Why Did Vedic India Have Child Marriage?

 

Child Marriage
Why Did India Have Child Marriage?

[I am on a journey to understand the rich heritage and cultural diversity of India. In this new series, titled Vedic India, I will explore Male Dominated Vedic India and will try to understand from Vedic Gurus, and Vedic literature about the existence of certain social customs (like Child Marriage, Polygyny, Sati and other customs) that existed in India in Vedic times but are considered as sinful or as an offence today.

This series is motivated by a very controversial book “Women: Mothers or Masters” written by Bhakti Vikasa Swami of Krishna Consciousness Movement.

The primary aim of this series is to understand if the male domination in Vedic India was real discrimination against women as feminists’ often portray.

All articles under Vedic India can be viewed – here

Also find articles on Modern Feminism – here]

***

Child Marriage Scenario Today

Any marriage of a child below the legal age of marriage (18 and 21 years for girls and boys respectively) is considered as Child Marriage. Child Marriage is considered a crime today but it was considered normal in the Vedic era. In fact, if a girl was not married within three years of her puberty by her father, the girl was given permission to choose her own husband in Vedic customs.

Child Marriage, as the Indian census data shows and explained here still exists in certain parts of India. As feminists all over the world, project it as one form of female genital mutilation and forcing them to get raped, the data shows even boys are married in their childhood. Apart from the theory of genital mutilation, feminists also show how a girl is not allowed to choose her own husband and hence not given enough freedom.

The Vedic Custom of Child Marriage

A careful scrutiny of the Vedic custom tells us that in Vedic India even though these children were married at a tender age (like 8 years), they were not allowed to live together or to have sexual relation. This custom of marriage was only a betrothal ceremony of the couple and after this ceremony, they continued to live with their parents until they attained maturity.

In this period, they met only occasionally and were not allowed to meet in private. In these occasions, the girl would cook and serve food or would engage in some basic social interactions with the boy and they would never get physical. This is how the children were taught to learn about married life from their elders and this period was used to make them know each other. This is how the Vedic India created a strong bond in the childhood between the spouses and both were debarred from thinking about other boy/girl. So, Vedic India created a strong platonic bond between the couple before they started living together. This bond thus developed remained strong throughout their lives. Since free mixing of boys and girls were not permitted, they were automatically prohibited from thinking about others as potential mates.

After marriage, the boy in Vedic India would typically undergo dharmic lessons and would learn to follow his dharma according to his position in Varnashrama (e.g. brahmin dharma, kshatriya dharma etc) and learn basic lessons of life.

The girl, however, would learn the lessons of how to perform her motherly duties and take care of family and husband and also acquire knowledge from Hindu Shashtra mostly from her grandmother. Her education was mostly based on these stories and homely practices. Since mother was considered the primary guru of a child, she was given best behavioral and sanskara training to inculcate the same in her children.

After this education, both of them were allowed to stay together like husband and wife. Even after that, they were not given full freedom. The boy (or the husband) used to be under the guidance and observance of his father and had to obey his father. This is how under the able guidance of elders the couple used to start and continue their conjugal journey.

This custom of child marriage that was created in Vedic India was so much full-proof that Hindu society didn’t have any need of divorce. But, there was a misuse of this system as well. Young girls being married off with very old men led to one form of abuse. However, as Vedic gurus say, that is the only demonic application of Vedic customs.

No Choice In Spouse Selection

Vedic society was also against the boy and the girl given too many choices to choose from when they wanted to choose their partner. They believed, that it is the duty of their fathers to choose the right partner based on factors, like caste, family, horoscope etc. Vedic India believed, too much freedom of choice given to the boy or the girl could be detrimental to their own benefit.

In this context, Vedic gurus give an example of a modern society where the boy and the girl are given enough freedom to choose their own partner and they also may have multiple fiancés but can’t commit to anyone. This choice in a way spoils everyone. In fact, if we look around we will see enough women who have attained 40 years of age but never ever married. A situation unthinkable in Vedic times. In a Vedic era, they would have become a grandmother or great grandmothers at that age.

Vedic society surely didn’t believe in ‘love marriages‘. in this aspect, Vedic gurus say, what we know as love today is actually lust. They point to the fact that men fall in love only with younger and good looking females. Why they don’t fall in love with ugly and fat females? Similarly, women fall in love mostly with men who are better placed in society. Why don’t they marry younger, jobless men in love? The problem here, as they say, is our choices are driven by lust (either for sex or for money/position) and not passion. Hence, we see most of the ‘love marriages’ ending up in divorce faster compared to arranged marriages.

No Late Marriage Allowed

The Vedic system was also based on basic human physiology and knew that motherhood at an older age will not only create weaker offsprings but will also create dangers to mothers’ health. A reality of today’s society is an increase in congenital disorders, unwanted abortions and other abnormalities and challenges during the birth of a baby.

A late marriage is also detrimental to both genders because they always feel that they could get a better choice if they had waited some time longer. As a result, commitment to the spouse and the family members come down. In child marriages, children were trained about their behavior with their in-law’s house and since they had enough time to understand each other and their families, they used to grow more affection towards each other and each other’s families. However, it is not true today.

People marrying at an old age, often have very old parents to take care. Coupled with this the one-child problem makes the only child responsible for the well-being of old age parents. So, he/she becomes immobile for marriage. Since we live in different cities due to our work today, we have even greater difficulty in finding a match without a lot of trouble. Added to this, women themselves develop several physical problems after 30 years of age. Since women have the role of giving childbirth entrusted by nature, when they develop complications for giving childbirth, most of them become unmarriageable. Ailing parents and the responsibility to take care of them for single children makes it even more difficult.

Women Perceived Only As Mothers

Vedic India had entrusted women with the role they were given by mother nature, to produce off-springs so that the human race survived. Vedic India also advised women to have a lot of children – ‘शत पुत्रबति भबः‘ (give birth to hundred children) was a blessing given to women by elders. This was because one other principle of Vedic India was

Women should be taken care in their childhood by their father, in their youth by their husband and in their old age by their sons’.

This blessing of women to have as many children as possible was to ensure their safety and well-being at all ages. In this aspect, in fact, Vedic India had entrusted boys (and not girls) with the responsibility to take care of their mothers.

The question, however, that feminists often bring is by confining women to their homes and giving them the huge BURDEN to raise children, it was the men who wanted to enjoy life and all benefits of life. However, this is not true. The main idea was to ensure the survival of human race and to give the human race healthy new generations. Vedic society was all the more protective of women and kept them in-house to protect them from being sinful. That way children learned the best possible behavior and became the best possible habitats of this world.

If we look at today’s society, women with single or no child have no one to take care of them in older days. Feminist women often end up in a lonely life. Feminists, however, created another avenue for women to earn money on every divorce. But money can’t win anyone’s love and hence many of them may have money after several divorces but have no one to take care of them.

So, in our modern system of late marriage, we are neither getting a strong generation of children, nor stable marriages (because people develop a lot of expectations before they marry). Vedic Indian society has created an immune system to all these social evils by organizing social customs according to the need of human race and not anyone’s right (no, not even in favor of men’s rights). Thus, they had created a far more evolved and matured society. By upholding single person’s rights today, we are creating an increasingly fragmented society without any love, care, and social belongingness. Which is slowly and steadily decaying the society and eventually the human race.

***

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24 comments

  1. ”Child Marriage is considered a crime today but it was considered normal in Vedic era. In fact, if a girl was not married within three years of her puberty by her father, the girl was given permission to choose her own husband in Vedic customs.”

    If a male or female has gone through puberty. They are no longer children but young adults. All children are prepubescent. They lie in their definition.

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  2. So you mean to say that we should not have any individual freedom .No choice to decide whom we should marry, what is the use of such a society ?No divorce even your family is abusive ?There was a reason why these traditions were overthrown and the reason was that they decayed.
    Women were not allowed to work and even men did the jobs that there fathers did .women why not allowed to take part in scholarly activities ,caste system was rigid. early Vedic and later Vedic periods were different

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  3. So you mean to say that we should not have any individual freedom .No choice to decide whom we should marry, what is the use of such a society ?No divorce even your family is abusive ?There was a reason why these traditions were overthrown and the reason was that they decayed.
    Women were not allowed to work and even men did the jobs that there fathers did .women why not allowed to take part in scholarly activities ,caste system was rigid. early Vedic and later Vedic periods were different.

    Like

    • Good questions!!

      Please note, neither the girl, nor the boy was given choice to select their partner.

      The reason as the Vedic gurus say, was given to choose their partner, these choices will be affected by sexual / material attachments. Since the goal of life is to come out of all material form of attachment (why? – will be explained in another article) so the boy / girl was not given any choice. These material attachment (maya) is so strong in human that given a chance and free choice, choice will never be satisfied. Today, if you notice most of the love marriages break in early divorce. The reason is those relations are made of material love or sexual attraction which can’t sustain. Added to that, the free market choice for both the girl and the boy made marriages very fragile. So, todays marriages are designed to break

      Your other questions will be answered in subsequent articles in this series. Keep those tough questions coming so that I can seek the answers.

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      • In Vedic culture there were 8 types of marriage and these are mentioned in most dharma sastras like Manu. Not all marriages were arranged like this. For example there was also Gandhava Vivaha aka “love marriage” an example would Sakuntala and Dusyanta. Then there was Rakshasa vivaha, this was common among Kshatriyas where the boy kidnapped the girl, and example would be Krsna and Rukmini. And of course among the Kshatriyas there was the swayamvara where in the girl chose her husband from the many candidates who appeared. Many examples of that, like Draupadi choosing Arjuna. Or Sita choosing Rama after passed the test. Of the 8 types of marriage not all were considered recommendable as they involved drugging the girl or buying the girl etc. Details can be found in Manu and others.

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      • n Vedic culture there were 8 types of marriage and these are mentioned in most dharma sastras like Manu. Not all marriages were arranged like this. For example there was also Gandhava Vivaha aka “love marriage” an example would Sakuntala and Dusyanta. Then there was Rakshasa vivaha, this was common among Kshatriyas where the boy kidnapped the girl, and example would be Krsna and Rukmini. And of course among the Kshatriyas there was the swayamvara where in the girl chose her husband from the many candidates who appeared. Many examples of that, like Draupadi choosing Arjuna. Or Sita choosing Rama after passed the test. Of the 8 types of marriage not all were considered recommendable as they involved drugging the girl or buying the girl etc. Details can be found in Manu and others.

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      • Materialism is a very important part of our life. We experience life through our material body. Properly living in the material world is one of the prerequisites of spirituality. But if it is dictated by someone how are we REALISING?

        How could a guru decide what should I do in my life? The same gurus that created rigid caste system,untochability, burning women? For any marriage to work happily the first thing which is necessary is similarity of core values in both the partners. Now do the gurus check similarity between the core values of the boy and that of the girl? What the girl wants and what the boy wants?

        Choosing our partners can lead to dissatisfaction? Perhaps that’s why a country like India ranks 122 in world happiness index while the United States of America ranks 18.

        During the old ages marriage was bonding between two families today it’s an individualistic decision. Divorce can also occur due to practical reasons like abuse or dissimilarity in core values

        You still didn’t answer how the traditional system checked issues like abuse.

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        • Your understanding is totally messed up. gurus are mentioned only as teachers. Philosophy is something that can’t be understood simply by reading, one needs to practice and preach. It’s not mathematics but a matter of realization. But without any basic knowledge, it will only be a time waste.

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  4. Child marriage does not mean marriage below the attaining the age of adulthood, there may be some exemptions, but a girl becomes marriageable when she gets mensuration and her marriage must be performed within two three years as her body chemistry starts demanding sex so is boy also, this age is ideal for marriage, they easily adjust in new families as well as married couple adjust themselves. Foreign funded feminists and some political leaders which were not aware of good traditions and their advantages made rules against centuries old traditions, culture to spoil Indian family system.
    Now the time has come to change the biased Indian matrimonial laws and scrape all gender biased laws. Present matrimonial laws have created more problems than any benefit.
    Youth must get united and compel Government to bring gender natural laws and scrape all provisions which are against natural requirement of body chemistry of body of both genders.

    Liked by 1 person

      • In child marriage the girl can be and is often below puberty. However, she did not live with the husband until AFTER menarche. Before menarche she would visit her husband, cook and bring food etc then after menarche when strong desire for sex was awakened in her she would not have to look any further than her already wedded husband. She didn’t have to be in anxiety about how she will satisfy this desire and with whom. Her parents had already provided a life partner. With love marriages the often romance ends with marriage. In arranged marriages the romance begins after the marriage.

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    • What a completely bogus article Veena has pasted! Women must never be given independence and always controlled for their own good and teh good of society. For proof see JD Unwin’s “Sex and Culture” Oxford University Press, 1934. The more controlled women are the stronger the society, the more freedom they have the weaker the society becomes until it collapses.This has repeated over and over again through out history. And the weakened society is taken over by a strong patriarchal society where women are under complete male domination. Societies where females push for equality aka domination never survive.

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  5. On Child Marriages

    [Spoken by Rasaraja Dasa, Bhaktivedanta Institute]

    When I was living in the States, someone asked me, “Is it true that in India
    they have child marriages?”

    I said, “Yes, my mother got married when she was eleven.”

    He said, “Isn’t that barbaric?”

    Now, this would put most Indians on the defensive. If you are a
    pseudo-intellectual following one of these shallow Westernized Indian
    writers, you may even vigorously agree! However, by this time I had just
    started reading Srila Prabhhupada’s books, and could thus come up with a
    good response. Already in the late 70s they had separate resting rooms in
    the high schools of Detroit for pregnant school girls. So, I asked him in
    turn, “Is it true that in America even young girls, 11 or 13 years old, get
    pregnant?”

    He said, “Yes.”

    Then I asked him, “So which is more barabaric, child marriages or child
    pregnancy?” The answer was obvious to him.

    Indians busy imitating the West want to give up child marriage, but now they
    will have to accept extra-marital child pregnancies. That is already
    happening. What else can we expect when we let boys and girls mingle
    unrestrictedly?

    Anyway, the point is, as much as every Tom, Dick, and Harry is ready to
    criticize Vedic tradition, let them also try to comprehend its deep
    spiritual dimension. Whether it should be adopted in all its details is
    another question. The first thing is to understand and follow the underlying
    spiritual principles. In this case, the underlying principle is chastity.
    Exactly how that principle is adhered to can be adjusted according to the
    changed circumstances in modern times. But that principle itself should not
    be abandoned.

    (from “Glimpses of Traditional Indian Life,” by HH Bhakti Vikas Swami, p 174)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very right!! That is why I have started this series so that we can understand Vedic Philosophy. Problem is very often we try to explain Philosophy with Science and Technology. I think that is idiotic and should not be done. These are two different fields and one can’t explain the other. Like, History can’t explain Geography or Mathematics, like we can’t explain or experience what the soldiers in War front experience by merely having experience of playing video games alone, the same way we should not try to explain philosophy with ‘science’. Unfortunately, most people who renounce these theories try to show that they are scientific minded. I myself studied Engineering and has two masters including one from an IIT. Other than that, I am working with most cutting age technology in my professional life, and these people very often think I have superstition and my thinking is outdated.

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  6. Brahmacharya must be observed ’til age 25. Swami Sivananda of Divine Life Society explains this concept well and he condemns early age marriage: overpopulation, poverty, poor health, low intelligence are all caused by failure to observe Brahmacharya – both for boys/men and girls/women. Girls were adept in 64 arts before marriage according to Vadakayil.
    Child marriage is utterly repulsive as are forced/arranged unions. Nasty stuff. Who wants a nation full of impoverished weaklings? Follow regulations of living in Grihasta ashram for a sane society.

    http://www.dlshq.org/download/brahmacharya.pdf

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    • Who told you child marriage is forced one? No parent would want bad future for their children and they would always work in best interest of children. Yes, you can say that attaining a minimum age before marriage is necessary. But as explained, children were not living together even after marriage, they used to be betrothed only and lived in their homes and continued their own way of learning life skills.

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  7. Why it should be not legalise if marriage is between same age group child marriage is banned because it is mostly done to old rich man to child girl for money and due to child sex trafficking but I think it should be legalise to same age group because many teenager sexual feeling is used by adult men and women and they get sexually harassed why did teenager did not take the responsibility of what they have done love or consentual sex I know teenager have sexual feeling but they are not given freedom

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