Hindu Dharmasastra considers that it is obligatory for every person to marry as according to it vivaha is one of the sarira samskaras (sacraments sanctifying the body) through each of which every man and woman must pass at the properage and time. But, though marriage is thus universally prescribed for all Hindus, the institution as such is hedged in with several rules and restrictions which fall under two main heads, endogamy and exogamy. Endogamy.

A Hindu may not marry outside his caste or his particular sub-caste which according to social custom is considered endogamous. He is confined for the choice of a wife within this group. Thus, the internal structure of the Kunbis, the great agricultural caste of the district, shows several endogamous sub-castes, recruited from different classes of the population. The Jhare or forest Kunbis are the oldest immigrants and have no doubt an admixture of Gond blood. Then there are the Manas, a primitive tribe. Among the other sub-castes are Khaire, Dhanoje, Khedule, Tirole and Vandhekars. The Vanjaras are also included among the Kunbis who were once a wandering Tribe.


These castes and sub-castes form the outer circle within which a man must marry. Outside it are a set of further sub-divisions which prohibit the marriage of persons related through males. These are called exogamous groups or class and their name among the higher castes is gotra. The theory is that all persons belonging to the same gotra are descended from the same male ancestor and so related. The system of exogamous gotra based as it is on descent from males suffices to prevent unions of persons nearly related on the father's side, but not those on the mother's side, within three or sometimes five degrees. The marriage of the children of two sisters is prohibited among all Hindus. The marriage of the children of a brother and a sister, called cross-cousin marriage which is common in southern castes is prohibited among Northerners. Among Marathi communities, Marathas, Malis, Kunbis, Mahars, the marriage of a brother's daughter with a sister's son is common. The other form of cross-cousin marriage, viz., the marriage of a brother's son with sister's daughter is practised by some Gonds and similar tribes among whom it is spoken of as dudh lautna (give back the milk). Among some castes of Telugu origin and among the Desastha Brahmans, a brother has the first claim to his sister's daughter even as his own wife an idea which would be looked upon with horror by the Northern and Maratha communities of Hindus. The marriage of two sisters at the same time was once permitted in most of the lower castes and in all tribes and was common among these castes which were particularly polygamous.


Hypergamy relates to the social rule by which a woman should be married to a man who is either his equal or her superior in rank. Such practice is still widely prevalent in Northern India by which men of the higher sub-caste of a caste will take a daughter in marriage from lower ones but will not give their daughters in return. More commonly, families of lower sub-castes or class in the same caste consider the marriage of their daughters into a higher group a great honour and will give large  sums of money for a bridegroom.


Hinduism permits polygyny, i.e., a state of having more than  one wife at a time and this word describes it more aptly than polygamy. The smrtis not only prescribe that a man who has entered grhasthasrama must not remain single and should take another wife without delay to keep up religious rites but also ask to take, another wife during the lifetime of one who had no son. But even then polygyny has been practised by only a few people over the ages. A Kunbi would take a second wife only if the first was childless or a bad character or destitute of attractions. In many cases, the first wives themselves, prevail upon their husbands to lake second wives for the sake of progeny or convenience. However, in recent years, the spread of English education and assimilation of modern liberal ideas have made almost all communities among Hindus monogamous and the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 has now completely reformed the law relating to Hindu marriage all over India and has made monogamy compulsory among all classes of Hindus.

Widow Marriage and Divorce.

The remarriage of widows was once strictly prohibited among the Brahmans and similar castes who followed the Brahman way of life, the reasoning; being; that marriage was the only sacrament (samskara) for a woman and she could go through it but once. Even now though legally permissible widow marriages are not much in vogue in Hindu communities. Only a minority of the most advanced Brahmans would recognise widow marriage and these were once generally held to be excluded from the caste, though defaults in caste practices, such as breaches of rules against the consumption of prohibited kinds of meat, liquor, etc., were winked at and not visited with proper penalty. Similarly, divorce was not once recognised among Brahmans. Among Banias the marriage of widows was nominally prohibited, but frequently occurred and remarried widows were relegated to the inferior social groups in each sub-caste. Divorce was also said to have been prohibited, but it was probable that women put away for adultery were allowed to take refuge in such groups instead of being finally expelled. Lower castes in the district allow both widows to marry and spouses to take divorce. The ceremony of widow marriage is largely governed by the idea of escaping the wrath of the first husband. A bachelor who wished to marry a widow had first to go through a mock ceremony of marrying an arka or swallow wort plant. Divorce was permitted on sufficient grounds at the instance of either party, it being effected before the caste pancayat.


In Hindu religious books are mentioned eight forms of marriage, i.e., methods of consecrating a marriage union of which in modern times only two are in vogue, viz., the Brahma and the Asura. Conforming with the Brahma form of marriage, generally among higher castes, a hunda (dowry-property which a woman brings to her husband) is paid by the bride's father to the bridegroom. Among lower castes, the bride's parents usually, take dej (bride-price) thereby conforming with the Asura form. The monetary aspect in the settlement of a marriage may take various forms, e.g., among the Marathas, in a salankrta Kanyadan, the bride's father, besides the ornaments he gives to his daughter, spends much on many items of expenses on both sides. In Kanyadana, the expenses of the bride's father are much restricted. In the hunda form, the girl's father pays bridegroom price to the boy's father while in the dej form, as the proposal of the marriage comes from the boy's father, he has to pay a dej (bride-price) to the girl's father.

It should be mentioned here that the dowry demanded from the bride's father is under the guise of Varadaksina, i.e., the money the donee receives from a donor to fulfil the purpose of a dana. As such it is formally permitted by the Dharmasastra. But in practice it amounts to extortion. In communities, where for some reason or other the supply of marriageable bovs falls much short of the demand, dowry forms an important part of a marriage settlement. Education only lends appreciation to the boy's value in the marriage market and scarcity of suitable grooms enforces spinsterhood on a large number of eligible girls whose parents are unable to pay the demanded dowry. Examples to the contrary are also found. Dowry by law is prohibited but the law is usually circumvented.


Social usage in relation to Hindu marriage has been considerably affected by various legal enactments passed, perhaps right from 1833 when the regulation prohibiting Sati was declared. A common form of civil marriage for all communities in India was provided by the Special Marriage Act of 1872 which made it possible for an Indian of whatever caste or creed to enter a valid marriage with person belonging to any caste or creed, provided the parties, registered the contract of marriage declaring inter alia that they did not belong to any religion. This Act was amended by Act XXX of 1923 making it possible for Hindus. Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains (but not for Christians, Jews, Mahomedans and Parsces) to declare their religion and yet get their marriage registered. The Child Marriage Restraint Act XIX 1929 as amended by Act of 1946 prohibited marriages of boys under 18 and girls under 14. The Hindu Marriage Disabilities Act XXVIII of 1946 validated marriages between parties (a) belonging to the same gotra or (b) belonging: to different subdivisions of the same caste. The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 abrogated and modifies all past laws. It has made now Hindu marriage adult and strictly monogamous. It has done away with the caste and gotra restrictions which limited the field of marriage and has laid down definite conditions under which a decree of nullity and further of dissolution of marriage could be obtained.

As marriage from the Hindu point of view created an indissoluble tie between husband and wife, divorce was not known to the general Hindu law. Neither party to a marriage could, therefore, divorce the other unless it was allowed by custom as it was among some castes. The Indian Divorce Act. 1869, provided inter alia for dissolution of marriage, hut it applied only to cases where the petitioner or respondent professed the Christian religion (Section 2 of the Act). However according to the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955. reliefs by way of judicial separation. declaration of nullity of marriage and divorce are recognised. (Sections 10 to 13).

Marriage Ceremonies.

Priests from both sides fix in common consultation the day and hour for the auspicious event. The essential marriage rituals which obtain among high-caste Hindus are: Vagniscaya, Simantapujuna, Madhuparka, Antarpat, Sutravestana, Panigrahana, Lajahoma, Saptapadi and occasionally Airani pradana. In interpretation of these sastric injunctions from the grhya-sutras, the following ceremonies are gone through in a popular wav.

Aksada.- When the wedding day is fixed, invitations by way of printed letters are sent round beginning with the house gods, On an auspicious day. the relatives of the bride and the bridegroom go together in precession to the temples of Ganapati and Devi to invite the god and goddess and offer them coconuts, betel-leves. kumkum, etc. The priest accompanying the procession invokes the god to be present at the wedding and ward off all evil. Next a married pair from each party go round inviting friends and relations.

Simantapujana.-In the evening previous to the marriage day. the ceremony of simantapujan or worship of the boundary takes place. The parents of the girl with their relatives go to the bridegroom's house with gifts. There they first worship Ganapati. (represented by a betel-nut), Varuna (represented by a water-pot), a lamp and the earth. Then they wash the feet of the bridegroom and offer him a dress. Next, the mother of the bride washes the feet of the mother of the bridegroom and fills her lap and the laps of her female relations with rice or wheat and pieces of dry coconut kernel. The assembled guests are given betel-leaves and betel-nuts and Brahmans are given money gifts.

Vagniscaya.-The ceremony of Vagniscaya or oral promise takes place at night. The bridegroom's parents and relatives go to the house of the bride with a dress and ornaments for the bride. The fathers of the bride and bridegroom exchange a coconut and embrace each other. The bridegroom's father presents the bride with ornaments and dress brought for her. After the distribution of betel-leaves and betel-nuts all disperse.

Halad-The ceremony of anointing the bride and the bride- groom with turmeric paste takes place in the morning of the wedding day. First the girl, is rubbed with turmeric paste at her house by some married ladies on both sides, the remaining portion of which is taken to the bridegroom's house where he is rubbed with it alike.

Deva Pratistha.- Deva Pratistha or installing of deities: Before the ceremony begins, the bride and her parents are given a hot water bath. After changing clothes and bowing to the house gods and elders, the bride's parents begin the ceremony which consists of worship of planets (represented by betel-nuts), Ganapati. Varuna and Avighna Kalasa. The Avighna Kalasa is an earthen jar daubed with white and red colours. It contains turmeric roots, betel-nuts, a copper coin and sweet-meals. Its mouth is covered with an earthen lid tied to it with a piece of cotton thread passed round several times. It is prayed to ward off all evil. The same ceremony takes place at the house of the bridegroom also.

Gauri-pujana.- Gauri-pujana is performed only by the bride. She worships in the house the goddess Parvati or Gauri and sits there till the wedding rime, praying the goddess with the words: " Oh Gauri, grant me a happy wifehood and long life to him who is coming to my door ".

Rukhvat.-When the time for wedding draws near, a party from the bride's side takes several dishes of sweetmeat to the groom's house and serve them to the bridegroom and his relations. Of late this is developing into an artistic show of several articles besides sweets. The bridegroom is worshipped and presented with articles of dress by the bride's father. The priest then asks the bridegroom to bow to the house-gods and elders. Garlanded and decorated with new clothes, with a finger mark of lamp-black on his cheeks, the bridegroom rides a horse or is seated in a car and taken in a procession to the bride's house, the females walking just behind him and the males behind them.

Mangalastaka -When the procession reaches the bride's house, cooked rice mixed With curds is waved on the bride-groom's face. Next the bride's mother washes the feet of the bridegroom's mother and she returns to her place because she must not hear the marriage verses. The bridegroom is then led to the marriage booth where the priests have laid two low stools and the bride and the bridegroom arc asked to stand on them lacing each other. An antarpat curtain, is held between them so that they may not see each other. They are each given a garland of flowers to hold and are told to look at the svastika on the curtain between them and pray to their family deities. Mangalaksatas (reddened rice) are distributed among the guests present. The priests standing on either sides of the curtain chant mangalastakas (auspicious poetical compositions) and they and the guests throw rice at the bride and the bridegroom at the end of each verse. When the verses end and the auspicious moment is reached, the pair garland each other amidst a noise of clapping and drum beating. The eyes of the boy and the girl meet; the girl garlands the boy and he follows. Guests, friends and relations are entertained  with flowers, rose-water, scent and pansupari. It is customary to serve spiced milk or other sweet drinks. Money is distributed among Brahmans.

Kanyadana.-An elaborate rite follows by which the bride's parents hand her over to the groom's care and request him to treat her well during her lifetime.

Lajahoma.-Marriage sacrifice or Lajahoma: The pair is led to the altar where fire is kindled. The priest asks them to worship the fire and throw parched rice and ghee in it. Next he asks them to take oaths that they will be life's partners during their lifetime for weal or woe. These oaths are taken in the presence of the fire, the earth, the priest and gods.

Saptapadi.-Seven small heaps of rice are made on the altar and a betel-nut is placed on each of them. The priest recites mantras and the bridegroom lifts the bride's right foot and places it on the heaps in succession. When the seventh heap is crossed the marriage is complete.

Sutravestana.-The priest passes a cotton thread round the pair twelve times which is then taken off and divided in two parts. The pair is made to fasten these on each other's wrists. The bride is presented with a sadi and coli and her lap filled with wheat or rice, a coconut and some fruits by the priest and some married women with their husbands alive. The bridegroom's mother puts on the bride's person all the ornaments made for her and looks her in the face, gives her new clothes and puts sugar in her mouth to indicate her satisfaction with her. This ceremony is known as Summukh and only women officiate at it.

Zal or Airanipradan.-An airni or Zal which is a wickerwork basket containing several gifts such as coconuts, betel-nuts, fruits, cooked food, etc., is presented by the bride's father to the bridegroom's mother and relatives. The basket is held on the head of the person to be honoured and while some water is poured on it, the priest on behalf of the bride's father says, "we have given you this good-natured daughter, well nourished and healthy and request you to treat her kindly."

Varat.-The concluding item in the marriage ceremony is the Varat or procession of a carriage in which both the bride and bridegroom are seated and is followed by male and female relatives and friends of both, to the accompaniment of music and fireworks leading to the bridegroom's house, where both worship the goddess of wealth and plenty on reaching there. This is called Laksmi pujana. The maiden name of the bride is changed and she is given a new name by which she is known thereafter in her husband's family. Betel packets and sugar are distributed to the party assembled and money to Brahmans. A ritualistic closure to the ceremony is put whereby the deities that had been invited before the ceremony began are taken leave off and given a formal send-off. Socially, exchange of feasts ends the ceremony.

Other Communities.

The special customs of Gonds and Kunbis have already been separately described. The Muslims and Christians follow the practices of their fellowmen in other district like Nagpur and their small number do not warrant any detailed treatment. A few of the more striking practices of some of them in connection with the marriage ceremony deserve notice.

Kurumvars, a shepherd caste who weave blankets, seat the bride and the bridegroom on a loom and then in a basket and throw coloured rice over them. Telugu Brahmans also seat the pair in a bamboo basket and the explanation usually given is a mixture of sympathetic magic and wishful thinking. The association with Vansha i.e., bamboo is supposed to ensure numerous off-springs. Among all Telugu castes, great importance is attached to the tying of mangalasutra (wedding necklace) and among Komtis the beads are strung together by a concubine, who can never become a widow. A necklace prepared by her is supposed to confer akhanda saubhagya or unbroken married life. Among Telugus, the bridegroom, at one stage of the ceremony seizes a pot full of cakes and sweetmeats and flees to another house. He is pursued by all the children of the party who shriek, "the dog is stealing off." When the children come back, the lather of the bride meets the bridegroom and beseeches him to return. He refuses to do so until a present is given to him.

Among Telugu Brahmans of the Vaisnava sect, performance called raibhar which is supposed to preserve the prestige of the bride is gone through. When the Varat arrives at the bride's village, it stops some distance away. The bride's party comes out to meet it and sits down about a field or so away and each party awaits the advance of the other. Embassies pass between the parties beseeching each other to advance which they do about a yard or so at intervals, whiling away time meanwhile with singing songs and watching dancing of nauch girls. This goes on for hours neither party wishing to show any eagerness, until every one is heartily sick of the songs and dances. They then adjourn to the bride's house for the ceremony.

Among Kanva Brahmans and Sonars, the bridegroom's father touches the kachchota of the bride's mother's robe, gives her a sari and a money gift. She then serves him food. The ceremony appears to symbolise the primitive custom of wife-lending to a guest. The nanhora ceremony in which all the women of the party bathe naked under a mandwa was performed among Kohlis. Among some castes of Sonars and Kunbis, the foot of the bride dipped in kumkum is stamped on the bridegroom's back. Bad-', walks, a sub-caste of Manas, give the couple an arrow and make them shoot at a clay idol. These instances open out a vast field for ethnological studies.