The ethics of marriage differs from community to community. While the Hindus consider it as the sacrament sanctifying the body and an essential pie-requisite for the attainment of moksa, the Muslims take it as a contract.


Marriages among the Hindus are governed by rules and  restrictions falling under the categories of endogamy, exogamy and hypergamy. A Hindu may not marry outside his caste or his particular sub-caste which according to social custom is considered endogamous. He is confined for the choice of a wife within this group. Outside, the caste or sub-caste within which a man must marry, are a set of further sub-divisions which prohibit the marriage of persons related through males which are called endogamous groups. Marriage was prohibited within certain degrees of relationship. Marriage within the same gotra was prohibited. Hypergamy relates to the social rule by which a woman should be married to a man who is cither her equal or her superior in rank. Such practice is widely prevalent in northern India by which men of a higher sub-caste of a caste will take in marriage a lady from lower ones but will not give their daughters in return.

It was customary among most of the Hindus to marry a girl before puberty. However, the position changed with the  passing of the Sharada Act and other enactments.

Among the Hindus also there was diversity as Car as widow marriage was concerned. The Brahmans prohibited the remarriage of widows on the ground that it was a sacrament that she could go through only once. Divorce was also prohibited. Dowry either in the form of bride-price or hunda was customary.


Social usage in relation to Hindu marriage has been considerably affected by various legal enactments passed, perhaps right from 1833 when the regulation prohibiting sati was declared. (1) A common form of civil marriage for all communities in India was provided by the Special Marriage Act III of 1822, which made it possible for an Indian of whatever caste or creed to enter into a valid marriage with a person belonging to any caste or creed, provided the parties registered the contract of marriage, declaring inter alia that they did not belong to any religion [G. S. Ghurye, Caste and Class in India (1950), p, 165.]. This Act was amended by Act XXX of 1923, making it possible for Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains (but not for Christians, Jews, Muhammedans and Parsees) to declare their religion and yet get their marriage registered. (2) The Child Marriage Restraint Act XIX of 1929, as amended by Act XIX of 1946, prohibited marriages of boys under 18 years of age, and girls under 14 years of age. (3) The Hindu Marriage Disabilities Removal Act XXVIII of 1946 validated marriages between parties (a) belonging to the same gotra or (b) belonging to different sub-divisions of the same caste; and now (4) The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 which abrogates and modifies all the past laws. It has made Hindu marriage now strictly adult and monogamous, has done away with the caste and gotra restrictions which limited the field of marriage, and has set down definite conditions under which a degree of nullity and further of dissolution of marriage could be obtained.

As marriage from the Hindu point of view created an indissoluble tie between the husband and the wife, divorce was not known to the general Hindu law. Neither party to a marriage could, therefore, divorce the other unless divorce was allowed by custom. The Indian Divorce Act, 1869, provided inter alia for dissolution of marriage, but it applied only to cases where " the petitioner or respondent professed the Christian religion " (Section 2 of the Act). However, according to the Hindu Marriage Act. 1955, reliefs by way of judicial separation, declaration of nullity of marriage and divorce are recognized (Sections 10 to 13).


Amongst Muslims celebacy is condemned by the prophet and every Muslim is enjoined to marry by his religion. The prohibited degrees, amongst Muslims, include consanguinity, affinity, fosterage with the wife's sister during the lifetime of the wife, of the wife of another until the period of iddat probation  has expired, and polytheists.  According to the Koran and traditions, Muslims are allowed to have four wives. However, except in case of wealthy Muslims  a second wife is rarely taken.