Anuloma and Pratiloma Marriage

Anuloma and Pratiloma Marriage

Anuloma and pratiloma marriage, as a rule of marriage is an inseparable part of the hindu caste system. The rule of anuloma and pratiloma marriages has greater significance for the caste structure of Hindu society than for the marriage pattern of the Hindus.

Anuloma Marriage

Anuloma Marriage in Hinduism refers to the hypergamy form of marriage.

During the Vedic Age inter-class marriages used to take place in the form of Anuloma marriage. Anuloma marriage is a social practice according to which a boy from upper varna / caste / class can marry a girl from lower varna / caste / class.

Anuloma marriage was recommended by the ancient Hindu law writers for the first three varnas or classes of the then society namely,

  1. the Brahmins;
  2. the Kshatriyas; and
  3. the Vaishyas.

According to the Dharmashastrakaras, a girl should marry in her own varna, failing which she may marry one in any of the higher varna. In the Rig Vedic period, the priests who performed Yajnas [sacrifices] arranged by the kings, married Kshatriya girls offered to them as “dakshina” or fees for their services.

Social Impact of Anuloma Marriage

Anuloma marriage was normally associated with Hindu polygamy.

The association of Anuloma marriage with polygamy led to the ugly practice of dowry.

Some young men in India used to marry several girls in order to amass huge sum of money through dowry.  The urgency to find out a bridegroom of equal strata or even higher strata also contributed to the practice of child marriages.

Educated Indians are critical of the institution of hypergamy, and especially, of the large dowries associated with it.

Pratiloma Marriage

Pratiloma refers to the Hypogamy form of Marriage.

Pratiloma  is a type of marital practice in which a man of lower class / caste / varna marries a girl of higher class / caste / varna. Such cases of Shudra-Aryan connections are also recorded in the Vedic texts.

Some Dharmashastrakaras had even permitted the practice of “pratiloma” while many condemned it. By the time of Dharmashastras, greater disapproval was shown towards this practice. Even here, the marriage of Brahmin / Kshatriya / Vaishya girl with Shudra boy was more despised with, than the marriage of a Brahmin girl with a Kshatriya / Vaishya boy.


Of the two types of marital practices, “anuloma” and “pratiloma”, anuloma marriage was considered preferable to pratiloma marriage. Pratiloma marriage was very much discouraged and even condemned. Marriage of a girl of higher caste with a boy of lower caste faced more resistance in the society. Shastrakara Manu was of the opinion that the progeny of the most hated pratiloma would become “chandalas” or “untouchables.” In the Chandukya Upanishad and also in the “Buddhist Jatakas” we find vast references to Chandalas. In fact, the origin of the practice of untouchability is to be seen in the practice of pratiloma marriage.

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