In our own society, our consanguinal relatives are always related to us biologically, this is what we mean, of course, when we loosely call them “blood” relatives. Ego’s recognized consanguine relatives – the ones to whom he is bound by the kinship system – are, in general persons to whom he may normally look for emotional support and various kinds of help in case of need Their importance depends upon the fact that they are few in number as compared with the whole population of the society. Hence every society limits the circle of ego’s consanguinal relatives. The principle or set of principles by which ego’s consanguinal relatives are determined is known technically as ‘Rules of Descent’. There are three basic rules of descent.
- In patrilineal descent, each individual automatically becomes a member of any consanguinal kin group to which his father belongs, but not of those to which his mother belongs. As a syndrome agnatic is sometimes used and patrilineally related person is therefore an agnate.
- In Matrilineal descent, an individual joins the consanguine kin group of his mother, but not of his father. As a synonym uterine is sometimes used
- In Bilateral descent, an individual inherits some but not all of his father’s consanguinal relatives and also the corresponding consanguinal relatives of his mother. In a general way, the significant relatives in this system are also the close biological relatives; how far in the ever widening circles of relationship the kin relation is recognized i.e., involves social obligations will vary somewhat from one bilateral society to another. We tend to become rather vague about our kinship with relatives beyond first cousins.
Strictly speaking, probably no society is perfectly bilateral. Generally one favours the part lineal side by taking our names from our fathers.
When a descent is traced from only one parent it is called unilineal descent The most important consanguinal kin groups associated with unilineal rules of descent the lineage and sibs. A lineage is the simplest type of unilateral grouping which consists of all the probable blood relations of one line of descent exclusively. A lineage consists of descendants in one line, who know their exact genealogical relationships and who recognize obligations to one another.A lineage is this smaller, more localized and more function-laden than the broad kinship grouping.
The lineage is only one form of corporate kin group. But there are many kinds of kinship organization, most can be classified into four major types. Patrilienage, Matrilienage, Clans and Kindred They differ by virtue of the mode of tracing descent The two widespread modes are unilineal and bilineal.
Bilineal descent is also known as cognitive descent or omnilinear descent In this case, some difficulties may arise. The groups formed on this basis are bound to overlap for a start, according to this arrangement. I am a member of both my mother’s and father’s group. These could scarcely the groups of permanent territorial residence because it could not be permanently resident in two groups at once.
The unilineal descent thus has some obvious advantages. First it assigns an individual to the group only and thus avoids the problem of overlapping groups. The unilineal stops the indefinite proliferation of inheritors that the bilateral principle demands.
Bilateral is a term used to describe the transmission of decent or of property rights through male and female parents, without emphasizing one or the other lines.The membership is loosely defined by the bilateral rules of descent.
Seen in comparative perspective, the kindred have a peculiar feature in that its membership and duties are defined strictly in relation to a given ego. Unlike lineage and this therefore, kindred are not mutually exclusive in membership, they overlap one another.The members have no group activities apart from their several connections with one specific person.
The tenaciousness of weakness of the kindred as a cooperative group points to a more general fat, namely, the bilateral descent, unlike either kind of unilateral descent, may be best throughout in negative terms, it amounts to a lack of emphasis on either line of descent and hence on descent as such.
In every society the rule of descent is important for at least two reasons:
- It automatically establishes for every individual a network of social positions in which he participates with obligation and rights.
- Aside from mutual aid of various kinds, the rights and obligations ascribed on the basis of descent always include some regulations of marriage and sexual relations.
Descent always prescribes, to some extent inheritance of property, and it often prescribes succession to titles or rank. Perhaps the most important supplement to descent for the disposal of property rights at death is: rights established by marriage; rights established by creditors unpaid before the death of the deceased; inheritance of taxes etc.
Marriage in India
In almost all societies marriage is an institutionalized social relationship of crucial significance. It is generally associated with number of other important social relationship.There are different types of marital union. These have implications for population composition, property relations, inheritance etc. Further, there are various regulations and prohibitions associated with marriage and sexual relations in various cultures. Marriage is more than simply a legalized sexual union between a man and a women; it is socially acknowledged and approved In India, people generally believe that marriage is not between two individuals, but it is between two families in terms of bonds it creates between them. Certainly marriage provides recognition of legitimacy to children; it confers acknowledged social status on the offspring, and this is important in terms of inheritance and succession.
- Marriage is perceived by sociologists as a system of roles of a man and a woman whose union has been given social sanction as husband and wife.The equilibrium of the system requires adjustment between the two partners so that the role enactment of one (partner) corresponds to the role expectations of the other (Robert 0′ Blood).
- Indologists look upon Hindu marriage as a sanskara, having three objects of dharma (fulfilment of religious duties), rati (sex gratification),and praja (procreation). Marriage performed for dharma was called dharmik marriage, while one performed for sexual pleasures was regarded as adharmik marriage.
Marriage was considered sacred because of several reasons :
- Dharma was the highest aim of marriage,
- Rites were performed before sacred god Agni by reciting mantras from sacred scriptures Vedas by a sacred Brahman,
- Union (between man and woman) was considered indissoluble and irrevocable;
- Emphasis was on chastity of the woman and faithfulness of the man. Even today, the sanctity of the marriage is recognized by Hindus in spite of the fact that marriage is performed for companionship and not for performing duties, and whenever found a failure, it is dissolved by divorce.
- Mutual fidelity and devotion to partner are still considered to be the essence of marriage. Kapadia (1966) has said: “Hindu marriage continues to be a sacrament; only it is raised to an ethical plane.”
In other words, marriage in Hindu culture is a spiritual union between a man and a woman for spiritual realization.
Hindu culture also recognizes besides the above-mentioned Brahma marriage seven other forms of marriage with lesser and lower ideals.
- The four of these marriages – Gandharva (entering into sex before getting the social sanction of society), Asura (eloping with a woman), Rakshasya (forcibly abducting a woman from her home) and Paisacha (Man molesting a girl when she is asleep or intoxicated or in a state of unbalanced mind) – had such a low ideal that they were termed as Adharmik marriages.
- The remaining three – Daiva (woman is married to a priest, a man of intellect and money, belonging to an aristocratic class), Prajapatiya (entering wedlock for biological function of sex satisfaction and having children) and Arsha (women marrying a man of intellect and character (sage who is reluctant to enter marriage, so that she may get intelligent progeny and good home environment) – were given the label of Dharmik marriages.
The main reason for recognizing the four Adharmik marriages as marriages was to confer the respectful
status of a wife on the ‘injured’ women.
Mate Selection and Rules of Marriage :
According to Kapadia the question of mate selection in marriage today involves three important issues namely the field of selection, the party to selection, and the criteria of selection. Preferential code, prohibiting restrictions, endogamy and exogamy explain the field, the party, and the criteria of selection of mates for marital alliance. Besides these rules which limit the field of selection in marriage, caste exercises a tremendous control over its members by imposing penalties on the defaulting members. With a view to grant freedom to a person in selection of marriage partner outside ones caste, many Acts were enacted Despite these legal enactments, exclusivity of caste groups remains a hard fact even today.
The regulation of mate selection in Hindu society is subsumed under the concepts of endogamy, exogamy and hypergamy
- Endogamy is a social rule that requires a person to select the spouse from within the caste and sub caste,
- Exogamy forbids selection from gotra and sapinda (i.e., cousins like chachera, mamera, phuphera and mausera); and
- According to hypergamy, a boy from the upper caste can marry a girl from the lower caste and vice versa.
- In early society, caste endogamy was functional because it preserved the occupational secrets of the caste, maintained the solidarity of the caste and checked decrease in the membership or strength of the caste.
- In the present society, though it makes marital adjustment easier, yet it has proved to be dysfunctional in some ways since it creates inter-caste tensions which adversely affect the political unity of the country, makes field of mate-selection limited and circumscribed, and creates problems of dowry, child marriage, etc.
The exogamous taboos, according to Valvalkar, were designed for restricting free marital relations between parents and off spring and between siblings. RV. Kane has maintained that exogamous restrictions were imposed for preventing transmission of family defects through heredity and for the fear that there may be clandestine love affairs and consequent loss of morals.
However, these arguments are not accepted today for the reasons that decay of lineage is not reported among non-Hindu communities (Muslims) who practice cousin marriages. Kapadia has said that the rule of sapinda exogamy was of the nature of a pious recommendation and remained so till the end of the eighth century. Today, though this rule is followed by and large by all Hindus, yet cases of cousin marriages are not unknown.
- While earlier mates for children were selected by parents, now children believe in joint selection by parents and children, though cases of individual selection (i.e., selection by children themselves) are not rare.
- The criteria of selecting mates by parents are quite different from those of children. Parents give importance to family status, sanskara, caste, dowry and so forth.
- Children give importance to education, character, physical appearance, equipment and skills, etc.
- The joint selection today keeps in mind the needs of the family as well as the interests of the person acquiring a spouse.
- Many studies conducted by scholars like B.V. Shah, Margaret Cormack, Vimal Shah, etc., showed that a very large number of young boys and girls wanted to select their mates in consultation with parents.
Changes in Hindu marriage system
Changes in marriage system among Hindus may be analyzed in seven areas :
- Object of marriage : Traditionally Hindu marriage treated as a sanskara, having three objects of dharma (fulfilment of religious duties), rati (sex gratification), and praja (procreation). Marriage performed for dharma is called dharmik marriage. Marriage was a social duty toward the family and the community, and such little individual interest Traditionally Hindu marriage is a sacrament But today situation has undergone sea change. Many legislations i.e., Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, socio cultural awakening, education, and urban employment etc., have weakened the sacred ethos and objectives of Hindu marriage.
- Process of mate selection : Changes mentioned in the above box.
- Form of marriage : Changes in the form of marriage refers to change from polygyny to monogamy and prevalence of both hypogamy and hypergamy marriages.
- Change in age at marriage: It refers to change from pre-puberty marriages to post-puberty marriages. It is realized that pre-puberty marriage harmful on health grounds and also result into higher number of widowhood Education and employment are considered more or less as valuable for girls as for boys. Hypergamy and concomitant constrain on dowery also contribute to increase in age at marriage. In other words, change in the outlook, values and increased awakening as cultural factors and education, occupation, migration and dowery as structural factors have contributed to change in age at marriage.
- Economic aspect of marriage (dowry) : The Anti-Dowry Act,1961, has made giving and taking dowry as a legal offence.
- Stability of marriage (divorce) : Hindu Marriage Act of 1954 and 1955 prohibit bigamy and permit divorce also on various grounds.
- Widow remarriage : The Widow Remarriage Act, 1856 permits widows to remarry but forfeits them the right of maintenance from the property of the first husband.Various laws were laws enacted in India relate to age at marriage, field of mate selection, number of spouses in marriage, dissolving marriage, dowry and remarriage.
The important legislations relating to these aspects are :
- The Child Marriage Act,1954, dealing with age at marriage, freedom to children to marry without parental consent, bigamy, and dissolving marriage,
- The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, amended in 1986, and dealing with age at marriage with parents consent, bigamy and annulment of marriage.
- The first three Acts (of 1929, 1954 and 1955) pertaining to the age of marriage prescribe the marriage age of girls as 18 years and for boys as 21 years. The difference in the Acts is that the 1929 Act (amended in 1978} does not invalidate the marriage for violating the provisions in the Act It only prescribes punishment for the bridegroom, parents, guardians and the priest (but not for violation of the age provision. The l955 Act converse marriage performed with the consent of parents but the1954 Act covers marriages performed through courts, with or without the parental consent Both these Acts (1954 and 1955) prohibit bigamy and permit divorce also on various grounds and put restriction on marriage within the degrees of prohibited relationships, unless custom permits such marriages.
- The Widow Remarriage Act, 1856 permits widows to remarry but forfeits them the right of maintenance from the property of the first husband.
- The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, has given share to wife and daughters in mans property equal to that of sons and brothers.
We agree that social legislation is necessary for providing new direction to culture and society and permitting change and removing evils by filing up the gap between social opinion and social needs of the people. Dr. Radhakrishnan, at the time of introducing the bills related to marriage in 1952, said: “The ancient history cannot solve the problems of modem society.The function of the social legislation is to adjust the legal system continually to a society which is constantly outgrowing that system. While social legislation is essential the will to implement it is more crucial.
Marriage among Muslims
It is said that marriage among Muslims is more of a contract rather than a sacrament like Hindus. Muslim marriage, called nikah, is considered to be a civil contract Its important objectives are control over sex, procreation of children and perpetuation of family, upbringing of children, and ordering of domestic life. S.C. Sarkar also maintains that marriage among Muslims is a civil contract.
But it will be wrong to say that Muslim marriage has no religious duty. It is devotion and an act of ibadat But it is surely not a sacrament like Hindus. Muslim society is stratified among different groups i.e.,Shias and Sunnis, Ashraf, Azlaf etc. All these groups are endogamous and inter-marriages among them are condemned and discouraged.
Features of Muslim marriage
- Proposal and its acceptance : The proposal is made by the bridegroom to the bride just before the wedding ceremony in the presence of two witnesses and a Maulvi (priest). For recognizing marriage as sahi (regular), it is necessary that both the proposal and its acceptance must be at the same meeting. Not doing so makes marriage ‘fasid’ (irregular) but not batil (invalid).
- Capacity to contract marriage, doctrine of equality The doctrine of equality refers to marriage with a person of low status.Such marriages are looked down upon.Similarly, runaway marriages (called kifa) are also not recognized
- Preference system : The preferential system refers to giving preference first to parallel (chachera and mausera cousin and then to cross-cousin (only mamera but not phuphera). But these days, cousin marriages are discouraged.
- Mahar (dower) custom in marriage refers to money which a wife is entitled to get from her husband in consideration of marriage. Mahar can be specified (fixed) or proper (consider reasonable). It can also be prompt (payable on husband’s death or divorce) or deferred At one time, the Muslims had a practice of muta (temporary) marriage but that practice has been abolished now.
- Divorce (talaq) in Muslim society can be given with or without the intervention of the court. A woman can divorce her husband only through the court but a man can divorce his wife without approaching the court and by making a single pronouncement during one tuhr (one menstruation period) i.e., one month called Talaqu-e-Ahasan or three pronouncements in three tuhrs (called Talaq-e-Hasan) or three pronouncements in a single tuhr (called Talaq-e-Ulbidat). In addition to these three types of divorce, there are three other kinds of divorce too: ilia, zihar, and lian.
- In ilia, the husband swears by Allah (God) to abstain from sexual relations with his wife for a period of four or more months or for a specified period After making ilia, if he really abstains from sexual inter course, the marriage is considered to be dissolved
- In zihar, the husband declares in the presence of two witnesses that his wife is like a mother to him. Zihar does not dissolve the marriage but it provides a ground to the wife to sue her husband for divorce.
- In lian, the husband accuses his wife of adultery. This provides ground to wife to approach the court for divorce. Divorce given by mutual consent of husband and wife is called khula (initiated at the instance of the wife) or mubarat (initiative coming from wife or husband).
After divorce, the wife is not entitled to get maintenance allowance from her husband However, about fifteen years ago, the Supreme Court allowed maintenance allowance to one Shah Bano. Since this decision was questioned by the Muslim leaders, describing it as interference the Muslim Personal Law, the government had to amend the legislation. In February 1993, the Uttar Pradesh High Court also ordered the payment of maintenance allowance to one Hameedan and her two children. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board then filed a review petition in the High Court.
All these features point out the difference between the Hindu and the Muslim marriage in terms of aims and ideals of marriage, nature of marriage, characteristics of marriage and dissolving marriage. It is now contended that the belief that Muslims practice polygyny and easy divorce in large numbers is a misconception. The number of Muslims who have more than one wife is negligible now. There are more cases of bigamy amongst Hindus. Likewise there are more divorces among Hindus and Sikhs than among Muslims.
Marriage Among Christians
As among Hindus and Muslims, we find stratification among Christians too. The two groups in which Christians are divided are: Protestants and Catholics. The later are further subdivided as Latin and Syrian Christians. All these groups and sub-groups are endogamous.
- The main object of marriage among Christians, as among Hindus and Muslims, is to get social sanction for sex relations and procreation.
- Further, religion also has great significance in Christian marriage. Christians believe that marriage takes place because of the will of God, and after marriage man and woman submerge themselves in each other.
- The three objects of Christian marriage are believed to be procreation, escape from fornication (sex relations without marriage), and mutual help and comfort.
- The marriage partners are selected either by parents, or by children, or jointly by parents and children. However, in 9 out of 10 cases, selection is made and marriage is settled by parents.While selecting partners, the focus is on avoiding blood relations, and giving importance to social status of family, character, education, physical fitness, etc.
- Restrictions on consanguinity and affinity among Christians and Hindus are almost the same. Christians have no practice of ‘preferred persons’ like the Muslims.After the engagement ceremony, the formalities to be fulfilled before the marriage are: producing a certificate of character, and submitting an application for marriage in the church three weeks before the due date. The church pretest then invites objections against the proposed marriage and when no objection is received marriage date is fixed The marriage is solemnized in the church and the couple declares that they take each other as wedded partner in the presence of two witnesses and in the name of Lord Christ.
- Christians do not permit polygyny and polyandry.
- Christians practice divorce too, though the church does not appreciate it. The Indian Divorce Act, 1869 refers to the conditions under which divorce may be obtained The Act covers dissolution of marriage, declaring marriage null and void decree of judicial separation and restitution of conjugal rights.
- There is no practice of dowry or dower among Christians. Remarriage of widows is not only accepted but also encouraged
- Thus, Christian marriage is not a sacrament like Hindu marriage but is a contract between a man and a woman life. Muslim marriage in which there is greater stress on companionship.
It is necessary that till a uniform civil code is enacted the Divorce Act of Christians, which is a century and a quarter old be amended and certain new laws passed For example, the grounds for divorce are too limited and harsh. Even as between husband and wife, there is discrimination in as much as the husband as simply to prove adultery whereas the wife has to prove another matrimonial offence along with adultery for getting relief. Even when both parties wish on mutual consent basis to separate and the court are convinced that living together is impossibility, no relief can be given. The wife is considered to be a property of the husband as the provision in the Divorce Act entitles a husband to claim damages from the wife’s adulterer.