From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

Vivāhaḥ/ Marriage

By Jammalamadaka Suryanarayana

Sometimes transliterated as: vivāhaḥ, vivaha, udvāhaḥ, udvaha, paṇigrahaṇaṃ, panigrahanam, pariṇayaḥ, parinaya, upayamaḥ, upayama.

According to the saying 'śatāyur vai puruṣaḥ' the maximum span of human life is considered to be one hundred years. This is further divided into four parts. So each part consists of 25 years more or less. The first part is called brahmacaryāśramaḥ, where the boy is expected to

gṛhasthāśramaḥ, vānaprasthāśramaḥ, sanyāsāśramaḥ. 

yathā mātaraṃ āśritya sarvē jīvanti jantavaḥ

tathā gṛhasthaṃ āśritya sarvē jīvanti mānavaḥ[1]

Vivāhaḥ/ Indian marriage is considered to be the most important of all saṃskāraḥ. In the entire literary tradition, Indian marriage is the most widely discussed topic. According to its importance in everybody's life, it is not only extensively discussed in Dharma śāstraṃ but also in different literature like mahābhārataṃ, kāmasutraṃ etc.

There are several words to denote the idea of Indian marriage, like vivāhaḥ, pāṇigrahaṇaṃ, pariṇayaḥ, upayamaḥ etc. Each term indicates a different element of marriage. (Such words are udvūlai ( taking the girl out of her parental home ), vivāhaḥ ( taking the girl away in a special way or for a special purpose i, e. for making her one's wife ), pariņaya or puriņayana ( going round i, o, making & pradaksiņā to fire), upayama (to bring near and make one's own), and panigrahaņa (taking the hand of the girl). ) Although the above synonyms of Marriage seem to be proposing meaning different to each other, Vivāhaḥ as a Samskāra defines the cumulative meaning of all the synonyms a la Dandi Nyay

Concept of marriage/ Purpose of marriage

In the tradition Marriage is considered a Yajna. and a sacrosanct (Pavitra) act or stage in one’s life. Taittariya Brahmana refers to the one who hasn’t undergone the UdvAha SamskAra as AyajnIya (One who is not authorised to perform Yajna). Dharmic acts get completeness only when done along with Dharmapatni and not otherwise is the most believed concept, Aitareya Brahmana supports as “PANigrahaNADdhi sahatvam Karmasu”. Dwijaḥ is born with three (Ṛṇa) Debts or Obligations viz., Devaṛṇa(debt towards Heavenly Gods), ṛṣiṛuṇa(debt towards Sages) and PitR RNa (debt towards Ancestors). TaittarIya saMhita instructs that one can clear the aforementioned dues by three different penances. Brahmacharya (Studying Vedas and observing Chastity) clears Rshi RNa, Deva RNa can be cleared by performing Yajnas and pitR RNa can be cleared by Dharma Santati (Obtaining Children Dharmic way, Natural or adopted). Hence Marriage is necessary to clear Deva and pitR RNAs. GRhastha Ashrama is proclaimed as Superior most of all the Ashramas in various Smritis. GRhastha Ashrama is the foundation of all the other three Ashramas like air is important for life. GRhasthas are Mother of others in three Ashramas. The way all the rivers attain completeness after the confluence with Ocean, Brahmachari, Vanaprasthi and Sanyasins can be at peace and perform their penances only with the support of GRhasthas. Vatsayana says KAma is a powerful motivating factors of Life akin to Hunger. If there aren’t Dharmic ways to fulfil Kama Social fibers could be permanently damaged. Path of Dharma could totally be altered if there are hindrances in fulfilling desires. Hence Vivaha Samskara is necessary to help people follow Dharma. Concept of Marriage is not a mere Physical concept in Vedic Literature. It is the stepping stone to attain Moksha as well. When One follows the principles of all Ashramas in the appropriate manner, they attain Brahmaloka says HArItha Maharshi.

Types of marriage

From the Time immemorial, Monogamy, Bi-gamy, Polygamy, Monandry, Polyandry have been observed in different cultures. However, Monogamy and Monandry are the respected and the accepted choices among Cultured Societies. Smritikaras have proposed Eight Types of Marriages. Brahma, Daiva, Arsha, Prajapatya, Asura, Gandharva, Rakshasa, Paishaca are the Eight types of marriages found in different Smritis. While the last four are least accepted, Most of the Smritikaras and SutraKasras have accepted the first four as Dharmic ways. 1. Paishaca : This type of Marriage is Adhama (Uncivilized), says Vishnu Smriti and Parashara Smriti. A Kanya while in a state of unconsciousness, Asleep or dozed under influence of chemicals is Kidnapped against her will and also disappearance of the Kanya makes her relatives unhappy/sorrow, marriage under these circumstances is Paishaca. 2. Rakshasa: This type of marriage is similar to treating Women as part of War Bounties. YAjnavalkya and Vishnu Samhitas explain this as “Yuddha HaraNena RakshasaH” Rakshasa Vivaha is similar to Paishaca. The marriage is against the will of Kanya, the only difference will be that Kanya is in awaken state. Kanya is kidnapped after killing her Relatives and she is married to the kidnapper while she is mourning and weeping for the death of her relatives. 3. Gaandharva: Third of the methods is Gandharva. “Stree kAmovai gandharvaaH” acclaims Taittariya Samhita. This is the type of marriage wherein, both the Kanya and Vara Elope or live together under Infatuation or Love. This type of marriage is accepted for all Varnas except Brahmana Varna. All the Smritikaras have advised this type of marriage is the best for Kshatriyas. Swayamvaram, the process in which Kanya chooses her bridegroom to be amongst other prospects is Gandharvam too. However, Swayamvaram is followed by Brahma Vivaha. 4. Asura:

Asura VivahaH is better than Gandharva, say Smritikaras. In this, Asura Vivaha, Bride groom pays off the relatives and brothers of the Kanya heftily and also the bride groom promises to look after the Bride. This method is also called Manusha vivahaH. This method was also not accepted because the marriage was done due to greed of the relatives of the Bride. Also mentioned in several Smritis that the Father of the Bride must not accept any money from Groom. Bride bought can never be Dharmapatni and she cannot be part of any Dharmic rituals and One cannot get freed from the Daiva and PitRu RNas if married under this method. 

5. Prajapatyam: This method is better than Asura. In this method, Father of the Bride selects a better Groom from the available prospects and blesses/advices/orders them to follow the path of the Dharma. Father of the Bride takes a promise from the Groom “Dharmeca, artheca, kameca, naaticaritavya” with an affirmation from the Groom “nAthicarAmi”. Also, Groom must promise to practice Monogamy very strictly. All the Dharmic actions must be done whilst accompanied by the Dharmapatni only. This type of Vivaha is prescribed for all Varna-s. The following Vivaha types have been prescribed for Brahmana Varna only. 6. Aarsha: Aarsha Vivaaha is considered to be better than the previous of all marriage typeets. In this, Father of the Bride (Kanyadaata) selects the Groom whom he wishes to get his Kanya gets married to. The Vara should be on Somayaaga Deeksha, Kanyadaana is performed by accepting one or two pairs of Bulls. Although, Kanyaadaata accepts Bulls in exchange for the Kanyaadana, Manu clearly says that this cannot be proscribed as KanyaShulka or kanyaVikraya (Bride is not considered bought). The reason being, Aarsha vivaha is perfromed for the sake of Dharma and not under duress or greed. 7. Daiva: Daiva Vivaha is better than the previously mentioned Arsha and all other types. Kanyaadaata performs Kanyaadaana of his fully decorated daughter with a Rtvik in a Yaaga. (Aashvalaayana Grihya Sutras). Bodhayana says “Dakshinaasu deeyamaanaasu antarvedi yad Rtvije sa daivaH” kanyaadana performed in the antarvedi (Area of Yaagashaala between Treta agni and Mahaavedi) as a Dakshina to the Rtvik is DaivaH. 8. Braahma: SmRti Muktaaphala explains that Braahma Vivaaha is related to Vedas. Braahma Vivaaha is Dharma. Braahma Vivaaha is superlative. Kanyaadaata chooses a Vidvaan and a person with high Moral Conduct as the Vara and performs Kanyaadana of his fully decorated daughter with all the Vedic rituals and most importantly without accepting anything in return. Braahma Vivaaha has been praised in all Smritis as ‘Eternal’.

Choosing a bride

Sathapatha BrahmaNam has verses comparing women to Yaagavedi (In the meaning that women are virtuous and honourable). “Chatvaari vivaaha kaaraNaani vittam roopam prajnaa baandhavam iti” iterates verse from Bhaaradhwaaja smriti (Four reasons for espousal are Wealth, Appearance, Intelligence and Relation). Hence, it is clear that these are the pre-requisite for selecting the Bride. However, few predecessors seem to have given more prominence to appearance. “Bride must be free from diseases, must have an auspicious name and must have a walking style similar to that of Hamsa or an Elephant”, says Manu. The qualities which are forbidden in a prospective bride are: Bride with Reddish or Brown hair, Chronic diseases, glabrous or excessive hair, harsh speaking and Green eyes (Manu Smriti). Brides with inauspicious names such as, names of Stars (Ashwini, Bharani, etc), Trees, Rivers, Mountains, Birds, Snakes or Reptiles and any names which cause fear must be avoided says Manu Smriti. Bride must be at least 3 to 5 years younger to Groom, says Apastambha Gr. Su. One of the practices in the yesteryears was a test prescribed in Ashvalaayana Grihya Sutra to determine whether or not the kanya has the capability to bear a child, if so what type of children kanya would bear after her Marriage. This tradition is not in practice now. Flakes of soil is collected from ‘Two Cop Yielding Agricultural Land, Spring, Gamble house, junction of four streets, Saline land, Crematorium’. These flakes of Soil are consecrated using the Mantra “Rtumagre”. The Kanya is asked to touch one of the flakes. Conclusion is that she might bear Children with ‘Abundant Wealth (Livestock and Food), Spirituality, Gambler, Traveler, Poverty’ respectively. Last flake is forbidden and it denotes inauspiciousness.

Choosing a bridegroom

SmritikaaraaH have listed out the conditions for a prospective Groom. Relatives of the Kanya must inquire well about the Family of the Groom for any history of Chronic or Genetic diseases. The Kanyaadaata must check whether groom belongs to the family of ShrotriyaH (Well versed with Vedic Literature or Studied Veda) [“kulam agre pariksheta maatRtaH pitRtascha iti” - Both Maternal and Paternal family lineages must be well inquired. (Ashvalaayana Grihya Sutra)], History of observing Chastity (brahmacarya), Relatives (whether the relatives Dharmaics or not), Is the family free from Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Mada and Matsarya – proposes Manu Smriti. Families with a history of ‘No Vedic Studies, indulges in reprehensible activiites, Hypertrichosis, Bronchitis, Tuberculosis, Leprosy and other Chronic or epidemic diseases, Thieves, Con-men, Cowards, Families with less Moral Values must be avoided at any cost’ explains manu Smriti. Ashvalaayana Grihya Sutra says “buddhimate KanyAm prayacchet” Kanya must be given to the Groom with the highest Intellect. “Family Lineage, Education, Youth, Strength, Health, Wealth must be examined before committing” - {Brihat paraashara hora shastra}

Restrictions in marriage

“Udvahet dvijo bhaaryaam savarNaam lakshanaanvitaam”, says Manu (One has to get married to a charecteristic kanya from the same VarNa). Explicitly, it has been established that one must chose to get married from their own VarNa. Sagotra VivahaH: Gotra is the Rishi Lineage of a Family. One should not get married to a kanya from the same Gotra or Pravara. It has also been established in many Smritis that not only Grooms Gotra or Pravara shouldn’t be same as that of Father of the Bride, but also that of Bride’s Mother. Sapinda VivahaH: Restrictions are in place to check that the Groom doesn’t marry a kanya from upto 7 generations from the Paternal side and upto 5 generations from the Maternal Side {Gautama, Vishnu, Vasishtha, dharma SutraH}. SavarNa vivahaH: Smritis have accepted in unison that one should marry a kanya from one’s own Varna. However, many illustrations from PuraNas and Itihasas prove that, there was a practice of Brahmin gets married to Kshatriya kanya (Cyavana, shyaavashva, vimuda all Brahmins got married to Kshatriyas). The accepted practice is that Men from Brahmin Varna could marry Kanya from Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vyshya and Shudra VarNas. Men from Kshatriya Varna could get married to Kshatriya, Vyshya and Shudra VarNas. Vyshya men could married to Vyshya and Shudra VarNa women (Anuloma VivAhaH). All the SmritikArAs have castigated the practice of men from latter VarNas marrying women from former VarNas (Pratiloma VivAhaH) (There are few exceptions in the History, they are not mainstream practices). [PS: Accepted marriage Age amounts to a different article altogether because of its vastness and nuances involved.]


Jyotisha Shashtra has many rules and regulations for fixing the Muharta (Auspicious time) for marriage. Few SmritikArAs have proposed that kanyaadaana must be performed only during uttaraayana (Summer Solstice), Shuklapaksha (between New Moon and Full Moon), auspicious tithi & Nakshatra. Ashvalayana proclaims “sarva Rtushu vivAhaH”(All seasons are auspicious for marriage). Bodhayana advices that Ashadha, Maagha and Phalguna months of Lunar calender should be avoided for kanyaadaana. Bharadhwaaja says Nakshatram ‘Chitra’ should always be avoided. Conclusion is, Chandra balam with respect to her Janma Kundali is requisite for vadhu at the time of marriage. Bride Groom performs Snataka vrata in the presence of his Acharya (Convocation after Veda adhyayana). Both the Bride and Groom are given a Mangala Snana (Solemn ablution), followed by Ganapathi Puja (to ward off all obstacles) and PuNyAha vAcanam (Proclaiming an auspicious day). 1. Raksha bandhanam (The act of Protecting or guarding): Anticipating blessings of DevatAH, and to ward off obstacles in the intended act of marriage sacred thread is tied on the right hand of the Groom. The Groom prays four good-hearted Brahmins to find a suitable kanya (however, this process is only ritualistic now, as the kanyaadaata chooses the suitable groom). 2. VadhvanveshaNa (Seeking for Bride): Groom recites “prasugmantaaH....” mantras believing in yAgAh to be performed by the couple in future they would get Somarasa as food and Indra and aryamNaH would help him with his marriage and bless the couple. 3. Gauri Pooja (Offering Prayers to Gauri Devi): This is done by the bride while sitting in a new basket made of bamboo filled with new grains (Paddy or Rice). The Bride gets the sacred thread tied to her Left Hand. 4. Gotra Pravara UcchaaraNa (Reciting Family and Rshi lineage): The Brahmins sent previously to seek bride, approach the Kanyadaata nad recite Gotra and Pravara of the Groom. In reponse, Father of the Kanyaa aslo recites his Family and Rishi lineages. The Groom then says “Dharma Prajaa sampatyartham striyam Udvahe” I am about to get married to this Kanyaa for Religious Children. Father of the Bride presents the Groom with Second Yajnopavitam (Sacred Thread) which gives the Groom to perform rites of gRhastha hence. 5. KanyA mahAdAnam (Giving the Bride): Kanyaadaata intends to give the bride recites Mahaasankalpam (Reciting the Geographical details of the place where the kanyaadaanam is taking place. It contains details of Names of Mountains, Rivers, Rivulets, nations, Sacred Pilgrimages, Continents, Sub-Continents, Forests,Islands, Peninsulas, along with Time with the names of Kalpa, Manvantara, Mahayuga, Yuga, Samvatsara, maasa, Ayana, Paksha, Tithi, Vasara, Nakshtra, Yoga, KaraNa). The intention or phala of kanyaadadna is the 10 succeessors and 10 predecessors incuding the Father of the bride attain Brahmaloka and get the retribution of all the yAjnAs. (Nevertheless, daana is performed but the TyAga ‘na mama’ is not pronounced. Although the Bride is given away, doesn’t mean father loses all rights to oversee the welfare of his daughter). 6. Varapuja (Felicitating the Groom): kanyaadaata washes the feet of the Groom imagining him to be the manifestation of Lakshmi nArAyaNa. Kanyaadaata also gives new Clothes and ornaments subject to the utmost of the kanyaadaata’s ability. 7. KanyaagrahaNam (Accepting the Bride): The Groom then recites “devasyatvaa....” mantra to accept the Bride and promises the kanyaadaata that, He shall not perfrom any Dharmic Rituals, Economic activities, Philosophical activities without his Dharmapatni. “Dharmeca artheca kameca moksheca naaticaraami” 8. MadhuparkaH : A Mixture of Curd, Honey and Ghee (Clarified Butter) is given to the Groom as a gesture welcoming the Groom to his Family. 9. Godaanam: kanyaadaata then gives Cow to the Groom and then immediately the Groom recites “Om UtsRjata” requests the Cow should be set free. 10. SumUhartaH: While the Churnika & Mangala ashtakaH are being recited, both the Groom and Bride place a mixture of Cumin and Jaggery on each other’s head as a mark of beginning new journey in their lives. TheY Invitees and Elders in both the Families then bless the couple. 11. YugachidrAbhishekam: A Ring made of twenty strands of kush (Saccharum cylindricum) is placed on the top of Bride’s head and a Yoke is placed such that the Right hole of the Yoke is above already placed ring. Indra is offered prayers to make the Bride as beautiful as Sun’s brightness like Apala was rewarded. A Golden ring is placed in the right hole of the yoke and water poured through the hole of Yoke. 12. Yoktrabandhanam: A long thread woven using kush is tied around the waist of the bride, as a mark her accepting to perform the prescribed service to the ‘Agni’. 13. MangalyadhAraNa: Groom then ties the Mangalya Sutra around the Bride’s neck, saying, “this Holy thread is a preconcerted Sign to my life, I am tying this around your neck. May you live Longer”. Agni is offered prayers and Consecration of nuptial Fire is performed. 14. Aardra Akshata AarOpaNam: Both Bride and the Groom Mutually and reciprocally pour rice mixed with milk on each other’s head. “kapilaaMsmaarayantu....” mantra is recited while the rice is being poured down by each other. Groom pours rice seeking Good Children, Wealth, Fame for them both. Pradhana HomaH is performed seeking the blessings of Surya and Ashwini Devate. PANigrahaNam RIght Palm of the Groom is placed on the Right Palm of the Bride while offering Prayers to saraswati, Bhaga, aryamna and savita devatAH. Towards the Right side of Agni SaptapadI is done. Here, Groom hold the hand of the Bride and by offering prayers to Vishnu, Groom recites mantraH which mean “O! Groom, may you follow me. May Vishnu, with the steps you take, provide you with Annam (Food), Balam (Health), karma (Rituals) , KamaSukhaM(Happiness from Rituals) , Pashu (Livestock), Rtu saMpat(Ovulation), Yajna Rtviks (Seven Sons who could become Rtviks in Yajna). Then AshmArOhaNam(Stepping on the Stone used to grind Sandalwood Paste), LajahOma (Bride offers Parched Grain to AgniH and AryamnaH). YoktravimOcana Previously tied Yoktra is removed. Then the Groom takes the Bride to his house and Consoles, Comforts the new Bride who has just left her parents to be with him, by saying “Murdhanam patyurAroha” (May you rule over me), “SaamraagnI bhava” (May you be the queen of my house). The Couple offer prayers to Agni and perform a ritual called Pravesha Homa. Later that evening, Couple offer prayers to Arundhati Devi amongst the stars of the night sky. Groom, with effort, try to see the Saptarshi Mandala, Dhruva, Jeevanti and Arundhati and show them to his Bride.

Rights and duties of Husband and wife

  1. manusmṛtiḥ