There are 8 forms of marriages that can be found mentioned in the Dharmashastras and the Dharmashutras. Out of these first 4 are considered to be “good” while others were condemned. It is possible that the other forms (No. 5-8) were practiced by the Non-Brahmanical societies.
The 8 forms of marriages mentioned are:
- Brahma marriage: The marriage of one’s daughter, after decking her with costly garments and with presents of jewels, to a man of good conduct learned in the Vedas and invited by the father himself.
- Daiva marriage: The marriage of one’s daughter, decked with ornaments to a priest who duly officiates at a religious ceremony during the course of its performance.
- Arsha marriage: When the father gives away his daughter, after receiving from the bridegroom a cow and a bull or two pairs of either as bride price.
- Prajapatya marriage: When a girl’s father gives her in marriage to the bridegroom, treating him with respect.
- Gandharva marriage: The voluntary union of a maiden and her lover which springs from sexual desire.
- Asura marriage: when the bridegroom receives a maiden, after having given of his own free will as much wealth as he can afford, to the bride and her kinsmen.
- Rakshasa marriage: the marriage of a maiden involving her forcible abduction from her home after her kinsmen have been slain or wounded.
- Paishacha marriage: When a man by stealth seduces a girl who is sleeping, intoxicated, or mentally challenged.
- While sons were important in patriarchal societies, women were viewed rather differently. They had no claims to the household resources. At the same time, marrying them into families outside the kin was considered desirable. The gift of daughters during marriage or “kanyadaan” was considered to be an important religious duty of the father.
During the Vedic era, the society was patriarchal but even then the status of women was better than the later ages. Though births of daughters were still not rejoiced but they were taken good care of. Given education, had the freedom of movement, widow remarriage etc. Sati and child marriage was absent. Niyoga (a form of widow remarriage) was prevalent. All these attributes were gradually lost. And women were gradually pushed into the interiors of home and confined to household activities only.
While sons were important in patriarchal societies, women were viewed rather differently. They had no claims to the household resources. At the same time, marrying them into families outside the kin was considered desirable. The gift of daughters during marriage or “kanyadaan” was considered to be an important religious duty of the father.
According to the “gotra” rules, it was important for women to give up their “gotra” post marriage and take up their husband’s “gotra”. And members of same “gotra” could not marry.
However, there are evidences of exceptions. For example, In case of Satavahana rulers, there are evidences that some of their wives retained the names derived from their father’s “gotra”. What is also evident is that some of these kings and their wives belonged to the same “gotra”. It needs to be mentioned that although Satavahana rulers retained their mother’s names, their succession to the throne was generally patrilineal.
During the Gupta Ages (300AD- 350 AD), many restrictions appeared on women. Child marriage appeared, widow remarriage and “niyoga” were stopped. “Sati” became rampant. Women did not have equal rights in cases of separation of marriage.
According to Manusmriti, paternal estate had to be divided among sons after the death of the parents. Women did not have any share in this. Women were allowed to retain the gifts they received on occasions of marriage as “Stridhana”. Manusmriti warned women that even this should be done with the permission of their husbands. Though there are evidences of wealthy women, but they mostly belonged to the upper class. And even though they had control over resources, it was usually men who controlled land cattle and money.