Arranged Marriages In India

Arranged Marriages In India

Arranged Marriages

Arranged marriages have been an integral part of Indian society for centuries. While the practice has evolved, it continues to be a prevalent method of marriage in the country. In arranged marriages, the families of the prospective bride and groom play a significant role in choosing the spouse, though the consent of the individuals getting married is also important.

Traditionally, matchmakers or relatives may suggest potential matches, or families might seek matches through their social circles or matrimonial ads. These matches are often based on caste, religion, social status, and economic standing. In recent times, online matrimonial sites and matchmaking apps have also become popular.

The Tradition of Arranged Marriages

The tradition of arranged marriages in India dates back to the Vedic period, approximately 1500-500 BCE. During these times, marriage was seen as a duty to preserve social order rather than a union based on love or individual attraction.

The Manusmriti, an ancient legal text from the 2nd century BCE, outlines various laws and customs related to marriage in Hindu society, including the practice of arranged marriage. Marriages were arranged based on the varna (social class) system; typically, individuals were expected to marry within their varna.

Over time, factors such as caste, Gotra (lineage), religion, social status, and economic standing became crucial considerations in arranged marriages. The concept of ‘Kanyadaan,’ or the father’s giving away of the daughter, also evolved during this period. This practice highlighted the patriarchal nature of society and the perceived role of women as dependents who were transferred from the protection of their fathers to their husbands.

In the medieval period, political alliances and property arrangements often dictated marriage arrangements among the nobility and royalty. The tradition of providing a dowry, or property and money given by the bride’s family to the groom at the time of marriage, also became entrenched during this period.

Notably, Muslim marriages, called “Nikah,” are viewed as contracts with specific obligations for both parties. A Mahr (dower) is a mandatory payment, in the form of money or possessions, paid or promised to be paid by the groom to the bride at the time of marriage. The woman’s security must be paid when the marriage contract is completed.

The practice of dowry came into Hindu society during the Muslim invasions in India.

Gotra Is Important

The concept of ‘Gotra‘ plays a significant role in many arranged marriages within Hindu communities in India. ‘Gotra’ is a term used in Hindu culture that denotes lineage or clan, traced patrilineally. Each Gotra is associated with an original forefather (Rishi or sage), and individuals belonging to the same Gotra are considered descendants of that sage. There are many Gotras, each with distinct customs and traditions.

Traditionally, marriages within the same Gotra are prohibited in many Hindu communities, as individuals of the same Gotra are considered kin, even though the common ancestor may be many generations back. This rule has avoided potential genetic issues that could arise from marrying close relatives and strengthened social ties by promoting alliances between different clans.

During the matchmaking process, the Gotras of potential partners are among the first things to be compared. If they are the same, the match is usually rejected outright. In some communities, even the mother’s Gotra (before her marriage) is considered, and matches from the mother’s Gotra may also be rejected.

The Gotra of the bride and groom also plays a role in the wedding rituals. During the ceremony, the Gotras of both individuals are invoked as part of the Sankalpam (the formal commitment to perform the ritual).

There are other factors as well that families take into account while considering a match. These factors can include the compatibility of horoscopes in certain religions and cultures, the families’ reputation, the prospective bride and groom’s educational qualifications, occupations, physical attributes, and in certain cases, the dowry that might be exchanged.

The Consent

Once a potential match is found and the families have conducted their preliminary investigations, the prospective bride and groom meet each other, either in the presence of their families or alone. This is a chance for them to get to know each other and decide if they are comfortable with the match.

In contemporary India, the consent of the individuals getting married is considered crucial. Individuals often have the right to refuse a match if they do not feel compatible with the prospective spouse. This is a significant change from the past, where the individuals getting married had very little say in the choice of their spouse.

If both parties agree to the match, an engagement ceremony is often held, and the wedding date is fixed. The following ceremonies and rituals vary greatly depending on the region, community, and personal preferences of the families involved.

The concept of arranged marriage might seem strange to those from cultures where love marriages are the norm. However, it’s worth noting that in India, ‘arranged’ does not necessarily mean ‘forced.’ While forced marriages unfortunately occur, they are illegal and are not representative of most arranged marriages in India.

Why Arranged Marriages Work Better

The proof is in the pudding.

Arranged marriages in India have been a long-standing tradition, and it’s interesting to observe that the divorce rate in India is considerably lower compared to many Western countries.

In arranged marriages, the bride and groom usually come from similar cultural, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds. This shared cultural understanding often results in shared values, beliefs, and practices which can significantly reduce potential sources of conflict in the marriage.

In India, marriage is often seen not just as a union of two individuals but also as a union of two families. Families are deeply involved in arranged marriages, and their support extends beyond the wedding ceremony. The involvement of families before and after marriage can provide a strong support network for the couple, which can help them navigate any marital difficulties.

Arranged marriages in India are often approached with a sense of practicality, with financial stability, family reputation, and long-term compatibility being key factors in selecting a partner. This pragmatic approach often results in more sustainable marriages, as the decision to marry is not solely based on emotional attachment or physical attraction, which fluctuates over time.

Indian society generally values marriage highly and views it as a lifelong commitment. The cultural expectation to stay together and work through challenges can help keep divorce rates low.

In arranged marriages, love is often expected to grow gradually over time, and initial compatibility is more focused on shared values and the ability to work together as a team. This can lead to strong, enduring relationships built on mutual respect, understanding, and shared life experiences.

The practice of arranged marriages has been evolving with changing societal norms. We often see a blend of arranged and love marriages, sometimes called “arranged love marriages.” In these cases, individuals find partners on their own and then involve their families, or they have arranged introductions through their families. Still, they are given significant time (sometimes several months or years) to court before deciding to marry.