By Swami Harshananda
Vivāha or marriage has been listed by the smṛtis and dharmaśāstras as one of the sixteen saṇskāras or sacraments. Most of these works narrate eight forms of marriages of which the rākṣasavivāha is also the one.
It is actually equivalent to forcible abduction and rape in its crudest form. It is a punishable offence in civilized societies. It is not even fit to be called as vivāha or marriage in the strictest sense of the term. It was included in the list only because it existed in certain primitive and barbarous societies. Perhaps it represented a kind of war-booty.
In course of time, as people settled down in towns and villages, building a civilized society, this form of marriage became a symbolical one, especially among the kṣattriyas. It is often with the consent of the girl. The classic examples found in the epics and the purāṇas are those of Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna marrying Rukmiṇī and Subhadrā. Even in the rākṣasa types, marriage rites like the saptapadī were insisted upon to regularize the same.
- Kṣattriyas are the warrior class.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore