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Society & One-Legged Dharma-Part 5- The Issue of Child Marriage

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Child marriages serve as one of the best example to depict the gap between what was conceived and what is presently being practiced. It depicts the deviation and degradation of the Hindu society from the tenets of Dharma that were prescribed for welfare of society.

In the present scenario, though by law the age for marriage is fixed at 18 for girls and 21 for boys, there are many cases of child marriages. The girl is especially made to leave school in middle and is married off. In many such cases, the girls would be completely devoid of education. The practitioners of child marriage, their apologists as well as those who jump to criticize Hinduism, point out that, Child Marriage is prescribed in the Hindu scriptures itself and it has been practiced in Hindu society from very old times. But, a proper understanding of scriptures would show that, the way a child marriage is being practiced today is completely deviated from what scriptures had prescribed.

According to the scriptures, the boys were allowed to marry only after they finished their education, the duration of which usually lasted for 12 years starting from age of 8 i.e. a boy finished education only at 20 years. So, the question of early marriage in case of boys did not arise. It is usually pointed out that, as girls did not had Upanayana ceremony, they were not educated and were kept illiterate. But this is anything but truth.

Manu Smriti clearly says that “service to husband” is “service to Guru” (Manu 2.67). That is, the Husband is the wife’s Guru. Hence, the men who spent 12 years in Gurukula studying and learning, later upon being married, they will teach it to their wives. This can be very well understood from various conversations between Yajnavalkya and his wives. Hence, marriage and education went hand in hand as far as girls were concerned. It is keeping in mind the education factor that, the scriptures prescribed the age of marriage for girls as 8-12 i.e. the same age the boys enter Brahmacharya ashrama.

Hence, the underlying assumption behind the prescription of early marriage of girls was that they would be educated by their husbands. And then, the husband and wife together would practice their Dharma/duties. But as society deteriorated, the education part was completely removed and only the marriage part retained !! In today’s scenario owing to the fact that, education is no longer a part of any marriage as such, child marriages not only becomes meaningless but also has given rise to many social injustices. Hence, people must understand, that marrying off their girls early without giving her education is against Dharma.

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I am a civil engineer working with Essar Projects India Ltd and have a passion for writing articles on Politics, History, Religion and Philosophy.

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