Author : kumar uttam
Child-marriage is another 'blessing' of the medieaval age and it was born from thesame compulsions that ; perpetuated Sati.
Child-marriage was not prevalent in ancient India. The most popular form of marriage was Swayamvara where grooms assembled at the bride' s house and thebride selected her spouse. Svayam-vara can be translated as self selection of one' shusband, Svayam = self, Vara = husband. Instances of Swayamvara ceremony arefound in our national epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Various types of marraiges were prevalant in ancient India Gandharva Vivaha (love marriage), AsuraViviha (marriage by abduction) etc., But among these Bal-Viviha is conspicuous in itsabsence.There are many reasons to believe that this custom originated in the medieval ages.As mentioned earlier in the turbulent atmosphere of the medieavel ages, law andorder was not yet a universal phenomenon and arbitrary powers were concentratedin the hands of a hierarchy led by a despotic monarch. In India the Sultans of Delhiwho held the place of the despotic monarch, came from a different type of culture.They were orthodox in their beliefs with a fanatical commitment to their religion anda ruthless method in its propagation. Intolerant as they were to all forms of worshipother than their own, they also exercised contempt for members of other faiths.(See note at the end of this chapter).Women as it is are at the receiving and during any war, arson, plunder, etc. Duringthe reign of the Delhi Sultans these were the order of the day and the worstsufferers were Hindu women. During these dark days were spawned customs likechild-marriage and selection of women from the rest of the society, wearing of theGhungat (veil). This age also perpetuated customs like Sati and looking upon thebirth of a female baby as an ill omen, even killing newly born baby girls by drowningthem in a tub of milk. Amidst the feeling of insecurity, the presence of youngunmarried girls was a potential invitation for disaster.The predatory Sarasenic feudal lords and princelings of Sarasenic origins who stalkedall over India in the middle ages were a source of constant threat . Hence parentswould seek to get over with the responsibilities of their daughters by getting themmarried off before they reached the marriage age. The custom of child marriageswith the 'bride' and 'groom' still in their cradles was a culmination of this tendency.This way the danger to a growing girl's virginity was somewhat reduced.Alongwith this principal reason, there were a few other reasons arising from thenature of the feudal society which were conducive for the prevalence of this practice.In a feudal society, qualities like rivalry, personal honour, hereditary friendship orenmity are rated very highly. Because of this, military alliances play a very importantrole in preserving or destroying the balance of power between the various kingdomsand fiefdoms. To ensure that the military alliances entered into were observed byboth parties, practices like exchanging Juvenile members of the respective familieswho were educated and brought up at each other's palaces were followed.They were a sort of captives who were held to ensure that the military alliancesbetween the two kingdoms or clans were honoured. But a more lasting bond thatcould back up military alliances were-matrimonial alliances between members of thetwo famlies . But such matrimonial alliances could be worked out smoothly only if the bride and groom were ready to accept each others Young men and women of