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Mr Uttam Kumar Panda

B.A. LL.B. (HONS.)

ROLL NO. 115




I Priyanka Priyadarshini, hereby declare that, the project work entitled,
Traditional forms of marriages and Their Dynamics submitted to H.N.L.U.,
Raipur is record of an original work done by me under the guidance of, Faculty
Member, H.N.L.U., Raipur.

Priyanka Priyadarshini
Roll No. 115
Semester I (Section B)
B.A. L.L.B. (Hons.)

First & foremost, I would like to thank my Economics teacher Prof. Uttam Kumar
Panda for giving me opportunity to work on this project named Traditional Forms of
Marriages and Their Dynamics. His guidance and support has been instrumental while
making my project on this important issue.
I would also like to thank all authors, writers, columnists and social thinkers whose
ideas and works have been made use of in my Project.
My heartfelt gratitude also goes to all staff and administration of HNLU for the
infrastructure in the form of our library and IT lab that was a great source of help in the
completion of this Project. I also thank my friends for their precious inputs which have
been very useful in the completion of this Project.
I would also like to thank my parents, my seniors, dear colleagues and friends in the
University, who have helped me with ideas about this work.
I hope you will appreciate my true work which is indeed a hard work and a result of my
true research work.

Priyanka Priyadarshini
Roll no. - 115
Semester- I (Section B)
B.A. LL.B. (Hons.)


1. Introduction
2. Aims and Objectives
3. Research Methodology
4. Monogamy
5. Polygyny
6. Polyandry
7. Group or Plural Marriage
8. Child Marriage
9. Major Findings
10. Conclusion
11. References



Marriage is one of the universal social institutions. It is established by the human society to
control and regulate the sex life of man. It is closely connected with the institution of family.
In fact, family and marriage are complementary top each other. Marriage is a socially
approved way of establishing a family of procreation 1. As Westermarck has remarked,
Marriage is rooted in the family rather than the family in the marriage. Marriage is an
institution of society which can have very different implications in different cultures. In
purposes, functions and forms may differ from society to society, but it is present
everywhere as an institution. Marriage (also called matrimony or wedlock) is a socially or
ritually recognized union or legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and
obligations between them, between them and their children, and between them and their inlaws.2 The definition of marriage varies according to different cultures, but it is principally
an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually sexual, are acknowledged. In
some cultures, marriage is recommended or considered to be compulsory before pursuing
any sexual activity. When defined broadly, marriage is considered a cultural universal.
Marriage can be recognized by a state, an organization, a religious authority, a tribal group,
a local community or peers. It is often viewed as a contract. Civil marriage is a marriage
without religious content carried out by a government institution in accordance with
marriage laws of the jurisdiction, and recognised as creating the rights and obligations
intrinsic to matrimony. Marriages can be performed in a secular civil ceremony or in a
religious setting via a wedding ceremony. The act of marriage usually creates normative or
legal obligations between the individuals involved, and any offspring they may produce. In
terms of legal recognition, most sovereign states and other jurisdictions limit marriage to
opposite-sex couples and a diminishing number of these permit polygyny, child marriages,
and forced marriages. Over the twentieth century, a growing number of countries and other
jurisdictions have lifted bans on and have established legal recognition for interracial
marriage, interfaith marriage and most lately, same-sex marriage. Some cultures allow the
dissolution of marriage through divorce or annulment. In some areas, child marriages and
polygamy may occur in spite of national laws against the practice.

Since the late twentieth century, major social changes in Western countries have led to
changes in the demographics of marriage, with the age of first marriage increasing, fewer
1 Gillin and Gillin
2 Haviland, William A.; Prins, Harald E. L.; McBride, Bunny; Walrath, Dana
(2011). Cultural Anthropology: The Human Challenge (13th ed.). Cengage
Learning. ISBN 978-0-495-81178-7. "A nonethnocentric definition of marriage is
a culturally sanctioned union between two or more people that establishes
certain rights and obligations between the people, between them and their
children, and between them and their in-laws.

people marrying, and more couples choosing to cohabit rather than marry. For example, the
number of marriages in Europe decreased by 30% from 1975 to 2005.[4]

Historically, in most cultures, married women had very few rights of their own, being
considered, along with the family's children, the property of the husband; as such, they
could not own or inherit property, or represent themselves legally (see for example
coverture). In Europe, the United States, and other places in the developed world, beginning
in the late 19th century and lasting through the 21st century, marriage has undergone gradual
legal changes, aimed at improving the rights of the wife. These changes included giving
wives legal identities of their own, abolishing the right of husbands to physically discipline
their wives, giving wives property rights, liberalizing divorce laws, providing wives with
reproductive rights of their own, and requiring a wife's consent when sexual relations occur.
These changes have occurred primarily in Western countries. In the 21st century, there
continue to be controversies regarding the legal status of married women, legal acceptance
or leniency towards violence within marriage (especially sexual violence), traditional
marriage customs such as dowry and bride price, forced marriage, marriageable age, and
criminalization of consensual behaviors such as premarital and extramarital sex.


Universality: Marriage is more or less a universal institution. It is found among the

preliterate as well as literate people. It is enforced as a social rule in some of the
societies. Examples: In Japan, celibacy is publicly condemned. In Korea, unmarried
individuals are called half persons. Among the Hindus, marriage is a sacrament
which is regarded as more or less obligatory. The Todas of Nilgiris refuse to perform
funeral rites for a girl if she dies before her marriage. But they do perform it after
completing some sort of marriage ceremony for the corpse. According to the Chinese
philosopher Confucius, an individual who remains unmarried throughout his life
commits a great crime. As Levi-Strauss, has observed that the unmarried primitives
of Central Brazil are made to lead a miserable life.

Relationship Between Man and Woman: Marriage is a union of man and woman. It
indicates relationship between one or more men to one or more women. Who should
marry whom? One should marry how many? - are the questions which represent
social rules regarding marriage which differ significantly.

Marriage Bond is Enduring: marriage is a long lasting bond between the husband
and wife. Hence it is not coextensive with sex life. It excludes relationships with
prostitutes or any other sexual relationship which is viewed as casual and not

sanctioned by custom, law or church. Marital relationship between man and woman
lasts even after the sexual satisfaction is obtained. The Hindus, for example, believe
that marriage is a sacred bond between the husband and wife which even the death
cannot break.

Marriage requires Social Approval: a union of man and woman becomes a marital
bond only when the society gives its approval. When marriage is given the hallmark
of social approval, it becomes a legal contract.

Marriage is Associated With Some Civil or Religious Ceremony: Marriage gets its
social recognition through ceremony. This ceremony may have its own rites, rituals,
customs ,formalities, etc. it means marriage has to be concluded in a public and
solemn manner. Sometimes it receives as a sacrament the blessings of religion.
Marriage among Hindus, for example, is regarded as a sacrament. It is connected
with rituals such as- Homa, Saptapadi, Panigrahana, Mangalya-Dharana, etc.

Marriage Creates Mutual Obligation: Marriage imposed certain rights and duties
on both the husband and wife. Both are required to support each other and their


Regulation of Sex Life: Marriage is the powerful instrument of regulating the sex

life of man. Sexual impulse is powerful in man. He is exposed to its influence

throughout his life. It is an urgent and an irresistible need of man. It has to be
controlled and regulated in a proper m,anner to avoid chaos and confusion in society.
Marriage has come to be such a regulative means.
Marriage Leads to Establishment of Family: Sexual satisfaction offered by
marriage results in self perpetuation. It means marriage insists on the couple to
establish a family of procreation. It is here that the children are born and bred up. It
is the marriage which determines the descent of the new born individual. Inheritance
and succession follow the rule of descent.
Provides for Economic Cooperation: marriage makes division of labous possible on
the basis of sex. Partners of marriage distribute and divide work among themselves
and perform them. In some of the primitive tribes we find a clear cut division of
work between the husband and wife. Even in the modern industrial societies, we find

husband and wife working outside the family to get more income to elevate their
economic status.
Marriage Contributes to Emotional and Intellectual Interstimulation of the
Partners: marriage brings life partners together and helps them to develop intense
love and affection towards each other. It deepens the emotions and strengthens the
companionship between the two. It also helps them to develop intellectual
cooperation between them.
Marriage aims at Social Solidarity: Marriage not only brings two individuals of the
opposite sex together but also their respective families, groups and kindreds.
Friendship between the groups is reinforced through marriage. It is often suggested
that by encouraging marriages between different castes, creeds, races, classes,
religious and linguistic communities, it is possible to minimise the social distance
between groups and strengthens their solidarity.

The traditional forms of marriages are :

Group or plural marriages
Child marriage


To discuss and analyse the various aspects of a few traditional forms of

marriages in general without being religion specific


To discuss about their historical background and the societies they are
prevalent in.


To discuss about their advantages or disadvantages and their implications on

the society.



Nature of Research
This research work is descriptive and analytical in nature. It describes the traditional forms
of marriages and their dynamics. My research isnt specific religion based. However, I have
cited traditional forms of Hindu marriage to exemplify a particular form of marriage. My
entire research is quite general in method.

Sources of Data
This study is done with the help of secondary data. This secondary information has been
obtained from published sources such as books, journals, websites, doctrines, research
works etc.

Mode of Citation
A uniform mode of citation has been adopted and followed consistently throughout this


Monogamy is a form of relationship in which an individual has only one partner during their
lifetime or at any one time (serial monogamy). This is the most widespread type of
marriage found among the primitives as well as the civilised people. If it was very popular5
during the early times, it has almost become a universal practise at present. It is practised
among the tribals such as Kadars, Santals, the Khasis, the Canella, the Hopi, the Iroquois,
the Andaman Islanders, the Veddas of Ceylon, the Sevangas of Malaya and others.
Monogamy has a long history of its own. Westermarck is of the opinion that monogamy is
as old as humanity. Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle had recommended only
monogamous marriage. Ancient Romans and Spartans also had given recognition to it.
Ancient Jews, Christians and Indians had given importance to it. Ancient Hindus regarded
monogamy as the most ideal form of marriage.
Marital monogamy may be further distinguished between:

marriage once in a lifetime;

marriage with only one person at a time, in contrast to bigamy or polygamy.

serial monogamy (remarriage after death or divorce)


Biological Arguments:
Monogamy, does exist in many societies around the world3, and it is important to understand
how these marriage systems might have evolved. In humans, the main theoretical sources of
monogamy are paternal care and extreme ecological stresses4. Paternal care should be
particularly important in humans due to the extra nutritional requirement of having larger
brains and the lengthier developmental period. Therefore, the evolution of monogamy could
be a reflection of this increased need for bi-parental care. Similarly, monogamy should
evolve in areas of ecological stress because male reproductive success should be higher if
their resources are focused on ensuring offspring survival rather than searching for other
mates.[2] However, the evidence does not support these claims. Due to the extreme sociality
and increased intelligence of humans, Homo Sapiens have solved many problems that
generally lead to monogamy, such as those mentioned above. For example, monogamy is
certainly correlated with paternal care, but not caused by it because humans diminish the
3 Murdock GP (1981) Atlas of world cultures, University of Pittsburgh Press,
4 Reichard, Ulrich H. (2003). "Monogamy: past and present


need for bi-parental care through the aid of siblings and other family members in rearing the
offspring5. Furthermore, human intelligence and material culture allows for better adaptation
to different and rougher ecological areas, thus reducing the causation and even correlation of
monogamous marriage and extreme climates.

Paleoanthropology and genetic studies offer two perspectives on when monogamy evolved
in the human species: paleoanthropologists offer tentative evidence that monogamy may
have evolved very early in human history6 whereas genetic studies show that monogamy
evolved much more recently, less than 10 to 20,000 years ago.
The genetic evidence for the evolution of monogamy in humans is more complex but much
more straightforward. While female effective population size (the number of individuals
successfully producing offspring thus contributing to the gene pool), as indicated by
mitochondrial-DNA evidence, increased around the time of human (not hominid) expansion
out of Africa about 80,000100,000 years ago, male effective population size, as indicated
by Y-chromosome evidence, did not increase until the advent of agriculture 18,000 years
ago. This means that before 18 000 years ago, many females would be reproducing with the
same few males.
Cultural Arguments:
Despite the human ability to avoid sexual and genetic monogamy, social monogamy still
forms under many different conditions, but most of those conditions are consequences of
cultural processes. These cultural processes may have nothing to do with relative
reproductive success. Monogamy is part of a cultural complex found in the broad swath of
Eurasian societies from Japan to Ireland that practice social monogamy, sexual monogamy
and dowry (i.e. "diverging devolution", that allow property to be inherited by children of
both sexes). In plough agriculture farming is largely men's work and is associated with
private property; marriage tends to be monogamous to keep the property within the nuclear
family. Close family (endogamy) are the preferred marriage partners to keep property within
the group7. A molecular genetic study of global human genetic diversity argued that sexual
polygyny was typical of human reproductive patterns until the shift to sedentary farming
communities approximately 10,000 to 5,000 years ago in Europe and Asia, and more
recently in Africa and the Americas8. A further study drawing on the Ethnographic Atlas
showed a statistical correlation between increasing size of the society, the belief in "high
5 Low B.S. (2003) Ecological and social complexities in human monogamy.
6Reno PL, Meindl RS, McCollum MA, Lovejoy CO (2003). "Sexual dimorphism in
Australopithecus afarensis was similar to that of modern humans"
7 Goody, Jack (1976). Production and Reproduction: A Comparative Study of the
Domestic Domain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


gods" to support human morality, and monogamy. A survey of other cross-cultural samples
has confirmed that the absence of the plough was the only predictor of polygamy, although
other factors such as high male mortality in warfare (in non-state societies) and pathogen
stress (in state societies) had some impact.
culture/society can also be a source of social monogamy by enforcing it through rules and
laws set by third-party actors, usually in order to protect the wealth or power of the elite. For
example, Augustus Caesar encouraged marriage and reproduction to force the aristocracy to
divide their wealth and power among multiple heirs, but the aristocrats kept their socially
monogamous, legitimate children to a minimum to ensure their legacy while having many
extra-pair copulations9. Similarlyaccording to Betzigthe Christian Church enforced
monogamy because wealth passed to the closest living, legitimate male relative, often
resulting in the wealthy oldest brother being without a male heir. Thus, the wealth and
power of the family would pass to the celibate younger brother of the church 10. In both of
these instances, the rule-making elite used cultural processes to ensure greater reproductive
fitness for themselves and their offspring, leading to a larger genetic influence in future
generations. Furthermore, the laws of the Christian Church, in particular, were important in
the evolution of social monogamy in humans. They allowed, even encouraged, poor men to
marry and produce offspring which reduced the gap in reproductive success between the
rich and poor, thus resulting in the quick spread of monogamous marriage systems in the
western world.
Other theorists use cultural factors influencing reproductive success to explain monogamy.
During times of major economic / demographic transitions, investing more in a fewer
offspring (social monogamy not polygyny) increases reproductive success by ensuring the
offspring themselves have enough initial wealth to be successful11. This is seen in both
England and Sweden during the industrial revolution[2] and is currently being seen in the
modernization of rural Ethiopia.[49] Similarly, in modern industrialized societies, fewer yet
better-invested offspring, i.e. social monogamy, can provide a reproductive advantage over
social polygyny, but this still allows for serial monogamy and extra-pair copulations.


8 Dupanloup I, Pereira L, Bertorelle G, Calafell F, Prata MJ, Amorim A, Barbujani
G (2003). "A recent shift from polygyny to monogamy in humans is suggested
by the analysis of worldwide Y-chromosome diversity".
9 Betzig L. (1992). "Roman Monogamy".
10 Betzig L. (1995). "Medieval Monogamy"
11 Low B.S. (2003) Ecological and Social Complexities in Human Monogamy


Ancient Mesopotamia and Assyria:

In the patriarchal society of Mesopotamia the nuclear family was called a "house". In order
"to build a house" a man was supposed to marry one woman and if she did not provide him
with offspring, he could take a second wife. The Code of Hammurabi states that he loses his
right to do so if the wife herself gives him a slave as concubine 12. According to Old Assyrian
texts, he could be obliged to wait for two or three years before he was allowed to take
another wife. The position of the second wife was that of a "slave girl" in respect to the first
wife, as many marriage contracts explicitly state.

Ancient Egypt:
Although an Egyptian man was free to marry several women at a time, and some wealthy
men from Old and Middle Kingdoms did have more than one wife, monogamy was the
norm13. There may have been some exceptions e.g. a Nineteenth Dynasty official stated as
proof of his love to his deceased wife that he had stayed married to her since their youth,
even after he had become very successful. This may suggest that some men abandoned first
wives of a low social status and married women of higher status in order to further their
careers although even then they lived with only one wife. Egyptian women had right to ask
for a divorce if her husband took a second wife.

Ancient Israel:
Monogamy evolved as a result of Christian socio-economic influence in the West,
monogamy appeared widespread in the ancient Middle East much earlier. In Israel's preChristian era, an essentially monogamous ethos underlay the Jewish creation story (Gn 2)
and the last chapter of Proverbs14. During the Second Temple period (530 BCE to70 CE),
apart from an economic situation which supported monogamy even more than in earlier
period, the concept of "mutual fidelity" between husband and wife was a quite common
reason for strictly monogamous marriages.[citation needed] Some marriage documents
explicitly expressed a desire for the marriage to remain monogamous. Examples of these
documents were found in Elephantine. They resemble those found in neighbouring Assyria
and Babylonia. Study shows that ancient Middle East societies, though not strictly
monogamous, were practically (at least on commoners' level) monogamous.

12 R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel. Its Life and Institutions, London 1980 (5th Ed.)
13 Pinch Geraldine, Private Life in Ancient Egypt
14 "Monogamy". Encyclopaedia Judaica.


Monogamy seems to be superior to other forms of marriage. It enjoys certain merits over
othere forms. Some of them may be noted.

Universally practicable: Since there is one to one ratio (one man to one man) in
almost all the societies, only monogamy can provide marital opportunity and
satisfaction to all the individuals. Neither polygyny nor polyandry can equally satisfy
Economically Better Suited: No man of ordinary income can think of practising
polygyny. Only a rich man can maintain a couple of wives and their children. Only
monogamy can adjust itself with poverty. For example, even though Koran permits a
Muslim to have four wives at a time, no ordinary Muslim can think of marrying four
wives for the simple reason that he cannot maintain them.
Promotes better understanding between husband and wife: Monogamy produces
the highest type of love and affection between husband and wife. It contributes to
family peace, solidarity and happiness. Vatsayana, an authority on Kama Sutra
remarked, At best a man can only please one woman physically, mentally and
spiritually. Therefore, the man who enters into marriage relations with more than one
woman, voluntarily courts unhappiness and misery.
Contributes to Stable Family and Sex life: monogamous family is more stable and
long lasting. It is free from conflicts that are commonly found in polyandrous and
polygynous families. There Is no scope for jealousy. Unlike polyandry and polygyny,
it does not give any opportunity for having extra marital sex relationship because sex
relations are more strictly regulated here. Herbert Spencer has said that monogamy is
more stable and the consequent family bond is stronger.
Helps to better socialisation: Since husband and wife have better understanding,
they can give greater attention to the socialisation of their childr5en. Children are
well looked after and the parents can give their special attention to them. Under
polygyny, the husband cannot devote himself fully to each of his wives and children
because they are too numerous.
Aged parents are not neglected: It is only in monogamy that old parents are
protected and looked after properly. Under polygyny, old wives are often discarded
and in their place younger wives are brought in.
Provides better status for women: Women are given only a very low position in
polygyny. Their rights are never recognised. They can be divorced at will. But in
monogamy, women enjoy better social status. In the modern societies they enjoy
almost equal social status with men.



Serial monogamy is a mating practice in which individuals may engage in sequential

monogamous pairings,[80] or in terms of humans, when men or women can marry another
partner but only after ceasing to be married to the previous partner15.
One theory is that this pattern pacifies the elite men and equalizes reproductive success. This
is called the Male Compromise Theory.[82] Such serial monogamy may effectively
resemble polygyny in its reproductive consequences because some men are able to utilize
more than one womans reproductive lifespan through repeated marriages16.
Serial monogamy may also refer to sequential sexual relationships, irrespective of marital
status. A pair of humans may remain sexually exclusive, or monogamous, until the
relationship has ended and then each may go on to form a new exclusive pairing with a
different partner. This serial monogamy pattern is very common among people dating in
Western cultures.


Hindu marriage is a monogamy based marriage. It is being practised from time immemorial.
Generally, the concept of form of marriage is concerned with number of husbands and
wives in marriage as we have polyandry, polygamy and monogamy. But as far as the Hindu
marriage is concerned, the term forms of marriage is concerned with different methods of
acquiring a mate or a way of acquiring a wife.
8 Traditional forms of Hindu marriage are as follows: 1. Brahma Form of Marriage, 2.
Daiva Form of Marriage, 3. Arsha Form of Marriage, 4. Prajapatva Form of Marriage, 5.
Asura Form of Marriage, 6. Gandharva Form of Marriage, 7. Rakshasa From of Marriage, 8.
Paishacha Form of Marriage17.
There were eight forms of Hindu marriage determined by eight modes of acquiring a wife.
On the basis of method of concentrating the marriage bond, Hindu scriptures lay out eight
forms of marriage. But according to historical point of view there were more prevalent
forms than eight, says O.K. Chatterjee. It is believed that the other forms of marriage, apart
from the eight forms of marriage, were based on a custom and convenience of the people,
mentions S. Mishra.
In the Hindu society, eight modes of acquiring a wife were referred to, of which four were
considered proper and desirable and four were regarded as undesirable. According to Grihya
15 Mulder M, Mulder B (2009). "Serial Monogamy as Polygyny or Polyandry?"
16 Jokela M, Rotkirch A, Rickard I, Pettay J, Lummaa V (2010). "Serial monogamy
increases reproductive success in men but not in women".
17 Manusmriti


Sutra, the Brahma, Daiva, Arsha and Prajapataya forms of marriage are desirable, while
other four forms such as the Asura, Gandharva, Rakshasa and Paisacha are undesirable.
But according to Manu Smriti, the Brahma, Daiva, Arsha, Prajapataya, Gandharva and
Rakshasa forms are lawful and other two, Asura and Paisacha, are unlawful. Even among
the six lawful marriages, the most approved form is that in which the father or guardian
offers the girl as a gift to the bridegroom. Hence, the first four forms namely Brahitwu
Daiva. Arsha and Prajapataya are the most favoured.
1. Brahma Form of Marriage:
In this form of marriage, the father of the bride invite a person, who is well versed in the
Vedas of good character, and offers his daughter bas the gift to him after clothing. Thus, the
gift of the daughter, clothed and decked, to a man, whom her father voluntarily invites and
respectfully receives, is the nuptial rite brahma. This form of marriage is said to be the best
and mostly practiced throughout India
2. Daiva Form of Marriage:
Special qualities like good character, scholarship of the bridegroom in the Vedas were not
emphasized in this form of marriage. The Daiva form of marriage was slightly different
from the Brahma Vivaha in the sense that the suitor was an official priest. The rite which
sages call Daiva is the gift of a daughter after decorating to the officiating priest who
performs the act of religion. This form of marriage is exclusively for the Brahmins, because
the Brahmins can only officiate in the sacrifices as priest.
3. Arsha Form of Marriage:
In lifts form of marriage the father of the bride gives his daughter to the groom after having
received one pair of kind or two pairs from the bridegroom. This form of marriage is called
Arsha because it was practiced in the priestly families as its very name suggests. In this
form of marriage one or two pairs of kind constitutes the price of the bride. Goordas
Banarjee holds the view that it means the ceremony of the Rishis and is perhaps indicative
of the pastoral state of Hindu society, when the free gift of daughter in marriage was not
common and cattle formed the pecuniary consideration for the gift.
4. Prajapatva Form of Marriage:
In this form of marriage the father of the girl invites a person with his friends and relatives
and entertains them with warm welcome. Then with necessary rituals, offers his daughter to
the groom with the recitation of vedic blessing, i.e. May both of you perform together your
dharma. May the God bless you not to fail in the pursuit of Purusarthas like Dharma,
Artha, Kama and Moksha.
The very, name prajapatya indicates that the pairs enter the solemn bond for repayment of
debts to Prajapati for procreation and upbringing of children. The basic condition in this
form of marriage is that the bridegroom is to treat the bride as a partner for the fulfillment of


religious and secular duties. The Prajapatya form of marriage is an orthodox form. This
form of marriage was also peculiar to the Brahmans only.
5. Asura Form of Marriage:
In this form of marriage, the father does not make a gift of his daughter. The bride is given
to the husband in payment of a consideration called sulka or bride-price. In this form of
marriage, the groom actually purchases his wife by paying a fixed bride-price either to the
father or to the kinsmen of the bride.
It is mentioned in the Ramayana that a fabulous amount of bride price was given to the
guardian of Kaikeyi for her marriage with king Dasaratha. This was called Asura form of
marriage because it was the ceremony of the Asuras or the aboriginal non-Aryan & V
tribes of India, according to G.D. Banarjee. It is not called Asura form of marriage because
of the fact that the groom gives bride-price.
6. Gandharva Form of Marriage:
This form of marriage is the union of a man and a woman by mutual consent: This
Gandharva marriage comes to being when the bride and the bridegroom fall in love with
each other before the actual marriage ceremony. In this case, the parents of both the parties
have no role or a very little role to play.
They, if need be, are only to consencrate the marriage and have no role in deciding whether
the marriage will be held or not. The consent of the father of the bride is not necessary.
Kama Sutra has recognised this form of marriage as an ideal type. Taittartya Samhita
points out that this type of marriage has been so named because of its prevalence among
Gandharva tribe, living on the slopes of the Himalayas.
However, Manu and Narad prescribed this form of marriage to all the caste groups. The
Mahabharata contains several instances of this Gandharva form of marriage. King Dusmant
induced Sakuntala to accept him in the Gandharva form of marriage.
7. Rakshasa From of Marriage:
This form of marriage has been described as the forcible abduction of maiden from her
home while she cries and weeps after her kinsmen have been slain, wounded and their
houses broken. Thus, it is a marriage by physical force. Some sociologists have equated it
with the marriage by capture.
This type of marriage was widely prevalent during the age when women were considered as
the, prices of war, the reward for the victorious. According to P. V. Kane, this form of
marriage is called Rakshasa because Rakshasas are known from the legends to have been
addicted to cruelty and forceful method. Traditionally, this form of marriage was allowed to
the Kshatriyas or military classes.
8. Paishacha Form of Marriage:


1n this form of marriage the man seduces and enters into sexual contact with the women in
her state of unconsciousness, when she is asleep, intoxicated or mentally disordered. Here
the man comes like a thief and tries to steal away the chastity of the woman, after which she
has no other alternative than to marry him. This type of marriage has been called to be the
most degenerated type. Here, the man stoops too low to cheat the girl thereby forcing her to
marry. P. V. Kane thinks that this marriage is called Paishacha because in it there is action
like that of Paisachas (goblins) that are supposed to act stealthily at night.
Out of the eight forms of Hindu marriage, the first four, i.e. Brahma, Daiva, Arsha and
Prajapatya were the approved forms of marriage and the last four such as Asura, Gandharva,
Rakshasa and Paishacha were unapproved forms of marriage.
There has been many changes in the manner of concentrating a Hindu marriage in
contemporary society. But the traditional rites and rituals have not withered away. 4 Till
today, they are the most desirable and appreciable marriage patterns. Of course, all the
traditional eight forms are not prevalent.
In this connection Dr. D. N. Majumdar says, Hindu society now recognises only two forms
Brahma and Asura, the higher castes preferring the former, the backward caste the latter,
though here and there among higher castes the Asura practice has not died out. Such
observations of Prof. Mazumdar is a generalisation for the Hindu society as a whole. There
are also regional variations18.

18 Mondal Puja, Traditional Forms of Hindu Marriage in India


Polygyny is a form of marriage in which one man marries more than one woman at a given
time. Polygyny is more popular than polyandry but not as universal as monogamy. It was in
practise in most of the ancient civilisations. It prevailed among the ancient Hebrews,
Assyrians, Babylonians, Indians and others. At present, it is widespread among the primitive
tribes but it is often simply confined to the wealthier classes. Polygyny is in practise among
the Eskimo tribes, Crow Indians, Hiddats of North America, African Negroes, the Nagas,
Gonds and Baigas of India. However, it is permitted in Muslim community19.

Polygyny is of two types:

Sororal Polygyny
Non-Sororal Polygyny

Sororal Polygyny is a type of marriage in which the wives are invariably the sisters. It is
called sororate. The Latin word soror stands for sister. When several sisters are
simultaneously, or potentially the spouses of the same man, the practise is called sororate. It
is usually observed among the tribes which pay a higher bride price. The death of the wife
or her childlessness is compensated by supplying a new spouse who is generally the younger
sister of the deceased woman.
Non-Sororal Polygyny is a type of marriage in which the wives are not related as sisters.
For social, economic, political and other reasons, both the types are practised by some

Sociologists and anthropologists have made several studies to find out the causes of
polygyny. Some of the factors mentioned by them are as follows:

More women less men: Polygyny becomes a natural practise whenever there is an
excess of females over males. Even though the balance of sex ratio is normally
maintained, it is likely to be upset for some reason or the other. Such a situation
makes the members to practise either polygyny or polyandry if they want to have

19 Goody, Jack (1976). Production and Reproduction: A Comparative Study of

the Domestic Domain.
20 Goody, Jack. Polygyny, Economy and the Role of Women. In The Character of


legitimate sex life. Plains Indians and Eskimos, for example, practise polygyny due
to the imbalance in the sex ratio.
Economic advantage: Some of the African tribes ( Ex: Longos and the Thongas)
practise polygyny for economic reasons. In the tribes women contribute to the family
income by various means. Sometimes the first wife compels the husband to go for a
second wife so that she can reduce her load of work at home.
Women as badges of distinction: Among some tribals, a mans social status is often
measured in terms of the number of wives that he has. Greater the number of wives
greater the prestige. Early kings used to marry more women for this reason also.
Childlessness of the first wife: Barrenness on the part of the first wife is also the
cause of polygyny. The childless wife herself may insist on the husband to for a
second wife
Constancy of sex urge in man: unlike the woman, man is susceptible to sex
stimulation throughout the year. Polygyny provides him opportunity to enjoy sex life
throughout the year.
Other factors: In addition to the above, the following factors also favour polygyny.
Taste of variety: Men go after several women for they have a taste for variety.
Enforced celibacy: Sex relations with a woman during her menstrual, pregnancy and
lactation periods are tabooed. This enforced celibacy is a case in favour of polygyny.
Desire for more children: The desire for more children 0n the part of men also
supports polygyny. The African Guni and Hihi tribals practise polygyny for this
Captured women in wars and fights are taken and enjoyed by the victorious men as
their additional wives.
Men may also marry more women to establish their masculinity.

Implications on Women and Families:

Rivalry among Co-wives: Research reveals that in certain contexts, jealousy

between co-wives can escalate to intolerable levels, resulting in physical injuries
sustained by women. Women get to spend less time with their husbands which
creates the feeling of animosity.
Collaboration and support among co-wives: While women married to the same man
might commonly view one another with jealousy and perhaps even animosity, some
women in plural marriages view their relationships with co-wives as enriching and
Insularity of polygynous families and communities: Given that polygamy remains
criminalized in most of the societies, families that engage in this practice often do so
clandestinely and inconspicuously. To remain shielded from public awareness and
scrutiny, a polygynous family would have to minimize its contact with the outside
world and attempt to conceal its marital and family relationships.


Limited perspective and ability to make autonomous life choices: Membership

within this community of polygynous relationships results in a complete deprivation
of individual freedom. Adults believe, and children are taught, that their only life
path is to follow the practices prescribed by their leaders. If a group member
ultimately wishes to leave the community, the prospect of doing so would seem
extremely daunting, if not impossible, given that life within Bountiful considerably
limits contact with the outside mainstream society21. As a result, a member seeking
to leave might not access necessary social and health services due to a learned fear
and distrust of the world beyond the immediate community. Moreover, these
individuals might lack the information, skills and resources needed to begin life
anew, outside of their communities.

Implications on Children:

Academic achievement and intellectual development: This hypothesis was

based on polygamys association with higher risks of psychological
maladjustment in children, and with families having lower socio-economic
status. Both of these factors impact academic achievement. Various studies
confirm that children from polygamous families are at an enhanced risk of
psychological and physical abuse. While not entirely conclusive, research
indicates that children can be adversely affected by rivalry between co-wives,
and by the fact that more children in the family may mean less time with, and
attention and supervision from parents, especially their father. Moreover, a
polygamous family structure might diminish the economic resources available to
children and adolescents, which in turn might limit their access to books and
activities that would foster learning skills.
Compromising childrens health: Some research suggests that because
polygamous families usually have many children, there cannot be enough
supervision and attention for all of them. Hence, their health is compromised
Mental stress: The rivalry and animosity between wives in a polygynous
relationship gives rise to humongous mental stress in the childs life and hence
hinders his all round development22.

21 Committee on Polygamous Issues 1993: 11-12, 26ff; Cohen 2003

22 CNR Shankar Rao, Sociology


Polyandry is the marriage of one woman with several men. It is much less common than
polygyny. It is practised among the Tibetans, Marquesan islanders of Polynesia, the Bahama
of Africa, the tribals of Samoa and others. In India, the tribes such as Tiyan, the Toda, the
Kota, the Khasa and Ladakhi Bota also practise polyandry. The Nairs of Kerela were
polyandrous previously23.

Polyandry is of two types:

Fraternal Polyandry
Non-Fraternal Polyandry

Fraternal Polyandry: When several brothers share the same wife, the practise can be called
alelphic or fraternal polyandry. This practise of being mate, actual or potential, to ones
husbands brothers is called levirate. It is prevalent among the Todas.
Non-Fraternal Polyandry: In this type, the husbands need not have any close relationship
prior to the marriage. The wife goes to spend some time with each husband. So long as a
woman lives with one of her husbands, the others have no claim over her. Nair polyandry
was of this type. Tibetans too have this type. Both these types of polyandry must be
distinguished from wife-sharing or wife-lending, which is much more common among
the primitives. But in all cases it is temporary24.

No universal generalisations can be made with regards to the causes of polyandry. Still
factors such as scarcity of women, desire to keep the property intact, heavy bride price,
poverty and the sterility of men, etc., are favourable to polyandry though not always.
The Todas of India used to practise female infanticide prior to the British influence. This led
to a surplus of males and naturally to polyandry. For the same reason the Marquesan
Islanders practise polyandry. Still, in ladakh polyandry was practised even though women
outnumbered men there.
23 Gough, E. Kathleen (1959). "The Nayars and the Definition of Marriage".
24 Levine, Nancy (1998). The Dynamics of polyandry: kinship, domesticity, and
population on the Tibetan border.


Polyandry is often practised due to poverty and heavy bride price. Poor young men who are
not capable of paying the bride price and maintaining the wife individually often marry a
woman collectively. Still, in some instances, even the rich people practised polyandry.
Among the Toda, property considerations and sex parity have also caused polyandry. The
Tibetans practised polyandry in order to keep the joint property intact.


Polyandry has its own implications. It gives rise to the problem of determining biological
paternity of the child. But primitives have their own social methods of determining the
fatherhood of the child. Such a kind of fatherhood is known as sociological fatherhood.
Among the Polyandrian Todas, one of the husbands goes through what is called a bow-andarrow ceremony with the woman and thereby becomes the legal father of the child. He
continues to be called the father of the children born to her till the other husband(s) goes
through the same ceremony25.
Among the Samoa, the children after the first few years are given the liberty to choose their
parents for their permanent stay. The selected parent becomes the actual father of the
children. If they feel that they are not treated properly they may move on to others.
Polyandry is said to be an adjustment with poverty. It tends to keep the birth rate at a low
level even by providing sexual satisfaction to all. Hence, it tends to have an adverse effect
on the growth of population. The practise of polyandry requires good understanding
between the wife and the husbands on the one hand and among the husbands themselves on
the other. It may also lead to extra-marital and pre-marital sex relations. The polyandrous
Khasa wife has to follow the norms of the marriage. But her unmarried daughter can freely
mix with visitors at home.
It is to be noted that polyandry is not the common practise even among the communities
where it is permitted. On the contrary, monogamy is becoming popular everywhere.
Polyandry is slowly disappearing.
Polyandry in the modern days is even physically and mentally challenging. The persons who
enter into a sexual relationship with people of the same gender have more chances of falling
a prey to HIV AIDS26.

25 Bhargava and Acharya

26 Is HIV/AIDS Epidemic Outcome of Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa, Croatian
Medical Journal, October (2007 Ed.)



Theoretically group marriage means the marriage of two or more women with two or more
men. But this arrangement is practically rare. Here, the husbands are common husbands and
the wives are common wives. Children are regarded as the children of the entire group as a
whole. Children call men of such group their fathers and all the women their mothers. Some
of the tribals in Australia, india, Tibet and Ceylon are believed to have practised group
Some writers have said that group marriage is not in existence. If at all it is in practise, it is
clubbed with polyandry. For example, two Toda brothers marry two women as their
common wives.
It is also said that monogamous or polygamous or polyandrous marriage associated with the
practise of concubinage, sexual hospitality or socially tolerated adultery, is mistaken to be
group marriage. Many studies have revealed that the practise of group marriage is on the
verge of extinction.

Depending on the sexual orientation and activity of the members, all adults in the family
may be sexual partners. For instance, if all members are heterosexual, all the women may
have sexual relationships with all the men. If the members are bisexual, they may have
sexual relationships with the women as well as the men.
In a closed system, sex is only allowed within the group - no outside sexual relationships are
allowed. In an open system, family members are open to taking on new partners, but only if
all members of the family agree to accept the new person as a partner. The new person then
moves into the household and becomes an equal member of the family.
Currently, the most common form of group marriage is a triad of two women and one man,
or two men and one woman. However, there have recently been a number of polyfidelitous
families formed by two heterosexual couples who become a four-some and live together as a
Line marriage is a form of group marriage found in fiction in which the family unit
continues to add new spouses of both sexes over time so that the marriage does not end28.

27 Constantine, Larry L. (1974). Group Marriage: A Study of Contemporary

Multilateral Marriage.
28 Heinlein, Robert (1996). The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.



A child marriage is a marriage where one or both spouses are under the age of 18 29. It is
related to child betrothal and teenage pregnancy. Child marriage was common throughout
history but is today condemned by international human rights organizations. Child
marriages are often arranged between the families of the future bride and groom, sometimes
as soon as the girl is born. Child marriages can also occur in the context of marriage by
While child marriage is observed for both boys and girls, the overwhelming majority of
child spouses are girls31. In many cases, only one marriage-partner is a child, usually the
female, due to the importance placed upon female virginity. Causes of child marriage
include poverty, bride price, dowry, laws that allow child marriages, religious and social
pressures, regional customs, fear of remaining unmarried, and perceived inability of women
to work for money.
Today, child marriages are widespread in parts of the world; being most common in South
Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with more than half of the girls in some countries in those
regions being married before 18. The incidence of child marriage has been falling in most
parts of the world. In developed countries child marriage is outlawed or restricted.
Girls who marry before 18 are at greater risk of becoming victims of domestic violence,
than those who marry later, especially when they are married to a much older man.

29 Child Marriage UNICEF (2011)

30 "I have a right to - BBC World Service" ( Last Visited On: 9 th November,2014)
31 A Note on Child Marriage UNICEF (July 2012)


This project was extremely productive and helpful. This provided me with an insight to
various things I was unware of, thus creating an enlightening and enriching experience. The
various major findings I chanced upon during this venture were:
The various ancient areas where the different traditional forms of marriages are
The causes and background which led to the development of these forms.
Their advantages/disadvantages.
The social implications that they bring forth.
An insight to the traditional forms of Hindu Marriage while exemplifying one of the
forms of marriages.


Marriages form an integral part of human life, as it is the first step in the synthesis of family
life. While there have been significant and relevant reasons in the practise of various types
of marriages, traditional forms of marriages have cast strong social implications too.
Marriages like Polyandry, Polygyny, Plural marriages and Child marriages have been
strongly criticized as they fail to adjust to social norms and pose greater harm in the broader
Considering all forms of marriages and their dynamics, monogamy seems the most viable
one. It is suited to public as well as family life. It doesnt pose any harm to women or
children involved in the relationship nor does it question the economic relevance of it. It is
also due to these reasons that many societies have given up the practise of various
traditional forms of marriages and have begun practising monogamy in its place.



CNR Shankar Rao, An Introduction to Sociology
Bhargav and Acharya, An Introduction to Sociology
Oxford English Dictionary

Haviland, William A.; Prins, Harald E. L.; McBride, Bunny; Walrath, Dana
(2011). Cultural Anthropology: The Human Challenge (13th ed.).
Westermarck, Edvard, (1922) The History of Human Marriage Volume 1
de Vaux R. O.P. (1973). "Marriage - 1. Polygamy and monogamy".
Pinch Geraldine, Private Life in Ancient Egypt
"Marriage". Encyclopaedia Judaica
Cairncross, John (1974). After Polygamy Was Made a Sin: The Social History of
Christian Polygamy
Campbell, James (1869). The History and Philosophy of Marriage
"Group Marriage". Encyclopdia Britannica.


option=com_content&view=article&id=5996:eight-forms-of-hindu-marriage-andits-custom&catid=147:wedding-special-2011&Itemid=527 (Last Visited On: 9th
October, 2014)
www.law.cornell.edu/wex/marriage (Last Visited On: 9th October,2014)
www.wikipedia.orgwiki/Marriage (Last Visited On: 9th October, 2014)