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Durable Link to this BlogSunday, March 2, 2008

History of Institution of Marriage

History of Institution of Marriage

I have with me a small volume, which deals with history of tradition or institution of Indian marriage by V.K. Rajwade. He has convincingly proved that monogamy has evolved centuries after the tribes the world over lived with common partners and children. Till date, several tribes in Australia, Africa and Asia live like that, out of sheer socio-economic necessity. But many Indians may find it shocking that in their holy texts of Harivamsha and Mahabharata, incest was not considered a sin and instances of lending one's wife to a dearest friend or honored guest could be found.

Sage Sanat had declared that a wife should be spared for the friend in distress, as also children and property. Grammarian Panini (600BC) refers to progeny of two friends as Dwaimitri. The custom of free love, at times incest, prevailed in several parts of Ancient India like Vahika (Bahlika) Gandhara, Aratta, Khasa, Vira, Mahishaka, and Kerala according to Mahabharata. Mlechhas and Sourashtras were also added to the list.

Stories of Satyavati and Kunti are well known. To have children before marriage from other partner was no sin. Manu calls such children as "kanina". Karna was kanina son of Kunti.

Rajwade quotes Bhishma from Mahabharata (Shanti Parva 207th chapter) wherein evolution of institution marriage is given down the ages.

  • In Kritayuga there was no discrimination among blood relatives. Copulation was common.
  • In Tretayuga mutual touch indicated desire for sex (There was no relation between sex and progeny. The children belonged to the whole community)
  • In Dwapara yuga Maithunadharma (pairing-discipline) evolved. Though it was only a live-in relation to start with, parentage was a slow process. But it became stronger by and by and father and mother of the child began to be identified.
  • It was only in Kaliyuga that dvandva or mutual responsibility and permanency in man-woman relation developed. Marriage came to have sanctity attached to it. With Fire God, relatives and public at large as witness, a marriage could not be annulled.

It is not in as many words, but in short pithy ways evolution of marriage custom is narrated. But Rajwade feels that it is nicely and convincingly put in a socio-anthropological way by Bhishma about the custom that evolved more than 5,000 years ago!

See Also:
• The Sacrament of Marriage
• Customs, Traditions, & Varieties of Weddings

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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