Essay on the Nature of Hindu Marriage
It is the only Sanskara (sacrament) which has not been prohibited for any one irrespective of caste and sex and has been provided as compulsory for all males and females. Through the institution of marriage men and women are united into a wedlock, the purpose of which is generally to give birth to a male child.
Every twice born Hindu is under a religious obligation to discharge three debts namely, Pitri Rin, Dev Rin and Rishi Rin i.e., debt to father, debt to gods and debt to seers and sages and in the discharge of Pitri Rin, he must of necessity have his own son, Dharmaj Putra, begotten upon his legally wedded wife, who is supposed to perform funeral rites and to give sacred oblations to the ancestors on their death for their salvation.
Hindu law has thus assigned a very important status to the male child, who plays a key role for the salvation of his parents and his deliverance from sufferings of the hell. A Hindu son is thus a saviour from Hell (Punttam Narkaat Trayntey iti Putrah) meaning thereby that only his son salvates men from the tortures of Hell. The sacrament of marriage, therefore, becomes necessary to beget a son.
Marriage is essential also because all the religious ceremonies and rites are to be performed by a Hindu in the companionship of his wife otherwise they will not bear any fruits. It is noteworthy that marriage under Hindu law is not regarded primarily as means of satisfying the corporal lust nor does it have the connotation of contractual obligations. On the contrary it is simply a religious sacrament and an obligatory duty.
According to Bombay and Madras High Courts the importance of the institution of marriage becomes distinct by the fact that religion regards it as one of the ten sacraments essential for purifying the body from its hereditary taints. Marriage is a religious institution intended to fulfil religious duties and to achieve the higher ends of life, namely, Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.
It is binding upon every Hindu to marry unless he has taken the vow to lead the life of a perpetual celebacy and abstinence. Women have been created to become mothers later and similarly men to become fathers.
The Vedas enjoin that a man should carry out the religious obligations together with his wife. Only that man is perfect who has a wife and children. Only that man could fulfil his obligations who is blessed with wife. Only the persons who have wives could lead a family life, those who have wives can alone remain happy and gay and they alone could lead a perfect life.
Wives have been considered to be the better halves and religious partners of their husbands which means that half part of a man is his wife and that without being married; the personality of a man is incomplets. Perfection comes only after marriage. In Ramayan, wife has been considered to be the soul of her husband and in Mahabharat she is stated to be the half part of her husband, and his best friend. She is regarded as an inspiration to religion, wealth and ambitions.
She is source of salvation, and considered to be Dharmapatni, i.e., lifelong companion to carry out the religious injunctions of Vedas and Dharmashastras and to perform religious rites and ceremonies as enjoined in the sacred books. The performance of the religious ceremonies along with the wife is necessary otherwise they will not bear any fruits.
By marriage an inseparable relationship is created between the husband and wife. The relationship cannot be broken by any means whatsoever even when the wife starts living a very wretched life. According to Manu, the daughter is given in marriage only once and she remains the wife of that person to whom she is given in marriage, for her whole life.
The two seers known as eminent jurists of later period, namely Narada and Parasar have stated five conditions in which a wife could abandon her husband and remarry. These conditions are as under: (1) where the husband is lost or (2) dead, or (3) has renounced the world and has become a sanyasi, or (4) has become impotent, or (5) has been ousted from his caste. But these conditions of remarriage were provided only for the marriages of unapproved forms.
The Dharmashastra-writers generally do not agree with the view that a wife could abandon her husband under any circumstances. The indissoluble tie, created between the spouses, could not be broken in any case May it be an approved form or unapproved form of marriage. This signifies an unique character of Hindu marriage.
According to Manu, the remarriage of a woman could not be even imagined. After the death of her husband, she has to lead her whole life simply on vegetation and in abstinence emaciating herself to minimal. She is supposed not to take the name of any person other than her deceased husband. Thus leading a life of celebacy and chastity and maintaining abstinence throughout, she earns a right to have a seat in the Heaven.
A Hindu marriage has been said to be a sacrament also because the marital relations between the spouses are created not on account of any contract between the two but by virtue of a gift of the girl by her father to the bridegroom. The gift is holy and accompanied with the religious ceremony of Saptapadi or any other customary religious rites. In absence of such religious ceremonies and rites marriage is said to have not taken place at all in the eyes of law.
It is considered to be a sacramental union between the husband and the wife to last long till their life. Hindu marriages are thus rightly acclaimed as sacrament rather than contract as it lacks every essential of a valid contract, e.g. proposal, acceptance and consideration. In the marriage the parents or the guardian of the girl gives her away by way of gift to a noble and virtuous man after respectfully inviting him and accomplishing the religious rites and ceremonies.
Thereafter the bridegroom accepts her as his wife and vows to keep her with utmost love and respect till the last breath of her life. Under these conditions there is hardly any place for a contract between bride and bridegroom at the time of marriage.