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Smriti Shastras unequivocally criticize intercaste marriage.

However, there are many instances of intercaste marriage in Hindu Epics, where we get a sneak peek of ancient Hindu society. I can give many examples.

But for the time being, let me give one example. In Mahabharata, King Shantanu married Satyavati, who was a daughter of a fisherman. Even the great Sage Vyas was the son of Satyavati and Rishi Parashar. Though it was not a formal marriage. Still, Vyas is a very respected figure in Hinduism despite his origin from an intercaste union.

How Hinduism reconcile the differences between authoritative injunctions and social prevalence?

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    Satyavati was biologically daughter of Uparichara Vasu, a chandravanshi King who was adopted by the fisherman tribe. So technically Satyavati is of kshatriya Lineage.
    – Archit
    May 4 at 8:13
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    @Archit but Vyasa still remains who he is
    – Surya
    May 4 at 9:42
  • 2
    Anuloma marriages (where husband is higher caste than wife) are not censured, but pratiloma marriages (where wife is higher caste than husband) are censured.
    – Ikshvaku
    May 4 at 12:39
  • 4
    They were indeed uncommon..Parikshit asked Q to clarify why Yayati (a kshatriya) married Devyani (a brahmin) i.e uncommon practice..bdw after first marriage, men were allowed to marry wives of lower varna without loosing their varna..but first wive is supposed to be from same varna else he ll loose his varna untill there is some exception granted by boon...for example, Yayti got exception by Shukracharya's boon..
    – YDS
    May 4 at 17:00
  • Related .... hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/19186/661
    – hanugm
    May 23 at 0:06
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There are instances of intercaste marriages in the beginning of the creations where sages didn't come under marriage rules as creation was not possible with those rules but saying "Intercaste marriage was not uncommon in ancient India" is not true. Such marriages were discouraged and if they happened, there was some exception granted.

There are two types of intercaste marriages: Anuloma (higher varna men marrying lower varna women) and Pratilioma (lower varna men marrying higher varna women).

Anuloma is allowed in scriptures after first marriage:

  • A brahman who marries wives among all the castes, provided that he marries first a brahman woman, incurs no injury in his brahman-hood.

  • Likewise a kshatriya who marries first a kshatriya’s daughter, incurs no harm if he marries wives from lower castes.

  • Thus a vaisya, who marries first a vaisya woman and afterwards a girl born from a sudra family, is not excluded from the vaisya family.

The law is thus declared in order. Brahmans, kshatriya, vaisyas, who do not first marry women of the same caste, fall by marrying women of other castes, O king. Whatever excluded woman a man marries after neglecting union in his own caste, of that woman's caste let him indeed become a participator. ~ Chapter 113 of Markandeya Purana

Pratilioma is not allowed and if we find any cases then there has to be some exception by some boons or so otherwise they must have fallen from their varna. For marriage of Yayatai (a kshatriya) and Devyani (a brahmin), the exception was granted by Shukracharya:

"And Devayani then said, 'This O father, is the son of Nahusha. He took hold of my hand, when I was in distress. I bow to thee. Bestow me upon him. I shall not wed any other person in the world.' Sukra exclaimed, 'O thou of splendid courage, thou hast, indeed, been accepted as her lord by this my dear daughter. I bestow her on thee. Therefore, O son of Nahusha, accept her as thy wife.'

"Yayati then said, 'I solicit the boon, O Brahmana, that by so doing, the sin of begetting a half-breed might not touch me.' Sukra, however, assured him by saying, 'I shall absolve thee from the sin. Ask thou the boon that thou desirest. Fear not to wed her. I grant thee absolution. ~ Mahabharata: Adi Parva: Sambhava Parva: section LXXXI


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  1. Inter-caste marriage is accepted in:

Vedas - Sons of Shudras (Ailusa and Vatsa) became superior Brahmins to caste Brahmins (This was the decision of not humans, but God Agni and Goddess Saraswati), Satyakama Jabala had an unknown father and servant mother, Vedas say make all humans Aryas despite making the distinction between Shudra & Arya, Vajrsuchika Upanishad (part of 108 upanishad canon) says varna is not by birth etc.

Shaiva Agamas & Shakta Scriptures- These scriptures also allow for varna change. In fact, some consider Vedic brahmin caste inferior to all Tantriks regardless of caste, and allow for all inter-marriages.

Itihasa (especially Mahabharata) - There are countless examples of varna change, inter-caste marriage etc.

Puranas - Vishnu Purana & Bhagavatam contain several instances, Shiva Purana gives method of Shudra becoming Brahmin and other Puranas have countless instances of varna change and inter-caste marriages.

  1. Now here is what science has to say:

INDIANS ARE VERY HEAVILY GENETICALLY MIXED. The history of India is the history of different ethnic groups constantly mixing.

  1. So what about Smriti?

Vedas clearly say that Itihasa and Puranas are the 5th Veda. Therefore whatever is in Vedas, Agamas, Shakta, Itihasa and Puranas is more authoritative than Smriti.

So the Smritis should be disregarded where they contradict almost EVERY OTHER HINDU SCRIPTURE.

EDIT:

The smritis & caste are also not totally useless. If a child is born in a farmers/pujaris family he will grow up with farmers/pujaris mindset and learn everything growing up easily. So he will be a good farmer/pujari as adult. Dharmashastras are great way to regulate society and make people specialize in jobs very easily. If you have parents of two different values & skills you will not be able to specialise in a job or role that easily.

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The reason for opposition to intercaste-marriage in Hinduism is stated in the Shrîmad Bhagavadgîtâ.

Though these(the Kauravas & their allies) whose intelligence is stricken by greed, perceive no evil in the extinction of lineages & no sin in treachery to friends, yet O Janârdana, shouldn't we who clearly see evil in the extinction of a lineage, learn to refrain from this sinful deed ? On the extinction of a lineage, the immemorial dharmas of that lineage(kuladharma) disappear. When the kuladharmas disappear, impiety(adharma) overtakes the whole lineage. By the prevalence of impiety, O Krishna, the women of the lineage become corrupt. With the women corrupted, there will be varna-sankaras, O descendent of Vrishni ! Sankaras also leads the lineage of these destroyer of lineage to hell; for their forefathers fall down to hell, on extinction of the offerings of pinda & water to them. By these evil deeds of the destroyers of lineages which cause varna-sankara, the eternal dharma of all castes & lineages are subverted. We have heard O Janârdana, that men whose kuladharmas have been subverted, always reside in hell.[Bhagavadgîta:1:38-44]

Yet intercaste marriage is prevalent. Satyavati, born of the semen of a Kshatriya King placed within a fish & raised by a fisherman, was impregnated by Sage Parâshara, who was a Brahmin & their son, Sage Krishnadwaipâyana Vedavyâsa is revered as an incarnation of Bhagavâna Vishnu.

The chapters 13 & 14 of the Uttarakhanda of the Brihaddharma Purâna states that the higly irreligious king Vena forced people of one caste to have sex with those of other castes, in defiance of the existing laws, thereby creating the first varna-sankaras. His son Prithu assigned specific profession to those varna-sankara & prohibited further intercaste-union. The varna-sankaras were classified into :

● the superior varna-sankaras formed by the union of any 2 of the 4 original castes(Brâhmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya & Shûdra)

● the intermediate varna-sankaras formed by the union of a varna-sankara with any one of the 4 original castes.

● the inferior varna-sankaras formed by the union of persons of 2 different varna-sankaras & to some extent those who were born due to a lower caste man impregnating an upper caste woman. Incidentally, it includes groups like chandâlas who are considered as untouchables.

Some varna-sankaras were classified as Sat-Shûdras i.e they had the same status as that of Shûdras & Brâhmanas were allowed to interact with them. The Manusmriti (10:99-100) allowed Shûdras to take the profession of artisans in times of distress but artisan communities like masons, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, potters, tailors, basket-weavers, barbers etc were considered as varna-sankaras. This clearly diluted the difference between a Shûdra & a Sat-Shûdra now that they shared the same social status & profession. Prohibition over marrying outside one's own caste was observed only by the those communities who were considered superior in their regions & the untouchables.

According to the Baudhâyana Dharmasûtras (1:17:3-5), the offspring of a Brâhmana man & Kshatriya woman, a Kshatriya man & Vaishya woman becomes a Brâhmana & a Kshatriya respectively. Offsprings of all other intercaste-marriages are considered vrâtyas, who are excluded from the rites of being initiated in the Gâyatrî mantra, & hence by default, became Shûdras, if not untouchables.

So it can be concluded that intercaste-marriage marriage is allowed (if not frowned upon) under very restricted circumstances, but endogamy is highly appreciated for all castes.

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  • This comment in BG 1.38-44 is actually what Arjuna said, not Krishna. May 5 at 16:53
  • But Shrî Krishna didn't object to or refuted those words & silence is often considered as a gesture of approval. May 9 at 10:35

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