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Marriage by Abduction (Rakshasa Vivaha) in Hinduism

By Editorial Staff

Rakshasa Vivah was described by Hindu scriptures as forceful seizure of a maiden from her home.

It is generally known that ancient Indian law recognized eight types of marriage; that is as follows:

1. Brahma Vivaha (Arranged M

arriage) : giving the girl to a man with dowry.

2. Daiva Vivaha: giving the girl to the priest himself in lieu of his fees.

3. Arsha Vivaha: giving the girl to a man after accepting a bride-price.

4. Prajapatya Vivaha: giving the girl to a man without demanding a bride-price.

5. Gandharva Vivaha: Love Marriage.

6. Asura Vivaha: marriage to a purchased girl.

7. Rakshava Vivaha: marriage to a kidnapped girl.

8. Paishacha Vivaha: marriage to a girl after seducing. (1)

I would like to concentrate here on the Rakshasa Vivaha and Paisacha Vivaha. Paishacha Vivah was the most horrible form of all types of marriages. In this the bride is not only kidnapped, but she is first molested or stolen amidst her tribe. Usually when her relatives are asleep, or in a state of intoxication during a tribal festival, this act is carried out in stealth. This form of marriage was most prevalent among the Hindu Sutras. The difference between the above mentioned forms of marriage as far as legal consequences are concerned exceedingly small. From the legal point of view, all forms of marriage could in principle be divided into orthodox forms of marriage (Brahma Vivaha, the Daiva Vivaha, the Arsa Vivaha, the Prjapatya Vivaha) and other forms of marriage (Asura Vivaha, Gandharva Vivahaa, Rakshasa Vivahaa and Paisacha Vivaha).

A marriage contracted according to one of the orthodox forms of marriage entails different legal consequences from a marriage contracted in other forms. In ancient India, the form of marriage (विवाह) signified in what way the marriage was contracted.(2)

Rakshasa Vivaha and Paisacha Vivaha are based on forcible abduction of a girl that has not consented to this marriage. According to Hindu scriptures, the forcible abduction is prohibited. But, if this forcible abduction is prohibited and considered a crime, how is it possible to admit a marriage based on forcible abduction was allowed? Of course it could not be allowed.

However, this form of marriage is recognized as unlawful probably for members of the Brahman caste only, but permissible for kings and Kshatriya caste.

Dr. Ludwik Sternbach presents many texts from the most important Hindu scriptures on the marriage by abduction in ancient India. He says in this regard: “I have based my conclusions upon the most important Dharmsastras, Arthasastras, Kamasutras, Grhyasutras and the Mahabharata and other Hindu scriptures.”(3)

Moreover, we find some Hindu scriptures praise abducting a girl for marriage, I am quoting here a passage by Johann Jakob Meyer who says in this regard:

“Not only Krishna, the conscienceless fellow, who rose to the lofty dignity of highest god from being an obscure new-comer, is set before us as a bold woman snatcher and not only the Arjuna so wrongly praised to the skies by later revisers of the Kuru saga, but also the truly noble Bhishma. Among his heroic deeds we often find the abduction of maidens, and when he is dead, his mother Ganga sings his praises for this too. Twice the Mahabharata tells the tale of how he carried off the daughter of the king of Kashi for his half-brother. In the first and very vivid passage we read: “When now Bhishma, wisest of the wise, saw that his brother had reached manhood’s years, he set his thoughts on finding him a wife. Then Bhishma heard how the three daughters of the king of Kashi (like the fairies of heaven they were) were all holding their choice of a husband.”(4) Until he lifted the maidens onto his chariot.

The abovementioned quote denotes clearly that abducting the girls of the king was regarded as a heroic deed and Bhishma has been regarded as the wisest of the wise.

On the contrary, Islam puts a harsh punishment for those who make mischief in the land and damage the security of the people.

The Glorious Qur’an says in this regard:

Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment. (Al-Ma’idah 5:33)

However, the punishment is more serious if it is related to the woman. The one who accuses a chaste woman with false accusation is cursed by Allah, the Almighty, and angels in this world and the Hereafter. The Glorious Qur’an says:

Indeed, those who [falsely] accuse chaste, unaware and believing women are cursed in this world and the Hereafter; and they will have a great punishment. (An-Nur 24:23)

This punishment is prescribed by Allah, the Almighty, on just the accusation and slandering of a chaste woman, then how severe punishment would be for those who abduct a woman or terrorize her? I think if the punishment prescribed by Allah (glory be to Him) for adultery was implemented in modern societies accurately, there would be no rape at all that occurs daily in India and other countries of the world. It is really strange that Hindu scriptures praise the act of abducting a girl for marriage. Such nature is totally far from the spirit of a divine scripture.

It is really unreasonable that the marriage based on abducting or stealing a girl was allowed for kings and Kashtriya caste. It is surprising from the ancient Hindu law that allowed such unnatural marriage. How can we seek a reasonable cause for this type of injustice? Is it possible that a heavenly book may include such law? Allowing such marriage is an insult to the dignity of a woman by all standards. Such laws and principles can not be constituted by a wise man, not to mention Allah the Wise, the All-Knowing.

On the other hand, Islamic law never permits any marriage without the consent of the both parties; the bride and groom.

However, this type of marriage does not exist in India these days, perhaps it was before the advent of Islam, because the Islamic culture has left a significant impact on Indian culture and it reformed many Hindu religious ideologies and stereotypes, as well as, Islam has enlightened the religious thinking in India. For example, Islam was the active element in abolishing the tradition of Sati (a custom of burning the widow to death on her husband’s pyre). In the 16th century, steps to prohibit Sati were taken by the Mughal rulers Humayun and his son Akbar.(5) Thus Islam was a divine blessing even for Hindu women.

____________________

(1) http://gauravprakashspace.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/types-of-hindu-marriagevivaha/. Last accessed on 26-10-2013

(2) Ludwik Sternbach, Forms of Marriage in Ancient India And Their Development, Bharatiya Vidya, India, 1951, pp.63, 64.

(3) Ludwik Sternbach, Forms of Marriage in Ancient India And Their Development, Bharatiya Vidya, India, 1951, pp.63.

(4) Sexual Life in Ancient India, New York, Barnes & Noble, Inc. 1953, pp. 68, 69.

(5) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/575795/suttee. Last accessed on 22-10-2013.

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5 thoughts on “Marriage by Abduction (Rakshasa Vivaha) in Hinduism

zam zam cola

Islam lives in past but Hinduism runs with time.Islam runs through book. Hinduism runs through dharma and right karma which emanates from it.
In Hinduism they had SWAYAMVARAS where the king used to give his daughter to those prince who were able and worthy after a intense competition. In Islam they just say that we don’t do this or that but Islamic history is opposite of that. What Arabs did to Persian women is well known. What Arabs and Muslims did in India subcontinent to woman is well known. Only the enlightened person can see the lies spread by Muslims.
How was Bhishma killed and who was Shikhandi and his relation to Amba. Go read the scriptures well then make this foolish attempt to show Hinduism in bad light. In Hinduism bad karma will always get back at you. Amba, Ambika and Ambalika were abducted by Bhishma for his half brother’s marriage. Amba got revenge for this bad actions of bhishma through Shikhandi. Nothing goes unpunished.Islam for Hindus 🙂 I feel it should be Islam for the illiterates who jump the gun.

mookerjeeananda

There is a problem, but I think the author is seeing the problem from a wrong direction. This kind of marriage was an allowed form of elopement. In all known cases, the girl was a co-conspirator and often there was some external help. For example, when Krishna found out that his sister loves Arjuna but Kirshna’s elder brother Balaram was hell-bent on marrying their sister to Duryadhana, Krishna helped the couple in love to elope. Same happened much later with Prithwiraj and Sanjukta, although we don’t know if there was any external help or not. Now the question is, why such elopement was necessary even in a system where girls were able to choose their husbands through Sayamvars? The main problem lies there. This was because kings used to use their daughters as pawns in their political chess-board (marriage politics). Even girls were secretly told by her father whom to choose in the sayamvar. Since wise people foresaw this possibility ahead of time, they made provisions for such elopements.

Zara

Such a smart analysis! Keep it up. Filled with facts and logic.

Divya

The problem here is that the Hindu scripture is honest. We don’t modify situations to present our religion as more justified unlike Islam. Why… you say that in Islamic marriage both parties are sought for consent. Say that the groom has not only kidnapped the bride but threatens to harm her dear ones if she doesn’t agree for marriage or he threatens to rape the bride and the bride is forced to marry him to save face. So in above scenarios how exactly does your great justice giving Islam protect the women. That’s what is going on now in Pakistan. According to your theory no rapes should be happening in Muslim countries like middle East iran Iraq Pakistan…but is it the reality! The life of women there is so horrible… Please enlighten me on this topic

Divya

I am not against Islam or anything…. I respect all religions . I just hate the fact that you are trying so hard to project Islam as better religion than Hinduism and absolutely and hillariously failing at it . Because you have to mature enough to accept the fact that all religions are equal and all have their pros and cons. Honestly after reading this article I feel like the author is a 18 year old teenager.

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