Is Hindu Marriage a Sacrament or Contract ?

Marriage is one of the universal social institution. It is established by the human society to regulate the life of human beings. The Hindu Marriage occupies an important place. Hindu Marriage can be defined as religious sacrament in which man and women are bound for permanent relationship for social, physical and spiritual purpose of Dharma and Procreation. Generally a couple shall be said to married only if they had completed the Saptapadi . It refers to completing seven rounds along with the holy fire which is the witness of their marriage. After completing the seventh step the couple legally becomes husband and wife. There is a following passage in Manu Smriti- “ I hold your hand for saubhagya that you may grow old with your husband you are given to me by the just , the creator, the wise and by the learned people”.
The nature of Hindu Marriage involves the transfer of dominion over the damsel, from her father to her husband and which has always been the foundation of peace and order in any civilised society was amongst Hindus, a settled institution with a religious character attached thereto even at the vedic period. If we turn over the Hindu Shastras or if we have a glance over ancient Hindu Jurisprudence, we mostly find that the marriage ceremony is the last of the ten sacraments. Marriage tie a knot which can never been broken and it is a relation established from birth-to-birth. Some Smritikars have also said that the Hindu marriage is so pure and sacrament that even death cannot break off the relation of wife and husband. The main object of marriage according to Hindus is getting of children and the proper performance of religious sacrament for their further generation. In ancient Hindu Law, Women were to be respected and honoured. Manu has said “women must be honoured and adorned by their fathers, husbands, brothers and brother-in-laws. Where women are honoured , there the Gods are pleased but where they are not honoured , no sacred rites yields rewards .” As marriage is said to sacred, it is irrevocable . The other party to the marriage cannot dissolve it at will. Marriage as a sacramental union implies that it is permanent union. Marriage is a tie where once it gets tie it can’t be untied . The marriage is valid, not only in this life for the rest of seven births of life. Later Hindu Law has introduced the system of Divorce because during the ancient time there was no such terms related to divorce or Judicial separations. Manu disapproves the concept of divorce and remarriage. Hindu scriptures holds the views that marriage is at the root of all religious activities. Marriage is primary for the fulfillment of duties towards a family, a society and the basic aim of marriage is Dharma. According to Mahabharata, “The wife is the source of Dharma, Artha, Karma and Moksha”. A man is considered incomplete before his marriage i.e he was only half of his self only after the commencement of the marriage he would be completely born and hence the wife is known as Ardhangini but now after the enactment of Hindu Mariage Act, 1955 Sec 13 DIVORCE and Sec 13(B) DIVORCE BY MUTUAL CONSENT Hindu Marriage is no more a complete sacrament. Widow Remarriage and hence the sacramental character of The Hindu Marriage is done away with it. Hindu Marriage is no more an eternal union puropose which is regarded as unity of two souls for religious and spiritual purposes. The Hindu marriage contemplated by the HINDU MARRIAGE ACT, 1955 hardly remains sacramental.
It is now subject of debate that either Hindu Marriage is a contract or still a sacrament . Marriage is regarded as a highest social relationship of a human being in a society. Sec 5 and Sec 12 of the Hindu marriage Act, are the pertinent provisions to know whether Hindu Marriage is Sacrament or a Contract. So, it can be concluded that though Hindu Marriage has some elements of a Contract but it can’t be regarded as purely a Contract.