Before India became independent and the British formulated the legal system, Hindu marriages were governed by local customs and Hindu law books.
They recognized eight types of marriages. The eight types of traditional marriages recognized in Hindu law books are listed below.
This is a marriage through mutual consent, in which the father of the bride gives away his daughter in marriage to the bridegroom whom he formally approves. The marriages are conducted according to Vedic customs in the presence of elders on both sides.
In this marriage the father of the bride offers her to a groom, usually a Brahman priest, as a sacrificial offering, gift, or fees in return for the services rendered by the priest.
In the past, these marriages were common among the ascetic communities, seers and sages, who were allowed by tradition to marry and raise families. In this marriage the father would give his consent in exchange for a cow and a bull.
These marriages were popular among the commoners or the simple folk (praja) who could not afford the traditional, expensive marriages. In these marriages, the bride and the groom would exchange garlands in the presence of friends and family as witnesses and declare themselves formally married.
In this marriage, the bride and the groom married secretly by mutual consent, but without the consent of the bride’s father and without a formal wedding ceremony. The bride and the groom simply exchange garlands and enter the marital relationship. Since there was no formal ceremony and the consent of the elders was not obtained, such marriages were not socially approved or recognized by the families of the groom or the bride.
In this marriage, the bride’s father gives his consent under pressure, fear, or due to material, economic or financial consideration offered by the groom. For example, if a groom is from a rich family or a powerful family likes a girl and wants to marry her by all means, whether she is inclined or not, he may take recourse to this method to win over her father and marry her.
This is a coercive marriage, in which instead of taking the bride’s consent brute force is used to force her to marry the groom. Today’s such marriages will not only be considered unlawful but criminal, since they involve the use of violence, kidnap, and even rape.
In this marriage, the groom would rape the bride first without her consent or after making her unconscious. People in feudal societies resorted to this type of marriage to settle score, seek vengeance or establish their authority and control over others.