Thursday, July 25, 2024

Gandharva Vivaha and its Parallels with Modern Live-In Relationships

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Vedic Hindu marriage and traditions placed a great importance on the sacred unions between men and women. They aimed at building a harmonious partnership between two individuals to support family values, moral ethics, personal growth, and civilizational progress.

Types of Hindu Marriages
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The union of two individuals legally, spiritually, and emotionally are the underlying principles of all Vedic marriages. Vedic India recognized at least eight types of marriages. Among them, Gandharva Vivaha stands out as the most relatable to the sensibilities of contemporary Indian society’s Live-In relationships.

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What is Gandharva Vivaha?

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In Gandharva Vivaha, societal norms and obligations take a backseat, allowing the couple to prioritize their emotional connection and compatibility. This form of ancient Hindu marriage is solely based on mutual consent and love between the bride and groom. This type of marriage does not require an elaborate ceremony or formal ritual. The couple can freely choose to live together and solemnize their relationship in a more informal and personal manner. In Vedic times, Gandharva Vivaha required just the consent of the couple involved. However, they couple was required to announce the marriage to society and family members.

Gandharva Vivaha holds the closest resemblance to the relationships and aspirations of modern Indians. This type of marriage emphasizes the importance of love, attraction, and personal choice in forming a union. It celebrates the idea that genuine love and compatibility are the foundation of a successful relationship.

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Gandharva Vivaha and its Relatability to Modern Indians:

Gandharva Vivaha reflects the modern Indian desire for emotional fulfillment, individual autonomy, and the freedom to choose one’s partner based on mutual understanding and personal preferences. This type of union serves as a reminder that love and mutual consent should guide our relationship choices in an era where personal happiness and self-expression are valued.

This unique form of marriage in Vedic traditions holds an intriguing connection to the concept of live-in relationships in modern times. 

Gandharva Vivaha exemplifies the notion that love should be the foundation of a relationship. Similarly, modern live-in relationships are characterized by a couple’s choice to live together without a formal marriage or rituals related to marriage. Such relationships are driven by an emotional bond and personal choices. However, the public declaration of Gandharva Vivaha was a requirement for societal acceptance of the union. Such declarations are missing from modern day live- in couples. Due to precedence of ancient acceptance of informal unions as marriage, modern Indian law also looks at long-term live-in relationships as a type of union between a man and woman equal to that of marriage. Women and men in such relationships are considered spouses and partners in life. Moreover, in cases of separation or death, the laws of inheritance may also apply.

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Should all Live-In relationships be Equated to Gandharva Vivah?

Live in Relationship law in india | Indiafilings Official
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Gandharva Vivah has personal freedom and autonomy at its heart. It encourages individuals to make conscious decisions based on their feelings and desires, empowering them to shape their own lives and happiness. Similar to modern India, it calls for respecting individuals’ choices to engage in life together without societal judgment. However, Vedic Indian concepts do not encourage a long chain of such relationships. Indians must not treat the ‘Live-In’ concept lightly, as it can been given the status equal to traditional marriage. ‘Live-In’ relationship should be treated as a once-in-a-lifetime choice made with a life-long mate.

Although Gandharva Vivaha challenges traditional social norms by prioritizing love and personal choice over societal expectations, the concept holds only for those who are pure of mind, heart, and deed. However, these qualities are difficult to discern in modern Indians. Currently, modern Indians construe societal structures as limiting entities and use it to justify live-in relationships. In the hope of personal happiness and fulfillment, many modern Indians quote Dharma and Gandharva Vivaha to showcase the open-mindedness of Vedic Indian culture.

All Vedic Indian rituals celebrate love and freedom while emphasizing responsibility and commitment in a relationship. Thus, live-in relationships should only be entered among those that understand that love and trust are the backbones of any union. Moreover, they must believe that dedication and responsibility towards one another are non-negotiable qualities in any relationship.


Marriage vs. live-in relationship: Two different approaches to exploring love and companionship - Times of India
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Gandharva Vivaha and live-in relationships share the common threads of love, freedom, and personal choice. They both challenge conventional notions of marriage and encourage individuals to embrace relationships based on emotional compatibility and mutual consent. However, modern Indians must understand the vital difference between Gandharva Vivaha and multiple casual relationships. Gandharva Vivaha was not a ‘walk-in and walk-out marriage; it was a lifetime commitment of a couple in a heterogenous relationship of consent. Additionally, its sanctity lies in a public acknowledgement by the couple. Thus, Vedic culture regarded such relationships a type of Vivaha.

Modern Indians must practice personal freedom without laying societal norms on the altar of sacrifice. Any society that embraces diverse relationship choices while upholding the values of love, respect, accountability, and individual autonomy shall thrive. Women have the most to loose in a relationship where her status is not defined clearly by law. Moreover, women tend to put feelings and emotions ahead of good judgement and moral values. Gandharva Vivaha gave women the status of a wife and equal partner even when without the presence of traditional rituals. This aspect is missing from modern casual relationship. Therefore, Indian women must also be wary of ‘Live-In’ relationships. The onus of formalizing any relationship lies on the man. However, women must weigh the pros and cons of consenting to any relationship where her long-term interests may be overlooked.

Moreover, ‘Love in the time of Jihad’ is a slippery slope for Indian women. All women in India must recognize that the current Indian society does not resemble the Vedic Indian society. Women must choose their partners carefully, using both their brains and heart. Modern women must put emotions and personal choice on the back burner; while putting permanence of feelings on the fore. Modern Indian women must make all potential partners pass the tests of commitment and responsibility; before they consent to a relationship.  

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