Pre Arranged Marriages Essays Of Elia

Arranged marriage is a type of marital union where the bride and groom are selected by their families. Sometimes, a professional matchmaker may be used.

History[edit]

Arranged marriages were very common throughout the world until the 18th century.[1] Typically, marriages were arranged by parents, grandparents or other relatives. Some historical exceptions are known, such as courtship and betrothal rituals during the Renaissance period of Italy[2] and Gandharva marriages in the Vedic period of India.[3]

In China, arranged marriages (baoban hunyin, 包办婚姻) - sometimes called blind marriages (manghun, 盲婚) - were the norm before the mid-20th century. A marriage was a negotiation and decision between parents and other older members of two families. The boy and girl were typically told to get married, without a right to consent, even if they had never met each other until the wedding day.[4][5][6]

Arranged marriages were the norm in Russia before the early 20th century, most of which were endogamous.[7]

Until the first half of the 20th century, arranged marriages were common in migrant families in the United States.[8] They were sometimes called picture-bride marriages among Japanese American immigrants because the bride and groom knew each other only through the exchange of photographs before the day of their marriage. These marriages among immigrants were typically arranged by parents, or relatives from the country of their origin. As immigrants settled in and melded into a new culture, arranged marriages shifted first to quasi-arranged marriages where parents or friends made introductions and the couple met before the marriage; over time, the marriages among the descendants of these immigrants shifted to autonomous marriages driven by individual's choice, dating and courtship preferences, along with an increase in interracial marriages.[8][9] Similar historical dynamics are claimed in other parts of the world.[10][11]

Arranged marriages have declined in prosperous countries with social mobility and increasing individualism; nevertheless, arranged marriages are still seen in countries of Europe and North America, among royal families, aristocrats and minority religious groups such as in placement marriage among Fundamentalist Mormon groups of the United States. In most other parts of the world, arranged marriages continue to varying degrees and increasingly in quasi-arranged form, along with autonomous marriages.[1]

Comparison[edit]

Marriages have been categorized into four groups in scholarly studies:[1][12]

  • parents or guardians select, the individuals are neither consulted nor have any say before the marriage (forced arranged marriage)
  • parents or guardians select, then the individuals are consulted, who consider and consent, and each individual has the power to refuse; sometimes, the individuals meet - in family setting or privately - before engagement and marriage as in shidduch custom among Orthodox Jews
  • individuals select, then parents or guardians are consulted, who consider and consent, and where parents or guardians have the power of veto
  • individuals select, the parents or guardians are neither consulted nor have any say before the marriage (autonomous marriage)

Gary Lee and Lorene Stone suggest that most adult marriages in recent modern history are some gradation between extreme example of either ideal arranged or ideal autonomous marriage, in part because marriage is a social institution.[13] Similarly, Broude and Greene, after studying 142 cultures worldwide, have reported that 130 cultures have elements of arranged marriage.[14]

Extreme examples of forced arranged marriage have been observed in some societies, particularly in child marriages of girls below age 12. Illustrations include vani which is currently seen in some tribal / rural parts of Pakistan, and Shim-pua marriage in Taiwan before the 1970s (Tongyangxi in China).

Types[edit]

There are many kinds of arranged marriages, some of these are:[15][16][17][18]

  • Arranged exogamous marriage: is one where a third party finds and selects the bride and groom irrespective of their social, economic and cultural group.
  • Arranged endogamous marriage: is one where a third party finds and selects the bride and groom from a particular social, economic and cultural group.
  • Consanguineous marriage: is a type of arranged endogamous marriage.[19] It is one where the bride and groom share a grandparent or near ancestor. Examples of these include first cousin marriages, uncle-niece marriages, second cousin marriages, and so on. The most common consanguineous marriages are first cousin marriages, followed by second cousin and uncle-niece marriages. Between 25 and 40% of all marriages in parts of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are first cousin marriages; while overall consanguineous arranged marriages exceed 65 to 80% in various regions of North Africa and Central Asia.[20][21]

The bride and groom in all of the above types of arranged marriages, usually do have the right to consent; if the bride or the groom or both do not have a right to consent, it is called a forced marriage.

Non-consanguineous arranged marriage is one where the bride and groom do not share a grandparent or near ancestor. This type of arranged marriages is common in Hindu and Buddhist South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia and Christian Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.[22]

Consanguineous marriages are against the law in many parts of United States and Europe.[23] In the United Kingdom, uncle-niece marriages are considered incestuous and are illegal, but cousin marriages are not considered incestuous by the law and are legal, although there have been calls to ban first-cousin marriages due to health concerns. While consanguineous arranged marriages are common and culturally preferred in Islamic countries and migrants from Muslim countries to other parts of the world, they are culturally forbidden or considered undesirable in most Christian, Hindu and Buddhist societies.[24] Consanguineous arranged marriages were common in Jewish communities before the 20th century, but have declined to less than 10% in modern times.[25][26]

Causes and prevalence[edit]

Over human history through modern times, the practice of arranged marriages have been encouraged by a combination of factors such as the practice of child marriage,[27] late marriage, tradition,[28][29] culture, religion, poverty and limited choice, disabilities,[30] wealth and inheritance issues, politics, social and ethnic conflicts.[31][32][33]

Child marriage[edit]

Main article: Child marriage

Child marriage, particularly those below the age of 12, does not prepare or provide the individual much opportunity to make an informed, free choice about matrimony. These child marriages are implicitly arranged marriages.[34] In rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America, poverty and lack of options such as being able to attend school leave little choice to children other than be in early arranged marriages.[27] Child marriages is primarily seen in areas of poverty. Parents arrange child marriages to ensure their child’s financial security, reinforce social ties, believe it offers protection, and reduce the daughters economic burden on the family due to how costly it is to feed, clothe and (optionally) educate a girl. By marrying their daughter to a good family the parents improve their social status by establishing a social bond between each other.[35]

According to Warner, in nations with the highest rates of child marriages, the marriage of the girl is almost always arranged by her parents or guardians.[36] The nations with the highest rates of arranged child marriages are: Niger, Chad, Mali, Bangladesh, Guinea, Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan. Arranged child marriages are also observed in parts of the Americas.[37][38]

Poverty[edit]

In impoverished communities, every adult mouth to feed becomes a continuing burden. Arranging a marriage of a daughter, scholars say,[39] is a means to reduce this burden. Poverty, thus, is a driver of arranged marriage.

This theory[40][41] is supported by the observed rapid drop in arranged marriages in fast growing economies of Asia. The financial benefit parents receive from their working single daughters has been cited[42] as a reason for their growing reluctance to see their daughters marry at too early an age.

Late marriage[edit]

Late marriage, particularly past the age of 30, reduces the pool of available bachelorettes for autonomous marriages. Introductions and arranged marriages become a productive option.[43]

For example, in part due to economic prosperity, about 40% of modern Japanese women reach the age of 29 and have never been married. To assist late marriages, the traditional custom of arranged marriages called miai-kekkon is re-emerging. It involves the prospective bride and groom, family, friends and a matchmaker (nakōdo, 仲人); the pair is selected by a process with the individuals and family involved (iegara, 家柄); and typically the couple meet three times, in public or private, before deciding if they want to get engaged.[44][45][46]

Limited choices[edit]

Migrant minority ethnic populations have limited choice of partners, particularly when they are stereotyped, segregated or avoided by the majority population. This encourages homogamy and arranged marriages within the ethnic group. Examples of this dynamic include Sikh marriages between 1910 and 1980 in Canada,[47] homogamous quasi-arranged marriages between European descent South Africans,[48] arranged marriages among Hasidic Jews,[49][50] and arranged marriages among Japanese American immigrants before the 1960s, who would travel back to Japan, to marry the spouse arranged by the family, and then return married. In other cases, a girl from Japan would arrive in the United States as a picture bride, pre-arranged to marry the Japanese American man on arrival, whom she had never met.[51]

Physical disabilities[edit]

Certain physical disabilities increase the likelihood of arranged, even forced marriages in some parts of the world.[30][52] Okonjo says that a physical disability in a bride, and even more so, a groom is one of the reasons for early arranged marriages in Nigeria.[53]

Many cultures traditionally seek endogamous marriages. A prominent example of this practice is the Hindu culture where the bride and groom belong to the same caste, but are non-consanguineous, that is the bride and groom are not blood relatives nor extended family members. Other examples of cultures following the endogamous arranged marriage tradition include Amish people in United States,[54][55]Orthodox Jews in Canada, the United States, Israel, and Western Europe,[56][57]Arab Christians[58] such as Coptic Christians in Egypt.[59] Marriage was a central feature of traditional Aboriginal societies. Freedom of marriage was restricted to ensure children were produced according to the correct family groups and affiliations and avoid marriages with certain close relatives or marriages with any one outside the group.[60] Marriages were mostly arranged by infant betrothal; it was even possible for a girl to be engaged before she was born. The promised relationship between the young man and woman, creates a series of lifelong responsibilities and obligations.[60] Arranged marriage is also the tradition of many Islamic nations of West Asia and North Africa, but with the difference that between 17% to majority of all marriages in these countries are also consanguineous marriages.[61][62][63][64]

Endogamous non-consanguineous marriages limit the number of potential partners available, particularly when population size for the religion or caste or group is small; a limited marriagable pool makes locating potential partners challenging, and encourages arranged or quasi-arranged marriages.[65][66]

The practice of endogamous consanguineous marriage dramatically limits the marriagable pool; it inherently encourages marriages arranged according to tradition and birth. Over 1.3 billion people, predominantly of Islamic faith, practice endogamous consanguineous arranged marriages.[67][68] Consanguineous arranged marriages are presently also observed, though to a much lesser extent, in some ethnic groups of Africa, India, Indonesia, Polynesia and South America.[69] In Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, majority (65%+) of all marriages are endogamous and consanguineous arranged marriages. More than 40% of all marriages are endogamous and consanguineous in Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Sudan, Libya and Mauritania; and over 1 in 5 marriages in Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, regions of Nigeria, India and Malaysia with high Muslim populations are endogamous and consanguineous arranged marriages.[67][70] Among these Islamic populations, arranged marriages include endogamous and non-consanguineous marriages, and therefore exceed the above observed rates of endogamous and consanguineous marriages.

Custom[edit]

The consequence of some customs is arranged marriage. For example, in rural and tribal parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, disputes, unpaid debts in default and crimes such as murder are settled by a council of village elders, called jirga.[71] A typical punishment for a crime committed by males involves requiring the guilty family to marry their virgin girl between 5 and 12 year old to the other family. This custom requires no consent from the girl, or even her parents. Such arranged child marriages are called vani (custom), swara and sak in different regional languages of Pakistan.[72][73][74]

Another custom in certain Islamic nations,[75][76] such as Pakistan, is watta satta, where a brother-sister pair of one family are swapped as spouses for a brother-sister pair of another family. In other words, the wife is also the sister-in-law for the males in two families. This custom inherently leads to arranged form of marriage. About 30% of all marriages in western rural regions of Pakistan are by custom watta-satta marriages, and 75% of these Muslim marriages are between cousins and other blood relatives.[77][78][79] Some immigrant families prefer customary practice of arranged marriage.[80]

Politics[edit]

Further information: Royal intermarriage

Arranged marriages across feudal lords, city states and kingdoms, as a means of establishing political alliances, trade and peace were common in human history.[46][82][83] When a king married his son to a neighboring state’s daughter, it indicated an alliance among equals, and signaled the former's state superiority. For example, the fourth daughter of Maria Theresa, Queen of Austria-Hungary, Marie Antoinette, married the dauphin (crown prince) of France, who would become King Louis XVI.[81]

Wealth and inheritance issues[edit]

Throughout most of human history, marriage has been a social institution that produced children and organized inheritance of property from one generation to next. Various cultures, particularly some wealthy royals and aristocratic families, arranged marriages in part to conserve or streamline the inheritance of their wealth.[84]

Tongyangxi, also known as Shim-pua marriage in Taiwanese - literally child or little daughter-in-law - was a tradition of arranged marriage, in which a poor family would arrange and marry a pre-adolescent daughter into a richer family as a servant.[85] The little girl provided slave-like free labour, and also the daughter-in-law to the adoptive family's son. This sort of arranged marriage, in theory, enabled the girl to escape poverty and wealthy family to get free labour and a daughter-in-law. Zhaozhui was a related custom by which a wealthy family that lacked an heir would arrange marriage of a boy child from another family. The boy would move in with the wealthy family, take on the surname of the new family, and marry the family's daughter. Such arranged marriages helped maintain inheritance bloodlines.[86] Similar uxorilocal arranged marriages to preserve wealth inheritance were common in Korea, Japan and other parts of the world.[87][88][89]

Bride-wealth[edit]

In many cultures, particularly in parts of Africa and the Middle East, daughters are valuable on the marriage market, because the groom and his family must pay cash and property for the right to marry the daughter. This is termed as bride-wealth and locally, by various names such as Lobola and Wine Carrying.[90][91] The bride-wealth is typically kept by the bride's family, after the marriage, and is a source of income to poor families. The brothers, father and male relatives of the bride typically take keen interest in arranging her marriage to a man who is willing to pay the most wealth in exchange for the right to marry her.[92][93]

Religion[edit]

Some religious denominations recognize marriages only within the faith. Of the major religions of the world, Islam forbids marriage of girls born to a devout parent to a man who does not belong to that religion. In other words, Islam forbids marriage of Muslim girls to non-Muslim men,[94] and the religious punishment for those who marry outside might be severe.[95] This is one of the motivations of arranged marriages in Islamic minority populations in Europe.[96][97]

Some Christian denominations allow marriage between Christians and non-Christians. 1 Corinthians 7:14 states that "the unbelieving husband has been sanctified by his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified by her believing husband."

Controversy[edit]

Arranged marriages are actively debated between scholars. The questions debated include whether arranged marriages are being used to abuse international immigration system; whether arranged marriages inherently violate human rights, particularly women's rights;[98] whether they yield more stable marriages for raising children, the next generation;[99] and whether there is more or less loving, respectful relationship for the married couple.[100]

Sham marriages[edit]

In the United Kingdom, public discussion[101] has questioned whether international arranged marriages are a sham, a convenient means to get residency and European citizenship to some male or female immigrants, who would otherwise be denied a visa to enter the country. These fears have been stoked by observed divorces once the minimum married residence period requirement is met. MP Ann Cryer has alleged examples of such abuse by West Asian Muslim families in her motion to the UK's House of Commons.[102] The United States has seen a similar controversy with sham arranged marriages.[103][104]

Human rights[edit]

Various international organizations, including UNICEF, have campaigned for laws to ban arranged marriages of children, as well as forced arranged marriages.[105] Article 15 and 16 of The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) specifically cover marriage and family law, which support such as ban.[106][107]

Arranged marriages are a matter of debate and disagreements. Activists such as Charlotte Bunch suggest that marriages arranged by parents and other family members, typically assume heterosexual preference and involve emotional pressure; this drives some individuals into marriages that they consent under duress.[98] Bunch suggests that marriages should be autonomous.

In contrast, preventing arranged marriages may harm many individuals who want to get married and can benefit from parental participation in finding and selecting a mate. For example, Willoughby suggests[100] that arranged marriages work because they remove anxiety in process of finding the spouses. Parents, families and friends provide an independent perspective when they participate in learning and evaluating the other person, past history, behavior, as well as the couple's mutual compatibility. Willoughby further suggests that parents and family provide more than input in the screening and selection process; often, they provide financial support for the wedding, housing, emotional support and other valuable resources for the couple as they navigate past the wedding into married life, and help raise their children.

Michael Rosenfeld says[100] that the differences between autonomous marriages and arranged marriages are empirically small; many people meet, date and choose to marry or cohabit with those who are similar in background, age, interests and social class they feel most similar to, screening factors most parents would have used for them anyway, according to Rosenfeld. Assuming the pool from which mates are screened and selected is large, Rosenfeld suggests that the differences between the two approaches to marriages are not as great as some imagine them to be.[100] Others have expressed sentiments similar to Rosenfeld.[108]

Stability[edit]

Divorce rates have climbed in the European Union and the United States with increase in autonomous marriage rates. The lowest divorce rates in the world are in cultures with high rates of arranged marriages such as Amish culture of United States (1%),[109] Hindus of India (3%),[100] and Ultra-Orthodox Jews of Israel (7%).[110] According to a 2012 study by Statistic Brain, 53.25 percent of marriages are arranged worldwide. The global divorce rate for arranged marriages was 6.3 percent, which shows the success rate of arranged marriages.[111] This has led scholars to ask if arranged marriages are more stable than autonomous marriages, and whether this stability matters. Others suggest that the low divorce rate may not reflect stability, rather it may reflect the difficulty in the divorce process and social ostracism to the individuals, who choose to live in a dysfunctional marriage rather than face the consequences of a divorce.[100] Also, the perception of high divorce rates attributed to self-arranged marriages in the United States is being called into question[112] and no authoritative data are available to support the theory that Hindus of India continue to enjoy low divorce rates.

There is a difference in observed divorce rates between various types of arranged marriages. The divorce rate in Islamic countries with consanguineous arranged marriages such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan is between 20% and 35%,[113] in contrast to less than 10% divorce rates in non-consanguineous arranged marriages among Amish people, Hindus and Orthodox Jews.

Love and respect in arranged versus autonomous marital life[edit]

Various small sample surveys have been done to ascertain if arranged marriages or autonomous marriages have a more satisfying married life. The results are mixed - some state marriage satisfaction is higher in autonomous marriages, others find no significant differences.[114] Johnson and Bachan have questioned the small sample size and conclusions derived from them.[115]

Scholars[100][116] ask whether love and respect in marital life is greater in arranged marriages than autonomous marriages. Epstein suggests that in many arranged marriages, love emerges over time. Neither autonomous nor arranged marriages offer any guarantees. Many arranged marriages also end up being cold and dysfunctional as well, with reports of abuse.[117][118][119]

See also[edit]

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  80. ^Arranged Marriage: Trapped Between Two Cultures. National Public Radio. Retrieved on 2012-04-02.
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  82. ^Harris, B. J. (1989). Power, Profit, and Passion: Mary Tudor, Charles Brandon, and the Arranged Marriage in Early Tudor England. Feminist Studies, 15(1), pages 59-88
  83. ^Fossum, U. M. S., & Boyd, K. (2010). Arranged Marriage–A violation of human rights?. University of California, Berkeley
  84. ^Coontz, S. (2006). Marriage, a history: How love conquered marriage. Penguin
  85. ^Judd, E. R. (1989). Niangjia: Chinese women and their natal families. Journal of Asian Studies, 48(3), pages 525-544
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  88. ^Haruko, W., & Gay, S. (1984). Marriage and property in premodern Japan from the perspective of women's history. Journal of Japanese Studies, 10(1), pages 73-99
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  90. ^Wining back our good luck: bridewealth in nowadays Maputo Paulo Granjo (2004)
  91. ^Bride price: an insult to women, a burden to men?, BBC News (August 30, 2004)
  92. ^Margrethe Silberschmidt (1999), Women Forget that Men are the Masters, Nordic Africa Institute, ISBN 978-9171064394, pp 87
  93. ^Stephanie Beswick (2001), " We Are Bought Like Clothes": The War Over Polygyny and Levirate Marriage in South Sudan, Northeast African Studies, 8(2), pp 35-61, Quote - "The highest bidder usually acquires the woman, and the bridewealth is made in a series of payments."
  94. ^See:
    • Saad Ibrahim, Minority Rights Group International, The Copts of Egypt, January 1996; pages 24-25;
    • Philippe Fargues (1998), in Andrea Pacini (Editor), Christian Communities in the Arab Middle East, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-829388-7, page 51;
    • Heiner Bielefeldt, Human Rights Quarterly, Volume 17, Number 4, November 1995, pages 587-617
  95. ^See:
    • Saeed, Hassan (2004): Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7546-3082-1;
    • Altstein,Howard;Simon, Rita James (2003): Global perspectives on social issues: marriage and divorce. Lexington, Mass: LexingtonBooks. ISBN 0-7391-0588-4;
    • [Quran 60:10]
  96. ^Coleman, D. A. (2004), Partner choice and the growth of ethnic minority populationsArchived June 18, 2015, at the Wayback Machine., Bevolking en Gezin, 33(2), 7-34.
  97. ^Razack, Sherene H. (October 2004). "Imperilled muslim women, dangerous muslim men and civilised Europeans: legal and social responses to forced marriages". Feminist Legal Studies. Springer. 12 (2): 129–174. doi:10.1023/B:FEST.0000043305.66172.92. 
  98. ^ abBunch, Charlotte (1995). Transforming human rights from a feminist perspective, Women’s Rights, Human Rights: International Feminist Perspectives (Julie Peters and Andrea Wolper Editors), pages 15-16; also see pages 157-160
  99. ^Amato, Paul R. (2012). Institutional, Companionate, and Individualistic Marriages, Marriage at the Crossroads: Law, Policy, and the Brave New World of Twenty-First-Century Families, pages 107-124
  100. ^ abcdefgModern Lessons from Arranged Marriages Ji Hyun Lee, New York Times (January 18, 2013)
  101. ^Ralph Grillo, Marriages, arranged and forced: the UK debate; in Gender, Generations and the Family in International Migration, (Editors: Albert Kraler, Eleonore Kofman, Martin Kohli, Camille Schmoll), ISBN 978-9089642851; see Chapter 3
  102. ^Multi-cultural sensitivity is not an excuse for moral blindness, Hansard, 10 February 1999; column 256-280
  103. ^David Seminara (2008) Hello, I Love You, Won’t You Tell Me Your Name: Inside the Green Card Marriage Phenomenon Center for Immigration Studies
  104. ^MORE WEDDING RING BUSTS Green-card scam probe widens Brian Harmon, New York Daily News (August 16, 2002)
  105. ^Child Marriages UNICEF
  106. ^Freeman, Marsha (1995). Transforming human rights from a feminist perspective, Women’s Rights, Human Rights: International Feminist Perspectives (Julie Peters and Andrea Wolper Editors), pages 149-176
  107. ^CEDAW - Full Text of Convention United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (2009)
  108. ^Is arranged marriage really any worse than craigslist? Anita Jain, New York Magazine (2013)
  109. ^Trip back in time: the Amish in Ohio St Louis Post-Dispatch (September 10, 2010)
  110. ^"It's All Relative: The Contemporary Orthodox Jewish Family in America - Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals". jewishideas.org. 
The Ambitious Mother and the Obliging Clergyman - a cartoon by Charles Dana Gibson caricaturing arranged marriages in early 20th century United States. A parent insists their daughter marry a man on grounds of wealth or aristocratic title, without considering the girl's wishes. The clergyman is caricatured officiating the marriage with a blindfold.
[81] 1770, Empress Maria Theresa sends 14-year-old Maria Antonia to France to marry Louis-Auguste

Arranged marriages account for an overwhelming majority of marriages in India. Let's have a look at its history & evolution, customs, process, significance and some interesting facts in this essay.


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In India, arranged marriages still remain the majorly preferred way for Indians to enter into matrimony. In case of an arranged marriage, parents and other relatives decide on a life partner that they deem suitable for their child. They keep in mind various factors, different for boys and girls, while searching for a suitable match to attach their names with. It’s a tradition Indians find hard to part with. Even in the 21st Century, around 85 percent Indians prefer to marry the boy or girl chosen by their families, rather than choosing their life partners themselves. This statistics was reveled in a survey conducted by the Taj Group of Hotels. Another survey by IPSOS in 2013, revealed that 74% of young Indians, aged between 18-35 years said that they would rather let their parents choose their life partners, than choosing themselves. The success rates of these arranged marriages when compared to the figures concerning love marriages, we might just realize that sticking to traditions and listening to your parents is not always an uncool thing to do.

History & Evolution

Historically speaking, weddings during the Vedic times took place by a variety of methods. While arranged marriages were preferred, the consent of the bride was generally taken into consideration. In case of royal families, parents arranged a Swayamvar, a ceremony where suitable matches from all over the country were invited. Thereafter, either these suitors had to prove their prowess to win over the girl, or the girl herself will choose one of them, by offering him a flower garland. Even love marriages and elopements were quite common. The couple in love will elope and undergo what is known as ‘Gandharva’ type of marriage. 

From around 500 BC, the Vedic Hindu culture gave rise to what we have come to known as Hinduism. The Manu Smriti, a religious discourse that outlined the do’s and don’ts for regarding duties, rights, laws, code of conduct, and virtues to be practiced by people practicing family life, if they want to lead a life of sanctified dharma. These rules were seeped in patriarchal tones and advocated stripping women of their basic independence, from a belief that independent women spread promiscuity. The women from this time on were put under the shackles of forced patriarchy, having to live under the guardianship of a man in all stages of life: Father when she is unmarried, Husband when she is married and son when she is old/widowed. 

As position of women in the society degraded, the concept of marriage and her role in it also changed. Previous custom of asking for her consent was abolished and rituals like dowry, child marriages, exchange marriage and other derogatory customs began to rise. Arranged marriages became the most prevalent way of marriage in the country and among Hindus especially.

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Process of Arranged Marriage

Arranged marriages in India are long drawn out processes, where finalizing the perfect match may take months and even years. In typical arranged marriages, the parents decide every facet of the process and the prospective bride and groom just show up at the prearranged date of marriage. The parents send out words through that they are looking for a match for their child through their social circle (neighbors and relatives). They might also employ the services of the local matchmaker. Traditionally the matchmaker is an individual who keeps a database of marriageable individual from the neighboring area. Once a match is established, the elders of the family first meet at a neutral place to talk and also to figure out the suitability of the match firsthand. In these meetings, the families try to judge the financial and cultural barometer of each other through direct or indirect talks.

Criteria for Suitable Match

The suitability of a match is determined after taking into account several factors. While some are common for the boy’s and girl’s sides, certain others are tailored to suit either side. Some of these criteria are:

Religion: Religion tops the list of criteria while fixing a marriage match. The boy and girl going for an arranged marriage have to belong to the same religion. Hindus will marry Hindus, while Muslims will look for a match within the Muslim community and Christian families will prefer their children getting married to a Christian. This is probably to preserve the culture and heritage of their religion as customs and rituals vary greatly between religions.

Caste: Caste is another important criterion in the list. Hindu religion is divided and subdivided into several castes, which are again branched out into sub-castes. While seeking a match, the parents prefer to choose a candidate belonging to same or compatible caste and sub-caste. This is probably done to preserve the ethnicity of the caste and to seek a match with people having similar customs as one.

Culture: The cultural background of the two families is also taken into consideration while fixing a match. Orthodox families do not prefer to initiate alliances with families who seem permissive and open-minded and vice versa. Educational background of the families is also seen to impact a marriage match. Their moral backgrounds are also scrutinized while considering a match.

Horoscope: Horoscope matching is an indispensible part of the arranged marriage process and it is generally the cinching criterion for finalizing the talks. Horoscope refers to the birth chart or natal chart of an individual, based upon the positions of astrological luminaries like the Sun, the Moon, the Planets and other stars at the time of the individual’s marriage. It generally holds important life predictions as well as describes the individual’s character based on the positions of astrological bodies in specific positions. In India, it is believed that the horoscope holds the key to every important events of an individual’s life and Vedic Astrology is followed as the preferred method. The horoscope matching according to Vedic Astrology is based on nakshatras or Lunar constellation and the process is known as Guna Milap or Ashtakoot Milan. This assesses the compatibility of the two people in focus based on thirty six points or guna. To be deemed a good match at least eighteen out of thirty six gunas need to be matching. Other astrological conditions also needs to be determines such as Mangalik Dosha which occurs when the planet mars is positioned in 1st, 4th, 8th and 12th house of the birth chart. The priest, who is matching the kundalis or birth charts, then prescribes some remedies to counteract the negative effects.

Professional Stature: This criterion is almost exclusively considered by the girl’s side while looking for a match. The prospective groom needs to have a stable job or business and earn enough money so that he can comfortably support his future family. The higher the professional stature of the boy is, the more in demand he enjoys in the marriage field. 

Physical Appearance: This is the prime criterion of suitability for a girl when being considered for marriage. The color of skin still plays one of the most important deciding factors when it comes to arranged marriage and fair-skinned girls are always preferred over wheatish or dark-skinned girls. Height, weight and other physical aspects are also scrutinized. While the physical appearance of the boy is important to some extent, not much stress is placed on the concept as long as he is not suffering from any serious problem. Apart from physical appearance, the girl is also judged based upon her efficiency in domestic chores such as cooking, stitching, and cleaning.

Meeting Between Families/Prospective Spouses

After horoscopes have been matched, and the priest has given his blessing to go ahead owing to pre-determined compatibility of their birth charts, the groom’s family visits the bride family to see the bride and finalize the marriage. Elders of both the families are seated and the bride-to-be is brought in, properly decked up in fine clothes and jewelry. The bride is seated in the middle of the room and is scrutinized by the boy’s family members, often interviewed to judge her domestic knowledge. The groom may or may not accompany the elders in this first visit. If he is, the bride and the groom may be allowed to converse or even meet in private, although such meetings will be heavily chaperoned. If the groom’s family considers the girl suitable for their son, they will intimate the girl’s family through the matchmaker. Sometimes, there are investigations around the neighborhood to absolutely determine suitability of the match. If all goes well, the marriage talks proceed, solidify, and move towards formalization of the match.

Engagement

Engagement marks the formalization of the marriage match. This happens only after both the parties have agreed that this is the best match possible for their child from all aspects. Depending on the ethnicity and customs of the two families, a date is fixed where the formal announcement of the match and impending wedding is to happen. There might or might not be a formal ring exchange, but usually the date of marriage is fixed on that day. Usually a priest is consulted, and depending on the groom’s and bride’s horoscope a marriage date is set. The two families exchange gifts and sweets.

Arranged Marriage in Modern Times

Although the practice of arranged marriage has remained favored in the country, the whole procedure has seen some major modernizing changes. For instance, computers, websites and portals have taken over the job of traditional matchmakers, with computer programs predicting matches for individuals. Several marriage portals have sprung up over the last decade or so and while organizations like Bharat Matrimony, and Shaadi have been in the arena for quite some time, upcoming platforms like SimplyMarry are also proving to be worthy contenders. Nowadays, the criteria for matches have also changed - for example in urban areas, working women are often preferred as better matches and their professional stature is considered similarly to the grooms. Emphasis is put on education and values, rather than just efficiency in the domestic arena. Criteria like blood tests are also gaining more and more favor among the urban community. The prospective partners are allowed to interact more freely nowadays, over the phone or even face to face. The concept of courtship has gained favors with the couple getting the opportunity to know each other, sometimes for as long a year between the actual marriage dates. While not much have changed in the rural areas, there still is a general increase in awareness when it comes to issues like child marriages and dowry.

Significance and Success Rate

The fact that sticking to traditions and placing one’s faith on the judgment of one’s parents is not such a bad thing, has been proved by the low divorce rates among arranged marriage couples. The divorce rate is about 1 in every 100 incidences. That and the evidences of long term stability of the alliance make the phenomenon as a go to for Indians. While the concepts like ‘seeing’ and scrutinizing the bride by the groom’s family seem derogatory to feminist sensibilities, an arranged marriage, unlike love marriages, provide a complete clean slate for the couple, where they can set expectations according to the partner’s after marriage temperament. The tradition is built more in terms of commitment and duty rather than love and passion. Some would say the former is a much stronger base to build a marriage on as at the end of everything, a marriage boils down to exactly those two factors. So, despite much judgment from all of modern world, this may be the secret of strong Indian values.





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