Love and marriage in India

Photo by Ankit Gupta on Unsplash

The family concept

India is a country where values and traditions are held above individual happiness and aspirations. The family is the most important thing and honor, pride and social status have a paramount place. Patriarchal ideology is widely prevalent and traditional gender role preferences are supported.

The joint family model is the most widespread. This generally includes three to four generations living together in the same home in a cooperative regime, where each family has a room and the kitchen is common.

The family provides security, support and union, will take care of the  the elderly and the most helpless, so it means having financial support even in times of unemployment since income is shared.

For these reasons it is that marriage is an issue that involves families and not just the couple. The elderly are attributed the responsibility of choosing the right people for their descendants.

Marriage is conceived for a lifetime. Indians pride themselves on their family values and adherence to traditions, so even when divorce is legal, it carries a strong stigma and is hardly used, except in extreme cases or people in big cities with a more open mind.

According to the idea of family in India, it will be better understood that when two people unite in marriage, responsibility and duty are considered before love and passion. As they believe, love will not take long to arise when the choice of partner is adequate.

Choice of couples

Traditionally, parents search through their social circle (neighbors and family) for those who communicate that they started the search process and extol the virtues of their son / daughter. It is also usual to search the classified ads section in newspapers and specialized web pages. The search will target people looking to get married in neighboring areas.

In typical arranged marriages, the parents decide on all facets of the process and many times the future bride and groom simply appear on the pre-established date of the marriage.

Once the choice is made, both families (parents, uncles, and grandparents) meet to determine the suitability of the other party, evaluating each other's financial and cultural position, through direct questions or indirect conversations.

The election process is complex and the main criteria for determining success in choosing a partner fall on:

Religion: the ideal is that marriages be arranged between people of the same religion in order to preserve it in future generations.

Caste: Caste is another very important criterion. The Hindu religion is divided into castes and subcastes. Preferably someone who belongs to an equal or compatible caste or sub-caste is chosen. This is probably due to preserving the ethnicity of the caste and finding someone with similar customs.

The social caste system imposes many restrictions, someone from a lower caste cannot aspire to marry someone from a higher caste. Although the caste system is legally abolished, in real life it remains an important factor in rural India. In the metropolises it has less and less weight and in fact there are inter-caste marriages and even of different religions.

Education: Educational training is an increasingly important issue, especially for boyfriends and a little less for brides. The more professional status the groom has, the greater his demand as a candidate. Even when the woman has a vocational training, she will continue to be expected to take on the housework and her motherhood rather than work commitments.

Horoscope: The coincidence of the horoscope is an indispensable part of the marriage process and the decisive criterion to end the conversations. In India, the horoscope is believed to be the key to all important events in an individual's life and Vedic Astrology is followed. This assesses the compatibility of the two people focused on the basis of thirty-six points or gunas. To be a good match, at least eighteen of thirty-six gunas must match.

Physical appearance: This is the main criterion for considering the potential bride. Light skin is preferred over dark skin. Height, weight, and other physical aspects are also discussed. In addition to physical appearance, their performance on household chores and their knowledge in the kitchen will be assessed.

The couple know each other

The concept we have of dating does not apply. After the horoscopes coincide and the priest has given his blessing to go ahead with the arrangements, the groom and his family go to the bride's house.

The parents and relatives who accompanied sit down, the future bride makes her entrance, duly dressed and jeweled, who will serve the tea,while being examined. This is the instance where the groom usually sees the candidate for the first time. Both will let their respective families glimpse if they want to continue getting to know each other, for which they will be asked to meet privately in another part of the house, although quite in full view of everyone.

Arranged marriage is not forced, they can choose among the people who have been chosen by their families.

There are times when the groom did not stop going to the bride's house, many times he works or resides in another country, leaving everything in the hands of his parents. If  both  want to move on, continue the conversations about marriage.

One issue that sells a light and constitutes a controversy is dowry, which consists consistently in the delivery of goods and cash payments by the bride's family to the groom's.

Marriages for love in India

 In ancient India, women used to have a much higher status than they have in today's society. Marriages included in love were quite common, even the religious scriptures and literature of the time tell stories of gods and goddesses who fall in love and marry.

With the adoption of the text known as the Laws of Manu (Manu Smriti), an ultra-conservative period began in which the concepts of good and bad changed in society. Women were designated as symbols of family honor and were placed under the protection of men, holding back much of the freedom they used to enjoy in the Vedic era.

Customs such as child marriages, dowry, and surgical honor killings to enforce the preference of arranged marriage and discourage any intention of loving marriage.

While the idea of an arranged marriage still prevails in some rural and remote areas, in part due to a lack of education and awareness, the current scenario in India has evolved greatly.

Women in large cities receive higher education, agree to work, and therefore have gained independence. This allows them to interact with people from outside their communities, access to technology has also contributed to these changes.

Today a hybrid model is styled where young people are free to have a kind of dating period and meet their lovers, who have the approval of their controlled parents, then what is expected that they marry.

In fact, young careers get married later, because they prefer to finish their careers. Still, young people trust their parents' criteria to get the ideal partner.

The most important reason today to oppose a loving marriage is the difference of caste or religion. This is due to people who are skeptical about accepting a new family member who comes from a strange cultural background.

In summary, while love marriages have become more accepted, the belief that arranged marriages lead to true happiness still persists, as they are credited with India's low divorce rate.

Beyond the wedding

After completing the marriage arrangements, a rich variety of wedding rituals begins. With over 500 languages and 6,000 dialects, India's diverse cultures and religions shape today's wedding ceremonies, so Indian weddings vary according to their region of origin.

The bride's family organizes most of the ceremonies and pays for all the arrangements for large numbers of guests over several days, including accommodation, banquet, decorations, and gifts for the groom. For his part, the groom's family hires a band and brings good gifts for the bride, such as jewelry and clothing, which are often far superior in value to gifts received from the bride's side.

Click HERE to read how the wedding ceremonies are performed.

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Broken Mirrors. The “Dowry problem” in India. Robin Wyatt &Nazia Massod, Sage Publications India, 2010

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