Dharma of husband and wife and family life

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The sanctity attached to the relationship of the husband and wife brought about by Vivaha (marriage) and the inseparability of their relationship was the firm foundation laid by the propounders of Dharma, on which the social life was constructed. This again had its source in the principle of three debts or three pious obligations. Devaruna (pious obligation to the gods) was required to be discharged through religious sacrifices and other virtuous deeds such as making gifts to deserving people, as a householder. It was ordained that all such acts must be performed by the husband and the wife jointly. This injunction is being obeyed down to this day. iztukFk± fL=;% l`"Vk% larkukFk± p ekuok%A rLekRlk/kkj.kks /keZ% JqrkS iRU;k lgksfnr%AA MANU IX-96: To be mothers were women created and to be fathers men; religious rites therefore are ordained in the Veda to be performed by the husband together with his wife.


Vivaha (marriage) was one of the most important of the several 'samskaras' (sacraments) prescribed by Dharmasastras for the individual. The object and purpose of marriage as declared by Dharmasastras was not merely to satisfy the carnal desire of a man and woman though it did constitute the basis of the desire for marriage. The propounders of Dharma, after deep thought and consideration, deliberately relegated the natural carnal desire to a secondary position as they considered that greater stress on this aspect would result in the 'throw away attitude' ie., an attitude to give up the wife or husband, as the case may be, at the whim and fancy of either of them and go in for a new one, just as one discards an article meant for use or enjoyment after some use and goes after a new one. This they considered was injurious to the interests of the individual and society. They stressed that coming together of a man and woman was necessary for the fulfillment of the threefold ideals of life, ie., Dharma, Artha and Kama. The sum and substance of these three goals was that the husband and the wife, remaining loyal to each other throughout their life, should restrain their desire (kama) for material pleasure, wealth and prosperity (Artha) by Dharma (righteous rules of conduct) and should share the happiness and misery and discharge their prescribed duties towards the family and society throughout their life. This is highlighted by a promise which a bridegroom was required to make while undergoing the vivaha Samskara. While giving the girl in marriage, the father, or in his absence the guardian, addresses the bridegroom with the following words: /kesZ pkFksZ p dkes p ukfrpfjrO;k Ro;s;eÃA You shall not transgress Dharma in the attainment of Artha and Kama. The bridegroom accepts the condition with these words: ukfrpjkfeAA I shall not transgress Dharma, in matters of Artha and Kama. The promise taken indicates that the purpose of marriage was the fulfillment of Trivarga doctrine throughout the life of husband and wife. This aspect is brought out in the' Saptapadi ', (the ceremony of taking seven steps by the bride) at the end of which there is a declaration that they become life long friends. Though the 'Saptapadhi' ceremony was an essential precondition for an orthodox Hindu Marriage, the spirit and purpose of 'Vivaha Samskara' in whatever manner performed was one and the same, The husband and the wife, were regarded as one soul with two bodies. Like real friends, they had to share the joy or suffering of life and live together with mutual adjustments disregarding momentary anger or likes or dislikes arising out of temperamental or other differences. This attitude was not only for their happiness but also for the purpose of discharging the onerous responsibilities of upbringing and educating their children. In order to impress upon the minds of the bride and bridegroom the sanctity and permanence of marriage bond and to make them to commit publicly, in the presence of relatives and guests, that they would fulfill the obligations of married life towards the society vivaha was prescribed as a Samskara. which is one of the most important and basic aspects of the social system based on Dharma. It was regarded as the foundation of family life. After marriage the husband and the wife would enter the stage in life, which was called "Grihasthashrama" (Householder) ie., family life, during which it was the duty of every family to discharge its social obligation. The relationship was not merely sexual. The husband and the wife were together required to observe a code of conduct, and they had to discharge their responsibility jointly. In particular, they were together required to discharge four pious obligations namely; (i) towards the God, (ii) towards parents, (iii) towards teacher and (iv) towards humanity. (For elucidation read Chapter- V) This could be discharged only by living together with mutual love and fidelity throughout their life which is the sum and substance of dharma of husband and wife. To impress upon every couple this aspect Manusmriti -IX -101 and III-60 declared thus: vU;ksU;L;kO;fHkpkjks Hkosnkej.kkfUrd%A ,"k /keZ% leklsu Ks;% L=hiqal;ks% ij%AA larq"Vks Hkk;Z;k HkrkZ Hk=kZ Hkk;kZ rFkSo pA ;fLeTMkSo dqys fuR;a dY;k.ka r= oS /kzqoeÃA Mutual friendship and fidelity is the highest Dharma to be observed by husband and wife, throughout their life. The family in which husband and wife have mutual affection and respect always secures happiness and prosperity. The validity and utility of the directive for all and its eternal value are unexceptionable. The observance of the above directive throughout life by the husband and the wife is not only conducive to happiness and harmony in family life, but also essential for national or social life.


One of the serious problems human society is facing particularly in the west and which is spreading like an epidemic disease to our country also is disregarding the 'Dharma' of husband and wife, which brings about disruption of family life resulting in serious consequences to the children, their upbringing, their character and ultimately their whole life and attitude of life which not only ruins individual life and family life but also adversely affects national life as also humanity. This is due to the 'Throwaway attitude' which is replacing the value of gratitude. This is becoming a menace to human society. In view of this every individual is becoming totally selfish in that there is no attachment to anyone not even to parents, the spouse or even children or to any thing. Every individual wants to use an article so long as he pleases and the moment he finds a better article, he throws away the first and take the second and so on. This attitude towards articles of use ie., consumerism is posing a serious economic problem to human society. That itself is sufficiently disastrous. But unfortunately it is being extended to family life also. The resultant position is, in many cases husband and wife instead of realising that marriage is a life long bond with onerous responsibilities of begetting children, educating them and providing good citizens to the nation, think that marriage is only for physical enjoyment and the spouse can be replaced by another of ones liking at any time and for any reason whatsoever. In view of this, human beings are fast losing sexual morality, and as a result are becoming no better than animals. Such an attitude is wholly contrary to Dharma. It gives rise to serious social problems particularly in cases where husband and wife after marriage have children and thereafter each prefers to go for a new spouse. They do not care what happens to their children, about their education and their upbringing. Such an attitude also results in making a child an orphan when the parents are alive. A recent press report as to what has happened in U.S.A. is heart-rending. The report reads: Millions of children in the United States are suffering as a result of increasing divorces which have swept the country in recent years, reports DPA. Experts believe that the children are paying the price for the fact that the institution of marriage has been undermined. "Until death do us part" has now been replaced by ''as long as I am happy". Anybody marrying in the U.S. today has a 60% chance of eventually being divorced. The results can be seen in the dramatic rise in crime among the young, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, depression and poverty. According to experts at the council of families in America, based in New York, the children and youth of today are the first generation in the history of the U.S. who are psychologically, morally and economically worse off than their parents were at the same age. Experts say U.S. society has utterly failed to convince the next generation that marriage is a good thing. The study, entitled, "Marriage in America -a Report to the Nation", was issued recently by the council, which is an independent body. It warns that should this trend continue, it would represent nothing less than an act of cultural suicide. This pessimistic point of view is not being expressed by conservative politicians, but by men and women with mainly middle-of-the-road political ideals and values. Within just two decades, from 1970-1990, the percentage of adults in the U.S. who are married has dropped from 72 to 62 The mothers of over two-thirds of the black babies born today in the U.S. are unmarried. Over one-third (36%) of all children today live without their fathers (17%). Violent crime by youth has increased sixfold since 1960. 38% of Americans living in poverty are children". The situation is alarming. The throwaway attitude which is the major cause of divorce, is spreading like an epidemic to all nations of the world. Only a sense of dharma of the husband and the wife can act as a check. If it goes unchecked the abandoned children become a menace and burden to the society. Particularly being unprotected by parents and parental affection, they become victims of bad habits and develop undesirable qualities, as a result they will have neither the moral nor the physical strength to bear the onerous responsibilities of the family and/or of the nation. The deterioration has not stopped at this only. The importance given only to sexual enjoyment has already led to a dangerous situation. Man and woman enjoy sex without marriage for a contractual period, so that they need not go to court to seek decree of divorce. What should happen to the children produced during the contractual period or before divorce in cases where they had married? The same throwaway attitude is also being extended to parents and other dependents. When utter selfishness overpowers selflessness ie., sacrifice which is one of the basic values of life and the throwaway attitude takes over, this is what happens. So long as parents are helpful by way of providing food and service and education, they are good, but the moment owing to old age and/or illness they require the support of their children they are regarded as a liability and burden and are being thrown away. They have to spend the evening of their life in "Vridhashramas". (Old Age Rescue Homes). This throwaway attitude is totally alien to Dharma, one of the values of which is gratitude. A man or a woman without a sense of gratitude towards his/her spouse, parents and towards all those who have given a helping hand in various ways, is really inhuman. Therefore, it is necessary to check the growth of the throwaway attitude and resurrect the sense of the "Dharma" of the husband and the wife so that they lead a purposeful family life. It is also pertinent to point out that the great importance attached to family life, as constituting the social edifice, and as a basic unit on which the strength of a nation depends, which was regarded as part of dharma, has been recognized by the United Nations under article 23(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted by the General Assembly on 16th December 1966. It reads: The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State. The above article is a clear recognition of the efficacy and necessity of the Dharma of the husband and the wife evolved in this land from the most ancient times as the foundation of social life.