Hindu Marriage; A Contract Or A Religious Sacrament, By- Arvind Panda

Unlike any other country, India is very diverse when it comes to its culture and its heritage.

Hindus believe that a person is only half and marriage is an essential deed that completes him. So it is enough to believe that for Hindus marriage is not only a mere contract but a sacramental union that is permanent, unbreakable, and eternal. A Hindu marriage is considered complete only when religious rites are done then would mean a valid and complete marriage. So by now, we all know how important are these rites for Hindus.

Now lets talk about the essential conditions of a valid marriage under the ancient Hindu law. The ancient Hindu law prescribed three criteria for a valid marriage, which are:

(i) caste identification — Earlier it was said that if the parties did not belong to the same caste, the marriage was invalid unless sanctioned by custom. 

(ii) Parties should be beyond the prohibited degrees: that is the must not marry in the same “gotra”.

(iii) Performance of proper marriage ceremonies—The third and the last condition prescribed by the ancient Hindu texts was as regards the proper marriage ceremonies.

Now let us see, the provisions of law regarding Hindu marriage in India;A combined reading of Sec. 5, 11, and 12 of the Hindu Marriage Act makes it clear that consent is not an essential part of Hindu marriage. Sec. 5(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act deals with the mental capacity of the parties. It clearly states that the party must be capable of giving valid consent. Also, Sec. 5(3) provides that the husband should have completed the age of twenty-one years and the bride must have attained the age of eighteen years at the time of marriage. Interestingly the provision Sec. 10 and 11 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872, states that a contract by a minor or an incompetent person is void.

However, many scholars argue that like any other religions marriage,  Hindu marriage is also a mere contract. This same remark was made by our courts in many cases. Let us look into some of them. The Court in Muthusami v. Masilamani held that: “A marriage, whatever it may be a sacrament or institution, it un-doubtfully is a contract entered into for consideration, with co-relative rights and duties”. Whereas in Purushottamdas v. Purushottamdas, the court held that “Marriage of Hindu people is a contract made by their parents”.

There are arguments on both sides that whether the Hindu Marriage is a contract or it is a religious sacrament. To know the answer to this we can test the three criteria of a Hindu Marriage. The first criteria are of being permanent, the second being unbreakable finally, the third requirement is religious.

The first requirement was abolished by the clauses of the Hindu Marriage Act. The second criteria were abolished by The Widow Remarriage Act without any question. Only the third requirement still stays intact to a certain level even today as religious and ritualistic practices are followed by Hindus.

So, to conclude we can say that Hindu marriage is neither a contract nor a religious sacrament. it simply has a beautiful semblance of both, and comparing it would destroy the beauty of it.


BY- Arvind Panda

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