Marriage Under Hindu Law

The vast religious diversity in India ensures that the Marriage Laws in India are also very diverse. Marriage between Hindus is governed by Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. For Hindus, marriage is a Sanskar or a sacrament as opposed to contract. Every Hindu is enjoined to marry, to enter the grihastha-ashrama (i.e. life of a householder).

The Hindu Marriage Act in India is applicable to all Hindus, including Virshaiva or Lingayat, or followers of Bramho, Prarthana or Arya Samaj as well as Buddhists, Jains or Sikhs. The Hindu Marriage Act in India is also applicable to children, legitimate or illegitimate both of whose parents belong to any of the above entities. In case only one of the parents is Hindu and if the child has been brought up as a Hindu, he will be considered Hindu. Converts or re-converts to Hindu, Buddhist, Jain or Sikh religion are generally covered under the Hindu Marriage Act in India but certain other conditions are to be considered and it is advisable to consult a lawyer in such cases.

 As per Sec. 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act in India, 1955 there are certain essential conditions for a marriage to be solemnized under this Act-

  • Monogamy: Neither party should have a spouse living at the time of marriage.

  • Neither party should be incapable of giving free valid consent owing to insanity or unstable mental condition

  • Male should have completed 21 years and female should have completed 18 years

  • Neither party should be within the degrees of prohibited relationship unless there exists a custom allowing for the same

  • Parties are not sapindas of each other unless custom allows so

  • Marriage must be solemnized by conducting requisite ceremonie
The Caste System has been abolished in India. Inter sub-caste marriages were validated under the Hindu Marriage (Removal of Disabilities) Act 1946. The Hindu Marriage Act 1955 refers to “any two Hindus“, without requiring them to be of the same caste or sub-caste. Thus, in order to get married to someone under Hindu law today, both parties do not have to belong to the same caste but have to necessarily profess to the Hindu Religion.   

A marriage between a Hindu and a non-Hindu may be solemnized only under the Special Marriage Act.

Hindus have divided human life into four ashrams or stages first is Brahmacharya Ashrama (Life of Celibate Student), the second the GrihastaAshrama (Life Of Householder), the third the VanaprasthaAshrama (Life Of a Recluse) and the last is Sanyasa Ashrama (Life Of Renunciation)     

For the formal validity of a Hindu marriage, two alternative ceremonies are available to the parties:      

  • Shastric ceremonies and rites, as laid down by Shastric Hindu law;

  • Customary ceremonies and rites.

For Hindus, marriage is a sacrament and not a contract. More often than not, Hindu couples solemnize their marriage under Shastric rites and ceremonies. It is not possible to enumerate the essential and non-essential ceremonies in two separate lists as there is still judicial disagreement in this regard. However, with respect to the Saptapadi, there is no confusion – the same is absolutely indispensable for a valid Hindu marriage. The Saptapadi, is the most material of all the Shastric rites, and the marriage becomes complete on the completion of the seventh step. The same has been recognized in the provisions of Section 7(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act 1955. However, courts have even held marriages valid without the performance of all the necessary rites.

If the requisite ceremonies are not performed, the marriage may be declared null and void, which would depend upon the specific circumstances and judicial discretion. Children born of such a marriage are not granted legitimacy under the provisions of Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

Child marriage has been banned as per marriage laws in India. As per Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 such marriage is illegal and also an offence. People who participate in such marriage can also be punished. No minor can legally get married as per marriage laws in India. 

Section 8 of the Hindu Marriage Act in India mandates registration of marriages solemnized under the Act. In pursuance of the Supreme Court ruling various state governments have made registration of marriages compulsory and framed Rules for the same. The main purpose of registration is to preserve a record for facilitating proof of marriage. Marriages under Hindu Marriage Act can be registered in the office of the Registrar of Marriage within the jurisdiction of which the marriage has taken place or in the office of Marriage Officer in whose jurisdiction the bride or bride-groom resides. It is advisable to get your marriage registered. A marriage between two Hindus can also be registered under the Special Marriage Act. At the time of registration it is mandatory for both parties to be present before the Registrar.

There are certain advantages to getting a marriage registered-

  • Certificate of marriage is a substantial proof of marriage

  • Certificate of marriage is a document, which provides valuable evidence of marriage;

  • Self-confidence particularly among married women;

  • Certificate of marriage is useful in getting the visa for the wife/husband.

  • It will be helpful in claiming the Bank deposits or Life Insurance benefits when the depositor or the Insurer dies without a nomination or otherwise
  • Marriage under Hindu Marriage Act in India can be registered any time after marriage. There is no time limit.