What is the Nature of Sapinda Relationship under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955?

Vijnaneswara’s Theory:

According to Vijnaneswara ‘Pinda’ in this context means ‘Body’? ‘Sapinda’ means ‘connected by particle of the same body.’

For example two persons would be sapindas when they have a common ancestor. Vijnaneswara comments: “This may prove too wide a statement since in this beginning-less Samsara such a relationship might exist in some way or other between all persons. Therefore, the sage Yajnavalkya states:” After the fifth on the mother’s side, i.e., in the mother’s line and after the Seventh on the father’s side, i.e., in the father’s line Sapinda relationship ceases”.

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Mode of Computation of Sapinda Relationship:

A is the common ancestor. S and s stand for sons. D and d stand for daughters. Take S4 is four degrees (i.e. generations) from the common ancestor for the common ancestor is to be counted as one degree d4 is similarly 4 degrees from the common ancestor.

A is within the limits of Sapinda relationship with reference to S4 and d4. So S4 and d4 are Sapindas. Take now S6 and d6. S6 is 6 degrees from the common ancestor through his mother and d6 is six degrees from the common ancestor tracing ascent through her mother. So S6 and d6 are beyond the circle of Sapinda relationship.

The rule is that when there is Sapinda relationship between a girl and a boy they cannot validly marry. Thus while S4 and d4 cannot marry being Sapindas, S6 and d6 can marry, if other necessary condi­tions are also fulfilled, for they are not Sapindas. On marriage S6 and d6 become Sapindas of each other because both are connected by particles of one body (namely their child) which they can jointly produce.

Jimutavahana’s Theory:

According to Jimutavahana ‘Pinda’ means the ball of rice offered at a Sraddha ceremony to deceased ancestors. Sapindas in this view are those relations who are connected with one another by oblations of food. So A and  would be Sapindas if one offers Pindas to the other (e.g. son and father) or both offer Pindas to a common ancestor (e.g. brothers) or if both receive Pindas from the same persons (e.g. husband and wife for both will receive Pindas from their sons).

On this theory Jimutavahana elaborately worked out his list of Sapindas. This theory prevailed in Bengal. Of course many relations who are Sapindas under Vijnarteswara’s theory would also be Sapindas according to this theory. But the two theories diverge as to who is a nearer Sapinda and so lead to contrary conclusions particularly in the law of inheritance.

Present position The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, provides a definition of Sapinda relationship. The definition has brushed aside Jimutavahana’s theory. It has modified Vijnaneswara’s theory. The modification consists in restricting the Sapinda relationship to 5 degrees on the father’s side and 3 degrees on the mother’s side.

It may be remembered that Sapinda relationship shall be computed upwards either through the mother or through the father or both and the person concerned shall always be counted as one degree.

In the illustration (see diagram) S4 and D4 are each tracing their relationship to the common ancestor through his or her mother and they are each 4 degrees from the common ancestor. Since they are beyond three degrees in the line of ascent through the mother, under s. 3 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, they would not be Sapindas and so can marry each other.

It is obvious that the purpose of the modification is to relax the rule of prohibition in relation to Sapinda relationship and to enlarge correspondingly the area of the circle of eligibility for purposes of marriage. Sapinda relationship is not a bar to the marriage if there is a Custom to the contrary (s. 5 (v)).

Mandooka Pluti (Frog’s Leap) in Sapinda Relationship:

In the genealogical table shown in the illustration, under the Dharmasastra Law D5 and d4 are Sapindas. S6 and d4 are not Sapindas because one of them (S6) is more then 5 degrees from the common ancestor tracing through his mother (D5)’. Take now S7 and d4. They are Sapindas because S7 is tracing relation through his father and are not beyond 7 degrees from the common ancestor.

Thus Sapinda relationship which exists between d4 and D5 disappeared as between d4 and S6 but again reappears as between d4 and S7. This phenomenon is like a frog leaping from one rock to another leaving an intermediate rock untouched. This is, therefore, referred to as Mandooka Pluti or frog’s leap.

Prohibited Degrees:

Certain rules are enjoined by Hindu Law to prevent incestuous marriage. They have been modified by the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 to some extent:

According to Smritis (e.g. Yajnavalkya Smriti) 7 degrees on the father’s side and 5 degrees on the mother’s side are prohibited degrees of relationship for a marriage. The Mitakshara, Vijnanesvara’s commen­tary on Yajnavalkya Smriti, explains how these degrees are to be counted. If the relationship of A is being traced A himself is counted as one degree weather in a line of ascent or in a line of descent. If there is a common ancestor the line diverges from him.

In such a case the common ancestor is also to be counted as one degree. Thus as regards collateral relations, we have to trace relationship through the common ancestor and he is to be reckoned as one degree. Balambhatti, the commentary on the Mitakshara, has elucidated the matter further.

Two collaterals can be treated as Sapindas only if with respect to each of them the common ancestor is within the limits of 7 or 5 degrees, ascent being traced, as the case may be, through the male or female line.

Exceptions Recognised by Customs:

Custom has engrafted upon this rule some exceptions. The great sage Baudhayana recognised that in Southern India maternal uncle’s daughter and paternal aunt’s daughter are treated as eligible for marriage. This is based upon local custom or Desa Achara.

In the Vedas there is a text which means “Oh Indra! We offer to you the fat seasoned in the ghee that is thy portion, as the maternal uncle’s daughter or paternal aunt’s daughter is one’s lot in marriage”. This is cited in support of the validity of such marriages. But the better basis for such marriages is local custom. In Andhra Pradesh sister’s daughter is regarded by custom as eligible for marriage.

In this way to a certain extent the rule as to degrees of prohibited relationship has been departed from by customary practices. A custom obnoxious to public policy and morality may be rejected. Thus in Balusami v. Balakrishna, AIR 1957 Mad. 97, a custom to marry daughter’s daughter was held to be invalid.

Present Position:

The prohibited relationships are enumerated in s.3 (g). A marriage within these degrees of prohibited relationship is void and may be declared null and void under s. 11., But customs permitting such marriages are saved under s. 5 clause (iv). So the customs mentioned above continue to be valid.