In this essay I will examine the Hindu views on arranged marriages and how they are surviving in s multi cultural society. I shall use secondary research to back up what I mention within this essay.
An arranged marriage is a marriage in which neither the bride nor the groom has a say over the selection of their future spouses. However, in an arranged marriage, both parties give full consent to the marriage. Arranged marriages have been proven to be successful. Arranged marriages have been a traditional aspect of family life in Hinduism.
According to Hinduism, a marriage between two people is seen to be a holy relationship, that is just not limited to this one life, but extends across seven or more lives during which, the couple will help each other grow as people and progress spiritually. Two souls come together and marry because their karmas are intertwined and they have to resolve many things together upon earth in order to ensure their mutual salvation. In Hinduism, man and woman represent the two halves of the divine body. There is no question of superiority or inferiority between them.
When parents are in search for a partner for their child, they firstly look at the religion, language and caste. These are very important factors that most parents do not overlook for arranged marriages. In India, parents feel that a girl can be a potential wife at the age of eighteen and parents get worried if she remains unmarried past twenty four or twenty five. It is acceptable for a boy to remain unmarried till his late 20s, but after that questions are asked about his appropriateness as a husband. This does not necessarily apply to a growing urban middle class population.
Once the families have agreed on their childrens marriage they consult a family priest or an astrologer to fix the wedding date according to their astrological charts and thereafter invitations are sent to family and friends. The Hindu marriage ceremony entails several functions before the big day. However the wedding day itself has many religious rituals which need to be followed and is a custom for all Hindus. Firstly there is the Panigrahana; this ritual is carried out by the brides father, where he would offer the hand of the bride to the groom. The next ritual is the exchanging of the vows with fire as the witness.
A Havankund or fire is lit and the priest recites the relevant hymns from the scriptures. Each time the bride and groom go around the fire they exchange vows. The next ritual is the Saptapadi; at the end of the ceremony the couple take seven steps together; each step represents strivings for their married life. The first step is taken for God and the growing of their spiritual progress together, the others are for health, wealth, strength, children and happiness. The seventh step represents life long friendship between husband and wife. The other key feature of a Hindu marriage, which everyone is familiar with, is the marking of the brides forehead with red powder called kumkum. This merely shows the females status.
Love marriages are on the increase in Britain, but there is still a lot of doubt about them amongst the elder generation. Love marriages within the same caste and financial background are favoured, compared to inter-caste and inter-religious marriages. Couples who dare cross the social conventions have to cope with a lot of social pressure within their families and outside. These problems are more acute in the rural areas compared to the urban areas and metropolitan cities. Much depends upon the family background. If parents are educated and enlightened on both sides, things would be easier for the children, who get involved in unconventional relationships.
I would say one of the evils of Hindu arranged marriages in India especially is the ever- present dowry system. The amount of dowry can be a very substantial amount, even in dollar terms, depending upon the financial status of the parties involved.
Sometimes greedy mother-in-laws and husbands subject the poor brides to innumerable hardships for not meeting their expectations in respect of the dowry. Cases of bride burning are not unknown. Indian penal code prescribes severe punishment for such acts. But the cases take years and decades before the courts deliver justice.
Many Indian families who have settled outside of India still uphold the tradition of arranged marriage. Being part of two cultures can be hard. Young people born in Britain but from an Indian family can find this particularly difficult if their modern western lifestyles clash with their parents hopes and wishes.2 Many young Indian people living in Britain know that one day they will agree to an arranged marriage. To deny their parents this would be a sign of deep disrespect. Many families are able to discuss the issue and reach compromises that are suitable for everyone. For example insist that you are happy to meet with prospective partners but that you must like your match. Family, friends and relatives will be informed once they have decided to go ahead and soon meetings will be organised. They will be matched according to their education and experience, a suitable caste, or social class associated with the Hindu religion.
Many non Hindus have a huge misconception about arranged marriages. It is important to make a clear distinction between arranged marriages that are consensual and marriages that are arranged without the consent of the individuals involved. These are sometimes called forced marriages and are against the law in this country. However in rural parts of India this idea about forced marriages still takes place even today.
Although Western societies tend to ridicule arranged marriages as backward and uncivilized and old fashioned, there are positive aspects. For example, Westerners focus more on the physical aspect of relationships, and are thus obsessed with love, sex, and beauty. As a result, people get married based on these factors and then get let down by one another very easily. The divorce rate in Western countries such as the U.S. has increased rapidly. 50% of American marriages end in divorce1.
In contrast, Eastern cultures that practice arranged marriages place far more emphasis on the practical, such as integrity, diligence, ambition, modesty, and kindness. People get married based on practical reasons, and work on building affection later. Strong characteristics like the ones described above are very favourable to building love and affection in Eastern marriages. As a result, these marriages are much longer-lasting than many Western marriages. It is because the primary emphasis is not on love, sex, and physical beauty that arranged marriages are usually so successful, because the spouses get to know one another on a practical level first, looking beyond trivial issues such as beauty.
I know it can go both ways, there are many arranged marriages that are just total hell, and there are marriages that started out based only on infatuation and grew stronger as time passed. But I think as long as one looks for the right characteristics in a potential spouse, then, arranged marriage can definitely work.
People within the western civilisation are mistaken by the term arranged marriages. Arranged doesnt necessarily mean fixed. Arranged marriages it encompasses a lot of different varieties: the harshest arranged marriages are almost forced upon the bride or groom while the most liberal ones start with just an introduction of the couple through their parents and the rest is up to the couple. If they feel they are compatible then they would go ahead with the marriage. If they decided not to get married they would remain friends.
I feel that within Britain today, Hindu parents have become liberal with their children dating and seeing each other. Parents are now influencing their children to look for someone within University get to know them for at least a couple of years and then decide on whether they are right for you. I think if the parents know about the son or daughters partner and they are Hindu, have a good family background and most importantly are educated then the parents would definitely agree to the marriage.
In fact, the advantages and drawbacks of arranged marriages cannot be so easily appraised. The incidence of divorce among Indian-born British/Americans is dramatically lower than among British/Americans generally, but that partly reflects the continuing disgrace of divorce. Even as the divorce rate among Indian British/Americans appears to be increasing, the topic is rarely discussed. Divorce reflects poorly on an Indian family, and some proportion of arranged marriages endures not because they are successful or rewarding, but because leaving them would bring such shame.
In addition, the concept of a woman living independently is foreign to most people in South Asian culture. Also, a majority of women dont work in rural areas of South Asian countries and hence find it difficult to have enough money to support them without getting married or after getting divorced. And many endure because the definition of success differs from Western ideas. Traditional Indians dont expect a partner to be that improbable combination of soul mate/confidante/red-hot lover/best friend. The husband-wife bond is one of reliability and dependability and complementary family roles raising children, caring for elders, explains Karen Leonard, author of The South Asian Americans and a University of California-Irvine anthropologist. They may communicate very little in intimate ways, and its still a good marriage.3.
The custom of arranged marriages in India has survived migration and modernization remaining central to the fabric of society. However 95% of all marriages in India are arranged, even among those in the educated middle class. Many Indians challenge that arranged marriages are more successful than marriages in the West, particularly given the latters staggering divorce rates. Romantic love does not necessarily lead to a good marriage, and often fails once the passion dissolves, they argue. With most unions between individuals from the same background, the arranged marriage reflects and reinforces the social, economic, geographic and historical diversity of India itself. More like a continent than a country, India is made up of 14 states, with as many languages, thousands of dialects, three major religions, hundreds of sub-religions, an outlawed but still practiced caste system amongst Hindus.
The Hindu religion, strongly intertwined in the concept of duty, order that parents are responsible for providing their childrens education and marriage. Once married, their sons take over the running of the household and provide for their parents for the rest of their lives. The arranged marriage has adjusted to modernization. Prospective grooms were once not even allowed to see the photograph of their prospective brides so as to protect an unmarried womans purity, her most valuable asset. By the 1930/40s, such as in my grandmothers marriage, the couple exchanged photographs, in order to decide if they liked each other.
Today couples, depending on how liberal their parents are, have a coffee or meal on their own either at home, or in a restaurant, before deciding to commit. Middle-class women are allowed to reject suitors favoured by their parents. Engagements can now last six months. Western concepts of love triumphing over tradition can be seen in popular Indian films. However, many Indian women in the diaspora are in change. Freedom comes with a price. Some women, after having ended several long term relationships, find themselves in their late 30s alone, with one foot in either world and judged by both.
It goes without saying that no marriage, not even an arranged one, is accustomed from basic incompatibility or abuse. But the arranged marriage does have its advantages. Living with the extended family, daughters traditionally live with their in-laws including brothers-in-law and their wives and children which means a free staff of child minders. Apart from the economic savings of a family home, shocks such as a death or the loss of a job can be absorbed. The system cares for elderly parents and grandparents who are generally isolated in Western societies. Also, because the arranged marriage tends to be a union of two families of strong moral and cultural values provides checks and balances against areas that may splinter it, such as unfaithfulness.
Most people tend to equate Hindu marriage with arranged marriage. The parents in order to meet this domestic obligation prepare themselves mentally and, more importantly, financially when their child reaches marriageable age. They search for a suitable partner keeping in mind the community rules regarding cast, creed, birth chart, and financial and social status of the family. Traditionally it is the girls parents that bear the cost of the wedding and to jumpstart their daughters married life they shower her with gifts and ornaments to take to her in-laws. Unfortunately, this has aggravated peoples greed end in the many evils of dowry system.
In the end, the discussion of arranged and love marriages comes down to which is better? Obviously, the one that leads to more successful marriages. Supporters of arranged marriages claim that it is more successful, but their definition of success focuses on divorce rates. But are divorce rates really a measure of a successful marriage? Do all the couples that dont get divorced stay happy with each other? The occurrence of divorce in society depends on a lot of factors including the stigma of divorce.
It should be a matter of great concern that we have begun to ignore the ancient and lofty ideals of Hindu marriage and are anxious to follow in the footsteps of cultures that do not value these ideals. No wonder, the number of divorce suits filed by Hindu couples is on the rise. Instead of strengthening the traditional ideals, which for thousands of years have helped us prevent marriage and family break-ups, we are misdirecting our energies towards promoting the ideal of sense-enjoyment and self-interest. In my opinion it is still not too late to be proactive to protect the sanctity of Hindu marriage.
Words 2,582 (not including Bibliography)