According to Hinduism there are eight different types of Hindu marriages. Among the eight types not all had religious sanction. The first four were considered proper. The below four types of marriages were considered Prashasta marriages (proper, religiously appropriate under Hinduism), since they contains vows from Vedic scriptures, where both bride and groom commit to each other and share responsibilities to their families.
1. Brahma Vivaah: Brahma vivah is considered the best marriage. In this the boy and girl belonging to good families and the same caste get married. The boy should have completed his Brahmacharya Ashram (studenthood). There is no dowry involved and the girl enters the boy’s house with two sets of clothes and some ornaments. In this marriage, the boy’s family approaches the girl’s family. “Kanyadaan”, which is the handing of the bride by her father to the groom, is an important ritual of the Brahma Vivah.
2. Prajapatya Vivaah: This type of marriage is the same as the Brahma vivaah in all respects, except that the bride’s father gives her away as a gift, not to the groom, but to the groom’s father. This type of marriage is resorted to when the groom and bride are both very young. Thus, the protection of the bride or daughter is handed over by her father to the groom’s father during the Panigrahan (hand-receiving) ceremony. The wedding ceremony involving the young bride and groom may take place immediately afterwards, but the wedding may not be consummated for several years, until the bride and groom are old enough.
3. Daiva Vivaah: In this type of wedding, there are no feasts or celebrations that are specific to the wedding, but the wedding of the daughter of a poor family is held as an act of charity by wealthy people. It was customary for kings, landlords and rich merchants to hold religious ceremonies and sacrifices where many gifts would be given and charities performed for the benefit of learned Brahmins and the poor.
During these great events, a poor man would sometimes approach the wealthy host and seek the charity that his daughter’s wedding be performed at this time. This type of marriage may take place if the girl’s parents are unable to locate a suitable groom within a reasonable period (several years) after the girl has attained puberty. Often, the reason for this would be that the parents of the bride cannot afford the expense of their daughter’s marriage. It was considered improper or unsafe to keep a girl unwed past her teens, and anyway the chances of an aging girl getting a good husband were not better than the same girl getting a good husband at a younger age.
So the girl would be bedecked with flowers and whatever small ornaments the parents could provide and taken to the venue of the religious ceremony or sacrifice being performed by a rich magnate. She would be offered in marriage to any willing man and generally this would be one of the priests, young or old. The wedding ceremony would be performed in short order and the feasts which were anyway being hosted as part of the festivities would suffice for this extra wedding also. According to the Dharmashastra, Daiva marriage is considered avoidable but is still respectable since poverty is not culpable; lack of virtue is reprehensible but honest poverty is acceptable.
4. Arsha Vivaah: In this type of marriage, the family of the groom pays Kanya-shulkam or bride-price to the parents of the bride. According to certain texts, the prescribed bride-price is a cow with a calf and a pair of bulls. The sacred texts provide various lists of specific communities where this custom prevailed and imply that it is unfitting in general society. However, several instances are found in the Puranas of marriage between a man from mainstream communities and a woman from one of the bride-price seeking communities. In nearly all cases, the man willingly pays the bride-price and brings his bride home.
The other four were considered Aprashasta (inappropriate), since they do not follow any Vedic rituals and vows. Among inappropriate weddings, two acceptable forms of marriages were:
5. Gandharva Vivaah: When a man and a woman marry for love and without the consent of their families, that marriage is called Gandharva Vivaah or ‘love marriage.’ in this type of marriage, the couple simply lived together out of love, by mutual consent, consensually consummated their relationship. This marriage was entered into without religious ceremonies, and was akin to the Western concept of Common-law marriage.
6. Asura Vivaah: In the Asura type of marriage the groom is not at all suitable for the bride. In no way is he a match for the girl but he willingly gives as much wealth as he can afford to the bride’s parents and relatives. Generally the groom is of lower social rank or caste than the bride. This marriage was considered inappropriate by Hindu Smriti-writers because greed, not what is best for the girl, can corrupt the selection process.
The last two marriages were not only inappropriate, but religiously forbidden (the children, if any, from these forbidden types of consummation were considered legitimate, nevertheless).
7. Rakshasa Vivaah: This is essentially marriage by abduction. In cases where the girl is willing to marry the boy but her family is against the alliance, the girl may be abducted and married. It is essential that the girl be willing, because otherwise, the Puranas and Shastras simply treat the incident of abduction as rape, with consequent vengeance and retribution.
8. Paishacha Vivaah: In the case where the bride is intoxicated, possessed or not in a conscious state of mind when being married and thus is married unwillingly.