Question: Whether a Hindu marriage is a “Sacrament” or a “Contract”? Explain.


Note: this post is a part of our important question answer series on Family Law. You can read other questions by clicking here.



A marriage can be defined as an union of two individuals i.e. Husband and Wife, which is legally solemnized to facilitate cohabitation and the procreation of children.

There are divergence of opinion with regard to the nature of Hindu marriage. Some jurists are of the opinion that Hindu marriage is purely a sacramental in nature while others argues that it is a civil contract.


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Hindu Marriage as a Sacrament

1.       Eternal Union: Hindu marriage goes beyond earthly life, seen as a union of souls meant to last through rebirths, not just for this life but for all lives and worlds. This aligns with the concept of Dharma, fulfilling one's pious obligations through procreation and spiritual growth together.

2.       Holy Union: Rituals like Saptapadi (seven steps) and Kanyadan (gift of the daughter) invoke divine blessings, making the union more than a mere legal agreement. These ceremonies sanctify the bond and connect it to the cosmos.

3.       Indissoluble Bond: Traditionally, divorce is discouraged, viewed as breaking a sacred vow. The concept of Grihastha Ashrama (stage of household life) emphasizes the enduring nature of this commitment.

4.       Distinctive Characteristics: Certain prerequisites, such as both parties belonging to the Hindu religion, lack of provisions like proposal, acceptance, and consideration, non-strict  observance of age of majority, distinguish Hindu marriages from typical contractual agreements.

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Hindu marriage as a civil contract

Some scholars firmly believed that after the introduction of HMA, 1955, a Hindu marriage is no longer remained a sacramental ceremony, but became purely a contractual obligation. They argued as:

1.      Legal Recognition: The HMA, 1955, governing marriages among Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs in India, defines conditions, rights, and grounds for dissolution of marriage, placing it within the legal realm. This implies a contractual element with specific obligations and consequences.

2.      Mutual Consent: Unlike arranged marriages of the past, where in some form of Hindu marriages, the consent of marriaging parties hold no or very little value, the present Act emphasizes free will in choosing a partner. This aligns with contractual principles of consent and consideration.

3.      Provisions for Breakdown: The Act acknowledges that marriages may not always succeed, outlining grounds for divorce and separation. This exit mechanism mirrors contractual termination for breach.

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Important Judgements

Muthusami v. Masilamani, In this case, the Court observed that a marriage, whatever it may be a sacrament or institution, it un-doubtfully is a contract entered into for consideration, with co-relative rights and duties.

Seema vs Ashwani Kumar, 2006: In this case,  the Supreme Court held that any marriage solemnized between citizens belonging to any of the religions must get their marriage registered. No personal law can override this condition.


Conclusion: Reconciling the Two

Hindu marriage isn't just a sacrament or contract; it's a mix of legal structure and sacred vows, carrying both earthly and spiritual weight. It's a promise before a divine witness, filled with religious and social significance, while also operating within a legal framework. Hindu marriage is a contractual covenant with sacramental sanctity, recognizing individual choice and religious duty.

You can read other questions on Hindu Law from Here.


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