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Man is a social animal and is not fit for one to live alone. Marriage is one of the most basic and important social institution of Indian society and also an important stage in one’s life. The concept of marriage varies from state to state, community to community and from time to time. In India, marriage is considered as a sacrament and not a mere civil contract. It is regarded not only as an union between a man and a woman but an union of two families.
According to H.T. Mazumdar, “Marriage is a socially sanctioned union of male and female, or as a secondary institution devised by society to sanction the union and mating of male and female, for purposes of (a) establishing a household, (b) entering into sex relations, (c) procreating, and (d) providing care for the off-spring.” Horton and Hunt, defines marriage as “the approved social pattern whereby two or more persons establish a family.”
Marriage is a constant institution but has and is undergoing a drastic change. Marriage has evolved greatly throughout its long existence. In developing India a lot of changes have been brought about. Following changes have been observed:
Marriage in ancient India used to be a compulsory subject of one’s life. But, due to western culture influence people prefer live-in relationship rather than marrying. Earlier people were not allowed to have love marriage or inter caste marriage. But with changing times, mind-set of people has changed and people now accept the concept of love marriage, inter caste marriage,inter religion and even the concept of homosexual marriage.
In ancient times, remarriagewas not favoured. Even if it was permitted, it was never considered as sacramental as the first one. The Widow Remarriage Act, 1856 brought about change and allowed widows to remarry. Due to the untiring efforts of the social reformers and educated people this practice started to be accepted on a large scale.
Performing rites and rituals of marriage only with family members used to be the past concept of marriage celebration but with changing times marriage has become a 5 day event where people invite all their kiths and kins and celebrate by spending huge amount of money. Pre wedding shoots, wedding planner, destination wedding, wedding dresses etc are the trending factors today.
Divorce under specific circumstances got permitted after the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 got introduced. Traditionally, it was not granted by the society to dissolve a marriage. Women earlier could not even think of divorce and present day they take resort to break the marital bond.
During medieval times marrying a girl younger than 12 years of age to adults was prevalent. People thought that young girls were irrational and irresponsible in love and could take steps or do acts which could put the honour of their clan at stake, so they preferred putting them into the marital bond at a younger age. People from every strata of society started following this trend as they believed it to be a pious act. The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 also known as the Sharada Act mentioned age of marriage for boys as 18 years and for girls as 14 years. The act got repealed later. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 increased the minimum age for boys as 21 years and for girls 18 years.
Today child marriage has become a rare scenario. Women have become more educated, independent and rational. They too like men want to work and make career of their own and they prefer marrying only when they feel like to and no one can pressurise them. Education has broadened minds of people and they have become more liberal. Parents now want their child be it a boy or a girl to study and make their future and marriage has taken a second stand now. Urbanisation and industrialisation has brought about this major transition.
The property and money that a bride brings to her husband’s house after the marriage is defined as dowry. In previous times this system was voluntarily done out of gratitude and love but as times passed by, this started taking the shape of a necessary evil custom of society. This concept brought about alot of unrest in the prevailing society. Parents who could not fulfil the demand of the bridegroom’s family, were looked down upon and their daughter often resorted to committing suicide. Domestic violence, mental and physical torture, etc. became a general news headline.
Act was passed against this system in the year 1961.This act did bring a lot of changes; people did fear the punishment and avoided the practice. But none the less this system could not be totally eradicated from Indian society. Still in some parts of the country dowry is taken in one form or the other. Though the graph has show decline but this act still prevails. Factors leading to the present scenario of institution of marriage:
Industrialisation- The rapid growth of industries has got a huge impact on the institution of marriage. With men being employed in every field, industrialisation brought women into lime light and they too started working in industries. This advancement made women more independent and no one could boss them or compel them to marry. Working in industries gave women another advantage of selecting marriage partner of their own choice.
Urbanisation- growth in urban centres or cities or towns leads to affecting marriage. In rural areas marriage is more of a religious and necessary ceremony whereas in urban places it is more of a social ceremony. In present scenario couples prefer live-in to marriage. This factor of urbanisation has also lead to increase in the number of divorces in cities compared to villages. It has also provided a large scope of pre marital and extra marital relations.
Education- education has played a major role in marriage. Both men and women are educated today which leads to having their own strong opinion and views. In case of marriage also, the youth takes the sole decision of whom to marry, how to marry, etc. Education has widened the mindset and people instead of performing mythical rituals go for simple wedding. Education should even lead to the eradication of dowry but unfortunately in India the situation is totally opposite. If a man is holding a higher degree in education, demand for dowry is directly proportional then. Being educated also makes people known to various laws and legislations which does lead to increase in instances of separation, divorces, etc.
Legislation- Reforms in beliefs, ideas and rites of marriage has brought about a drastic change in the concept of marriage. Laws in India have been made on the basis of various aspects. Below are some of the most important legislation passed at various time period:
Above mentioned each factor has a unique and huge role to play in the changing trend in the institution of marriage.
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