Hindu dating traditions

The last type of marriage is called demonic Paisachika and considered the most heinous because in it the bride is first raped when she was asleep, intoxicated or out of senses, and forced into a marriage. Rapes are rampant in present-day Indian society, but unlike in the past now they result in court cases rather than marriages. The law books are clear about which types of marriages are lawful. They make it abundantly clear that the consent of the father is of utmost importance because as her father and chief provider or nourisher he is primarily responsible for her birth, life, and existence.

Hence, no marriage is lawful if his permission is not taken before her marriage or if she is obtained by tempting him with money against his free will. According to the law books, women who are married in this manner are not qualified to be called lawful wives or have the right to share the obligatory duties dharma of their husbands. The Hindu law books prevaricated the possibility of premarital sex with their emphasis upon maidenhood as a precondition for marriage. Traditionally, the Hindu code of conduct, as enshrined in the law books, does not recognize any marriage in which the bride is not a maiden.

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This is true in case of all the eight types of marriages which we have discussed before. The bride has to be a virgin for the marriage to consummate. Otherwise, she is automatically disqualified. Such unequivocal emphasis upon virginal purity of the bride precluded any possibility of premarital sex by maidens.

It also discouraged men from engaging them in sexual relationships and incur evil karma. The evidence that the Hindu law books intended the sacrament of marriage for maidens only and men were meant to marry only maidens as part of their family tradition and professional duties can be found in the tradition of Hindu marriage itself. It becomes obvious when you consider the names that are used to describe the various customs and practices of a typical Hindu marriage. For example, in all the ceremonial practices associated with Hindu marriages, the bride is invariably referred to as maiden kanya only, not as woman, as evident from the following.

The very act of giving away the bride by the father to the bridegroom is called kanya-dan, which means giving away the maiden in a marriage. Both the words mentioned above, kanya-dan and kanya-grahanam, are also alternative terms to Hindu marriage. The price that is meant to be paid to the father by the groom or his parents is called kanya-sulkam, meaning tax, or debt, paid to obtain the virgin. The father has a right to collect it because he takes care of the bride up to her marriage in good faith as his duty, whereas her husband is morally and karmically responsible for her upbringing from the day of her birth.

If the bride has any defect or blemish which effects her suitability or compatibility for marriage, it is called kanya-dhosham. For the good of all, it has to be resolved before she is married. The dowry given by the bride's father to the groom's parents is called kanya-dhanam. It is currently one of the major social evils of Hinduism in several parts of India. From the above clearly Hindu marriages traditionally recognized only maidens as qualified for marriages.

Virginity of the bride in traditional Hindu marriages is not just a moral or social imperative, but a spiritual one also. During the marriage ceremony, the bride has to be gifted to the gods before she can be married to the bridegroom. Upon receiving the virgin bride as a gift, the gods give her away in turn as their gift to the groom in good trust, and the groom has to promise them in the presence of celestial witnesses that he will look after well until his last breath. The agreement is important to the gods, because they depend upon it ensure their nourishment, which will come to them as offerings when the married couple perform rituals, sacraments, and sacrificial ceremonies as part of their obligatory duties to discharge their karmic debts or to commemorate auspicious events in their lives, such as birth, conception, initiation, etc.

Thus, every marriage in Hinduism is a covenant between humans and gods in which the bride becomes the consideration or the gift for its execution. For the gods it ensures the continuity of the tradition and another addition to their network of providers. Therefore, during the marriage ceremony the bride's father first gifts his daughter to the gods, and gods then give her away as their gift to the bridegroom in return for a promise that he would protect her and nourish them, and ensure the order and regularity of society through his progeny.

Maidenhood of the bride is vital to the agreement because gods will not accept the bride if she is already taken by another or gifted to another. Hence, Vedic beliefs make virginal purity a divine necessity in Hindu marriage tradition.

Deep Rooted Indian Traditions

The rules of celibacy and chastity prescribed by the law books for the boys and girls precluded any possibility of premarital sex among the children of upper castes. In fact, boys faced even stricter regulations than the girls before their marriage and during their education, which precluded any possibility on their part to indulge in premarital sex or sexual misconduct. The phase itself was called the phase of celibacy brahmacarya, which in most cases lasted until the age of During this phase, they were not allowed to put on any make up, wear ornaments, and seek any form of pleasure or entertainment.

For them the law books prescribed several rules to keep them segregated from the opposite sex and help them focus upon their education which was vital to their future survival and continuation of family tradition. Thus by prescribing a strict code of conduct for both boys and girls, providing ideals, prescribing punishments as deterrence, and by enforcing them through various institutions, the elders in Vedic society prevented the incidence of premarital sex and the problem of misconduct among them.

Since in the Vedic society maidenhood was important to the marriage of girls, they were closely guarded by her parents or her guardians and not allowed to go out or meet men alone. They were also denied schooling. Whatever education they received was either from their parents or husbands. Mass education of women in India became possible only in the last years during the last phase of the British rule. Such controls, and carefully laid out strategies of the Vedic society, prevented the possibility of premarital sex among young people.

They helped them regulate their conduct around the central purpose of practicing dharma and ensuring the order and regularity of society. Adherence to dharma, and belief in rebirth and karma inspired them to live responsibly knowing that their lives were the result of their past deed and they had an obligation towards their parents, gods, and others to continue their family tradition, and preserve their name and reputation. Although India derives its original name Bharat from the legendary King Bharata who was born out of a secret wedlock gandharva marriage between Shakuntala, a beautiful princess, and Dushyanta, a native king, it is important not to generalize such incidences and infer from them that premarital sex was common or lover marriage were popular in ancient India.

The truth is, in the earlier days, as it is now, mainstream Hinduism neither approved free sex nor condoned premarital sex.

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If there were any exceptions to them in the past, they very rarely happened and mostly with regard to princely families and warrior classes who considered themselves above the law they promulgated. Shakuntala herself was born out of a union between Meneka, a celestial nymph, and Viswamitra, a renowned warrior sage. Indra sent her to tempt him and disturb his austerities. She succeeds in her attempt to entice him, which led to her motherhood.

After giving birth to her, neither of them took care of her. Menaka left for heaven and Vishwamitra returned to his austere life, abandoning the newly born child. A sage named Kanva took pity on her and brought her up in his hermitage. Young Shakutala who was by birth a heavenly beauty grew in his care to become a beautiful and virtuous maiden.

During one chance encounter with Dushaynta, a neighboring king, she fell in love with him and secretly married him, which subsequently led to a lot of problems for her. She became pregnant, and when she went to the royal court, due to a curse Dushyanta could not recognize her or acknowledge their marriage. Bharata, who was born out the union grew up to become the ruler of the entire Indian subcontinent. In marrying Dushyanta, Shakuntala did not violate any Vedic law nor engaged in misconduct.

She was not brought up by her original father.

Hence, she had no obligation to seek him permission. She and Dushyanta belonged to the warrior class. As discussed before, the secret marriage gandharva by which they married was recognized as a lawful for them by the law books. Most importantly she did not engage in premarital sex. She was a maiden when she married Dushyanta. Hence, the son who was born to her through the wedlock was also legitimate and he was perfectly qualified to rule the country as the king. Clearly, her actions did not violate her chastity or broke any marriage traditions and customs. Therefore, it is wrong to suggest that Shakuntala engaged in premarital sex or Bharata was born out of unlawful wedlock.

However, it was true that in ancient India, the ruling classes enjoyed many privileges both as protectors of their people and upholder of the laws. The rules that applied to common people did not apply to them. Hence, if they took liberties with their sexuality or morality, they got away with it. Since they had the power to create and enforce laws, there were not enough checks and balances upon their own conduct. Most kings engaged in promiscuity and married many women.

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During wars they captured and enslaved women. Some they kept and some they gave away as gifts. They also received maidens from vassals and regional satraps as gifts or part of tributary. In contrast, the women who lived in the royal households enjoyed little freedom. They served their king in various ways, as his queens, wives, servants, nannies, concubines, bodyguards, or mothers to his successors. While kings chose to live as they wished, their women lived in seclusion and under close scrutiny.

It is possible that the king's children enjoyed greater freedom and privileges, but we do not know how far it translated into sexual misconduct. We find exceptions to the Vedic ideals in some ancient legends such as the ones recorded in the Puranas and in the epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. For example, Satyavathi, the great grandmother of the Pandavas had a sexual encounter with sage Parasara before she married king Shantanu. Sage Vyasa was born out of their union. Kunti, the queen mother of Pandavas, bore a son Karna through the Sun god before she officially married Pandu.

Since the child was born before her marriage, she abandoned him by putting him in a basked and leaving it in a river. He was found by a couple who lived in a village down the stream and brought him up as an ordinary child. Such exceptions were rare and comparable to the legends found in other cultures, such as the story of Mother Mary giving birth to Jesus as a virgin. Just as Mary remained a virgin even after the conception of Jesus, these women remained chaste even after they bore children through chance encounters.

For example, although sage Parasara engaged in some form of sexual union with Satyavathi, he did not take away her maidenhood or violated her chastity. We have to believe that he made her even purer by removing the smell of fish from her body and imparting to her a sweet fragrance.

Symbolically it means he removed her past life smells or impressions vasanas and restored her chastity and virginal purity so that she would be fit to be the wife of a king. His encounter with her was also not a chance event. It was destined to happen because the fragrance which he imparted to her body attracted the attention of king Shantanu and resulted in her marriage to him, which in turn led to the beginning of a legend which is immortalized in the Mahabharata.

It was the same with Kunti also. She was bestowed with the miraculous power to summon gods to the earth by her mere wish. One day, in a rush of feelings, charmed by the radiance of the Sun, she summoned him, which resulted in the birth of karna. His birth was also not a chance event, but part of her destiny, which was closely intertwined with the birth of Pandavas, Kauravas and Lord Krishna himself.

As in case of Satyavathi, her encounter with the Sun god did not result in her loss of chastity. In Hinduism, as Isvara himself, the Sun symbolizes the purity of the highest kind suddha sattva. Hence, his contact with her would have made her even purer and preserved her chastity.

In fact, their union was not physical, but mental or psychical. The stories of Shakuntala, Satyavathi and Kunti clearly suggest that Vedic people often wrestled with the contradictions between idealism and reality, but rationalized them to the extent possible to avoid ambiguity and moral confusion. Even in cases where virtuous women seemingly transgressed the prevailing norms as the play of Destiny or the consequence of their karma, they struggled to maintain their chastity and inner purity, and kept their high moral ground.

Their lives also prove that while women were subject to extra scrutiny, men got away with their transgressions, without having to explain their conduct. In ancient India women of higher castes were subjected to many restrictions, and enjoyed little freedom. In contrast, women of lower castes lived more freely and had fewer restrictions. Since their lives and conduct hardly mattered to the men of higher castes, unless they were in direct contact or under their direct control, they lived relatively freely without the weight of the Vedic morality pressing them down.

From the available sources we can conclude that they worked as solders, laborers, hunters, spies, body guards, horse riders, fisher women, boat women, nannies, nurses, dancers, medicine gatherers, sorcerers, cooks, magicians, flower girls, washer women, potters, distillers, singers, temple maids, entertainers, prostitutes, caterers, cleaners, water carriers, musicians, wood carvers, and so on.

Some of them also worked as teachers and trainers in women related professions. These professions became popular and participation of women in them increased as the Indian subcontinent witnessed urbanization and the emergence of several major towns and cities Puras and Nagaras. Those who did not come under the direct preview of Vedic culture enjoyed even greater freedom in choosing their professions, marriage partners, or even engaging in sex with married men. They belonged to different social and ethnic backgrounds, and practiced various professions. Ancient India witnessed the rise of Lokayata sect.

Its followers were atheists and materialists who did not accept the authority of the Vedas or Vedic laws. It is also possible that some women followed the sect and ignored the norms of Vedic society. Apart from them there were other classes of women upon whom Vedic society had minimal influence. We may include in this category women who were condemned, excommunicated or declared outcasts, women who were captured in wars and later freed, women who earned their freedom by escaping from their oppressive homes or paying off their debt to their past masters, women who were thrown out of their homes by their men, women who by profession were prostitutes and entertainers, women who were sold into slavery or bondage and obtained freedom, women who could not find marriage partners because of their disability, social standing or family reputation, women who were kidnapped, raped and later freed, and women who were abandoned by their deceitful husbands, or separated from them because of death, imprisonment, banishment, wars, famines, and calamities.

Since societal influence upon them was weak such women defied the norms and lived freely without the fear of retribution or condemnation for their sexual preference, relationships, or lifestyles. We have painted this broad canvas of women to suggest that life in ancient India was complex and heterogeneous and the Vedic laws did not govern the lives of all. Apart from Hinduism, there were Buddhism and Jainism besides hundreds of sects, teacher traditions, ascetic groups, and schools of philosophy.

Therefore, while we may speak about the conditions of those times, we cannot be definitive. A few decades ago, premarital sex was almost unknown in middle-class Indian families. If any people indulged in it, it was by force, or without public knowledge. If such incidents became public, the people who were involved in it were exposed to a lot of ridicule and condemnation. Men or women with questionable reputation had far and fewer chances of finding a suitable marriage partner. Their families also suffered because of such behavior.

About 50 or years ago gender segregation in public gatherings was the norm in society. It was practiced in educational institutions, from schools to colleges, and to universities. There used to be separate seating arrangements for both sexes in the classrooms. It not only minimized their interaction but the possibility of secret affairs and premarital sex.

Those who freely mingled with the opposite sex in public attracted negative attention and even censure. Since Hindu tradition suggested that the bride and the bridegroom should not see each other until their fixed marriage, dating was unheard of. The segregation of sexes extended to other areas also.

To the extent possible men and women tried to keep a distance in trains and buses, movie theaters, restaurants, and other public places. Since arranged marriages were the norm, such behavior was encouraged by parents and elders. The segregation which was almost universal in India, except perhaps in some metropolitan cities, minimized the possibility of premarital sex and the consequential problem arising from it. It certainly helped the families to cope with social pressures and control their children's conduct in pubic, while it also probably led to social problems such as eve-teasing, aggression, and violence against women.

The situation has changed in the last decade or so mainly due to the increasing influence of modern education, urbanization, television, Internet, mobile phones, and cultural influences from the West. Now the young people of today have many avenues to communicate through mobile phones, text messages, emails and social networks without being obvious and without being noticed by their parents.

As a result, premarital sex in Hindu society is now said to be a growing problem, and more evident among the urban youth who are also most irreligious. In the rural areas, parents still have some control over their children, and segregation of sexes and traditional lifestyles can still be seen in many places. Rural children also learn more about their religion from their parents than the urban children.

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We have to see how, in the long run, these developments shape Hindu society. As religious beliefs and traditional values continue to lose their hold upon people, parents have to now deal with changing attitudes of their children toward such issues as premarital sex, prostitution, adultery, and homosexuality. With rapid urbanization and with abnormally high population density in the cities where it is virtually impossible for anyone to avoid social contact or communication with the opposite sex, the youth of today are becoming more expressive in their personal choices and sexual preferences.

Protected by constitutional rights and conditioned by secular education and modern worldviews, they are challenging the religious morality and social order which they hold to be outdated, irrelevant, and restrictive. But in India, teens would hang out with their peers, consist of boys and girls, then through the group they will know someone and might have interest towards them. In India, being single is very uncomfortable.

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Singles can not participate in any religious ceremonies because according to their culture it was unholy. Thus, being single in India means you have to get ready to receive any criticism from the society. Single life in India is easier form men than for women. Men receive less judgement and criticism. Furthermore they would be judged as having continuous financial problem. In some region in India, dating is still uncommon things that couples who date prefer to keep their relationships secret.

The levels of secrecy depends on how strict and conservative dating is in their local culture. In a region like Madhya Pradesh or Tamil, couples keep their dating relationship a total secret due to the fear of moral police. While in a more modern place such as Delhi, people tend to be more open about their dating relationship. However they keep some things on their own, such as whether they already have sex.

They usually open up to close friends with the similar liberated thought. In , it is legally decided by three judges that there is nothing wrong with a man and a woman without marriage bond living together. However this is still very uncommon in suburban area.


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Their customs said cohabitation was a taboo, and the rules were rooted deeply in their heart. On the contrary, this thing is becoming more and more common in the big cities.


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India had laws against homosexual, with the Delhi High Court even ordered decriminalization for gays. Any homosexual relationship worth 10 years jail punishment and homosexual marriage are still illegal up to this. Most of gays in India would go to Nepal to registered their legal marriage. Indian society still denying the existence of gays within their communities. In some cases, homosexuals in India receive big hatred and death threats. They also disowned by their family due to the shame of having gay in family.

Although parents no longer setting up a meeting for their children, they still arrange a marriage for them. This is why parents involvement are still high. As long as the children has not married yet, their parents are still responsible to them. This is not something that is legally forbidden, but this is what their elders taught them, and passed down for generation.

You have to keep you relationship low profiled in front of the public. When you are still dating, hold hands and light hug is accepted, but a peck on the cheek or even kissing is forbidden. This is something happened only in big cities in India, where a one night hook ups where some short flings with no commitment and feelings involve becoming more and more of a lifestyle. While youngsters find it sexy and challenging, this certainly give elders heart attack.

This culture is becoming popular because Indian, especially women, find this less burdensome for them. Modernization and technology are surely part of Indian society today. Urban Indian, who are more modern than the rural ones, make the most of social media use for dating.