Forms of Marriage

Marriage is one of the social institutions. It is established by the human society to control and regulate the sex life of man in a culturally defined and socially approved way. It permits a man and a woman to live together as husband and wife. Marriage is not a biological affair but also a social affair. It is a social permission given to a man and a woman to live together with certain rights and obligations.


According to Malinowski, "Marriage is a contract for the production and maintenance of children." According to Gillin and Gillin, "Marriage is a socially approved way of establishing a family of procreation." H. M. Jonson viewed, "Marriage is a stable relationship in which a man and a woman are socially permitted, without a loss of standing in community, to have children."

A dictionary of Sociology defines marriage as "an institution that sanctions the relationship of a man and a woman and bids them in a system of mutual obligation as husband and wife and rights essential to the functioning of family life."

Forms or Types of Marriage:

Marriage is a universal social institution. It puts restrictions on premarital and extramarital sex relationship. The form of marriage varies from society to society. The main forms of marriage are -

(1) Monogamy
(2) Polygamy
(3) Group marriage
(4) Preferential marriage.

(1) Monogamy:

Monogamy, the most widespread form of marriage is found among the primitive as well as the civilized people. Monogamy is a form of marriage in which one man marries one woman. This marriage lasts till death. The union is unbreakable. Monogamy minimizes jealousy, hatred, quarrels etc. in the family. Monogamy is regarded as the most ideal form of marriage.

(2) Polygamy:

Polygamy is a plural marriage including more than one spouse at the same time. It is also divided into two types:

(a) Polyandry and (b) Polygyny.

1. PolyandryPolyandry is the marriage of one woman with several men. It is practised among the Tibetans, the Bahama of Africa, the tribals of Sarcoa and others. The Nayars of Kerala were polyandrous previously. Polyandry is often practised due to poverty and heavy bride price. Among the Jodo, property considerations have also caused polyandry. This polyandrous form of marriage is of two types:
(a) Fraternal polyandryWhen several brothers share the same wife, it is called fraternal polyandry. The wife goes to spend sometime with each husband. The marriage of Draupadi with the Pandava brothers is an example of fraternal polyandry.

(b) Non-fraternal polyandryWhen a woman marries several men who are not brothers it is called non-fraternal polyandry. They may be even persons living in different villages.

2. Polygyny

Polygyny is a form of marriage in which one man marries more than one woman at a time. Polygyny is more popular than polyandry. It exists in all parts of the world. A number of women not only increase man's wealth but also his importance, reputation and authority. Barenness of women, limited male population, index of high social position etc. are regarded as the main causes of polygyny.

Polygyny is also of two types-

(a) Sororal, and
(b) Non-sororal.

(a) SororalIt is a type of marriage in which the wives are invariably the sisters. It is found among the tribes which pay a high bride price.

(b) Non-SororalIt is a type of marriage in which the wives are not related as sisters.

For social, economic, political and other reasons both types are practiced by people.

(3) Group marriage:

Group marriage means the marriage of two or more women with two or more men. This form of marriage is described as the worst form of marriage because it only occurs for sexual relationship.

(4) Preferential marriage:

It is of three types: cousin marriage, levirate and sororate.

It is popularly known as devar vivah. In this type of marriage after the death of the husband the wife marries her husband's brother. It is found among the Gond, Munda, and the Oraon etc.

In this type after the death of wife, the husband marries one of the sisters of his wife. When a man marries his wife's younger sister, it is called junior sororate and when he marries elder sisters of his wife, it is called senior sororate.
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