Marriage (विवाह: संस्कार:)

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(As of now this entire content has been taken from: Radhakrishnan, S. (1926). Hindu view of life. George Allen And Unwin Ltd, London.)

In the Hindu tradition the second stage of life after Brahmacharya is called the Grihasthaashram[1]. A human being is not ordinarily self- sufficing. These are as a rule encouraged to enter the married life. In India monastic tendencies were discouraged until one had a normal expression of natural impulses. He who runs back from marriage is in the same boat with one who runs away from battle. Only failures in life avoid occasions for virtue. Marriage is regarded as sacred. When the Hindu descends from the adoration of the Absolute and takes to the worship of a personal god, his god has always a consort. He does not worship a bachelor or a virgin.

Śiva is ardhanāriśvara, and his image signifies the cooperative interdependent, separately incomplete but jointly complete masculine and feminine functions of the supreme being. There is nothing unwholesome or guilty about the sex life. Through the institution of marriage it is made the basis of intellectual and moral intimacies. Marriage is not so much a concession to human weakness as a means of spiritual growth. It is prescribed for the sake of the development of personality as well as the continuance of the family ideal. Marriage has this social side. Every family is a partnership between the living and the dead.

The Hindu ideal emphasizes the individual and the social aspects of the institution of marriage. Man is not a tyrant nor is woman a slave, but both are servants of a higher ideal to which their individual inclinations are to be subordinated. Sensual love is sublimated into self-forgetful devotion. Marriage for the Hindu is a problem and not a datum. Except in the pages of fiction we do not have a pair agreeing with each other in everything, tastes and temper, ideals and interests. Irreducible peculiarities there will always be, and the task of the institution of marriage is to use these differences to promote a harmonious life. Instincts and passions are the raw material which are to be worked up into an ideal whole. Though there is some choice with regard to our mates, there is a large element of chance in the best of marriages. That marriage is successful which transforms a chance mate into a life companion. Marriage is not the end of the struggle, it is but the beginning of a strenuous life where we attempt to realize a larger ideal by subordinating our private interests and inclinations. seva (सेवा | selfless service) of a common ideal can bind together the most unlike individuals. Love demands its sacrifices. By restraint and endurance, we raise love to the likeness of the divine. In an ideal marriage the genuine interests of the two members are perfectly reconciled.

The perfectly ethical marriage is the monogamous one. The relation of Rāma and Sītā, or Sāvitrī and Satyavān, where the two stand by each other against the whole world, is idealized in the Hindu scriptures. In the absence of absolute perfection we have to be content with approximations. We need not, however, confound the higher with the lower.

Eight different kinds of marriages are recognized in the Hindu law books. Manu did not shut his eyes to the practices of his contemporaries. He arranges the different kinds of marriages in an order. While marriages in which personal inclination is subordinated rank high, those by mutual choice (gāndharva), force (rākṣasa), purchase (āsura) come lower. The lowest is paiśāca. When the lover ravishes a maiden without her consent, when she is asleep, or intoxicated or deranged in mind, we have a case of paiśāca marriage.

The recognition of the spiritual ideal of marriage requires us to regard the marriage relation as an indissoluble one. So long as we take a small view of life and adopt for our guide the fancy or feeling of the moment, marriage relation cannot be regarded as permanent. In the first moments of infatuation we look upon our partners as angels from heaven, but soon the wonder wears away, and if we persist in our passion for perfection, we become agitated and often bitter. The unrest is the effect of a false ideal. The perfect relation is to be created and not found. The existence of incompatibility is a challenge to a more vigorous effort. To resort to divorce is to confess defeat. The misfits and the maladjustments are but failures.


  1. Radhakrishnan, S. (1926). Hindu view of life. George Allen And Unwin Ltd, London.