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shraddha (the annual Hindu religious rites performed after the demise of ancestors), untouchability, the practice of temple offerings and other dogmatic practices of the Hindu religion. Members of this sect, as mentioned earlier, uphold the sanctity of the Vedas, the doctrine of karma, the sanctity of the cow and like the mainstream Hindu, venerate the fire. The sect has been lauded for its democratic structure of an organization, with local samajas that send representatives to provincial samajas and to an all India samaja, which each local samaja electing its own officers in a democratic manner. The Arya Samaj boasts of a large following in the northern and western parts of the country, with the exemplary revolutionary Lala Lajpat Rai being a member. The Arya Samaj marriage rituals, unlike a Hindu marriage, are simple. The hymns chanted during the marriage ceremony are explained to the bride and the groom. Like a Hindu marriage, the ceremony is centered around a fire and is believed to commemorate the transition from Brahmacharya to Grihast Ashram.
Validity of Arya Samaj Marriages
This raises the question as to the validity of the Arya Samaj marriage. Since the Arya Samajis are opposed to idolatry their marriages are solemnized by rituals which are different from that of the mainstream Hindu marriage and are carried out in accordance with the Vedic principles and rituals.
The validity of the Arya Samaj marriage is derived from the Arya Marriage Validation Act, 1937 with provisions of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Since the Arya Samajis form an appreciable number of the Indian population and considering that a large number of marriages have already taken place, it was necessary to alleviate fears of their marriage being considered invalid, hence the Arya Marriage Validation Act was passed in 1937.
Coming to the question as to who is eligible for an Arya Samaj marriage, it is implicit that the parties to the marriage need to be competent, with the groom being at least 21 years of age and the bride 18 of years of age. Also, any person who is a Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or Jain can perform an Arya Samaj marriage. It is also worth mentioning that the inter-caste and inter-religious marriages can also be carried out provided neither of the spouses belongs to the Semitic faiths namely, Islam, Christianity, Judaism or Zoroastrianism unless they are willing to convert to Hinduism by a process called Shuddhi.
Registration of Arya Samaj Marriages
An Arya Samaj marriage can be registered either under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 or under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. The Hindu Marriage Act is applicable in cases where both spouses are Hindus, Buddhists, Jains or Sikhs or where they have converted into any of these religions. The Hindu Marriage Act emphasizes that mere non-registration of a marriage does not invalidate the marriage, however, it is often advised to register marriages so as to avoid built disputes in the future.
The Arya Samajis being averse to temple offerings it is only logical that their marriages are highly cost-effective which the Arya Samaj Mandir charging very meagre amounts for a marriage ceremony. The ceremony as such can be completed within an hour and requires only two witnesses, who can be the parents, siblings or friends of the bride or groom. The documents required for a valid Arya Samaj marriage are akin to that of a Hindu marriage. The registration is done before a Sub-Divisional Magistrate an option to carry out the registration online is also available in few jurisdictions like Delhi. Post the registration appointment is given within 15 days, and the documentation required for registration include, birth certificate of both the individuals, two passport size photographs of both the parties and one marriage photograph. The documents submitted are to be duly attested by a gazetted officer, and upon submission of the documents, it is the duty of the district court to provide the marriage certificate. The cost of marriage registration is between INR 100 to 200. The grounds of divorce for a marriage solemnised under the Arya Marriage Validation Act, 1937 is same as the grounds under the Hindu Marriage Act.
In 2013 guidelines were issued to Arya Samaj Mandirs by the Gwalior bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court to take a written application from the would-be bride and groom and fix the marriage date at least a week later. The court commented on the social problems created by marriages carried out without the consent of the parents. The guideline further directs the Arya Samaj Mandirs to notify the parents of both the bride and the groom, of the proposed ceremony and also to the police station and district collector in whose jurisdiction the bride and groom would reside. It also requires at least five relatives from each side to be present for the wedding ceremony.
The Arya Samaj sect has worked to further female education and inter-caste marriage and has established a network of schools and colleges. Being a reformist movement within the Hindu religion, the Arya Samajis are opposed to a lot of practices of its principal religion and they have played a major role in the development of Indian nationalism. It is in lieu of their large population and contribution to society that the Parliament passed the Arya Marriage Validation Act, 1937. The marriage certificate provided by the Arya Samaj is valid and cannot be challenged in any court as to its validity. The holders of such certificate can further register the marriage in the office of Registrar of Marriages. This is crucial as ceremonial marriages are not recognised by Foreign embassies or Foreign countries, hence this is important when applying for a VISA for a spouse.
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