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Why Arranged Marriages are Still the Norm in India

Updated on June 19, 2012
Grand Indian Wedding
Grand Indian Wedding | Source

As a free bird without any romantic entanglements at the moment, I may not be the most authoritative person to talk about marriage and relationship. It is a little disturbing, even to me, how rabidly fascinating I find the entire setup of weddings and all related activities. Maybe it comes with being born in a society, which magnifies this pious ceremony as the ultimate validation of a man’s claim on a woman. Maybe it is just the irony of how we preach of development, progress etc., while still being tangled in a vicious web of discrimination and disparity. Or maybe it is just another topic that I find interesting enough to write pages about.

Marriage is usually the communion of two individuals who swear an oath to be caring and loyal towards one another till death does them apart. Today, this is a skewed version of the reality that this communion implies. Since times immemorial, one has viewed marriage as the necessary institution or legal binding contract giving the children born of the union, legitimate legal and social rights. Does this ideology mean that a child born out of wedlock is obliged to be an outcast? Not in today’s world, no. With liberalization comes relaxation of primordial norms that now seem ludicrous. But, and that is a big but, not all cultures or civilizations approve of the practice of non-marriage or live-in relationships or children born to single mothers. This hub, however, will not delve into the pros and cons of marriage. That shall be left for another lengthy article for another day. What intrigued me enough to begin typing, is the practice of arranged marriages, which surprisingly enough, are still predominant in numerous pockets the world over. Since I’m not really aware of the system in other regions, I’ll stick to my own country, India.

Boy (girl) meets girl (boy), they develop a healthy rapport, have sizzling (or adequate) chemistry, get emotionally attached (love, trust everything grows) and get on famously. In due course, they decide to spend the rest of their mutual lives together. That would be ‘love marriage’ in a nutshell. Now, its counterpart ‘arranged marriage’, as the name suggests, is a much more complex entity. Surprisingly enough, even in this age of gender equality, women empowerment, economic stability and high education levels, arranged marriages outshine love matches by a large margin in the country. Traditionally, India is a nation where a love interest or courtship before marriage is frowned upon. Many of the orthodox clans (no matter what religion), are still adamant and passionate about their children being married to people they handpick and deem worthy. There are no set statistics to prove whether an arranged or love marriage would be more successful. Nevertheless, in a country that upholds moral values and culture above all else, arranged marriage is the way to be. Why? Here’s a list:

i. No Love Foundation: There is no fairytale setting to be expected when one engages in an arranged setup. True, this idea may be a horrifying prospect for many, as spending eternity with someone you have no clue about, sounds daunting. Primarily, such marriages are based on lust, which nurtures in time to become affection and in some cases, love. Why lust? Because it’s expected. A physical intimacy is no problem here, as those involved are quite clear on what to expect of the relationship. There is security (which is another important point), and no scope for doubt. When elders in the family have chosen, they’d have chosen well, because they have seen more Diwalis (or Christmases) than us.

ii. Equal Stature: Love marriages often have a major drawback of involving individuals who may not always be of equal social, educational, ethical or economic standing. This is intolerable for the staunch supporters of cultural and familial values. Marriage between a Brahmin girl and a Muslim boy or a Punjabi girl and a boy born and brought up in Tamil Nadu will never be prearranged. There needs to be equality at every stage. A well educated girl with a sound paying job can expect a partner of equal station (of similar religion, caste, financial status and demography). This eliminates the ego issues which might crop up. Not that couples in an arranged marriage have no ego issues; still a wedding conducted with pomp and show underlines a thicker net of troubles should one try to free himself/herself based on petty emotional outbursts.


iii. Familial Moral Support:Since arranged marriages are conducted under the watchful eye of both families, any disputes between spouses, directly involves their respective families. Instead of dragging in outsiders, the family silently and effectively patches up the couple. In cases where the duo is adamant of never reconciling, family courts are brought in. Divorce isn’t a conducive course of action for any marriage in India. More often than not, families easily settle things outside the courts. Why? The children, of course. Relationships are strong bonds in the country, and those of the blood relation type are never to be tampered with. If not for his/her self, the person compromises with the other party for the sake of the children; since children are the worst hit in a divorce or separation.

iv. Non-Violence: A few months back, the newspapers in India reported of “honor killings” in Haryana (an Indian state). What are honor killings, one may ask. This innocent expression refers to the brutal murder of the man and woman, with them belonging to different castes, involved in a romantic relationship. Usually, it is the girl’s family that carries out the ‘honor’ of eliminating the lovebirds. This is done to preserve the ‘honor’ or good standing of the family in the society. The option of arranged marriages does not involve such harsh reactions from one’s relatives. If not killing, there is at least the problem of disownment or total indifference by those close of kin should one decide to renounce age old traditions common in the family.

v. No Character Defamation: It is a universally acknowledged fact that women are never at par with men. They continue to remain the weaker sex, not just in the Indian, but many other world cultures. In such a scenario, a girl bold enough to choose a partner for herself is instantaneously defamed by the society at large. I realize that in my generation, maybe the constraints aren’t as stringent as they once were. Nevertheless, a woman who parades her love interest before the family or skips from relationship to relationship or talks of giving up her virginity to the current boyfriend, is never openly welcomed in any house, not even her own. In most cases, nobody thinks of these decisions as serious. They are usually dismissed as a case of infatuation overruling reasonable thinking. Even after having her fill of romance, the female is expected to be coy enough to take up the strenuous responsibility of marriage to somebody else, not of her choices.

Prince Charming
Prince Charming | Source

It surprises me still, how arranged marriages are predominant in India today, even though our youth boast of liberalization and being at par with western giants. It is impossible to be self-sufficient in a place where moral values and the strength of family are priced above all others. I do not condemn the act of a pre-arranged marriage. In fact, today the customary practice is to love someone whom the family approves of. Thus, is born the culture of ‘arranged love’ marriages. They are here to stay, and a modern Indian woman can now dream of a Prince Charming, who, the parents would just be too happy to include in their Sunday brunches and family portraits.

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    • vnsatakopan profile image

      Dr.Vangeepuram Navaneetham Satakopan 4 years ago from Chennai, India

      Very interesting. There are both positives and negatives in arranged marriages. Things have changed. Now-a days girls get to have a say in the choice of the bridegrooms. Moreover, can anybody say with certainty that the so called love marriages are successful. After all, how many marriages go beyond a few years after the so called 'love' in Western countries? The children are the sufferers when divorce happens.

    • profile image

      Gitesh 4 years ago

      I enjoyed reading the post and I can relate my experiences to many of the largely unspoken truths brought to light in this blog regarding the arranged marriage culture especially areas regarding violence where you had stated - "If not killing, there is at least the problem of disownment or total indifference by those close of kin should one decide to renounce age old traditions common in the family" and regarding "Character Defamation". It appears today the defamation and disownment practices have extended to the work environments in US where extended families and supporters of arranged marriage traditions go to great lengths to stalk single men and women and propagate defamation attacks for isolation and harassment in an effort to prevent them from dating and subject them to seek the arranged marriage option. Cyber Cess-Pools for Online defamation and Character assassination are being used as tools to create duress. Use of technology is getting popular among deliberating groups for organized harassment. It is like attempting to enforce 16th century traditions with 21st century technology. These actions are both a violation of privacy and human rights laws in US. However,. most American are unaware of the Arranged marriage coercion practices. They stay away when they hear rationalizations saying stalking and harassment is done on behalf of a family member of so. The concept of arranged marriages serve the honor system like most collective Asian cultures. The honor code defines acceptable forms of behavior to protect the culture and contain wealth and preserve the way of life within the community. Arranged marriage is nothing more than a financial transaction to exchange wealth and preserve a way of life- often outdated traditions. There is no acknowledgement of individual rights. There is no real freedom of choice. If anyone claims there is a choice, try saying" no" to arranged marriage and watch the response from the community that follow. And watch out for the defamation attacks that follow in your work and social environments. It is a distorted truth to be polite.

    • silverstararrow profile image

      silverstararrow 5 years ago from India

      @ estellaeffects: It is indeed the way things work in our country. I've seen such incidents too.

      Thank you for taking the time to read, your comment is greatly appreciated.

      @ homesteadbound: Firstly, thank you so much for pointing out the errors in this hub that I'd completely overlooked. If it's people like you I meet on HP, I know joining this site was the best decision ever.

      It is difficult for people born in other countries to even imagine the situation here. Of course, marriage decisions are nobody's business except of those involved and the type of marriage is a question of choice.

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I'm really flattered by your kind words. :)

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 5 years ago from Texas

      I really enjoyed reading this hub. You are a great writer, and I highly encourage you to continue writing. Welcome to hubpages, I am sure that you will enjoy it here. It has been a great place for me!

      It is hard for me to imagine having a marriage arranged for me, having be married to my prince charming for over 30 years, but I imagine that had I grown up knowing that something else was expected (the societal norm), it would be easier to accept an alternate way of life. I like the idea of the arranged love marriage.

    • silverstararrow profile image

      silverstararrow 5 years ago from India

      Totally get your point, Ruchi. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what sort of marriaged you are engaged in; it's all about how you approach the relationship that matters.

      I'm sceptical about purely arranged marriages paving way for everlasting love. Maybe an understanding, which develops due to close quarters of domesticity perhaps?

    • Ruchi Urvashi profile image

      Ruchi Urvashi 5 years ago from Singapore

      Good article. i think in love marriage, woman and man tend to enjoy good equal status and friendship, whereas in pure arrange marriage, the man has a tendency to dominate and girl need to adjust and adapt more. However, in the end, both type of marriages need good healthy individuals to make it work and enjoy the everlasting love.

    • silverstararrow profile image

      silverstararrow 5 years ago from India

      There! See, you already have first hand experience. It is really difficult for two people of different ethnic origins and cultures to adjust together. In due course, they may even grow to resent each other. You'd then need a lot of love to overlook such heavy differences.

      Thank you for reading and commenting on my hub. Your feedback is much appreciated. :)

    • silverstararrow profile image

      silverstararrow 5 years ago from India

      Yes, arranged marriages work better in India because elders in the family pick partners for their children who they deem will be able to adjust easily to their family and way of living. Disputes are minimum in such cases.

      'Love' is a really elusive emotion and very few have the fortune of true love. Infatuation, which is often momentary, is mistaken to be ‘love’. With time, infatuation fades and so does the marriage.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Your feedback is much appreciated. ?

    • silverstararrow profile image

      silverstararrow 5 years ago from India

      Thank you. :) Mail order brides are a rising reality of today. In fact, we even have mail order grooms these days. However, no one can really be sure whether a love or arranged marriage will be more successful. Statistics are usually localized and concern only a certain region.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. :)

    • silverstararrow profile image

      silverstararrow 5 years ago from India

      dmop: Of course, there are many regions around the world where arranged marriages have almost become extinct. But in countries like India, the conservative society does not always approve of a love match.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. :)

    • moiponetsoka profile image

      Moipone 5 years ago from South Africa

      love your hub its really interesting. i used to hate the idea of arranged, but then got to understand through my marriage i am black and an atheist and my so to be ex-husband is an indian and muslim, i did not understand him as he tried to turn me to become a muslim.what i understood from my failed marriage is that sometimes parents now better and i not not against arranged marriages as parents will choose a girl who understands your customs and tradition unlike a girl like me who has no idea about the muslim culture and tend to disagree with every bit of that religion and besides i am a jean girl not a dress girl.So i agree with Vnsatakopan arranged marriages do lasts longer

    • vnsatakopan profile image

      Dr.Vangeepuram Navaneetham Satakopan 5 years ago from Chennai, India

      The fact still remains is that arranged marriages in India work better than the so called love marriages. After all this 'love' happens at least six or, seven times in an individual's life indicating that true love is a rare commodity.

    • rabbit75 profile image

      rabbit75 5 years ago

      This is a great hub and very interesting. I actually read a report a while back that stated that arrange marriages had a lesser divorce rate than marriages that are individually chosen. The report also included that, despite popular opinion, marriages concerning mail order brides also have a lower divorce rate as well.

    • dmop profile image

      dmop 5 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      Being from the US it is difficult to imagine arranged marriages being common, though I'm sure it is in certain places in the world. I like your examination of some of the pros and cons of each. I gave it a vote up and interesting.

    • silverstararrow profile image

      silverstararrow 5 years ago from India

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Rahul. :)

      I wholeheartedly agree with you on the trend that's now become widespread in India. 'Arranged Love' marriages are increasing with fast popularity among (mostly) the higher ups in the social ladder. I think they cover up the demerits of both love and arranged matches. :)

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 5 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      A great take on the culture prevailing in our country my friend! I would share something here about the love-cum-arrange marriages happening in India....

      What happens is... as love has gotten more practical, couples are found and formed in common work environments, fields of study, or hometown basis...or caste basis, And the courtship is played long enough for 2 to 3 years where both families get involved and consent their blessings onto the couples

      While the factors mentioned generate a greater deal of compatibility and understanding, the family involvement leads to direct influence of the members in all matters

      this is a new trend!

      A great write!

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 5 years ago from Texas, USA

      It was interesting read to see where your country is at with the long held customs and adjusting in recent decades to the external influences. :)

    • silverstararrow profile image

      silverstararrow 5 years ago from India

      I totally agree with you. Love or arranged, all marriages have their fair share of good points and drawbacks. Ultimately, it depends on the individual what he/she makes of it. Today, social norms have loosened enough to allow freedom to decide on a suitable life partner. Something that was inconceivable a few decades back.

      Thanks for taking the time to read this hub. Your feedback is much appreciated. :)

    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 5 years ago from Texas, USA

      I can see why arranged marriages are helpful in a society with quite a hierarchical structure. However, like anything else, there are instances where a good thing is carried to a bad extreme. If only there was a mix of arranging and choosing based on love!