The colour, the festivity, the rituals and the food, make marriage ceremonies in India extra special. People come from all over the world to witness Indian weddings. What makes Indian marriage ceremonies so special is the sheer diversity. The rituals followed in the northern part of India are not the same as in the southern part of India, the east has different kinds of wedding and so does the west. There are different types of marriages in India and it’s this multiplicity that we will focus on in this article.
History Of Marriages In India
If we are getting into a discussion of types of marriages in India then we cannot proceed with the discussion unless we delve into the history of marriages in India. India is a country that traditionally harped on arranged marriages, a tradition that is followed to date in every Indian community irrespective of religion, caste and class. Earlier two families decided on the match and usually, couples were married in their adolescence so that they could have better adjustment. Like Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was married to Kasturba Gandhi at the age of 13 and they spent 62 years of their life as man and wife.
The custom of child marriage was not there in ancient India although it started later on when there were invasions and gradually patriarchy started raising its ugly head. In fact, in India kings arranged Swayamvars for their daughters so that they could choose from the best to marry, thus supposedly allowing a woman the choice. Although writer Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni makes it apparent in her book The Palace of Illusions that Draupadi was actually in love with Karna and if she had her choice she would have garlanded him but she was forced to tell him that he was not a Kshatriya and he could not take part in the Swayamvar because she had to serve her destiny which was with the Pandavas.
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Polyandry, as shown through Draupadi’s marriage, existed in India but polygamy was more existent when men, mostly in Hindu and Islam religions, had more than one wife. Monogamy gradually became the norm in India and the country became more open to the concept of love marriages although arranged marriage still continues to be the more popular choice.
All types of marriages that we mentioned earlier are usually elaborate affairs, except perhaps a court marriage.
Different Types Of Marriages In Indian States
What is fascinating is India has 28 states and 9 union territories and the marriage ceremony differs in every single state. If we try to get into the nitty-gritty of marriage rituals in 37 places in India then we would end up writing nothing short of a thesis here.
But it is pertinent to say here that the diversity of marriage ceremonies lends India its essence. The ceremonies might be different but the marriage laws followed are the same. One has to get married under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, The Special Marriage Act, 1954 or under Muslim Personal Law or The Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872. No matter which state the marriage is taking place or what rituals are followed the marriage has to be registered according to the law of the land.
How Many Types Of Marriages Are There In India?
It’s hard to exactly pinpoint the entire gamut of marriage rituals in India. Because within the purview of the Hindu marriage itself the diversity is immense. Needless to say, different types of marriage customs are followed in India. A Bengali wedding is not similar to a South Indian or a Maharashtrian wedding despite all being Hindu weddings. The religion followed might be the same, the mantras chanted even similar but the rituals, time of wedding and attire are all very different. If we are talking about types of marriages in India then at the basic level we can say there are nine types of marriages in our country.
When focusing on the types of marriages in India we will get into the details of how each type of marriage is carried out.
1. Hindu Marriage
The Hindu marriage ceremony follows the Vedic rituals and the three main rituals of Kanyadaan, Panigrahana and Saptapadi. are followed. The first means giving away of the bride by the father, second means joining hands of the bride and the groom in front of the fire and third is making seven rounds around the fire.
But not all rituals are followed in every Hindu wedding. Like different communities in Kerala and Tamil Nadu do not have the system of lighting a fire and their weddings usually start off early in the morning and the ceremonies wrap up by noon. In Bengal, some ceremonies like gaye holud (turmeric ceremony is done in the morning) but the main wedding ceremony happens in the evening according to the auspicious time shown in the Almanac.
North India witnesses the most elaborate wedding ceremonies that take off with the sagai (engagement) and the wedding can go on for days when garlands are exchanged, a havan is done and the bride is made to wear the Mangal Sutra. In East India, it is the application of vermillion that is more significant and in Maharashtra, much stress is laid on the Lakshmi Narayan Puja.
All Hindu marriages are registered under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 or the Special Marriage Act, 1954.
2. Christian Marriage
Under the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872, Christian marriages are performed by a minister or a priest in a church. The beauty of Christian marriage in India is a bride often chooses to wear the attire of the community she belongs to instead of opting for a gown. So Christian marriages in India see the bride in traditional attires like sarees, mekhlas and traditional sarongs and even the groom often opts for traditional attire along with his best men.
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Among the types of marriages in India it is a Christian marriage that is a happy amalgam of Indian and Western cultures. The tradition of the feast, the toast and the bouquet are all followed sprinkled with indigenous traditions.
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3. Sikh Marriage
Earlier Sikh marriages were registered under the Hindu Marriage Act but now these are registered under the Punjab Sikh Anand Karaj Marriage Act 2018. The Sikh wedding ceremony is simple. It takes place at the Gurudwara. Before that a ceremony takes place which is called milni where the families of the bride and the groom meet.
Then four simple stanzas are recited from their holy text and the bride and groom take pheras around Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Scripture). The bride and the groom wear elaborate traditional attire and amazing food is served at the festivities.
4. Muslim Marriage
A Muslim marriage comes under the purview of Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937. Islamic traditions are followed in a Muslim marriage in India. The bride and the groom could opt for Indian traditional attire but the religious ceremony usually strictly adheres to Islamic rules. The weding ceremony called the Nikah is solemnized by the Maulavi. There is Kanydan in a Muslim wedding too followed by the reading of the Koran and the groom’s proposal and the bride’s acceptance.
Indian Muslims usually serve biriyani at their weddings.
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5. Parsi Marriage
Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act of 1936 is the law under which Parsi marriages are solemnized and registered. Some of the ceremonies followed in a Parsi marriage are exchange of silver coins between the families of the bride and the groom. It is after this ceremony the wife takes the name of the husband. The ceremonies are carried on for three days prior to the wedding and on the fourth day a wedding procession arrives at the bride’s house where the marriage is solemnized.
After the wedding a couple has to have food from the same dish symbolizing their union.
6. Buddhist Marriage
Among the types of marriages in India a Buddhist marriage is probably the most simple one. A Buddhist marriage is registered under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. There are no strictly put down rituals to be followed and no elaborate ceremonies.
The Buddhist marriage, true to its religious teachings emphasizes on spirituality and carrying out the vows. There is usually an engagement solomnised by a monk or Rinpoche. On the wedding day the bride and the groom with their respective families visit the temple then the wedding ceremony is carried out a separate place.
A Buddhist wedding is a small affair where few friends and relatives are invited.
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7. Jain Marriage
Buddhists and Jain can either register their marriage through the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 or through the Special Marriage Act 1954. These are two types of marriage acts that can be used by people of different religions.
Jain marriages have many rituals that are similar to Hindu marriages like pheras and kanyavaran but a number of Pujas and aarti are performed at a Jain marriage.
The most important ritual is after the wedding the bride and groom go with their family members to a Jain Temple and feed the poor there.
8. Court Marriage
Inter-caste and inter-faith marriages are a reality of India. Many people who want to avoid the religious rituals opt for court marriage under the Special Marriage Act 1954. The registrar is given a 30 day notice with residential and birth details of the bride and groom. Then on the day fixed they have to be present at the registrar’s office with three witnesses to sign on the legal documents and read the vows.
Related Reading: Court Marriage or Arya Samaj Marriage? Here’s What You Should Know
9. Mixed marriages
In case of inter-faith marriages many brides and grooms follow the rituals of both faiths to solemnize the marriage. These marriages come under the Special Marriage Act 1954 but it is common to see a church wedding taking place in the morning followed by havan in the evening.
In a place like India with such diverse traditions it is inevitable there would be mindboggling rituals and traditional ceremonies. But there are mainly nine types of marriages that are largely solemnized in modern India, about which we just now wrote at length.