Age of Consent (Marriageable Age) in Hinduism

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Many Hindutvadis (bhakts) have the habit of criticizing Islam using any excuse based upon their inherent hatred against Muslims. This maybe due to the brainwashing they receive since childhood against Islam through various channels like websites, TV Channels, and Extremist Hindutva Leaders. In their jealousy and hate against Muslims they forget what their own religion preaches (which many times is exactly same, similar or even worse as compared to Islamic preaching)  on that particular subject which they take lot of effort to criticize. Age of consent of Girls for marriage is one such Issue. Let us see what the hindu scriptures have to say about the Age of Consent.

Age of Consent for Marriage in Hindu Scriptures

Reference#1

Jack Goody is a fellow of St. John’s College in Cambridge. In his book The Oriental, the
Ancient, and the Primitive, we find that girls were married off very early in Indian
households:

Srinivas writes of the days in India when ‘pre-pubertal weddings were the rule’
(1984:11): a girl had to be married ‘before she came of age.’ The father of a girl
was obliged by Hindu law and by custom of the country to marry her before she
attained puberty, though cohabitation was often delayed, an average of three
years… (The Oriental, the Ancient, and the Primitive, p.208.)

Reference#2

http://www.kamakoti.org/hindudharma/part18/chap5.htm

Reference#3

Keshav Srinivasan/stackexchange

Reference#4

Hindutvadis claim that child marriage were introduced in India by the Muslim invaders is refuted by their own scholar Swami Vivekananda who acknowledged that Hinduism permits child marriages:

“…A girl of eight is married to a man of thirty, and the parents are jubilant over it…. And if anyone protests against it, the plea is put forward, “Our religion is being overturned.” What sort of religion have they who want to see their girls becoming mothers before they attain puberty even and offer scientific explanations for it? Many, again, lay the blame at the door of the Mohammedans. They are to blame, indeed! Just read the Grihya-Sutras through and see what is given as the marriageable age of a girl. … There it is expressly stated that a girl must be married before attaining puberty. The entire Grihya-Sutras enjoin this…” The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 6/Epistles – Second Series/LXXI Rakhal [ https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Complete_Works_of_Swami_Vivekananda/Volume_6/Epistles_-_Second_Series/LXXI_Rakhal ]

Reference#5

Brahma Purana states that a girl should be given in marriage when she is only four years old –> Brahma Purana: Gautami Mahatmya 95.7 ”After the fourth year and before the completion of the tenth year the marriage of his daughter must be performed scrupulously by the father.” Tr. Board of Scholars, Edited by J.L. Shastr – LINK

Reference#6

Rama married six years old Sita

As per Valmiki Ramayana, Rama is said to have married Sita when she was 6 years old,

Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kanda 3.47.3-5 “I am the daughter of noble-souled Janaka, the king of Mithila, by name I am Seetha, and the dear wife and queen of Rama, let safety betide you. On residing in the residence of Ikshvaku-s in Ayodhya for twelve years, I was in sumptuosity of all cherishes while relishing all humanly prosperities. In the thirteenth year the lordly king Dasharatha deliberated together with his imperial ministers to anoint Rama as Crown Prince of Ayodhya. When Raghava’s anointment was being organised my venerable mother-in-law known as Kaikeyi begged her husband Dasharatha for a boon. Restraining my veracious father-in-law by a good deed once done by her in his respect, Kaikeyi besought two boons from him, namely expatriation of my husband, and anointment of her son Bharata. ‘If Rama is anointed now, come what may I will not eat, sleep, or drink, and my life ends this way,’ thus Kaikeyi was adamantine, and the king and my father-in-law entreated her who is nagging with meaningful riches, but she did not make good on that entreaty. My great-resplendent husband was of twenty-five years of age at that time, and to me eighteen years are reckoned up from my birth.” Tr. Sri Desiraju Hanumantha Rao

If we do little maths here we understand that Sita was 18 years old when she went into exile with her husband and before the exile she had spent 12 years with her husband in the house of King Dashratha, so if we deduct the age of Sita at the time of exile (18 years of age) and number years she spent in the house of King Dasharath (i.e., 12 years) we get,
18-12= 6 years old
Sita after marrying at 6, lived in the palace of King Dashrath for 12 years. When she was sent to exile with her husband, she was 18 years old. The age difference between Rama and Sita was 7 years. Skanda Purana clearly states that Sita was married when she was only six years old,

Skanda Purana III.ii.30.8-9 “The bow of Isvara that was kept in the abode of Janaka, was broken. In his fifteenth year, O king, Rama married the six year old beautiful daughter of the king of Mithila, Sita who was not born of a womb. On getting Sita, Raghava became contented and happy.” Tr. Ganesh Vasudeo Tagare.

Reference#7

Krishna married Rukmini when she was only eight years old. Srimad Bhagavatam the most authentic Purana of Krishna devotees explicitly states that she had not attained puberty,
Srimad Bhagavatam 10.53.51 “Beholding that charming princess Rukmini gifted with a beautiful waist, a countenance adorned with Kundalas, not attaining the age of puberty, with a golden mekhala beautifying her waist, with rising signs of womanhood, with moving eyes as if in fear…” Tr. J.M. Sanyal

Another translation, Srimad Bhagavatam 10.53.51 “Smitten with love kindled (in their breast) by her, the illustrious warriors assembled (there) felt bewildered to behold the princess, who was possessed of a shapely (slender) waist and had not yet attained puberty, and who had a girdle of jewels thrown about her hips and in whom signs of womanhood were (just) manifesting themselves…” Tr. Gita press Publications

Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Krishna Janma Khanda 112.1-10 “…Lord Krisna beheld the smiling Rukmini in the prime of her youth lying down with great pleasure on a bed adorned with gems. She was not yet fully developed and had just attained puberty. She had just ceased to be a newly married bride…Rukmini, the daughter of Bhismaka, as soon as she saw Krisna bowed before his feet. Later on, Lord Krisna committed sexual intercourse with her at an auspicious moment…” Tr. Rajendra Nath Sen, Edited by B.D. Basu

Reference#8

Manu Smriti 9.94 A man, aged thirty years, shall marry a maiden of twelve who pleases him, or a man of twenty-four a girl eight years of age; if (the performance of) his duties would (otherwise) be impeded, (he must marry) sooner.

Manu Smriti 9.88 To a distinguished, handsome suitor (of) equal (caste) should (a father) give his daughter in accordance with the prescribed rule, though she have not attained (the proper age).

Parasara Smriti 7.5-6 When the twelfth year is reached by the female child, if the guardian does not give her away in marriage, her fore-fathers drink, without interruption, during each succeeding month, whatever blood is passed in her courses. The mother, and the father, and likewise the eldest brother, all these three relatives will go to hell, if before menstruation they neglect to marry the girl.

Vishnu Smriti 24.41. A damsel whose menses begin to appear (while she is living) at her father’s house, before she has been betrothed to a man, has to be considered as a degraded woman: by taking her (without the consent of her kinsmen) a man commits no wrong.

Gautama Dharmashastra 18.21 A girl should be given in marriage before (she attains the age of) puberty.

Baudhayana Dharmashastra, Prasna 4, Adhyaya 1.11 Let him give his daughter, while she still goes naked, to a man who has not broken the vow of chastity and who possesses good qualities, or even to one destitute of good qualities; let him not keep (the maiden) in (his house) after she has reached the age of puberty”

Vasishtha Dharmashastra 17.70 ‘Out of fear of the appearance of the menses let the father marry his daughter while she still runs about naked. For if she stays (in the house) after the age of puberty, sin falls on the father”

Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva 13.44 “A person of thirty years of age should wed a girl of ten years of age called a Nagnika. Or, a person of one and twenty years of age should wed a girl of seven years of age.” Tr. K.M. Ganguli

Vishnu Purana 3.10 If he marry, he must select a maiden who is of a third of his age.

Padma Purana II.85.62-66a ”…Wise men get married their unmarried daughter(s). As long as she does not menstruate (i.e. does not attain puberty)…” Tr. N.A. Deshpande

Padma Purana II.47.47-65 “…The father should keep his daughter in his house till she becomes eight years old. He should not keep a strong (i.e. grown up) one. Both the parents get the (fruit of the) sin which a daughter, living in her father’s house, commits…” Tr. N.A. Deshpande

Garuda Purana chapter 95 “…”The relations of a girl incur the sin of wilfully creating a miscarriage, or of killing a foetus in the even of their failing to give her away in marriage before she has commenced to menstruate. A girl is liberty to make her own choice, and to be united with a husband, in the absence of any such relation to give her away in marriage…” Tr. M.N. Dutt

Brahmanda Purana 2.3.19.11 “Many sons should be sought so that at least one would go to Gaya, one shall marry a girl of the Gauri type (i.e. of eight years or one who is a virgin) or one shall discharge a Nala (? lean like a red) bull.” Tr. G.V. Tagare

Vayu Purana 21.12 “…It is better to wish for many sons. At least one of them will go to Gaya or marry a girl eight years old or discharge a blue ox (free to wander).’ [15] Brhaspati said: A son begot after marrying after marrying a girl of eight years sanctifies twentyone generations. Moreover, he sanctifies six generations in the family of his maternal uncle. This is remembered as the benefit (of such marriage).” Tr. G.V. Tagare

Kisari Mohan Ganguli writes,

“Vrishalipati literally means the husband of a Sudra woman. By actually marrying a woman of the lowest order, by marrying before the elder brother, by marrying a girl that has attained to puberty, and by certain other acts, a Brahmana comes to be regarded as a Vrishalipati.” On Mahabharata 13.126 www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m13/m13b091.htm

Skanda Purana VII.I.205.80-86 “If a girl, before being consecrated by marriage rites, has her menses in the house of her father, her Pitrs become fallen and that girl is called Vrsali. If a Brahmana knowingly marries that girl, they say, he is not fit for a Sraddha. He cannot be in the same row as others. He is a Vrsalipati. Gauri virgin is the best and most important. Rohini is considered as Madhyama (middling). Rajasvala should be known as the bases though equal to her (Rohini) image. When there is no menstrual flow, she is Gauri. When there is the flow she is Rohini. If the girlhood has not fully developed she is Kanya. One without breasts is Nagnika. A seven year old girl is Gauri; nine year old is Nagnika. Ten year old shall be Kanya; above that she is Rajasvala. Through breasts she spoils the family of her father and through menstrual flow, she spoils the desirable goal (salvation) and pleasures of the other worlds of her father. He who marries one with menstrual flow should be known as Vrsalipati.” Tr. G.V. Tagare

Devi Bhagavatam 9.41.26-47 “The World-Mother never stays even for a moment in his house who eats at the house of one who marries an unmarried girl twelve years old in whom menstruation has commenced…” Tr. Swami Vijnananda

Above two verses considers the man sinful who marries a girl who started her menstruation in her father’s house which means a person should marry a girl who has not yet started her menstrual period.

Reference#9

Devi Bhagavatam 3.27.40 “My daughter has come to a marriageable age; I have no money. Her age has exceeded ten years; the marriageable age limit has been exceeded. Alas! What am I to do?” Tr. Swami Vijnananda

Devi Bhagavatam 5.17.3-26 “The King Chandrasena, the father, was very pleased to have this beautiful daughter and gladly called her by the name of Mandodarî. This daughter began to grow daily like the phases of the Moon. When she grew ten years old, she became very handsome. The King now became anxious to have a suitable bridegroom and used to think of it everyday. The Brâhmins then told the king that there was a prince named Kambugrîva, the intelligent son of the powerful king Sudhanvâ of Madra” Tr. Swami Vijnananda

Skanda Purana III.iii.18.4-6 “When she was aged twelve years, the girl had beauty of form and all good features. A Brahmana named Padmanabha whose wife had passed away, requested for the haand of the girl. The Brahmana had plenty of wealth. He was calm and qui. He was a permanent companion of the king. So the father of the girl did not dare to refuse. He gave the daughter to him. The marriage was celebrated at midday…” Tr. G.V. Tagare

Skanda Purana VII.I.166.17-20 “…You are to behave in a manner that will give no cause to the Devas to despise me. My dear daughter, I have heard this cited in sacred scriptures. ‘If without being consecrated (in marriage) a girl discharges her menses in her father’s house the father earns the sin of Brahmana-slaying and the girl is known as a Vrsali (Sudra). Therefore, I am sending you off in the company of aged ministers. Hurry up. Choose your own husband and decide.” Tr. G.V. Tagare.

Child Marriage In India

  • Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_marriage_in_India: Child marriage was outlawed in 1929, under Indian law. However, in the British colonial times, the legal minimum age of marriage was set at 15 for girls and 18 for boys. Under protests from Muslim organizations in the undivided British India, a personal law Shariat Act was passed in 1937 that allowed child marriages with consent from girl’s guardian.[6]After independence and adoption of Indian constitution in 1950, the child marriage act has undergone several revisions. The minimum legal age for marriage, since 1978, has been 18 for women and 21 for men.[7] The child marriage prevention laws have been challenged in Indian courts,[6] with some Muslim Indian organizations seeking no minimum age and that the age matter be left to their personal law.[8][9] Child marriage is an active political subject as well as a subject of continuing cases under review in the highest courts of India.[8]
  • …any other provision of Personal Law, marriage, dissolution of marriage, including talaq, ila, zihar, lian, khula and mubaraat, maintenance, dower, guardianship, gifts, trusts and trust properties, and wakfs (other than charities and charitable institutions and charitable and religious endowments) the rule of decision in cases where the parties are Muslims shall be the Muslim Personal Law (Shariats) — Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937
  • Under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, a marriage between minors is a punishable offence but a valid marriage unless it is annuled.

 

Conclusion

  • As seen from the above references from hindu scriptures it is evident that hinduism promotes child marriages and marriage with pre-pubescent girls
  • If hindus have problem with Prophet PBUH marrying Aisha Radhiallahu Anhuma at the age of 6 years then they should remember that Sita was also 6 years of age when she married Rama.
  • If it is claimed that though hinduism promotes child marriage, the marriage is not consummated until the girls attain sexual maturity or puberty then the same is the case with Islam, as we all know that thought the prophet PBUH married Aisha Radhiallahu Anhuma at age of 6 years marriage was not consummated until she attained puberty.
  • The 18 year minimum age requirement for girls to get Married in India is set by Indian Constitution in 1978 not by Hindu religion.

Links & Further Reading