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Chapter 5 Eight Forms of Marriage The dharmaśāstras, including the Manusmști, mention eight forms of marriage Brāhmo-daivastathajvārsah Prājāpatya-statha 'surah Gandharvo rākşasascaiva Paisacāştamah smstah ---Manusmfti, 3.21 CE The eight types are: brähma, daiva, ārşa, prājāpatya, asura, gāndharva, rākşasa and paišāca. After the student-bachelor has completed his gurukulavāsas, his parents approach the parents of a girl belonging to a good family and ask them to give away their daughter in marriage to their son - to make a gift of their daughter (kanyādāna) to him. A marriage arranged like this is brāhma. In it the girl's family does not give any dowry or jewellery to the boy's family. There is no "commercial transaction" and the goal of a brāhma marriage is the dhārmic advancement of the two families. Of the eight forms of marriage the dharmaśāstras regard this as the highest Marrying a girl to a ftvik (priest) during a sacrifice is called "daiva". The parents, in this type, after waiting in vain for a young man to turn up and ask for their daughter's hand, go looking for a groom for her in a place where a sacrifice is being conducted. This type of marriage is considered inferior to brāhma. In the Šāstras womanhood is elevated in that it is the groom's family that has to go seeking a bride for their son. The third form, "ārsa" suggests that it is concerned with the rşis, sages. It seems the marriage of Sukanyā to Cyavana Maharsi was of this type. But from the dharmasastras we learn that in arşa the bride is given in exchange for two cows received from the groom2. If the term is taken to mean "giving away a girl in marriage to a rşi", we must take it that the girl is married off to an old sage because the parents could not celebrate her marriage according to the brāhma rite at the right time. The fact that cows are taken in exchange for the bride shows that the groom does not possess any remarkable qualities. According to the śāstras, in 572 Eight Forms of Marriage marriages of a noble kind there is no place for money or anything smacking of a business transaction. In prājāpatya there is no trading and kanyādāna is a part of it as in the brāhma ceremony. But from the name prājāpatya it must be inferred that the bride's menarche is imminent and that a child must be begotten soon after the marriage. For this reason the bride's father goes in search of a groom, unlike in the brahma type. The brāhma is a better type of marriage than präjāpatya since, in it, the groom's people go seeking a bride who is to be the Gșhalakşmi of their household. In the āsura type the groom is in no way a match for the girl, but her father or her relatives receive a good deal of money from the man who forces them to marry her to him. In ārsa in which cows are given in exchange for the bride there is no compulsion. Nor is the groom wealthy or powerful like his counterpart in the āsura type. Many rich men must have taken a second wife according to the äsura type of marriage. The next is gāndharva. The very mention of it calls to mind Sakuntalā and Dusyantat. The gândharva type is the love marriage" that has such enthusiastic support these days. In the raksasa form the groom battles with the girl's family, overcomes them and carries her away. It was in this manner that Krsna Paramātman married Rukmini. The eighth and last is paišāca. In asura even though the girl's willingness to marry the man is of no consequence, at least her people are given money. In rākşasa, though violence is done to the girl's family, the marriage itself is not against her wish. Rukmini loved Krsna, did she not? In paisāca the girl's wish does not count, nor is any money or material given to her parents. She is seized against her wish and her family antagonised. We have the brāhma type at one end and the paišāca at the other. There cannot be the same system or the same arrangement for everybody. Our śāstras have taken into account the differences in temperament and attitude among various sections of people and it is in keeping with the same that they have assigned them different rites, vocations, etc. All our present trouble arises from the failure on the part of men, who advocate the same system for all, to recognise this fact. There are tribals living in the forests who look fierce and have a harsh way of life. But at heart they may be more cultured than townspeople, not to speak of 573 Hindu Dharma the fact that they are useful to society in many ways. They have frequent family feuds. In consideration of this rāksasa and paisaca marriages may have to be permitted in their case. After the marriage, they are likely to forget their quarrels and live in peace with each other. Ksatriyas who are physically strong and are used to material pleasure are allowed the gāndharva form of marriage and their girls have even the right to choose their husbands as in the svayamvara ceremony. It is for these reasons that the dharmaśāstras, which are based on the Vedas and which constitute Hindu law, permit eight forms of marriage. In all these eight, the bride and groom have the right to be united in wedlock with the chanting of mantras. But brāhma is the highest of the eight forms. In it the bride must not have attained puberty. "Pradānam prāk stoh" — this statement is in the dharmaśāstras themselves. A girl's marriage, which has the same significance for her that the upanayana has for a boy, must be performed when she is seven years old (or eight years from conception). Unfortunately, in the case of some girls, a groom does not turn up in time for a brāhma marriage to be performed. Meanwhile, they grow old and their marriage is conducted in the ārsa, daiva, or prājāpatya way. Only these types are permitted for Brahmins. But for the rest other types are also allowed. They may marry a girl who has come of age either in the gandharva way or in a svayamvara. The marriage mantras are intended for all the eight forms. It means that they are employed even in the marriage rite of girls who have attained puberty. The two mantras quoted above are recited in all the eight types of marriage. They are addressed by the groom to the bride who comes to him after she has attained puberty and after she has been under the guardianship Successively of Soma, gandharva and Agni. The mantras are chanted not only in brāhma marriages but also in all other forms. The same are addressed by the groom to his child bride also. Though his marriage is being solemnised to the child bride now, he will start living with her only after she comes of age, after she becomes a young woman. He will bring her home to live with him only after she has come successively under Soma, gandharva and Agni. So he chants the mantras in advance. Nowadays we sometimes perform a number of samskāras together long after they are due according to the śāstras. For example, we perform the jātakarma of a son as well as his nämakarana and caula during his upanayana when he is 20 or 22 years old and not long before his marriage. Similarly, instead of such postponement of the rites, in the brāhma marriage the mantras mentioned above are chanted in advance. 574 Eight Forms of Marriage I will give you an example in this context. When the brahmacārin performs the samidādhānas he prays before Agni to grant himn good children. How absurd would it be for our reformers to argue, on the basis of this prayer, that a young boy must have children when he is yet a celibate-student and that he may become a householder only later. The point to note is that the boy prays in advance for good children. The Vedic mantras cited by reformers must be seen in the same light. The mantras (quoted by reformers) are appropriate for the marriage of a girl who has come of age also. This is our reply to the school of opinion represented by the Rt Hon'ble Srinivāsa Šāstri. If the mantras in question are chanted at the time of the marriage of girls who have come of age, it does not mean that all marriages are to be celebrated after the girls have attained puberty. According to the brahma form of marriage, the girl must not have had her menarche. There is incontrovertible proof for this in the Vedic mantra chanted at the end of the marriage rite? I told you that a girl is under the sway of a gandharva between the time she is able to wear her clothers without anybody's help and her menarche. His name is Viśvāvasu. The mantra I referred to is chanted by the groom addressing this demigod. "O Visvāvasu," it says, " I bow to you. Leave this girl and go. Go to another girl child. Have I not become the husband of this girl? So give her over to me and go to another girl who is not married and lives with her father." During the wedding the groom performs à pājā to this gandharva and prays to him to free the girl from his control. Here is proof that the bride is not yet under Agni and has not had her menarche, The question now is about the verse (from the Manusmrti) cited by the reformists. According to it, a girl may wait three years after her menarche and then seek her husband on her own. There is an answer to this. The general rule according to the dharmaśāstras is that a girl must be married before she attains puberty: "Pradānam prak ftoh." What happens if this injunction is not followed? If a groom does not come on his own, seeking the girl's hand, her father or brother must look for a groom and marry her off. But if they turn out to be irresponsible or otherwise fail to find a groom? Or if the girl has no guardian, no one to care for her? The lines quoted by the reformers from the Manusmrti apply to such a girl. She may look for a husband on her own if none of her relatives, neighbours or well-wishers take the trouble of finding her a groom even after she has attained puberty. Though the reformists quote from the Vedas and the śāstras in support of their view, they fail to take into account the context in which the relevant passages 575 Hindu Dharma occur. They see them in isolation. That is why they keep arguing that the customs followed by people steeped in our traditions are contrary to the sastras. In the Chandogya Upanišad there is mention of a sage cailed Cakrayana Uşasti whose wife had not come of ages. The reformists do not examine such references in our ancient texts with a cool head but are carried away by their emotions. In the past the common people did not know how to counter the arguments of the reformists. Even so they did not accept their views thinking it best to follow the practices of their elders, of great men. That is why the bill brought twice by the Rt Hon'ble Srinivasa Sastri before the legislative council to amend the marriage act (with reference to the age of marriage) did not receive enough support. Later (Harbilās) Särda introduced the bill which (on its passage) came to be called the Sārda Act. Many people (in the South) think Sārda was a woman and call the law named after him the "Saradă Act". The Central legislative assembly was equally divided on the bill — 50 per cent for and 50 per cent against. Then the British asked one of the nominated members to vote in favour of the bill; and thus the minimum age of marriage for girls was raised by a legal enactment. The bill was passed not on the strength of public opinion but because of the government's intervention. The mind of our British rulers worked thus: "The Congress has been demanding svar; but we have refused to grant it. Let us give it some satisfaction by being of help in inflicting an injury on the (Hindu) religion." Now things have changed. There is no respect any longer for old customs and traditions. When the Sarda Act came into force in British India, so ome Sanskrit scholars returned the "Mahamahopādhyāya" title conferred on them by the government. Among them were Pancānana Tärkaratna Bhattācārya of Bengal and Laksmana Šāstri Dravid. The latter was settled in Kāśi and had the "Dravid" tagged on to his name to make it known that he belonged to the land of the Tamils. How many people today are inspired to rise in protest against the changes introduced by our government in our sastric observances. Our children must be taught the substance and meaning of the sástras in a comprehensive manner. To speak to them about one aspect here and another there will lead to a haphazard and confused view. The half-baked research carried on in the Vedas has given rise to the opinion that the scriptures favour love marriage. The canonical texts must be seen in their entirety. When a subject is examined, its underlying meaning and purpose must be grasped. Also they must be seen in the light of other relevent passages occurring elsewhere. A conclusion must be arrived at only after a thorough inquiry into all points, The brāhma marriage is for all castes. Other forms of marriage are also 576 Eight Forms of Marriage permitted for non-Brahmins, also post-puberty marriage. If the idea is to give importance to carnal pleasure these other forms may be permitted. But brähma is the best if the purpose of the marriage samskāra is the advancement of the Self. Notes & References 1 Yajñasya rivije davan. -Yajñavalkya Smrti, 1.59 2 Adaryårsastu godvayam. -Ibid, 1.59 3 Asuro dravinadánat -Ibid, 1.61 4 Kalidasa's world-famous dramatic work, Abhijana-Sikuntalar, is based on their story, 5 See Note 2 appended to previous chapter. 6 These rites have already been explained. 7 Udirşvāto Visvävaso namasedimahe tv / Anyámiccha prapharvyam saniydim patys / Udişrvito palivat hyess Visvävasunnamasi girbhiride / Anyámichha pitadam vyaktám/ $te bhigo januş tasya vidhi. # Mafacialesu kurusväţikyā saha jāyayasastirha Cakrayana ibhya-grame pradranaka uvása. =Chandogya Upanişad, 1.10.1 577