Literature » Society

By Dr. Vilas A. Sangve

The term 'forms of marriage' is generally applied to  denote the various types of marriage unions  according to the number of partners entering the union. Such  accepted forms of marriage are four in number, viz., monogamy, polygyny, polyandry and group-marriage. But in the Jaina community, as in the Hindu  community, the forms of marriage are devised according to the method of contracting a marriage union. The forms of marriage are divided into eight categories, viz., the Brahma, the Daiva, the Aras, the Prajapatya, the Asura, the Gandhara, The Raksasa and the Paisaca. The main features of these forms are as follows:

(i) The Brahma (or Brahmya) form : In this form of marriage the daughter is given by the father to a bridegroom, who is learned and well-behaved, after calling him (to one's place) and  decorating him as well as the bride with valuable ornaments.

(ii) The Daiva form : The marrying of one's daughter at the conclusion of a big Puja or ceremonious worship of the holy Tirthankara to the Director of Ceremonies who has officiated at the Puja is termed as Daiva marriage. Here the daughter is given as a gift to the bridegroom.

(iii) The Arsa form : Here the father gives his daughter in marriage to the bridegroom, after accepting from him a small gift of a suit or two of the wearing apparel or a cow and a bull. The gift is received by the father in accordance with  requirements of Dharma and the marriage ceremony is performed according to the prescribed mode.

(iv) The Prajapatya form : The giving away of the girl as a gift by the father with a mere blessing "You may together engage yourselves in the performance of Dharma" is the Prajapatya marriage. Probably in this form the bridegroom applies for the hand of the bride and perhaps, it is also necessary that he should be unmarried.

(v) The Asura form : Obtaining the bride by paying for her an adequate  sum of money to her father and the like is the Asura marriage.

(vi) The Gandharva form : The union of the bride and the bridegroom due to their mutual love and consent and without the permission of their parents and brothers is the Gandharva marriage.

(vii) The Raksasa form : Carrying away by force after the killing (of parents, etc.), of a weeping and crying girl is the Raksasa marriage.

(viii) The Paisaca form : Violating a senseless, helpless and sleeping girl and marrying her is the Paisacha form.

Though forms of marriage have been divided into eight categories, all of them have not been approved as right types of marriages to be practiced by the people, Out of these, the first four are termed Dharmya or Arya (i.e., meritorious or approved) marriages and the last four are considered Adharmya or Papa (i.e., sinful) marriages. The first four are commended because such marriages are contracted with the mutual consent of the parents of the bride and the bridegroom and the bride is given by her father as a gift to the bridegroom in accordance with the prescribed mode of marriage at the time. The last four forms of marriage are denounced for obvious reasons. In the Asura marriage money is actually paid to the bride's father. No doubt, in the Arsa form the bride's father receives something from the bridegroom but here the father does so  according to the requirements of Dharma and not with a view to sell his daughter. The Gandharva marriage is contracted completely without the consent of the parents. The Raksasa marriage involves the forcible abduction of a girl after committing acts of violence against the kinsmen of the bride. The Paisaca marriage intentionally perpetrates violence on a girl who is placed in a very helpless condition, and that is why sometimes it is considered as the worst of all marriages. As these four forms of marriage are sinful, no fixed mode is prescribed by Acaryas for contracting such marriages.

There is a difference of opinion as regards the most prevalent form of marriage at present in the Jaina community. According to Acara Dinakara, the only  form of marriage that can be practiced at present is the Prajapatya marriage as the other three of  the  approved forms of marriage, viz., Brahma, Daiva and Arsa cannot exist in the present Kali age. On the other hand,, Mr. C. R. Jain thinks that nowadays only the Brahma form of marriage can be said to be prevalent as the rest have all become obsolete. Since the Daiva and Arsa forms of marriage are not definitely practiced now, it matters little whether the most prevalent form of marriage is called as either Brahma or Prajapatya.

If we compare the forms of marriage as conceived by Jainas with those of Hindus, it would be found that not only the number and names of forms are exactly the same but they do not differ in their contents also. Yet there is a significant difference between their view-points regarding the consideration of lawful and unlawful forms of marriage. According to the Hindus, the (i) Brahma, (ii) Daiva, (iii) Aras, (iv) Prajapatya, (vi) Gandharva and (vii) Raksasa, are lawful marriages, while  the remaining two forms, viz., (v) Asura and (viii) Paisacha are unlawful and should never be practiced. The Jainas, on the other hand, recommend only  the first four forms, viz., the (i) Brahma, (ii) Daiva, (iii) Aras, and (iv) Prajapatya, as approved forms of marriage.

In the approved forms of marriage the most important point to note is that the bride is always given by her father as a gift to the bridegroom. In the absence of the father the question arises regarding the competent person to give the maiden in marriage. In this connection a descending order of maiden's near relatives is fixed and it is enjoined on them to undertake, in the order given, the responsibility of contracting marriage. The specified order is as follows: The father, the grandfather, the brother, the uncle, a person of the same gotra, the preceptor, the maternal grandfather, and the maternal uncle. It is further made clear that in the absence of all those relatives who are asked to give a maiden in marriage, she may do Svayamvara, i.e., choose her partner according to her own will; but this can be done only in the case of extreme trouble.

QUALIFICATION OF PARTIES TO THE UNION : Various qualifications and disqualifications to be noted in the bride and bridegroom before the marriage is contracted are mentioned at a great length in Jaina books. It is stated that the following nine things should be marked in a bridegroom before giving a daughter to him in marriage, viz., caste, absence of disease, age, character, education, bodily stature, wealth, parents and members of the family. In general the bridegroom should be gentle, healthy, of noble descent, endowed with long life and moral qualities and handsome. A person should not be accepted as a bridegroom if he is found wanting in some limbs, impotent, diseased, of bad family, full of vices, always sad and of a very low position.

As regards the attributes of a bride it has been laid down that one should marry a girl who is of one's own caste, but not of the same gotra and who is endowed with indications of long life, excellent virtues and other accomplishments such as learning, etc. Along with the caste, gotra and other accomplishments it should be seen that the girl suitable for marriage should be beautiful, younger and smaller than the bridegroom and coming from a family comprising many members. A long list of disqualifications pertaining to a girl has been given and it has been enjoined not to marry a maiden possessing all or some of these disqualifications. As a guiding principle it is stated that a maiden should be avoided like a tigress if she is sinful, diseased, unchaste, shameless or immodest, and having leucoderma.

In the accomplishments to be found in the bride and bridegroom, it would be seen that, more prominence has been given to their family position and their individual character, especially their pre-marital sexual behaviour. The bride to be selected for marriage must, in the first instance, be pure. While denouncing pre-marital licence it has been laid down that it is better to marry a prostitute than to marry an unchate maiden. This demand for virginity in the girl to be married is found among Hindus. and others. It would be a double standard of morality if premarital chastity is expected only from the female side. This is avoided by prescribing the same rules for males also. It has been emphatically stated that the death of a maiden is preferable to giving her in a family of doubtful character.

AGE OF MARRIAGE : Rules regarding the proper age of marriage vary with different kinds of people. It is natural that age should be prescribed as the suitable age for marriage for both males and females when they get their sexual maturity. This is necessary because marriage partners have to undertake a life of sex-experience. Taking this fact into account the Jaina books prescribe that the consummation of marriage should take place soon after the marriage ceremony. Which means that the parties to marital union must have attained sexual maturity. As in Jaina literature we come across many instances of marriages contracted according to Gandharva or Svayamvara systems, it can be  presumed that marriage partners were sufficiently grown up at the time of marriage. In 'Pravacanasaroddhara' it has been mentioned that the progeny born of a couple, wherein the mother's age is 16 years, and the father's 25 years, is bound to be strong. Moreover, it is the solemn duty of a father not to keep a grown-up  daughter without marriage as it would mean falling from the path of religion. A popular saying in ancient India stated that, if after the attainment of puberty of a maiden, her guardians fail to arrange for her marriage, they go to hell. From this it appears that child-marriages as well as late marriages were denounced by Jainas. Of course opinions differed as to when males and females attained puberty. According to Somadeva a girl of 12 years and a boy of 16 years become competent for sex action and this can be regarded as the proper age of marriage recommended for adoption by the Jainas. In view of this we can safely say that the prevalence of child-marriage system among Jainas until recent times was not sanctioned by religion. The practice of child-marriages has at present become obsolete due to the effect of passing of Sarda Act and the general awakening among Jainas as a result of spread of modern education.

As regards the proper difference of age between the two partners of marital union it has been specifically mentioned that if the bridegroom is older than the bride by two years, he is the best bridegroom; if he is older by 5 years. he is a good bridegroom or he can be  tolerated and if he is older by more than ten years, he is a worst bridegroom. It has been further stated that in any case the bride should not be more in age than the bridegroom as such a lady is regarded like the mother.

CHOICE OF PARTNERS : By choice of partners we mean the latitude of freedom given to the parties to the marital union to choose  their partners. The choice of partners constitutes an important part in the institution of marriage. Complete liberty in the choice of partners is never given to the members who wish to enter the marital union. On the  contrary rules and regulations are made with a view to limit the field from which the choice of partners can be effected. The broadest set of restrictions as to who shall or shall not marry whom concerns itself with prohibiting marriage without or within a given group, and thus prescribing. endogamy (in-marriage) or exogamy (out-marriage), The endogamous rules forbid the members of a particular group to marry any one who is a member of the group. These two sets of rules are by no means contradictory in so far as they refer to different groups. Let us see the nature and extent of endogamous and exogamous rules in the Jaina community.

In the Jaina community full freedom was given to the people in the choice of their partners from the very beginning. No restrictions regarding race, religion, caste, creed, etc. were place. The choice was relegated to the sweet will of the people. In fact the most prevalent form of marriage was Svayamvara wherein the maiden selected her lover according to her own will, and there was no question whether the lover belonged to a high or a low family. Because of this latitude of freedom given in Svayamvara, it has been considered as the most ancient form in the sacred literature and it is regarded as the best among various forms of marriage.

(1) Caste or Sub-caste Endogamy : The first restriction was that both the parties to the marital union must belong to the same caste. For marital purposes a sub-caste acts like a caste and the sub-caste virtually forms an endogamous group. Thus, castes like Saitavala, Khandelavala, Caturtha, etc. which have no sub divisions among them practice  caste endogamy. The Srimali caste in Gujarat has been divided into sub-castes and these  sub-castes form their own endogamous groups.

(2) Religious or Sectional Endogamy : There are many castes in Jaina society which have got their counterparts in other societies. There are Agravalas, Srimalis, Poravadas, etc. both among Hindus and Jainas and marital relations exist between  them though they follow different religions. It is explained that all such castes formerly followed Jainism and though later on some of their members embraced other religions, the former marital relations were continued. But nowadays this practice is looked down upon and responsible and prominent associations like All India Svetambara Jaina Conference are advising people to contract marriages within the Jaina members of their caste. In the Paravara caste some are the followers of Taranapantha and the others of different sub-sects of Digambara sect. Formerly, Paravaras were contracting marriages among themselves irrespective of religious differences. Recently, this has stopped and Taranapanthi and other Digambara Paravaras have formed their own endogamous groups. The same is  the case with Taranapanthi Golalare and other Golalare, i. e., Golalare following other sub-sects of Digambara sect. This can be called as religious or sectional endogamy.

(3) Place or Local Endogamy : When members of a particular caste are spread over a wide area, their internal contact gets slackened as a result of which marriages are not freely contracted by  the members of the same caste if they reside in distant places. This gives rise to place or local endogamy. Hummadas are dispersed in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra and there are hardly any marital relations between them. Saitavalas are found in Vidarbha, Marathwada and Western Maharashtra regions of the present Maharashtra State but each of these three regions has been practically formed into an endogamous group. Jainas residing in the Ahmedabad city do not give their daughters in marriage to the non-residents of Ahmedabad. In the constitution of Visa Srimali  sub-caste of Saurashtra (i. e., mainly from Junagadh, Dhoraji, Vanthali  and Jetpur Talukas) it has been laid down that their members should keep matrimonial relations with Visa Srimalis residing up to Bhavanagar, Veraval, Porbunder, Jamanagar, and Mangrol and not beyond this limit even though the other party may be a Visa Srimali.

Source :- From  Jain Religion and Communty
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