Hinduism: marriage and divorce
Hindus see marriage as an important duty - the beginning of a new family unit and the coming together of two extended families.
Hindu sacraments are called samskars and the sacraments performed at the time of a wedding are called Vivah Samskar.
This samskar marks the start of the second and the most important stage of life called the Grihistha Ashrama, which involves setting up of a new family unit.
Hinduism teaches that marriage is an important duty for men and women; choosing to stay single (celibate) is not encouraged. A marriage does not just join together a man and a woman, but two extended families. Because of this, arranged marriages have been common in Hinduism with parents introducing people to each other.
Hindu weddings take place at a time chosen according to the horoscopes of both partners. A horoscope is an astrological forecast of a person's future based on the position of the planets and stars at a given moment. In India it would take place at the bride's home, but in the UK it is just as likely that a hall or reception room would be booked, as large numbers of people would be expected to attend.
The bride and her family welcome the groom and his relations. The groom is brought to a specially decorated mandap (canopy).
The bride is given away by her parents who join her hands with those of the groom.
The priest lights a fire to honour the god Agni, and recites mantras in Sanskrit (sacred language of the Hindu scriptures). He invites the groom to make offerings to the fire as certain prayers are said. The groom asks for the marriage to be blessed with children. The bride shares in this act by touching the groom's shoulder.
The end of the bride's sari, which hangs over her shoulder, is tied to her husband's scarf to show that they are joined together. Often the bride puts her foot on a stone to show that she is willing to perform her duties as a wife.
The couple take seven steps around the sacred fire, with the groom's right hand on the bride's right shoulder. This is the main part of the ceremony and is called saptapadi. As the couple walk around the sacred fire they say a prayer at each step asking for the blessings of:
The groom and his family make offerings of barley to the fire, and the guests and the priest bless the couple.
Traditionally Hindu marriages were arranged by the families of the couple; some marriages are still arranged in this way. However where Hindus live in countries where it is more usual for people to find their own marriage partner they are adopting or adapting some of the customs of the society in which they live. However a marriage is arranged, the couple usually feel it is very important to have the blessing of their families.
Hinduism places a very high value on marriage and does not approve of divorce [Divorce: The legal ending of a marriage before the death of a spouse. ]. In practice, however, it is recognised that marriages do not always work and divorces do take place. Faithfulness within marriage is expected, and adultery is not approved of.
Self-control is an important aspect of Hindu teaching. During the Brahmacharya stage of life (generally birth to around 25 years) young people are traditionally concentrating on their education. Sexual relationships would be a distraction at this time, and they are encouraged to avoid them. In a society such as the UK where people are marrying later and where there is so much attention given to sex generally, keeping to the ideal can be very difficult for young Hindus.
|Year||Number of divorces||Year||Number of divorces|
|Year||Number of marriages||Year||Number of marriages|
|Year||Number of marriages||Percentage of marriages|
|1990||-||47% of all marriages|
|2004||184,910||68% of all marriages|
|2005||160,270||65% of all marriages|