Monday, April 23, 2012

Essential Ceremonies&Customary Rites in Hindu Marriage:

Essential Ceremonies&Customary Rites in Hindu Marriage:


The Marriage celebrations is a huge occasion among Hindu families with presence of relatives ,friends and Vedic pundits to perform marriage according to Vedic rites&rituals. 

  • Marriage is a union between a male and a female with a commitment to pursue Dharma,Artha-possessions,Kama -physical&other desires&Moksha -the liberation together.
  • Types of Marriages:Brahma,Daiva Arsha,Prajapatya , Gandharva Asura,Rakshasa,Paishacha-Manu Smrti III.20-34
  • There is no uniformity of following ceremonies,rites,rituals or customs in Hindu marriages , neither,there is strict rules in Hindu law to be followed for solemnizing marriage nor there is consensus among pundits about essential ceremonies to be followed by Hindu couples.

  • Most customs,rites or rituals or ceremonies are followed by Hindu's, since time immemorial.Most ceremonies like Homa,Mangalsutra  dharan and Saptapadi  are followed by Hindu's  since Rig veda.
  • The customs or rituals vary from region to region or caste or family.

  • In some caste, marriage is performed at Bride Groom place or in some caste, marriage is performed at Bride 's place.

  • There is no mention of dowry in any texts,but some gifts were given by bride family for starting new married life as matter of custom /usage

Some Ceremonies commonly observed in most Hindu marriages :

  • Welcoming  Bride Groom/Barat with Arthi
  • Sankalpa
  • Ganapathi Puja [Ganesh prayers ]
  • Kannyadaan
  • Akshatropanam 
  • Mangalsutrabandhanam 
  • Paani Grahanam
  • Laja Homa 
  • Agni Pradakshina
  • Saptapadi
  • Arundhati darshanam
  • Nishekam

Dravidian marriage or South Indian marriage :



  • Nichayathartham[Engagement ceremony or exchange of rings,reading out lagna patrika  ]


  • Varapuja-edurukolu[Welcoming ceremony]


  • Kasi yatra

  • Ankurarpanam

  • Gowri Pooja by bride

  • Sankalpam 

  • kanyadanam

  • Sumuhoortam

  • Mangalya dharana -Tying 3 knots

  • Talambralu -Rice shower

  • Sadasyam Nagavelli

  • Saptapadi- 7 steps before holy fire

    • Step 1-May the first step lead to food that is both nourishing and pure.


    • Step 2 -May the second step lead to strength (at the physical, emotional, intellectual &spiritual levels).


    • Step -3-May the third step lead to prosperity.
    • Step-4-May the fourth step lead to all round happiness.


    • Step-5-May the fifth step lead to progeny (noble & virtuous children).


    • Step -6-May the sixth step lead to long life.


    • Step-7-May the seventh step lead to bondage (through harmony).

  • Laja homam

  • Arundhati darshanam-Meditating on the Pole star & the Arundhati star.

  • Mangala harati

  • Grihapravesham-House warming ceremony


  • Satyanarayana vratam -Puja

  • Nishekam

Essential Ceremonies under Codified Hindu Law  :


In Hindu marriage Act ,1955 there is no set of prescribed ceremonies for solemnizing marriage,section-7,expressly provides how marriage to be solemnized;

"1.A Hindu Marriage may be solemnised in accordance with the customary rites and ceremonies of either party thereto.

2.Where such rites and ceremonies include the Saptapadi (that is, the taking of seven steps by the bridegroom and the bride jointly before the sacred fire), the marriage becomes complete and binding when the seventh step is taken."


The performance of marriage is complete with 7th step taken by the couple before holy fire,so saptapadi is most important  customary rite recognized by Vedic customs as well as codified Hindu Law.

  • The merely wearing Mangalsutra or Sindur on forehead does not constitute legally accepted marriage,if other rites like saptapadi before holy fire were not performed.but Homa or Kanyadhan is not obligatory in Hindu marriage act.
Important case laws :

  • "Under the Hindu system of law, clear proof of usage will outweigh the written text of law."Collector of Madura v Mootoo Ramalinga.


  • If essential ceremony like saptapadi is not perfomed ,such marriage is not legally accepted-Shanti Dev Barma v. Kanchan Prawa AIR 1991 SC 816.

  • Bhrama form of marriage not essential after the enactment of Hindu Marriage Act, for valid Hindu Marriage  according to A P High Court  in Ramlal Agarwal v. Shantadevi AIR 1999 AP 251.

  •  Custom permit a sudra to become sanyasi-Krishna Singh V Mathura Ahir 1980 SC707 ,1980 AIILJ 299

  • Udiki Marriages for widows amongst Munnuru  kapus community upheld .not to be proved-Malakayya And Anr. vs Avait Bhommayya And Anr.,AIR 1971 AP 270,1971 1 Anwr 143 ;Serai Udiki marriage among  Pancha- masal Lingayats ,proof unnecessary-Shakuntala Bai&Anr.V. Kulkarni&Anr.1989 AIR 1359, 989 SCR  (2)     70,  1989 SCC  (2) 526  , JT 1989 (1)    607,1989 SCALE  (1)737.

  • Essential ceremonies must be proved for allegation of second marriage- Bhaurao Shankar Lokhande&Anr vs State Of Maharashtra & Anr ,1965 AIR 1564, 1965 SCR (2) 837.
  • A distinct community called Dudekulas consist of Mohammedans or Hindus,Governed by Hindu Law-Dudekulas belongs to Cuddapah district of A.P,who were originally Hindus but some generations ago began to adopt certain usages of Muslims so far as marriage and some social customs in general and they have been living as joint families following the incidents of Hindu families and customs-Rosanna v. Subbanna, ILR (1970) A.P. 1010
  • The taking of seven steps by the bride and the bride-groom together before the nuptial fire and the performance of 'nuptial homa' are the two essential ceremonies of a Hindu marriage. The ceremony known as 'Kushandika' is associated with 'nuptial homa' and the performance of a Sanskar. The evidence conclusively shows that at the time of performance of 'Kushandika' on the following morning both the ceremony of Saptapadi Gaman as well as the performance of homa had been done together and that the marriage became complete and binding between the parties-Rabindra Nath Dutta vs The State ,AIR 1969 Cal 55, 1969 CriLJ 164
  •  Definition of wife defined :"Whether a marriage performed according to customary rites and ceremonies, without strictly fulfilling the requisites of Section 7(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, or any other personal law would entitle the woman to maintenance under Section 125 Cr.P.C.? "We are of the opinion that a broad and expansive interpretation should be given to the term ‘wife’ to include even those cases where a man and woman have been living together as husband and wife for a reasonably long period of time, and strict proof of marriage should not be a pre-condition for maintenance under Section 125 of the Cr.P.C, so as to fulfil the true spirit and essence of the beneficial provision of maintenance under Section 125."-G.S. Singhvi.J.&Ashok Kumar Ganguly in Chanmuniya v Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha,(2011) 1 SCC 141 In this case ,the Additional Solitor General told Supreme Court that "use of word  keep one-night stand’ sexist, derogatory".

  • The Custom among Kammas of A.P that presents [pasupukumkuma] given to bridegroom by bride people shall be returned to them in the event of the bride dying issue less-intestate is established beyound doubt -N. Venkata Subba Rao v. Tummala Bhujangayya 1960 (1) An.WR 215.

  • The Custom,wife to get back dowry from estranged husband is valid -Venkateshwara Rao V Ganga bhavani ILR 1976 AP 26
 References :
  • Essays in Classical and Modern Hindu Law-John Duncan Martin Derrett


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