8 Types of Hindu Marriage (plus the 9th type)

8 Types of Hindu Marriage (plus the 9th type)

The different types of marriages are described in Ancient Hindu literature, but not all of them have religious sanction, some are only acceptable in certain castes and a couple are completely prohibited.

Hindu philosophy states that marriage is not only two people uniting, but two souls uniting and this union lasts for many lifetimes. Some of these methods of acquiring a wife are not pleasant, thankfully, those ones are recognised as wrong.

1. Brahma Marriage

The Brahma marriage is widely considered as the best type of Hindu marriage. The father of the bride finds a suitable man who has completed his studies and gives his daughter to him in the form of a gift (kanyadan).  The ‘gift’ is adorning with gold, jewels and expensive clothes. The grooms family should not ask for anything from the brides family, this type of marriage opposes dowry (money the grooms family demand from the brides family) but sadly it still occurs across all castes and classes. 

Dowry is now illegal in India but it’s estimated that an Indian women is murdered every hour because her family was unable to meet her husband and in-laws’ demands for higher dowry.

The Hindu scriptures consider this marriage as the most honorable, because there is no physical force or lust and ideally no exchange of money. This is the most common Hindu marriage.

KANYADAN |Indian marriage ceremony | purple wedding | intercultural wedding | foreign bride |love |marathi brahmin ceremony | love

Our kanyadan ceremony, my dad giving me away to my husband.

2. Daiva Marriage

This type of marriage occurs if the brides family cannot find her a groom. The father of the bride resorts to giving his daughter, covered with treasures, to a priest. The priest then performs a sacrifice to complete the marriage. This type of marriage is exclusively for the Brahmin caste, only a Brahmin can perform sacrifices as priest. It is now quite rare that a family will give away their daughters to priests.

3. Arsha Marriage

This type of marriage is not considered noble, it is basically a business transaction. The father gives away his daughter after receiving a cow and a bull from the bridegroom. The boys suitability is not always considered, the condition of the cow and bull are more important.

4.  Prajapatya Marriage

This type of marriage is an orthodox union, the purpose of the marriage is religious duty. The father of the bride blesses the couple with the a sacred mantra, on the condition they both do their civic and religious duties. The husband and wife are seen as equal parties in the marriage, remaining dutiful together and living a Hindu lifestyle.

5.  Gandharva Marriage

This is a love marriage. A voluntary union of mutual love between the bride and groom. This type of marriage is usually done in secret, without the knowledge of their parents.

The Kama Sūtra says this kind of marriage is the ideal one because it is passion and love which brought the couple together instead of social compatibility or financial gain. There are hundreds of examples of this type of marriage in Hindu mythology, the original Indian love stories. However, other Hindu texts find this type of marriage inferior because it does not always consider social acceptability (allowing inter-caste marriage for example).

6.  Asura Marriage

The bridegroom pays for his bride and the amount he decides to pay depends on the social status of the brides family, known as ‘bride price’. Sadly, this form of marriage is still popular among some castes of Hindus and tribes of India. The social compatibility of the groom is not considered here, greed is the deciding factor.

Manu is said to be the father of humanity, he was the first man on Earth, the same man a Christian calls Adam. The father of humanity condemns this type of marriage in the Manusmriti (The laws of Manu), “The father of the girl should not accept even the least amount of price, accepting a price out of greed, he becomes the seller of children.”

7. Rakshasa Marriage

This type of marriage involves the forcible abduction of a girl from her home after her family have been killed.  During ancient times, tribes looked upon women as war prizes and took the women of their defeated enemies as brides. This didn’t only happen in Ancient India, this occurred in many other early civilisations. This type of marriage appealed to the nature of the Kshatriya (warrior) caste of men. Women would have been the reason for many battles. The poor brides would cry and scream during the marriage, the word rakshas means demonic.

8. Paishacha Marriage

This was the most awful form of marriage, a man steals the chastity of the women whilst she is either sleeping, intoxicated or unable to consent. Once this has happened, it was thought during the time, she has no alternative but to marry him. Paishacha literally means ‘goblin, the men who do this are literally goblins. This reminds me of those ‘modern’ men who prey on drunken girls in nightclubs, those men who take advantage of girls who are barely conscious. This vile  behaviour has obviously been happening for millennia.

The 9th type of marriage…

This type of marriage is not usually mentioned as one of the eight types of Hindu marriage but it also existed in Ancient times, the times when the Hindu Gods and Goddesses walked the earth, the mythical times we learn about in story books. What I find interesting about this type of marriage, unlike the others, is; the boy doesn’t acquire a wife, the girl chooses a husband.

When a girl decided that she wanted to get married, her father would organise a Swaymvara. Swaymvara literally means ‘ones own choice’. Invitations were sent to eligible men across the land and those who were interested in seeking her hand would meet on an auspicious date, at an auspicious venue. The suitors would all try to impress the girl and prove their worth. Once the bride had seen enough, she would select her champion by putting a garland of flowers round his neck.

For reasons I cannot explain, Swaymvara is usually ignored and not added to the eight other forms of traditional Hindu marriage. Swaymvara shares a close resemblance with Gandharva marriage. The difference is that the father allows his daughter to choose her husband whilst Gandharva marriages usually involve the lovers marrying in secret.

In the Hindu epic Ramayana, Sita chooses to marry Lord Rama after he shows he is stronger than the other suitors who gathered for her Swaymvara. The Mahabharata, another Hindu epic, tells of Draupadi’s Swaymvara. She asks her suitors to prove their skills by shooting a rotating fish through the eye by only looking at its reflection in a pool of water. Draupadi rejected the fit suitor who shot the fish in the eye and married the second successful suitor, Prince Arjuna.

Think about this:

Has patriarchal society simply ignored the 9th type of Hindu marriage to serve its own purpose?

Putting a garland on my husband

Garlanding my champion

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35 thoughts on “8 Types of Hindu Marriage (plus the 9th type)

  1. This is fascinating, Lauren! Thanks so much for posting. Did you know all this before you met your husband or are you learning. It is wonderful that you know so much and it shows in many of your posts. Hugs, Ellen
    P.S. Such beautiful photos of such a beautiful couple. Your husband is so very handsome and he seems so in love– both true if you, too.

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  2. Wow I feel so much more knowledgeably on hindu marriage now! Great peice and so easy to understand for someone who is cluless on the topic like me. Its sad how so many of the types involve “selling” the bride. I like the last one where the girl picks 🙂 As far as I know sikhs only have one way to get married so its so interesting to me to read the hindu practices.

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      • Hi Lauren,

        As you note that in 9th marriage is pretty expensive on the parents, secondly one has to be pretty famous to be desired by so many people across the land (like Sita). Swayamvara were usually done by kings for their daughters, like king of Panchal did for Draupadi (Mahabharata) or Damayanti choosing Nala (Mahabharata) or Father of Sanyogita who had one too.. among many.

        Swayamwara always has a TASK that needs to be accomplished before you qualify to be married. Girl sadly does not have a say in who she chooses because she has to marry who-ever completes the difficult task.
        1) For Sita – Task was to lift the bow of Parshuram that was impossible to be lifted (Unless you were a god – Like Ram)
        2) For Draupadi – The task was to pierce the eye of the fish by looking in the water below
        3) For Sanyogita – The task was to kill 1000 crocodiles in the lake in shortest amount of time

        and so on. So despite the fact that it “Seems” girl has a choice but she does not. She has to marry who-ever completes the task and thus, risky (if the person ends up being incompatible or mean). Thus, in my mind it does not take place anymore since no parent wants to give their girl to incompatible or mean person and take that risk, They evaluate the prospective groom’s family, their stature in society, how educated the prospective groom is and what is his earning potential, etc before marriage.

        Hope this explains why it does not take place these days.

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  3. Wow! Really interesting and very informative. I didn’t realize there were so many types of weddings.
    Please check out my blog at girlmeetsindia.com
    I am also an expat here!

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  4. This is very interesting Lauren, but at the same time makes me wonder if violent marriages like Paishacha Marriage or Rakshasa Marriage were so common that they even have a classification.
    Kind greetings,
    Marianne

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  5. Thank you for this wonderful post! I really learned a lot about the different types of marriages, and it amazes me how much history and detail there is in each one. Sadly, there are a few who definitely have evil attached to them, but this world is balanced out this way, unfortunately.

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  6. Pingback: Our Love Marriage | English Wife, Indian Life | The Diary of a Firangi Bahu Living in India

  7. Wow! I am an Indian and even I did not know of anything that you researched and wrote!
    I have always divided the indian marriages into two– love and arranged!

    P.s. Another post idea for you could be to write about the different ceremonies of marriage in different parts of India.. The difference is outfits etc.. 🙂

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  8. This is so interesting! Things like marriage customs really give us an inside look on the culture and history of a country. It’s really sad to see that the last one isn’t usually included with the rest. It’s like they are trying to wipe away what they don’t deem “normal”. Thanks so much for posting something so insightful!

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    • Thank you for your comment, Monicast.

      You’re right, it’s a shame that it’s not included in the list usually. Hoping that more and more people get to marry someone of their choosing!

      I hope you are well! xx

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  9. This is so interesting to read. Have you experienced any barriers being a white woman? or in your wedding did you experience any traditional rituals that you weren’t allowed to take part in? I have heard about in some cases that the white woman has not been allowed a ‘Hindu’ wedding due to the fact white people cannot be considered Hindus. or was your wedding the exact same as every other person and you did not have any problems for being white.
    P.S beautiful photos of you both 😛

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    • Hey Hanna,

      I haven’t experienced any barriers personally. When you marry a Hindu man you become his caste so I am thought of as my husband’s caste too now. Our wedding was exactly the same as it would have been if I were Hindu (except my parents and I really didn’t know what was going on haha) xx

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  10. You can praise the Gandharva Vivah all you want (taking the defense of Kama Sutra), but the truth is that it is considered really selfish and ignoble in Indian society, and the person has to redeem himself/herself in present or future lives. Many end in splits and divorces. Don’t right your wrong, please!

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    • Arranged marriage can be great…arranged marriage can be bad.
      Love marriage can be bad… love marriage can be great.

      As long as the couple are making their own decision. Nothing is purely black and white. I don’t think marrying someone you love should be considered selfish, in my eyes it’s a basic human right.

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  11. “The heroes of Hinduism had Swaymvara marriages so why in modern India, in so many cases, women have no part in deciding who her husband will be? The man she will share her life with, share her bed with?”

    Women in Big Cities have that freedom, women in villages don’t get to date their future husbands, they are allowed to talk once or twice before accepting/ rejecting.

    I think the society changes with Economy and Education.

    When French came to India in the 17th century they were surprised that Indians were a sexually open society than french were at that time. Now we get surprised at them:)

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      • I respect you Lauren, Myself BABA & i am Indian but i did have a wish to marry from British as i am an Interior designer and doing business online but never find such a True girl to whom i can able to make my wife. 1% People who Trust and believe the love through Internet. Is it ? Now I already being married and having my Son with me. Still missing British….

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