Marriages among Hindus is considered as one of the most sacred bond between two adults. It is a social institution and is one of the 16 sanskaras of Hindus. There are basically two reasons why a Hindu marry i.e. yagya performance with his wife and for sexual affinity. Marriage is a religious duty which every Hindu is expected to comply with for performing religious ceremonies and procreation of children. Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is an Act which deals with different aspects related to Hindu marriages. It includes various duties and obligations governing the parties married under hindu ceremonies. Section 7 of the Act deals with the necessary ceremonies for a Hindu marriage.
Section 7 of HMA, 1955
As per Section 7 of the Act provides that; a hindu marriage may be solemonised in accordance with the customary rites and ceremonies of either of the parties.
Customary rites and Ceremonies
In this section customary rites and ceremonies refers to the Shashtrik ceremonies. These ceremonies are adopted by a community for a very long time. They are ancient, definitive and obligatory in nature. These ceremonies can be different in different communities. Parties are given the freedom to choose the customary rites and ceremonies of a boy or a girl. There is no compulsion on that, but whatever ceremony they choose it must be complied to its entirety. For instance, if all the essential ceremonies are choosen from the boy’s side then the whole marriage has to be done with their ceremonies. All the significant ceremonies must be performed.
Some essential ceremonies;
- Homa – an oblation in the sacred fire.
- Panigrahana – taking hold of the bride’s hand by the bridgegroom and going round the fire to the chnat of vedic mantras.
- Kanyadanam – father gifting the bride to the groom
- Saptapadi – taking seven steps around the sacried fire.
All these are mentioned as important rites for the Hindu marriage by Asvalayana Grihyasutra. However various marriages are not done as per these ceremonies such as marriages in Sikhs and other communities. Still they are governed by Hindu Marriage Act, since Section 7 gives the liberty to do so.
Saptapadi has a special mention under Section 7(2) of Hindu Marriage Act. It is an essential ceremony in those communities who follow it. Marriage is said to be solemonised after the 7th step. Until and unless 7th step is not completed the marriage is not solemonised.
Cases related to Section 7
- In Santhal community, smearing or rubbing of vermilion on the girl’s head by a Santhal man, would amount of marriage. The girl is then expected to either live with the husband or go for divorce as per Santhal tradition. Previously before Hindu Marriage Act, forceful smearing of vermilion was also considered as a valid marriage but now it is not seen as a good law.
- Namita Patnaik Mohanty v. Deelip K. Patnaik – This case is of an oria couple who got married as per ‘bibah bandhan agreement’. Parties admitted that the marriage was registered document. They lived as husband and wife and later when there were certain disputes, the husband moved to court says that the document was fraudulent or fabricated. Court held that Section 7 was complied with and the husband has willingly entered into ‘bibah bandhan agreement’. He cannot challenge it.
- Provisions of Bigamy – in Lakshmi Devi v. Satyanarayan court held that Homa and Saptapadi are essential ceremonies of a Hindu marriage. In case of bigamy, it is necessary to prove that these ceremonies were perfomeed in the second marriage. Untill then second marriage is not solemonised. Hence t person cannot be held under the offence of bigamy. Similarly in Ramadevi v. Ashok Vyas, court held that second mariage has to be proved by acutually aducing evidences that there was performance of essential ceremonies in the second marriage. Unless by the state amendments one is excluded from showing the evidences.
- Burden of proof – the presumption is always in favour of solemonisation of marriage. There are three reasons for the same; one is when a man and woman are cohabiting for a long time; second is when community accepts them as husband and wife; logically no person on purpose would enter into a void or invalid marriage. Burden of proof lies with that person who is challenging the factum of marriage.
Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act hence deals with the important ceremonies and customary rites. Without these ceremonies a Hindu marriage can be nullified in the worst case senarios. Law provides liberty to the parties for performance of these ceremonies. Hindu marriage Act applies to numerous communities and religions hence it would have been unjust to name certain ceremonies in the act itself.