Marriage is the oldest social institution. Throughout the ages this institution has evolved from its original form to its present structure. Mainly religion has institutionalized the marriage system. The Rig Veda mentions the social and religious responsibilities and duties of marriage. From ancient times the rules of religious scripture in Bengal were social law and the society was governed by religious law. So all the rules related to marriage were formulated according to the religious discipline. Later state laws were also added to these. In addition to religious and state laws, folk culture has also influenced marital life in many ways. There are 9 forms of Hindu marriage mentioned in different Hindu scriptures. These forms are – Anulom-pratilom, Brahma, Daiva, Arsha, Prajapatya, Gandharva, Asura, Rakshasa and Paishacha.
Anulom-pratilom marriage is called ‘inter-caste marriage’ in today’s language. If an upper caste man marries a so-called lower caste woman, it is called ‘Anulom’ marriage. And if the bridegroom comes from the lower caste and the bride is from the upper caste, then that marriage is called ‘Pratilom’ marriage.
The bride is considered superior to the groom in this form of marriage. He has to give the bride many gifts (not dowry). Brahma Vivaha can be held in the same caste. The groom should be learned. He should also be able to get married once he has completed his student hood, or Brahmacharya. In the past, a groom needed to be learned in Vedic scriptures in this form of marriage. Brahma marriage has the most supreme position of the nine forms of Hindu matrimony.
In such a marriage, the bride’s family waited for a specific time to get her wed. If she didn’t get a suitable groom, then she would be married off to a priest.
In this form of marriage, the bride was married to a sage in exchange for some cows. In the story of Mahabharata, the marriage of Agasthya and Lopamudra is the example of this form of marriage.
This is currently the most common type of marriage. This form of marriage was seen in the Vedic period. In Prajapatya marriage, only the qualified bride and groom get married. Unlike Arsha marriage, monetary transactions are not a part of the Prajapatya marriage. Marriage is performed through vedic mantras and homa yajna. It is the marriage system introduced by the Prajapati Brahma. In this form of marriage, the bride and groom take responsibility for each other’s well-being.
This form of marriage can be called ‘love marriage’ or the voluntary union of a maiden and her lover. This is where a groom and his bride could wed without their parents’ consent. This is how Dushyanta married Shakuntala in Mahabharata.
In this form of marriage, a rich man marries a poor woman. The bride’s family is given a lot of gifts. In this marriage, the groom is inferior in some way or the other.The marriage of Kṛṣṇa and Rukmiṇi is the example of this category.
In such marriage, the bridegroom would kill or injure the bride’s relatives and the bridegroom would forcibly abduct the bride. Such marriages were often fought in wars. Arjuna’s marriage to Subhadrā was this form of marriage but in reality it was a Gandharva Marriage because both of them were in love.
Forced marriage to a sleeping, intoxicated, or insane girl is called Paishacha marriage. This form of marriage is condemned in the Manusmriti.