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THE VIVAHA (MARRIAGE CEREMONIES)

Religious Ceremonies Essential Limitations of Marriage Exogamy
Endogamy Hypergamy Pratiloma
Later History of Inter-caste Marriage Intercaste Marriage forbidden Examination of the Family

 

(ix) Religious Ceremonies Essential

Whatever may be the method through which marriage was effected, the religious ceremonies were essential to make it valid.78c Vasistha and Baudhayana declare: "Where a damsel is taken by force but is not solemnly married according to the religious rites, she may be duly given in marriage to another, for then she remains a virgin as before."79 Devala says, "In the forms of marriages, beginning with the Gandharva to the Paisacha the marital rites have again to be performed in the presence of fire.80 In the Gandharva marriage, consummation of the union preceded the nuptials. According to Manu81 rituals should be performed only in the case of a virgin. But the later Smrtis, as cited above, prescribe the rites even after consummations. Manu82 modifies his previous injunction by emphasizing the need of ritual. It was done so for legalizing the marriage, legitimatizing the children and avoiding the public scandal. Madhavacharya also realizes the necessity of performing the religious ceremonies in every form of marriage: "It must not be suppose that in these disapproved forms of marriages, beginning with the Gandharva, the relationship of husband and wife does nut arise for the want of the ceremonies of marriage including the taking of seven steps, because although they do not take place at the outset before acceptance, afterwards they are invariably performed".83

The religious idea was supreme in the Hindu life. It was of less consequence how the pair was united, but if once united, the tie should be consecrated and thus union made lasting. The nuptials were supposed to impart sanctity to the marital relation. Hence it was thought necessary that they should he performed in every case. At present, however, such cases do not arise owing to tile custom oh child-marriage and Purdah system. Only in low-caste peoples rare cases of irregular marriage are noticed.

(x) Limitations of Marriage

Another problem regarding marriage was the examination of the family of the bride and that of the bridegroom. According to Senart the Aryan people practised in affairs of marriage both a rule of exogamy and endogamy. A man must marry a women of equal birth, but not of the same gens, according to the Roman law as interpreted by Senart and Kovalevsky, and an Athenian must marry an Athenian women, but not of the same genos. In India these rules are reproduced in the form of that one must not marry within the Gotra, but not without the caste".83a

(a) Exogamy. The bar of exogamy is not peculiar to India, but it is prevalent in other parts of the world also. It is current in barbarous, half-civilized and civilized tribes. In tribes where there is no Gotra system, totem serves the purpose, and it separates one group from the other. The origin of this bar is shrouded in mystery. Various scholars have propounded divergent theories to explain its rise.

We can briefly refer to these theories as follows. According to one school of opinion the custom of exogamy arose owing to the paucity of women in early times.84 Another school of opinion holds that exogamy was introduced to prevent the early sexual promiscuity within the clan,85 Then, there are scholars who are of the opinion that the origin of exogamy was clue to the absence of sexual attraction between persons who are brought up together.86 The fourth school is of opinion that in primitive times the patriarch of the family himself wanted to keep the young girls of the family for himself., his jealousy drove the youngmen of the clan to seek their wives outside What was at first necessity, subsequently became a voluntary custom.87 The fifth school holds that the totem was responsible for evolving the custom of exogamy. The clan blood was regarded sacred and to spare the divinity of the totem one had to refrain from its appropriation for sexual purpose88

These theories do not seem to be conclusive in themselves. To take the first theory even if granted that the female population was less than the male one, in ancient times, the paucity of women would not stand in the way of every young man for taking his wife from within his own clan. As regards the second theory, we are quite familiar with the fact that the savages are not credited with such a thoughtful scheme of improving morality of the clan. The third theory does not take the facts in order; the absence of sexual attraction is a result rather than the cause of prohibition; for example, animals do not betray such repulsion, and in many religious orgies of India, even at present, no scruples are felt in sexual intercourse within the same clan. The fourth theory of patriarchal coercion is borrowed from the beast-herds, where the strongest animal drives the younger ones away from the females. But will not the patriarch appropriate the new-corners also? So the origin of exogamy must be sought for somewhere else. The theory of totemic sanctity also is not supported by facts. It is not probable that the totem was regarded as divine in the period when the custom of exogamy arose. Moreover, the members of the clan were regarded as friends and equal and not as gods. In this case the clan blood was not too sacred for sexual intercourse.

More plausible suppositions regarding the origin of exogamy appear to be these. The young men of a clan or tribe went off to seek food and thus came into contact with a new clan. Being compelled to seek wives in their new surroundings, they might thus initiate a habit of outside marriage that would in time become general usage anti "therefore" sacred. Marriage by capture also seems to have been instrumental, to some extent, in evolution of exogamy. In ancient times warring people captured women in wars and made them their wives. This habit was hardened into instinct and even after the dawn of civilization, the fashion of marrying outside was retained, though war was replaced by mutual negotiation and the tribal army by a marriage party. Exogamy might have been introduced to avoid the jealousy and quarrel in the family also. When marriage was allowed in the family, the same girl was desired by a number of cousins, who sometimes quarreled among themselves. To prevent this trouble, the head of the family might have thought it wise to arrange the marriage of young men outside the family. Experience also taught that the marriage within the same family or clan was not desirable, as it led to the degeneration of the race. Darwin says. "The consequence of close inter-breeding carried on for too long a time are, as is generally believed, loss of size, constitutional vigour, and fertility, sometimes accompanied by a tendency of malformation"89 This racial eugenics required that marriages should take place outside the clan. Rut we cannot assert that there was only one cause at the root of the custom of exogamy. In different localities, under different circumstances, the causes must have varied considerably, and at such a distance of time we cannot be very positive in our speculations.

It cannot be said how far the above causes were applicable in case of the Indo-Aryans, who at the dawn of history were sufficiently advanced in civilization. It is also a great wonder how this institution sprang up into existence all of a sudden in the Indo-Aryans. Among other Indo-Germanic races, the bar is nowhere prevalent at present. The probable source of this custom seems to be the con tact with, and the assimilation of, the Dravidians among whom like many other tribes this custom was strictly observed.

The word "Gotra" in its modern sense is not known in the Vedas, though it occurs in the sense of a cowpen90 The earliest mention of this word in its technical sense is to be found in the Chandogya-Upanisad where the teacher of Satyakama Jabali asks his Gotra.91 We find frequent use of Gotras in the Buddhist and Jam literature, for example, Manava, Vasistha Gautama etc. It seems that by the time of the Buddha, the Gotra system was an established institution.

But the idea of "Kula" or family was there even in Vedic times. So far as prohibition of marriage with near relatives is concerned, we come across the lively discussion between Yama and Yami in the Rgveda,92 which shows that, though marriage with a near relative may have been common in early times, it was falling into disuse in the later Vedic period. The moral, however, given by Yama against such marriages does not speak any horror. But the family prohibition did not go too far. There is a passage in the Satapatha Brahmana93 that refers to the union of brothers and sisters in the third or the fourth generation. Harisvamin, the commentator on the above Brahmana says, in the way of illustration, that one Kanva married a girl in the third generation. In Surastra, there are instances of marriage in the fourth generation. The prohibition of marriage in one's Pinda also does not seem to be in force in the Vedic period. In the Khailika hymn (VIII) Indra is invoked in the way which shows that daughters of maternal uncle and paternal aunt could be married.94

In the Brahmanas, all sorts of speculations were a pace, but there is not a single reference to the institution of Gotra. Though it is a negative evidence, but coupled with other facts it is of a great significance. Vedic rituals are not connected with Gotra Sacrificers have not to choose only those hymns that were composed by their own Gotra-Kr-ts. The Apri hymns are the only exceptions; but this is the view of the Srauta Sutras only and the Yajurveda does not lay any such restriction. Thus Gotra was not as yet much consulted in the matter of religious ceremonies.

Prohibition of marriage within the Pravara is first found in the Grhyasutras, but there is no similar prohibition of Sagotra marriage. Apastamba, Kausika, Baudhayana and Paraskara, all avoid Pravara but not Gotra.95 From the time of the Dharmasutras, however, Sagotra and Sapinda marriages are being prohibited. Vasistha prohibits Sagotra marriage.96 But the range of Gotra was still very limited and marriage was possible beyond the seventh generation of the father and the fifth of the mother. According to the Apastamba Grhyasutra97 however, the limits of Gotra were extended. It could go too far and was not co-extensive with the seventh generation of the father.

The institution of exogamy seems to have been established subsequent to the beginning of the Christian era. Almost all the metrical Smrtis declare the marriages within the Gotra, ipso facto, invalid. Such marriages could not be legalized, nor the children born of such wedlocks98 But there seems to he still some leniency about marrying a girl within the Gotra, One Smrti99 prescribes only an ordinary atonement for marrying a girl within the Gotra. while later on the marriage is nullified and the punishment is very severe.

The later writers on Dharmasastra are dead against Sagotra and Sapinda marriages. They prohibit not only such marriages but try to explain away ancient statements that might go against them. For example, they say that the invocation to Indra in the Khailika hymn is not a Vidhi (rule) but an Arthavada (praise); if it were a rule, incest would become permissible. Again they declare that the passage in question refers to children born from Asajatiya marriages. Some ingeniously explain that "of tile maternal uncle" and "of the sister of the father" do not mean the daughters of the maternal uncle and the paternal aunt but they mean Matradrsamukhi and Pitrsadrsamukhi, that is, girls whose face is like that of the mother and the father. The Viramitrodaya100 and the Smrtichandrika101 take a bolder step and say that the above passage contains "an example not to be followed", "Drstodharmavyatikarmah." These writers flourished in a time when Sagotra and Sapinda marriages became extinct. In order to give this institution a hoary antiquity they attempted to explain away the passage which might prove stumbling-blocks in their way. Apararka followed quite a different line of argument, He offers an altogether different meaning of the above invocation. "0 India, invited by your devotees come to the sacrifice and enjoy your share. We offer vapa, fat, as disinterestedly as the Matulayosa (daughter of the maternal uncle) and the Paitrsvaseyi (daughter of the paternal aunt) are offered in marriage without the least desire of self-appropriation."102 He quotes the BrahmaPurana, Proihibiting Sagotra marriage, with cow-slaughter. as Kalivarjya. "prohibited in the Kali age". These facts slow that the prohibition of Sagotra marriage was an accomplished fact during the time of the commentators and the Nibandhakaras. Since then it has been followed in the Hindu society with every care.

(b) Just as exogamy is strict1y observed among the Hindus so is endogamy an established institution of theirs. All the Smrtis enjoin that a twice-born should marry a girl of his own caste103 This is but natural anti may have been the general rule even in early times, but it could not have been strictly observed, as tile caste system was not firmly established.

(c) Hypergamy. During the Vedic times, inter-marriages between several castes were much easier. It is difficult to believe how the freedom of social intercourse was given to young men and women, in popular gatherings and private company, if there were any real bars to intercaste marriages. Intercaste marriages generally took tile form of hypergamy. Men of the Rgvedic priestly class are often stated to have married into royal families, as Chyavan Syavasva Or Vimada did.104 Perhaps. the greater prominence of hypergamy is due to the records preserved by the Brahmans, who generally passed over the Ksattriyas, marrying Brahman girls. Still, there are some instances of such marriages. For example, king Svanaya Bhavayavya's beloved wife was an Angirasi.105 The Atharvaveda106 glorifies the Brahman as the best husband for women of all other classes, though from the same text it can be inferred that the Brahman women, sometimes, held opposite views and they had to the reclaimed from the persons of other classes, with the help of king.107 Vaisiputras are known to the early Brahmanas.108 The connexion of an Arya with a Sudra girl is made the subject of joke in courts arid priestly circles, as is known from the Yajurveda.100 Such marriages must have been legal and frequent, and respectable Vedic personages, like Ausija, Kavasa, Vatsa etc. were sons of Dasi, or Sudra mothers.110 The frequent use of the word Dasi, as compared with that of Dasa, in Vedic texts, shows that Dasis came into contract with their Aryan masters as a result of the conquest and subjugation of neighbouring tribesmen; so Dasiputras became very common in the Aryan society.

(d) Pratiloma. A few cases of Sudra-Arya connexion are also recorded in the Vedic texts. A Yajurveda Samhita111 mentions the word "Ayogu," which, if it is connected with the later Ayogava, may mean the Arya woman (a Vaisya) married to a Sudra.ll2 This interpretation of the Vedic text is supported by the evidently old tradition recorded in the Asvalayana Grhyasutra,113 that the family slave, equally with the brother-in-law of the widow, could lawfully marry the widow of his master. Other Yajurvedic texts refer frequently to such cases which points to the beginning of such intermixture in the earlier period. In the Atharvaveda114 a charm is directed against a rival lover or one's wife's paramour who is referred to as a Dasa, winning her love by sheer physical strength.

Thus the above instances evidently show that Anuloma as well as Pratiloma connexions were known and permissible in the Vedic times, though they may not have been very common.

(e) Later History of Inter-caste Marriage. Later on inter-caste marriage though tolerated was not encouraged. During the Grhyasutra period the general rule was to marry a girl of the same caste. Hypergamy, however, was recognized, though a Sudra wife was not liked. Parashara115 says, "A Brahmana can have three wives, a Rajanya two and a Vaisya one. According to some, all can have one Sudra wife also, without recital of the Vedic verses." The dharmasutras and the early Smrtis all allow to marry a girl from the lower castes, though such cases were not many, and generally they were not esteemed. Manu116 declares, "Among the twice-born, a girl of the same castes commendable lot wifehood. But for those who are given to lust, girls from other castes can also be had in order." All these scriptures are against the marriage of a low-caste man with the girl of a higher class.

An indirect light is also thrown on the problem of the inter-caste marriage from the Smirti literature. The Dharmasutras and the Smrtis make provision, for Asauca caused by the death of the relatives of different castes, which indirectly proves the existence of intercaste marriages. In the partition of properties, sons born of mother belonging to different castes, receive their shares. Here, too, Dharmasastra contemplates the possibility of an inter-caste marriage. A student is enjoined to salute the wives of his teacher, coming front lower castes, from a distance and not to touch their feet. It is presupposed that the gurus could have wives from different castes and it was, in no way, derogative to their position. In adoption a Vijatiya child could be adopted. All these side-lights prove the existence of inter-caste marriages.

That the inter-caste marriages were current as late as in the mediaeval period of Indian History is evident from the concrete cases recorded in the Sanskrit literature. Bana had two Parasava brothers born of a Sudra step-mother.111 The wife of Rajasekhara, Avantisundari was a Ksattriya girl.118 Kalhana in his Rajatarangini119 describes the marriage of the sister of Samgramaraja with a Brahmana. In the Katha-Saritsagara,12O we have a number of instances of inter-caste marriages. A king asks his commander-in-chief to search a husband for his daughter, who must be either a Brahman or a Ksattriya. At the Svayamvara of Ana–gamtai, suitors of all the castes assembled together, which shows the possibility of a marriage between different castes. Again, we get a Brahman marrying a Ksattriya girl and the sentiments of the pact leave no doubt that such marriages were regarded still desirable. "The marriage between the princess and the Brahman youth was for the glory of each other like the union of the Goddess of Learning and Discipline."121 In the Bank inscription of Jodhapur, the founder of the Pratihara dynasty is described to have married two wives, one Ksatriya, the other Brahmani. According to the inscription of Vakataka Hastibhoja, a Brahmana Somadeva married a Ksatriya wife in accordance with sruti and Smrti.122 Such was the state of affairs during the first millennium of the Christian era. The custom was regarded as "sanctioned by the sruti and the Smrti." These instances are very valuable, as they are incidental. Even the Puran as, while dealing with the Kalivarjyas, do not include the intercaste marriage in the list. The Mitaksara on the Yajnavalkya Smrti123 and the Dayabhaga, both recognize the validity of intercaste marriage. The cases of Pratiloma marriage are very rare and they do not find literary mention.

(f) Intercaste Marriage forbidden. But a time came when inter-caste marriages were not only discouraged but totally forbidden. Even in the time of the Manu-Smrti,124 marriage with a Sundra wife was scandalous. The later Smrtis unanimously forbid marriage with Sudra, and excommunicate a man marrying her. The sinner was threatened with the fire of hell. In course of time, the same abhorrence was shown to the marriage between the upper three classes also. Manu125 calls intercaste marriages lustful and later on develops the fictitious theory of the Varnasamkaras, giving low social status to the children born of intercaste unions.126 The logical consequence of this tendency was that none was allowed to marry beyond his own caste, anti this process at present is complete. Now, among the Vaisyas and the Sudras, not only the Varna distinction but even sub-caste distinction is respected in a marriage alliance. The same tendency has also manifested in the prohibition of inter-provincial marriages.

There were different causes responsible for the confinement of marriage within ones own caste. First of all there was the racecomplex. Owing to the difference of culture and colour, men and women desisted from choosing a wife or husband from a lower race. This was at the root of prohibition of marriage between an Arya and a Sudra. With the development of the rigidity of tile caste system, marriage between the twice-born also declined, as the standards of their life were different. But besides the standard of living, caste superiority, born of attaching too much importance to the birth of a person, was also instrumental in discouraging the system of inter-caste marriage.126a

(g) Examination of the Family. In addition to the consideration of the Varna, the particular family to be related was also thoroughly examined. According to tile Asvalayana Grihyasutra,127 "first of all the family should be examined, both from the mothers and the fathers side." Manu128 says, "A man of a noble family, in order to increase the excellence of his own, should always make relation with men of noble families, and should shun tile ignoble ones." In later times the importance of tile family so increased that the g advocated that the girl, in marriage was given to the family and not to an individual. In the case of the Brahmans at least, family was the only consideration. In comparison with the family, even the learning was dispensed with. In the opinion of Visnu129 "of a Brahmana, only his family is to be considered, not his Vedas or learning. In the gift of a girl and Sraddha, learning does not count." Yajnavalkya130 explains Kulinata or family-reputation as follows: "Families of the Srotriyas famous from ten generations (are called good ones) ." The commentary on this runs. The family of those is to be taken as good, who are famous from five generations, both from mother's and father's side, and are reputed for their learning and character."131

The most esteemed families were those noted for their good deeds, learning and morality. "Those should be always made relatives, who are pure from their deeds done in accordance with the injunction of the Sruti and the Smrti; who are born in good families and observe unbroken Brahmacarya; who are related to noble families and have men to eminence; who are contented, gentlemen, agreeable, saintly and equitable; who are deviod of greed, attachment, envy, pride and infatuation; and those who are not given to anger and are always tranquil in their minds."132

On moral and physical grounds many families were prohibited. In the opinion of Manu,133 these ten families, howsoever rich they might be, should be avoided. They are-one without good deeds; without great men; without Vedas; hairy; and suffering from pile, consumption, dysentery, epilepsy, white leprosy and leprosy proper. Families suffering from, or infected by, contagious disease were also to be shunned. Yama134 prohibits the fourteen kinds of families on almost the same grounds, adding a few new details. The new objectionable families are those, whose members are either very tall or very short; either very white or very black; possess either less or extra number of limbs; who are very passionate and suffer from jaundice etc.

The moral objections were the following: "Those families should be avoided with care, the members of which are thieves, cheats, impotent, atheists, living on objectionable means, deformed, always bringing enmity with brave persons, enemies of the state, always dining at funeral feasts, cowards and ill-reputed; the women of which are either barren or produce only female issues and try to kill their husbands."135

The reason for the utmost care spent on the examination of the family was primarily eugenic. The best possible progeny was desired and for it physically, mentally and morally fit matches were necessary, as the children inherit the good or bad qualities of their parents. Harita says on the point. "Offsprings are born according to the families"..l36 Manu137 opines in the same strain. "The children follow the character of either the father or the mother", or the both. An issue of bad origin cannot attain the proper condition." In order to save the family from degeneration, one had to be very cautious in selecting a match. "The good families fall to ill fame etc. front bad marriages, disappearance of the religious duties and the non-study or the Vedas."138 Domestic felicity was another object in view while selecting the particular family for marriage, as the culture of a family counts much in such affairs. 

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