Sunday, September 25, 2005

Arranged marriages

"Love marriages" do happen in India but it is not the norm. It is an accepted fact that a person's family will play a role in picking the marriage partner. It is important to remember that in Indian society an arranged marriage is seen as an act of love

Before coming to India, I had a hard time conceiving a marriage which was not based purely on love. How to manage a long-term relationship with someone that you didn’t choose? How to make an arranged marriage last when so many love marriages result in a divorce?

Some Indians, even in the new generations, think that an arranged marriage is an easy alternative to a love marriage. No need to hunt for the “right one”, your family will do the work for you.

Definition

An arranged marriage is a marriage that is at some level arranged by someone other than those being married and is usually used to describe a marriage which involves the parents of the married couple to varying degrees (forced marriage, traditional arranged marriage, modern arranged marriage, modern arranged marriage with courtship, introduction only).

In many cultures that are modernising, children increasingly tend to view an arranged marriage as an option that they can fall back on if they are unable or unwilling to spend the time and effort necessary to find an acceptable spouse on their own. The parents then become welcome partners in the child's mate hunt.

Origins

Arranged marriages have been part of the Indian culture since the fourth century. Many consider the practice a central fabric of Indian society, reinforcing the social, economic, geographic, and the historic significance of India. Arranged marriages serve six functions in the Indian community: (1) helps maintain the social satisfaction system in the society; (2) gives parents control, over family members; (3) enhances the chances to preserve and continue the ancestral lineage; (4) provides an opportunity to strengthen the kinship group; (5) allows the consolidation and extension of family property; (6) enables the elders to preserve the principle of endogamy.

The practice of arranged marriages began as a way of uniting and maintaining upper caste families. Eventually, the system spread to the lower caste where it also was used for the same purpose. "Marriage is treated as an alliance between two families rather than a union between two individuals".

95% of all current Indian marriages are arranged, either through child marriages or family / friend arrangement. The Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929-1978 states that the legal age for marriage is 18 for females, and 21 for males, with most females being married by 24 and most males being married by their late twenties. However, many children, age 15 and 16 are married within a cultural context, with these marriages being neither void or voidable under Hindu or Muslim religious law, as long as the marriage is not consummated until the legal age of 18 for females and 21 for males.

Reasons

-Since marriage is one of the most important decisions a person will ever make and because divorce is not accepted among most Indians, it is imperative that the marriage choice is carefully thought out and planned. How can a young person make such an important decision on his/her own?
-For some parents there is pressure from the community to conform and in certain cultures, a "love marriage" or even a relationship is considered a failure on the part of the parents to keep control over their child.
-For some, it is fear of what the community - social and/or religious will think if their child is not married, often by a certain age. In some cultures, sons and daughters have a "sell by date", meaning the son or daughter are deemed less likely to find a suitable partner if they are past a certain age, and it is considered folly to try to marry them off at that stage.
-The religious and spiritual aspect of arranged marriage can play a large role in finding a "suitable" spouse. Numerology is often used in Indian culture to predict the fruitfulness of a particular match. This can sometimes be expressed in a percentage, ie a 70% match.
-Caste can play a large role in Indian marriages. One reason for Indian parents opting for an Indian arranged marriage, rather than a marriage of mixed races is that the caste cannot be found out or simply does not exist in that culture/country. This ambiguity can create a "fear of the unknown" and so an arranged marriage may be insisted upon.

Proponents' views

-Reduction or elimination of incompatibilities: Since marital incompatibility has been found to be the major reason for divorce, arranged marriages ensure a much higher probability of success because they tend to match persons of the same religion, caste, dietary preference (e.g., vegetarian), linguistic group, age group, socio-economic background, education, professional status, physical stature, etc.
-Following one's head is often wiser than following one's heart: What is idealistically called "love" and "individual choice" is often the infatuation of the moment, which often passes when it is too late and the marriage has already taken place. Having elders vet the prospective spouse and their family is a kind of "due diligence" that needs to take place.
-Low expectations: Neither the man nor the woman knows quite what to expect, and there is a lot of understandable trepidation on both sides. This often works out well, because things turn out to be "not so bad after all".

Opponents' views

-Forced marriages: Much of the stated opposition to the concept of arranged marriages is actually an opposition to forced marriages. None except the incorrigibly feudal would defend forced marriages where the individuals being married have no veto over the decision.
-"Loveless" marriage: This has, however, been disputed by many people in happy (arranged) marriages who claim that love grows in a marriage, even if the marriage does not start with love.
-Individual accountability: Even if arranged marriages prove to be significantly more stable than "love" marriages, the latter are still preferable. There is something more important at stake than stable families — respect for individual accountability.

Process

The steps involved in an arranged marriage vary by communities and families. Here is the most common scenario, and the process can break down at any step.

-Broadcast of Availability: This is when the guardians of the groom or bride announce that they are in market for an alliance.

-Horoscope Matching: The interested parties trade birth horoscopes as a sign of showing interest. Those who believe in horoscopes consult with astrologers and priests to find out compatibility. The compatibility score is often used to reject an alliance.

-Photo Exchange, Interview, and Background Check: The pictures are exchanged and if in agreement, one or more face to face interviews are arranged, during which elders are also present to help with familiarization

Potential bride-grooms come under close scrutiny. Do they have enough means to support the bride? Do they appear to be men who will make good husbands and fathers? Often, the bride will live with her in-laws after marriage in what is called a joint family. Because of this, the groom's family is also brought under close scrutiny. Do the women of the household seem well cared for? Do they have a big enough house for another person and grandchildren? Does the family have a good reputation?

Potential brides also come under scrutiny by the boy's parents. Since it is a commonly held belief that brides are the embodiment of that family's honor and pride, the girl must be from good family and have good manners. She should be respectable and have no taint on her name. Does she have the makings of a good wife and mother? Does she want to work after marriage or stay at home?

Traditionally, the bride and groom would not even see each other until the day of their wedding. Today, while most marriages are still arranged, times are changing. There is usually a small courtship period where the bride and groom can meet and talk under the careful watch of a guardian. Also, if either one of the two do not want the marriage, it is likely to be cancelled. Very few family's today "force" marriages upon their children.

-Dowry and Contract Negotiations: The logistics of marriage are then discussed. Who pays how much for the wedding expenses, the gold, the dowry, girl's and boy's net worth, the house they'd live in etc.

-Engagement: If all the parties are in arrangement, sweets are shared to announce the engagement.

Listen to interviews.
Read testimony.
Visit a matrimonial website.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

22 comments:

methodactor said...

Extremely well researched and lucid. Great work.

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Everymatter said...

complete details of arranged indian marriage system

Nitin said...

Plane Wedding Indian Culture would hope that your criteria for a marriage partner were deeper than her relationship with her Partner.Who is that person fell in love with? What are his or her values? Are they compatible with my own? The woman rules the household de-facto, without screaming for authority. The man is the head of the household , but the real power lies with the woman. And women in those cultures know how to command that power without screaming in her life with life partnar.


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Girish Jodi said...

Importance of Mehndi in Indian Weddings...

Indian marriages are known for their many rituals. In fact, the beauty of Indian weddings comes forth in the numerous traditions that are associated with the special celebration. Marriages being the most important day in one's life, mehndi has become an ornament for the soon to be brides. Infact one whole ceremony dedicated to its celebration popularly known as "Mehndi Ki Raat".Indian marriages are incomplete without dance, music and lots of laughter.

It is a common belief that the darker the color the mehndi leaves on the hands on a bride, the more will she be loved by her husband and mother-in-law. However, the significance of applying mehndi during weddings is not restricted just to sentiments and beliefs. Although these beliefs make the application of mehndi a much anticipated and charming tradition, the actual reason is of much deeper significance.

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Indian Matrimonial Services said...

Marriage is about unknown people to come together but as now days meaning of marriage has been changed time to time ,marriage is way where two people should be known to each other and want to spend rest of life with together.

Chloe Julia Watson said...

Where are the RULES?! I NEED THE RULES! Although it was very helpful, I need the rules of arrange marriage!

ExpressJodi said...

Fertility Rituals

Marriage is one of the biggest fertility rituals Known in Indian culture. When two people get married. they are said to enter grihasta ashram where they are expected to bear children. satify their sexual urge, earn money and follow religious practices. Hindu marriages profess the idea of coming together of the energies and paving way to a new creation.

Offering of Grains

Throughout India, one thing that remains common to all communities is offring of grains in wedding ceremony. Mostly rice, puffed rice or whole grains, these grains are fed to the sacred fire in different ceremonies.

Importance of Shiva's Bael leaves

Holy Bael leaves are proffered in several ceremonies before the wedding and after it. In many communities in india, before the wedding day arrives, Bael leaves are placed in earthen pots which are topped with different kinds of cereals. After the wedding, the sprouted seedlings are then released in a flowing river or a pool. This ritual is performed to invoke blessings of Lord Shiva upon the married couple and pray for their progeny.

Vishnu's pious Lotus

As per mythology, at the time of creation of the universe, while lord Vishnu was pondering over the creation of mankind, a pious lotus rose out of his navel. On that lotus was seated Lord Brahma who paved way to the creation and illumination of the universe. Thus, lotus remains symbolic of procreation, birth and fertility. It is Therefore, offered during wedding puja to the gods to confer potency upon the couple. Also, At the time of a Hindu wedding, the bride and the groom are given the stature of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu because they represent the eternal companionship and exemplify how a relationship between husband and wife should be.

Nose ring

Usually seen as a piece of accessory, almost all brides sport nose ring on their wedding day. In some communities, girls are told to get their nose pierced before they tie the knot.

Sacred coconut rituals

Across India, since time immemorial coconut has enjoyed its association with human fertility in a sacrosanct manner. In Gujarat, there is a ritual of bride presenting a coconut in a customary way to the groom at the time of the marriage. Here coconut is symbolic of the progency of the couple that the bridegifts the groom. Of all the fruits, coconut is most closely related to human skull because of the three marking on its base that resemble human facial features.

The mantras of virility

During saat pheras in a Hindu marriage, there are several mantras that are chanted for progency of the couple. While the first phera is for a long lasting companionship, in the second Phera, "Kutumburn rakshayishyammi sa aravindharam", the bride promises the groom that she will fill his with love and will bear children of him.

The History

There was a time when potency was considered as the be all and all of all activities. The earliest ritual of fertility among Hindus can be dated back to the Harappan civilization where it has been discovered that people worshipped clay figurines of a mother goddess who represented fertility. Several phallic symbols representing gods in sitting position wearing bull's horns (Bull being a universal symbol of male potency) have also been found at the sites of indus Valley Civilization. As the world evolved and ancient civilizations paved way to the modern societies, marriage started being considered as a mandatory ceremony before women could conceive. Also, the idea of marriage was propelled by the thought of having the family legacy move ahead; so that families could get heirs.

richi tripathy said...

Marriage or Shaadi is the most important part of our life, either it is love or arrange marriage both are same intension which is the pure bonding between two people of life time relation.

Quirky Expatriate said...

Arranged marriage is the bonding between two people, over the years. I have written an article based on this topic. Do check out my blog at: http://www.jodilogik.com/wordpress/index.php/15-quotes-on-arranged-marriage-from-unexpected-sources/

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