History of Gandharva Marriage
According to Apastamba Grhyasutra, Gandharva marriage is the method of marriage where the girl selects her own husband. And as per Vedic records, this is one of earliest and common form of marriage in Rig Vedic times. In Rig Vedic opinions, this marriage is defined by the one where the bride and the groom had met each other in their village life or some religious festivals, begun to enjoy each other's company, and eventually decided to tie the knot. Their free choice and mutual attraction were generally approved by their kinsmen.
Mutual love and consent between bride and the bridegroom are the only conditions to bring about such a marriage. It is a voluntary union of a maiden with her lover. Parents and kinsmen have nothing to do in such marriages. Kamasutra regards this marriage as an ideal one. Hindu mythology literature abounds in such type of marriages for example that of Dushyant and Shakuntala; Daksheya and Prajapati; Bhima with Hidimba; Kamdeva and Rati and Kach and Devyani. The two get married prior to informing anyone.
Custom of Gandharva Marriage:
Gandharva marriage takes place in a temple depending on their religion. In this marriage, there is no Yajna and presence of any other person except girl and the boy. Both agreed to marry and continue family life. The rituals are:
Causes for Decline of Gandharva Marriage:
With time, Gandharva marriage has been declined but there is no consensus theory to define the reason behind it. One theory claims that after the Vedic period when marriageable age for girls was 16 years or higher, social confusion encouraged child marriages. The arrival of Muslim culture and rulers too influenced this marriage system. Their culture favoured child marriages and the Hindu culture too shifted to child marriages where the girl was not even mature. This practice discouraged the girl's ability to choose a man of her choice and enter into Gandharva marriage.
Societal pressure was also a reason which compelled the girl's family to opt for early arranged marriages. Economic point was another reason for disapproving Gandharva marriage. The priestly caste of India, who encouraged Brahma marriages and religious ceremonies, was of the opinion that Gandharva marriage was inappropriate and disapproving for the Hindus as traditional marriages were a source of their income, and Gandharva marriages made them poorer.
Gandharva Marriage in Modern Times
Gandharva form of marriage is trying to re-emerge in India. People now call this type of marriage as love marriage. Unlike ancient days, this love marriage involves some form of ceremony where both friends and members of family are present.