The Brief History Of Marriages

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Marriage is globally recognized as a sacred bond or a union between two people. It establishes rights and obligations among each other families and people associated with them. It’s a divine partnership that mostly is done for acknowledged sexual pleasures but also for other reasons such as legal, social, libidinal, emotional, financial, spiritual, and religious motives. Though the marriage is a presumed right of both the partners yet it is heavily influenced by the religious groups they follow.  Not only in India but around the world, the concept of marriage and its terms and conditions are often dictated by religious norms and traditions.

Marriage gives birth to connection, commitment, giving, respect, trust, and intimacy. But have you wondered how the concept of marriage first originated among the human species? If we go by the data, it says the marriages were first seen as late as 4,350 years back. Thus, it’s predictable that the spectrums around marriages might differ a lot between today and then.

Marriages And Its Origin

The word marriage was first traced in the Middle East around 1250-1300 CE in Mesopotamia. It is derived from the French word ‘Marier’ which means to marry someone whereas the word ‘Matrimony’ is derived from ‘matremoine’. It means a spiritual connection between the two beings. But marriages back then had little to do with love or religion.

Though bonding and raising children together is as old as the human existed but their relationship was never delivered as a marriage. But with growth, time marriage becomes a purpose for securing rights of property by designating their children as the heir. Also, marriages were performed to share the land or kingdoms of two individuals. Little to no involvement of religious groups and cults were seen and it was a matter between the individual and their families. And marriages soon become a trade of individuals, especially women. In Greece, people started considering their wives as their property and in different regions, men were free to own several wives at once. Even the practice of prostitutes gained momentum during the time. The men were also free to return their current wife back and marry someone else. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a designed right for women, unlike prehistoric times.

But as society grew and humanity evolved, marriages began to be governed by a religious institution. It was mandatory to seek permission and blessing from the religious leaders in order to get legally recognized as a husband and wife among Roman Catholic churches of Europe. And by 2100 BC it was already officially established not just in the laws but also entrenched within our traditions and cultures across the borders. Though somehow by the religious interference the condition of women did improved but it also enforced stricter laws to remain together forever. And wives were indeed treated more fairly but the head of the family was still held by the men. The earliest surviving written laws from Mesopotamia known as Ur Nammu shed light on many elements governed by the institutions upon marriage. The Code of Ur-Nammu is the oldest known law code surviving today and is written on tablets in the Sumerian language c. 2100–2050 BCE.

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It was during this time that the practice of Monogamy, Serial monogamy, polygamy, polygyny, polyandry as well as same-sex marriages came into trend. Yes, the union between the same sexes was pretty common, unlike in modern times. But though something was a trend or practically legal doesn’t mean everyone can afford it. This trend was commonly seen among the rulers or the wealthy class of the society. Amusingly, during this time these practices weren’t just performed by the men but also by women in several places such as in India where a female can multiple husbands. For instance in Uttrakhand, where Brothers share woman to secure the family land. This practice is known as fraternal polyandry.

One absurd practice was posthumous marriage or necrogamy which means to marry the dead. It was a practice heavily conducted in China to secure family lineages or to tame the souls of the deceased. And do you know that France is the only country that legally recognizes such marriages?

What About Love Marriages?

Though marriages were practiced throughout the globe for centuries it doesn’t necessarily involve love. The concept of love came much later in the history of marriages, where couples married for practical reasons fell in love with each other. But the idea of ‘Love marriages’ goes back to the 18th and early 19th centuries. With the growing industrialization, education, and growth of the middle class, more people started living individually from their large families, thus were able to choose their partners with their own consent. Also, it was the era of Enlightenment that eventually encourages ideas of rationalization, philanthropy, and liberation.

By the growth of love marriages, it certainly did change the objectification of woman. Women started to have greater leverage than the historic pragmatic trades. It also evolved the taboos around marriages such as that of marriages at the old ages and ideas of divorce and separations. By 1920 things got further improved when women won the right to vote. This enforced the law system to provide full rights to the women though the large part was still dictated by the traditions. 

Since the evolution of marriages, one problem that society kept overlooking was the issue of marital rapes. Women being the property of men make it completely forbidden to interfere in their personal issues and for that matter females kept on getting molested. Marital rape was never accepted by society or by the laws as a ‘rape’, in fact, a right of a man. Thanks to the era of Enlightenment that by the 1970s, the law finally recognized the concept of marital rape. Scholars suggest that within the last few decades marriages have witnessed greater changes than in the 5,000 years together.

But love marriages still need miles to go with deliberate taboos that need to kick off from our culture. We need to reach beyond the traditional taboos to ensure that marriages in actuality become a sacred union, not a practical practice.  

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