to later social practices and people started marrying irrespective of their “Gotra”.

The parties to the marriage should not be Sapinda to each other. A marriage between sapindas was labelled as illegal. “Sapinda” according to Mitakshara, are the persons who have in them particles of the body of the same ancestor. According to Mitakshara, such sapinda cannot intermarry, who have descended from a common ancestor, and being traded on the father’s side are not beyond the seventh degree or on the mother’s side not beyond the fifth degree, both the ancestor and the person in question being counted as one degree. If the girl was related to a person beyond the prohibited degrees, they could marry each other validly.

According to Raghunandan, it was prohibited to marry a girl if she was the daughter of the brothers or any of the wives of his father or his daughter or daughter of his Guru because of marriages with such relations would disturb the social stability.

(iii) Performance of Religious Ceremonies:

According to Dharmashastra, there were three religious ceremonies which were necessary for the completion of Hindu marriages, namely,—

(1) Betrothal or Tilak ceremony,

(2) Formalities including the recitation of holy texts before the sacred fire.

(3) Saptapadi, i.e., taking seven steps round the sacred fire.

Of these tilak or betrothal is only a promise to marry and is revocable. The recitation of sacred texts before the marital fire in itself does not complete the marriage so it is essential for the bride and bridegroom to move seven steps around the marital fire and it is only on the completion of the last step that the marriage becomes complete and binding.

Before the Saptapadi is finally performed marriage remains incomplete and can be revoked. Manu declares: The recital of holy texts in connection with joining of hands of the bridegroom and the bride determines the growth of marital relationship. These should be deemed by the learned to attain finality in the taking of the seven steps.

The fact that more than seven steps have been taken does not render the marriage invalid. Although along with these rituals some other forms of ceremonies are customarily recognised by different castes or communities, yet the essentials of marriage are Panigrahana and Saptapadi.

Under the law, according to Rajasthan High Court, the ceremony of Saptapadi signifies taking of seven steps by the bridegroom and bride jointly before the sacred fire. It is not to be confused with taking rounds of the fire.

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