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Marriage and family are considered to be the oldest and the most primary and fundamental institutions in the sub-systems of the society that plays a significant role in order to regulate the sex lives of human beings. Both are important for the transcendence and functioning not only of society but also for the sustenance and perseverance of human being. Marriage can have different inferences in different cultures, its goals, functions, and forms may vary from society to society. Marriage is not merely a legally recognized union of two people but it is a live social bondage. In the Indian context, huge importance has been given to marriage since time immemorial. In our country marriage is almost obligatory and inescapable for an average Indian. It is a long-standing and deeply rooted tradition believed as a basic ritual of our country.
Marriage is an institution created by society to sanction the union of male and female for purposes of entering into sexual relations, reproducing, establishing a family.
The winds of change have been blowing over many established institutions and concepts. One such institution, that still remains widespread and which seems to be under an awful assault from shifting social trends, is the institution of marriage. Along with the change in family norms in the contemporary society, the pattern of marriage is also changing. Men and women of today are eagerly stepping out of their customary demarcated responsibility and moving towards a more egalitarian concept of marriage. Some of the changing standards in an intimate relationship that are currently posing problems to the traditional model of marriage are; Increasing acceptability of singlehood, Increasing popularity of cohabitation and Increasing rate of divorce.
Polygamy and polyandry were prevalent in former times. As the civilization process went ahead, marriage came to be recognized as a religious, divine and indissoluble sacramental bond and wife was considered to be a respectable member of the home. The vedic literature generally endorsed monogamy and was considered the best practice of the highest uprightness.
Polygamy was approved by the ancient lawgivers under certain scenarios, such as the barrenness or lack of religious- mindedness, that is if the wife was unfit to participate in the performance of religious rites of her husband. The husband had the right to remarry if the wife failed to deliver a male child.
According to the Rig Veda, the aim of marriage was to enable a man, by becoming a householder, to perform a sacrifice to the gods and to reproduce sons. Marriage (Vivaha) was one of the holy sacraments which every person had to undergo and was also the second stage, Grihasthashrama (householder) among the four stages of life prescribed in the Ashrama dharma.
The term dampati used in the Rig Vedic period designates the mistress as well as the master of the house that is both husband and wife. status of women in ancient India Women of the proto and prehistoric India were much better with regard to their voice, freedom, their living status in general, education, carrier option, marriage option, family, and religion. This gave them equal opportunity for survival with self-respect and dignity. The status of women was extremely rich in culture, lifestyle and stands supreme for its glory. At the dawn of Indian history, women hold a high social status and some of them were widely reputed for their learning. In Vedic age, women occupied a high rank in society. She had equal privilege with men and enjoyed freedom in choosing her life partner; women went to Guru Kula to receive education and married only after obtaining an education. Gradually, the condition changed. The social background provided by the authoritarian joint family and caste with its power in all spheres of life rendered no scope for the recognition of any personal interests, aspirations, and wishes of a woman in the family life. There is absolutely no reference to Divorce/Dissolution of marriage in the Vedic text or in the post-Vedic literature. As the lawgivers have opined that a bride is given to the family and not to the groom only, a childless widow was allowed to have sexual relation with the brother of her husband to beget a son. This act was known as The custom of Niyoga. Tallying of horoscope played no part in the settlement of marriage in ancient India.
It is supposed to be the ‘dark age’ for them. Medieval India saw many foreign conquests, which concluded in the decline in women’s status. When foreign conquerors like Muslims invaded India they brought with them their own cultures and traditions. For them women were the sole property of her father, brother or husband and she does not have any will of her own and they treated them like that. This type of thinking also crept into the minds of Indian people and they also began to treat their own women like this. One more reason for the decline in women’s status and freedom was that original Indians wanted to shield their womenfolk from the barbarous Muslim invaders. As polygamy was a norm for these invaders they picked up any women they wanted and kept her in their “harems”.Due to this reason, their freedom also became affected. They were not allowed to move freely anywhere and not suppose to do anything on their own will and this lead to the further deterioration of their status. These problems related to women resulted in the changed mindset of people and their attitudes towards the woman. Now they began to consider a girl as misery and a burden, which has to be shielded from the eyes of intruders and needs extra care. Thus a vicious circle started in which women were at the receiving end. All this gave rise to some new evils such as Child Marriage, Sati, Jauhar, and restriction. The ritual of dying at the funeral pyre of the husband is known as “Sati” or “Sahagaman”. women dying at the funeral pyre of her husband go straight to heaven so it’s good to practice this ritual.Sati was considered to be the better option than living as a widow as the plight of widows in Hindu society was even worse. Child Marriage was a norm in medieval India.
Girls were married off at the age of 8-10. They were not allowed access to education and were treated as the material being. There were a lot of Restrictions on Widow Remarriage the condition of widows in medieval India was very bad. They were not treated as human beings and were subjected to a lot of restrictions. Sometimes heads of widows were also shaved down. They were not allowed to remarry. Any woman remarrying was looked down by the society. This cruelty of widows was one of the main reasons for a large number of women committing Sati.
In medieval India living as a Hindu widow was a sort of a curse. Purdah System was widely prevalent, It was used to protect the women folk from the eyes of foreign rulers who invaded India in the medieval period. But this system curtailed the freedom of women. Girls in medieval India and especially in Hindu society were not given formal education. They were given education related to household chores only.
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