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Arranged Marriages in India

By: Shreshth Varshney (18147)

Marriage. A term we love to hate and hate to love. Before I get into the details about what arranged marriages are, I d like to focus attention on the concept of marriage, how it began, why it began and where it all started from. As opposed to common beliefs, it was not out of love or the need for being with a soul mate. If someone found someone to be their soul mate, they wouldn t need marriage to substantiate the same. In fact, it is quite the opposite; it comes from the insecurity of not having a soul mate or a companion and the fear of being left alone and having no one to follow our lineage.

Even though there are no reliable sources which date back to the origin of marriage, the way in which marriages take place and why they take place has changed significantly over time. Various societies have their own reasons for the origin of marriage, but one of the most commonly heard notion is that people started marrying due to man s need for assurance as to paternity of his children. Man wanted that his property should go to someone who deserves it, he wanted to someone to continue his lineage. For this to happen, he needed to make sure that the women who has his child, does not have any one else s child or has sex with anyone else. He wanted his own. Thus, he decided to bind the woman with himself through marriage. The binding was enforced and the women convinced by using the best technique that man had been using to convince people with arbit facts all throughout history; Religion. What better way can there be to convince a woman to give herself completely to her husband. Instances of the same are quite clear in the Ramayana. Sita is sent off to marry a stranger who proved himself worthy by being able to lift a heavy object. Without even knowing anything about this man, she is happy to be with him and is completely devoted to him. She doesn t question his decisions and is more than happy to spend time with him in a jungle. Soon she gets kidnapped by Ravana from the jungle, again, the same jungle where she accompanied him because he had to do it for his father. After being rescued she is taken back by Rama. Things seem to go alright till the point where Rama hears about a cloth washer who left his wife because she stayed in another man s house and was now impure. Rama too decides to get rid of Sita for she too seemed impure as she had stated with Ravana. A heartless man sends a pregnant woman into the jungle all by herself because she was kidnapped on a journey she was upon for her husband. We are made to pray to this heartless man and call him our god. His actions are justified because he has a penis. The woman gives birth to twins in the jungle and upon hearing about this, the opportunistic fellow comes to the jungle to take the children and makes his wife go through another test of fire to check if she is pure or not. Again, we are made to preach these stories; the woman with no self-regard is considered the ideal woman and the heartless man who keeps throws his pregnant wife in the jungle is considered as a god and the ideal husband/son/father/everything. The first story that most of us as Indian s are taught are the stories of this heartless man. Subconsciously, we all agree to what happens and consider it to be a normal occurring and expect

women to give themselves completely to their man. They get no say in what they want. It is imbibed in our culture. This forms the basic crux of the arranged marriage system in India. Male superiority and female freedom suppression. Apart from that, Indians give a lot of importance to family relationships. This tends to keep the family secure. The parents look after their children, and the children obey their parents. The parents find ideal bride/grooms for their children from proper families so that there is absolutely no chance of their kids marrying outside of their caste, class or religion. This system started when child marriages were very much a part of our culture. Children were married off at very early ages. Since young children could not give valid consent to marriage, the parent s consent was taken into account. The main purpose was to ensure that children do not grow up to marry in to some other class, caste or religion once they become adults. Thus, this whole system is pretty much based on casteism and there is absolutely no spirituality involved. Child marriages are now considered illegal by law, but things such as casteism stays in the blood. Parents still find it to be their responsibility to find an ideal groom/bride for their children. Someone from the same caste, class and religion. If children try to find their own bride/groom, they are threatened in many ways no inheritance or sometimes by threatening to kill. This has led to a lot of issues pertaining to honour killing. Children who go against their parent s wishes regarding who to marry are still killed in many parts of the country. Their killing is justified and supported by many members of their society. Another major issue that arises out of the arranged marriage system is the Dowry system. When a boy and a girl get married, the consent of the boy/girl is never the most important agenda; instead what is the most important agenda for a lot of arranged marriages is the dowry amount which is to be given by the girl s family. It has almost become a form of trade in India now. Girls from poor families or orphan girls are not good items to be taken in this trade since one does not get good dowry amount for them. In many cases, in case the dowry is not given by a certain time, the woman is sent back, thrown out of the house or even killed in a Domestic accident . Along the same lines, the issue of Sati was also quite prevalent in India; the same went hand in hand with the arranged marriage system. Women whose husband had died were made to sit in a fire and burn alive so as to cast away sins that the husband had committed. It was a crucial practice which was banned during the British rule. One more repressed issues pertaining to arranged marriages is sexual compatibility. Since the girl and the boy do not get to even see each other before marriage, sexual compatibility is out of the question. The girl is supposed to remain a virgin until marriage so that she doesn t realise her sexual desires. Since the man she would be marrying would be the only man she would have had sex with, the question of compatibility doesn t arise and she would have to take what she gets and remain happy with it. Lack of sexual compatibility is not just an issue from the woman s side, but the man s side as well. With rising awareness amongst females regarding their sexuality, the number of cases of adultery amongst couples in India has also been increasing substantially. Earlier, parents were told about prospective grooms and brides through relatives or common priests. As people started moving further away from each other, commonalities reduced and so did social interaction. In order to meet the demand for arranged marriages and allow same caste people to

meet at a common platform, people started using mass media. Newspapers and matrimonial. This is also a good way to explain the changes in requirement from parents. By analysing the classified ads over the years, one can get an idea about how the needs have been changing over the years. From being obsessed about caste and virginity in the 1930 s, a regular matrimonial ad consisted of a need to find pretty, healthy, virgin girl. Western and well educated need to reply . In 1960 s a family with connections was the more common request along with men in handsome government jobs. The 70 s and the 80 s saw many advertisements for fair, tall, homely and educated girls . These girls were in demand from business families or engineers and doctors. By 1990, social status was not based on caste, but on education, where the family had a house and how much money they had. NRI grooms were very high in demand, ads such as Delhi based reputed Gupta Medico family seeks
alliance for their beautiful, fair, smart, slim daughter 23/55 MBA (U.S.), pursuing CPA from US, and working in respected bank in US. Looking for tall, handsome, below 28, well placed professional.

were very common. Although, now the NRI demand has gone down a bit and families want to keep their daughter close to themselves. One of the most remarkable changes over the 85 years has been regarding the age at which women are married. In 1920 s, girls were wanted who had just entered their teens, now with greater importance to education that age bar has been increased significantly.
Preferably qualified Medico. Match from Status family only

Over the years, the arranged marriage trend has been changing. Parents are becoming slightly more tolerant by letting their children also have a say in the process of marriage. In fact, a lot of young educated Indians are actually alright with the idea of arranged marriages since most of them can t find enough time to go to social gatherings and find someone for them. Their jobs require too much time and thus making it difficult to find someone to share interests and conversations with. Thus, a lot of young Indians don t mind the parents helping out and letting them decide. Many young Indians are actively taking part in online websites like shaadi.com to look for a groom/bride for them. Since the dating culture is not very prevalent in Indian society, this is now the only source that individuals have for looking for a life partner. In many parts of the country the arranged marriage system is quite different, for example in the Gujarati communities, the woman has to spend 10 days and 10 nights at the would be grooms house to let her decide if she wants to be a part of the family or not. Such steps are quite forward considering the previous practices in India. Arranged marriage system is bad in one sense but good in another sense. It is wrong when marriages are made with things such as religion, caste and class in mind. It is even worse when parents do it only for the dowry money and completely disregard the wishes of their children. The concept of arranged marriages makes sense when the would be groom/bride get to know each other properly before marriage. Otherwise both of them would spend their lives blaming their own parents for putting them in a mess. A lot of people believe that the arranged marriage system ensures that the number of divorces are less in number and that love marriages or marriages without the consent or approval of parents do not last long since it is the parents who know if the families will gel well together or not. The changing trend of increase in the number of divorce cases in India is simple blamed up on the western culture influence of easy divorces. In my opinion, the only influence that is affecting the increasing divorce cases is the fact that women are now freer. They enjoy greater freedom to express themselves and revolt against the suppression that men are so used to over the centuries.

With the impact of mass media, greater female education and globalization, Indian women realise that they do not have to bow or get supressed by anyone. They now have a stronger voice and confidence in making it by themselves. They believe it is better to be alone rather than spend their lives with a worthless man who can t respect them. This attitude might be what has caused that increase in the number of divorces in the country but the wakeup call that we need to get from this is not that western culture is influencing us in a negative manner or that women are becoming too cold. In fact, it should open the eyes of all those men who tend to take their wives for granted and make them realise that they do have the strength and capability to walk out of a marriage and live independently. They do not deserve to be tied down and are at equal level with all men.

This change is also quite notable in our cinema. From movies about women staying at home, singing for their husbands and being completely devoted towards their man, women are now shown experimenting with their sexuality being more open about it and dating is no longer shown as a derogatory act in movies. Tolerance towards divorce is increasing and pre-marital sex is also coming into movies as a regular act of fulfilling basic human needs. Movies such as Delhi belly are coming out to show the changes in society and culture. Some might consider such changes to be detrimental to Indian culture, but culture is supposed to evolve and such changes need to be tolerated more.

Despite such a new face of events in Indian culture, most of the population is still living in the age where women are supressed and female education is only a dream for the penis-less. Even in urban cities, with the onset of corporates entering the nation and giving jobs to both men and women, a lot of women give in to their maternal urges and feel that a traditional system of women working at home and man earns the bread for the house works best. It ensures the child has someone to be taken care by and the house runs properly; but again, is it really fair to look at women as just someone to take care of the house and the child? Maybe the importance of marriage is for both to realise what is best for their family and take decisions with each other s consent, even if that means for the woman/man to be working at home for the child s betterment.

To sum it up, arranged marriages are great for families who want to bond with families, for people who are desperate and do not come in contact with too many people, or for couples who are content with role playing and creating families and want a sense of tradition and conformity in their lives. Since for a lot of Indian couples the idea of ideal woman taking care of the household still remains. The maternal instinct amongst many wants them to settle down, have babies and take care of their upbringing. At some level the roles defined by arranged marriages do seem like the most ideal roles to make things go smoothly. It somehow has a sense of balance which otherwise would be difficult to achieve in a family. A woman has a separate role in the family and the man too has his own separate role. The bondages of arranged marriage confirm and re-establish these roles in the couples mind set. After all, stability and the sense of security is the primary need that we all strive to achieve. It takes one to be very bold and courageous to go beyond the secure. In fact, all our issues regarding arranged marriages can be answered well using Maslow s need hierarchy. These needs are what parents strive to achieve for their children when they chose a groom. Firstly, the physiological

need; good house, shelter, food, sex etc. are the basic comfort needs that people look for in the other family. Add to this a stable man with a stable job to provide a sense of security to the wife. The 3rd level is the social need where the parents want their child to marry in the same caste and class. Going in the lower class would not cater to the social needs. The 4th stage is the esteem need, where people want them and their children to have high self-esteem by being with a well off and socially upper class family. The whole idea of celebrating in a grand manner is also an outcome of the same. The needs to show in society how well off you are by showing how easily you throw away money on a so called spiritual occasion called Marriage. Unfortunately, the primitive mind set stops at this level and does not go on to the other stages since achieving them would be having high hopes. Although this isn t just pertaining to the women s family, but the man s family as well. Since it is the woman being sent in to the man s family, more importance is given on looking into the man s family and wealth for security reasons. Women are primarily judged on the basis of appearance and the amount of dowry money she will be coming with. There are numerous websites as well which help in calculating this dowry amount by taking into account your parent s qualifications, your assets, your education and job profile. There is a famous saying regarding marriages which works for both love as well as arranged marriages. Whether it be arranged marriages or courtship marriage, people seek perfect husbands and perfect wives. A perfect husband or a perfect wife is a myth. No such person lives or ever lived in this world. We should not expect anyone to be 100 per cent perfect. We are all called to be perfect, but we are only on the way to it. We have to accept each other with each one's weaknesses and failings. As there is no perfect wife or perfect husband, there is no perfect marriage either. Success of marriage is in mutual understanding and acceptance, and also in mutual love and respect.