History & Evolution of Marriage

In the early stages of civilization, when the development of society had not yet begun, humans had two basic needs: food for sustenance and shelter for protection. At that time, sexual relations were unrestricted. Both men and women were free to engage in sexual relations.

Since there was no organized society or rules in place at that time, there were no restrictions or regulations regarding sexual behavior. As time passed, human civilization began to develop. Humans started cultivating their food and domesticating animals. Agriculture provided sustenance, rivers provided water, and livestock provided milk. These developments marked the beginning of civilization, and human communities began to settle in one place.

During this time, the concept of land ownership for cultivation emerged, and competition for dominance over livestock began. This may have been the era when the idea of "This is mine, I need to acquire this, or I need to win this" started to take hold within individuals. This likely gave rise to the concept of dominance in men and women over each other. There is a probability that this was the time when men started thinking about establishing their rights and dominance on the offspring. Since sexual relations were still unrestricted at that time, determining the parentage (father) of children and establishing paternal rights was challenging. Additionally, the responsibility of raising children was primarily attributed to females and that was bringing complete ownership of the child to the mother.

As civilization continued to evolve and human communities began to settle, it became necessary to establish rules and regulations regarding sexual behavior. These regulations were introduced to ensure that individuals knew the parentage of their offspring and to make it easier for men to assert their rights over their children. During this transitional period, restrictions on sexual behavior were introduced gradually, first outside the community (settlement), and later within the community. Despite of these restrictions it was still difficult to ascertain the paternal lineage of the offspring because the women were still sexually involved with many men (within the community) and vice versa. This led to the further restrictions on the women to sexually involve with only one man so that it is easy to ascertain the paternal lineage of the offspring and possible for the man to claim his right and dominance on the child. Gradually with time, this right and dominance on the child also brought the sense of ownership in the man towards the woman (who has given birth to his child). The only way the man could prove his dominance or ownership on the mother and child was if he could take the responsibility to help the woman to safely rear the child and also safe guard the woman. This could happen only if she started living with him. Now the man had the responsibility to take care of both mother and child (children). As the restrictions of sexual involvement were only on women and the men at that time were still free to involve with many women (with in the community), the man had to take care of many women. As there was no sexual code of conduct at that time, the men considered women as a token of achievement and victory. This was the reason that the powerful men of the community used to win over many women and the weak men were devoid of being together with any woman. Same was true about the women who were not sexually very attractive to men. This might have created huge imbalance in the community.

With time civilization was evolving, communities were becoming stronger and new rules were setting in. Gradually the people living in communities started thinking about their rights and responsibilities towards each other. The feeling of “I” was probably getting replaced with the feeling of “We”. This was probably the time when the restrictions on sexual behavior on men were also imposed. The society guidelines were in the process of setting in. The man was also restricted to sexually involve with more than one woman. Man and Woman started living together and gave birth to children and take care of each other. This was probably the beginning of “Marriage”and “Family”. This arrangement was a great attempt towards the sexual right of every individual (man/woman) of the community to get a mate (life partner) and extend the family.

In the initial time, this arrangement of living together (of man and woman) was on mutual consent and will , but there was no guarantee that they would live together forever and will not be going to other man and woman for their out of the consent sexual gratification. To curb this problem, the process of “man and woman living together to procreate and live peacefully in harmony with each other forever” was given a shape of “Tradition” where the elders of the community were made the witness of the ceremony so that it is binding on the couple. Later it grew in spectrum and the ancestors, deities and nature were also included as the witness of the ceremony. This was probably the beginning of the “Concept of Marriage”.

Since man had taken the responsibility for the safety and care of the woman and their offspring, it was essential for the woman to come to man’s house and live with him. Perhaps this is when the practice of “Vidai” began. Generations later, the parents started searching for the Spouse/mate/life-partner for their children (Bride for son; and Groom for Daughter). The daughter will go to the home of the man with whom she would marry. The son will bring the bride home. As the daughter was supposed to go to other’s home and live there life long, the parents started offering gifts and property to her during the marriage so that she could live with comfort in the other home. This practice probably gave rise to the tradition of “Dowry”.

Girl began to leave their parents and family to live in a new household. This was not just a matter of acquiring material possessions or procreation. To protect her rights, the man was asked to take pledge to extend the care, respect, love and support to her when she joined his household. Even today, during marriage ceremonies in Hindu culture, the "Seven Vows" are taken to signify this commitment.

प्रथम वचन

तीर्थव्रतोद्यापन यज्ञकर्म मया सहैव प्रियवयं कुर्या:
वामांगमायामि तदा त्वदीयं ब्रवीति वाक्यं प्रथमं कुमारी!।

Here, the bride is asking for a promise from the groom that if he ever goes on a pilgrimage, he should take her along. If he observes any fasting or other religious practices, he should seat her on his left side, as is the tradition today. If he accepts this, she also accepts coming to his left side.

द्वितीय वचन

पुज्यौ यथा स्वौ पितरौ ममापि तथेशभक्तो निजकर्म कुर्या:,
वामांगमायामि तदा त्वदीयं ब्रवीति कन्या वचनं द्वितीयम !!

In other words, the bride is asking for a promise that just as you respect your parents, you should also respect my parents and continue to be a devout believer according to the family's traditions. If you accept this, then I agree to come into your left side.

तृतीय वचन

जीवनम अवस्थात्रये मम पालनां कुर्यात,
वामांगंयामि तदा त्वदीयं ब्रवीति कन्या वचनं तृ्तीयं !!

In the third vow, the bride says that you promise to take care of me in all three phases of life (youth, adulthood, and old age). If you accept this, then I agree to come into your left side.

चतुर्थ वचन

कुटुम्बसंपालनसर्वकार्य कर्तु प्रतिज्ञां यदि कातं कुर्या:,
वामांगमायामि तदा त्वदीयं ब्रवीति कन्या वचनं चतुर्थं !!

In the fourth vow, the bride says that now that you are entering into the bond of marriage, the responsibility of fulfilling all the future needs of the family rests on your shoulders. If you pledge to carry this burden, then I agree to come into your left side.

पंचम वचन

स्वसद्यकार्ये व्यवहारकर्मण्ये व्यये मामापि मन्त्रयेथा,
वामांगमायामि तदा त्वदीयं ब्रूते वच: पंचमत्र कन्या !!

In the fifth vow, the bride says that in matters related to household affairs, marriage, expenses, or any other financial decisions, if you also consider my opinion, then I agree to come into your left side.

षष्ठम वचन

न मेपमानमं सविधे सखीनां द्यूतं न वा दुर्व्यसनं भंजश्चेत,
वामाम्गमायामि तदा त्वदीयं ब्रवीति कन्या वचनं च षष्ठम !!

In the sixth vow, the bride says that if I ever sit with my friends or other women for any reason, you will not disrespect me in any way. Similarly, if you refrain from gambling or any other wrongdoing, then I agree to come into your left side.

सप्तम वचन

परस्त्रियं मातृसमां समीक्ष्य स्नेहं सदा चेन्मयि कान्त कुर्या,
वामांगमायामि तदा त्वदीयं ब्रूते वच: सप्तममत्र कन्या !!

In the final or seventh vow, the bride asks the groom that he shall regard all other women as his own mother and will not make anyone else a partner in the mutual love between husband and wife. Only if you give me this vow, then I accept coming into your left side.

The Hindu marriage tradition believes in the eternal bond between husband and wife, which is said to span across lifetimes and cannot be broken under any circumstances.

In India, according to the Sanatani and Vedic culture, the 16 sacraments hold great importance, and the marriage sacrament is one of them. The marriage sacrament is commonly known as 'Vivah' and includes the 'Paanigrahan' ceremony.

Dr. Deepak Chaturvedi

With a distinguished medical career spanning multiple domains, Dr Deepak Chaturvedi is a versatile medical professional renowned for his unwavering commitment to medicine, philanthropy, education, motivational speaking, opinion leadership, and artistic expression through poetry. His academic journey includes earning a Doctor of Medicine (MD) specialising in Internal Medicine and a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS)

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