Validity of Marriage: Analyzing Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act


                                                                                               Author: Aditi Dubey, Government Law College, Mumbai 



This article examines Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, which delineates the essential ceremonies required for the solemnization of a Hindu marriage. It emphasizes the significance of marriage as a sacrament in Hindu culture and explores the legal prerequisites for establishing a valid marriage. Through the analysis of various case laws, this article provides a comprehensive understanding of the indispensable rituals and their impact on the legitimacy of a marriage.

**Defining Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955**

Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, stipulates the essential ceremonies for the solemnization of Hindu marriages. It asserts that a Hindu marriage may be solemnized following the customary rites and ceremonies of either party, including the saptapadi (seven steps), which completes the marriage upon taking the seventh step. The ceremonies specified under Section 7(2) are categorized into Shastric ceremonies prescribed by Vedic literature and Hindu shastras and customary ceremonies specific to the community or caste group of either party.

**Hindu Marriage: A Sacrament**

Hindu marriage is regarded as a sacrament rather than a contract due to the customary rites and religious practices involved in its solemnization. The remedy of divorce, provided under Section 13 of the HMA, is a concept borrowed from the institution of Talaq in Muslim jurisprudence. 

In *Tikait v. Basant*, it was held that marriage is a sacrament and an imperishable union between two people, continuing eternally. Similarly, in *Shivonandh v. Bhagawanthuma*, marriage was deemed ever-binding due to its religious sanctity, characterized by its permanence, eternality, and holiness. The *Manmohini v. Basant Kumar* case further reinforced the notion that Hindu marriage is more of a sacrament than a contract.

**Shastric Ceremonies of Hindu Marriage**

The Shastric ceremonies essential for a Hindu marriage find significant mention in the Grihya Sutras. These ceremonies include:

1. **Sampradana**: Washing the groom’s feet with water mixed with flowers, Durva grass, rice, and sandal paste, followed by bathing with a mixture of curd, honey, and ghee.

2. **Kanyadana**: The bride is gifted to the groom by her father or next guardian. The groom accepts the gift while reciting the kama sukta, and the bride’s father takes a promise from the groom regarding his duties towards the bride in pursuing Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha.

3. **Vivaha-homa**: Lighting the sacred fire and invoking the fire god, followed by the groom offering oblations to the holy fire with the bride by his side.

4. **Panigrahana**: Holding the bride’s hand while reciting certain Vedic hymns, followed by the bride offering oblations to Aryama, Varuna, Pusha, and Agni.

5. **Saptapadi**: The most critical ceremony, involving taking seven steps around the fire while reciting hymns. The marriage is solemnized only upon the completion of the seventh step.

The Calcutta High Court held in the *Subir Kumar Kundu case* that Homa and Saptapadi are essential ceremonies for the sanctity of marriage. However, in *Sindhiya Devi v. State of U.P.*, the Allahabad High Court validated a marriage in the absence of Homa, provided Saptapadi was performed, indicating that Saptapadi alone could suffice for the marriage’s validation.

**Indispensability of Saptapadi**

Mere performance of certain customary rites and ceremonies is insufficient for the solemnization of a Hindu marriage without invoking the holy fire and performing Saptapadi. In *Deivani v. Chindavdram*, the Madras High Court ruled that Kanyadana and Saptapadi are fundamental ceremonies, and omission of Saptapadi renders the marriage illegitimate. The Supreme Court, in *Rathnamma v. Sujathamma*, did not recognize a marriage performed solely by the consent of both fathers in the absence of any ceremony or customary rites.

**Role of Customary Rites**

Apart from Shastric ceremonies, customary rites followed consistently by a community or sect are sufficient for solemnizing a marriage. Customs that have been adhered to from indefinite times are given due recognition for the validity of marriage. In *Gopal Lal v. State of Rajasthan*, the Supreme Court ruled that under Section 7(1) of the HMA, parties are governed by the custom of nata marriage prevalent in the Telli community.

**Validity of Marriage**

A marriage loses its validity if it is impossible to prove the performance of either Shastric or customary ceremonies. To claim any relief under the HMA, it is crucial to establish the existence of a valid marriage, which is recognized only upon the performance of essential ceremonies as specified under Section 7.

**Cohabitation as a Favorable Ground**

Section 114 of the Evidence Act lays down cohabitation for a prolonged period as a ground for De Facto marriage in the absence of sufficient evidence to prove the marriage by establishing the performance of any ceremonies. In *Chowdegowda v. C. Nagaraju*, the Supreme Court allowed the presumption of marriage under Section 114 of the Evidence Act due to prolonged cohabitation of 40 years, out of which a child had been born.


The analysis of Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, elucidates that the essential ceremonies for the validity of a Hindu marriage include both Shastric and customary rites. The hypothesis of Hindu marriage as a sacrament holds true, as established through various judicial pronouncements. Saptapadi, in the absence of customary rites, is the only indispensable ceremony that proves the legitimacy and validity of a marriage.


1. **What is Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955?**

   Section 7 outlines the essential ceremonies for the solemnization of Hindu marriages, including Shastric and customary rites.

2. **Is Saptapadi essential for a Hindu marriage?**

   Yes, Saptapadi is considered an indispensable ceremony for the validity of a Hindu marriage, though customary rites can also suffice.

3. **Can a Hindu marriage be valid without customary rites?**

   No, a Hindu marriage must include either Shastric or customary rites to be considered valid.

4. **What is the significance of cohabitation in proving a Hindu marriage?**

   Prolonged cohabitation can raise a presumption of marriage under Section 114 of the Evidence Act, though it cannot substitute for the performance of essential ceremonies.

5. **What are the consequences of not performing essential ceremonies in a Hindu marriage?*

  Non-performance of essential ceremonies renders the marriage invalid, affecting the legal status and rights arising from the marriage.

Validity of Marriage: Analyzing Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act

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