LOVE AND MARRIAGE BACKGROUND NOTES/HISTORICAL CONTEXT: In India, the caste system has been outlawed in the sense that no one may be discriminated against in terms of caste. There is in place an affirmative action type program in which spaces are reserved for lower caste people in colleges and government jobs. There is a movement to make such reservations required even for private business. Theoretically, society should be blind to caste but to understand how deeply rooted in Indian society are the castes you do not need to look further than the advertisements for suitable mates. These advertisements are put in the paper by a girl's/boy's parents or guardian. The ones you see in the newspaper tend to be looking for mates for people 20 and over. Marriages for younger couples is usually arranged within the circle of family and friends. The replies are expected to come from the parents of the prospective bride or groom not from the prospective bride or groom herself/himself. We talked to a woman whose son is 30 and a successful architect in Philadelphia. She convinced him to marry and move back to New Delhi. He agreed and she and her husband put an ad in the newspaper to find him a suitable wife. She received 500 replies. Of those she selected 7. The first prospect proved to be the child of a couple who were separated--one parent lived in Bombay and the other in New Delhi. She was rejected because of this. The second prospect proved to be suitable in every way and was therefore approached. When the architect son came to New Delhi for a visit, he met his prosective bride and, after several meetings, he agreed that the match would work. We have included a representative sample of ads. These have been taken verbatim from actual newspapers in India. Some of the words will need decoding. Students will enjoy doing this. We have provided a key to help you help them. KEY: Brahmin - highest caste Fair - Indians are quite color-conscious. Light skin is preferred to dark skin. Young men and women are very careful about not getting too much sun so as not to be too dark. Homely - This refers to a girl's homemaking skills. 25/189/8,000 - age/height in centimeters/salary in Rupees-per-month A government teacher in a New Delhi primary school might make 7-10,000 Rs per month depending on experience. The exchange rate at this writing is 42 Rupees to the dollar so the salary would be $166-$238 per month. Teachers also get a housing allowance and a small medical allowance. Secondary teachers make more but government teachers in smaller cities and in rural areas are not as well compensated. A person just out of college with not specific skills will make about 3-5,000 Rs per month. Computer programers and engineers make considerably more. Decent marriage - arranged marriage Convented - educated in a private school, preferably a religious school. Eng med - English medium - wants person who has gone to a school in which English was the languaged used as a teaching medium. It indicates a certain class of school--upper/middle. Initials: B.E. [Bachelor of Engineering]. B.Ed [Business Education], Mech [Mechanical Engineering], MBA [Masters of Business Administration], MA Econ [Masters in Economics], DME [Degree in Mechanical Engineering], DBM [Degree in Business Management], MNC [Multinational Corporation], MSc [Master of Science] No bar at all - caste not a consideration Hostel - a boarding house for students or working people - segregated by sex. Listings: These ads are listed under many categories--the advertisers choice. Many of the labels denote castes--Jati, Khatri, Kshatriya, Yadav, etc.; while others indicate language/state--Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, Keralite, Rajput, etc. Some of the labels indicate the desired profession, religion, or professional degree of the bride/groom. Wedding Advertisements These are quoted verbatum from the Calcutta Telegraph July 1998 Grooms Wanted: Daughter of high ranking central government officer. 25+/158, fair, slim pretty, Kayastha, M.A.Econ, B.Ed (own house/car) suitable groom wanted. Match invited from professor/Dr/Engr. Highly placed well employed groom for Brahmin Shandilya Debagn, 27/160 M.Sc Physics., doing PhD, good- looking, well built, fair bride. An industrialist, Hindu, upper caste, Bengal family of Calcutta, is looking for suitable groom for their daughter. Honors graduate, although convent educated, age 23+/5'3", very beautiful, well settled in her own industry. Groom must be from a respectable family, professionally qualified, preferably B.E. (mech) with MBA, settled in business or holding senior position in reputed company. Well established groom wanted for East Bengali Kayastha, 30/166, doctorate, computer programmer, issueless divorcee, greencard holder, will be visiting in December 98. Alliance invited from affluent families for Engr. girl DME, DBM 23/160 fair, charming, engaged in family business. Parents having own factory in Bombay & well settled profitable business. Boy must be professionally qualified & preferable willing to allow the girl to pursue her own career in business. Reply with bio-data, horoscope & photo [Ret.] Brides Wanted: Baidya groom, September '69, handsome, 35/180 groom B.E.(Mech), pursuing PhD. Groom Company Secretary, Cum legal manager, joint venture MNC, annual salary 4 lakhs. Wanted post graduate (Eng medium) at least 160 cm tall, really beautiful, fair, homely, below 25, Baidya/Brahmin/Kulin Kayastha Bride. Correspond with biodata: time, month year and place of birth. No demand. Beautiful match for established businessman, 41/172. High Caste divorcee with two kids in hostel. No bar at all. Free from religious orthodoxy, 31/170, own house, graduate, handsome, government employee, 8,000/-. Educated, pretty girl desired. A very handsome, tall, 5'11", very fair, slim, 29 years, highly educated, a successful industrialist having high seven figure income and owning posh apartments and prime properties, teetotaller, non-smoker, world traveled, and coming from a rich, respectable, high educated and cultured south Bombay-based Hindu family. The girl should be extremely beautiful and very fair, slim, tall, educated, sweet-natured and from a cultured family. Beauty Queens, models and Girls from the World of Glamour are also welcome. Proposals welcome from India and world over including Foreigners. Photograph is a must. North Indian Protest Doctor parents invite proposals from status families for their well settled son 30/167/PGDBA, fair, adventurous, fond of books and music. Looking for an educated, God-Fearing, homely, Protestant Christian girl. Please write with details and enclose a recent picture. India's Arranged Marriages by Vikas Kamat First Online: June 01,2005 Page Last Updated: January 24,2006 Love Marriage and Arranged Marriage An Arranged Marriage in India is defined as a the type of wedding alliance brought forward by parties other than the bride or the groom -- typically the parents. The marriages where the partners choose each other are known as "Love Marriages" in India. Considerations for Arranged Marriage Since the traditional Hindu society and its caste system didn't allow dating or free mixing of the sexes, the arranged marriage was the only form of marriage in the society. The parents typically considered educational background and economic background in addition to the caste to choose the brides and grooms. Arranged Marriages Today The arranged marriages are quite common even in today's India -- only the criteria has slightly changed. The rigid caste system is somewhat diluted and marriages outside of the sub-caste are considered, so are marriages outside of one's own language or province (still within the same caste). Age, caste and dowry play important roles in arrangement of marriages in India today (year 2005). More and more arranged marriages today take into account the preferences of brides and grooms, something that did not happen till 1970s and 1980s. The Institution of Arranged Marriage A marriage in India is considered a marriage of families rather than the marriage of individuals. Once you understand this concept, one can even appreciate the beauty of arranged marriages. The parents try to solder the bonds with their friends by arranging marriages between their respective children. In olden times the boys and girls married in their teens so it was considered appropriate that the parents choose the spouses instead of leaving the decision to the kids A type of arranged marriage where the maternal cousins and sometimes maternal nephews married was/is also common in India. This was known as rightful marriage alliance in some communities, and possibly came into existence to "keep the money inside the family". The Process of Arranged Marriage The steps involved in an arranged marriage vary by communities and families. Sometimes they involve extremities such as "promise made while gambling" or "bride whom the father of the groom likes", but here are the most common scenario, and the process can break down at any step -- mostly earlier than later. Broadcast of Availability -- This is when the guardians of the groom or bride announce that they are in market for an alliance. Securing of a stable job, engagement of an elder sibling, graduation are some of the events triggering this step. Horoscope Matching: The interested parties trade birth horoscopes as a sign of showing interest. Those who believe in horoscopes consult with astrologers and priests to find out compatibility. The compatibility score is often used to reject an alliance. Photo Exchange, Interview, and Background Check: Till this step the bride and the groom do not know what the other partner looks like! The pictures (and sometimes videos) are exchanged and if in agreement, one or more face to face interviews (called darshan) are arranged, during which elders are also present to help with familiarization. Background inquiries are conducted to dig past, bad habits (smoking, drinking, anger management problems) through relatives and friends. Dowry and Contract Negotiations: The logistics of marriage are then discussed. Who pays how much for the wedding expenses, the gold, the dowry, girl's and boy's net worth, the house they'd live in etc. Engagement: If all the parties are in arrangement, sweets are shared to announce the engagement. Sometimes called as "easting of the sugar" this marks the end of an arranging of an arranged marriage, and the gift exchanges begin. The Role of Matchmaker Depending on the complexity of marrying (not so good looking bride, divorcees, past broken engagements) Middlemen could help in the arranged marriage who are commissioned by the arrangers. The matchmakers are sometimes professional institutions counseling on "resume alteration", "broadening of selection criteria", and other marriage matters. The matrimonial classifieds (like personals in the west, but placed by the parents, for the attention of parents) are very popular. With the advent of the Internet, there are a lot of matrimonial agencies on web (some of whom are advertising on this site). The Dowry System by Vikas Kamat First Online: December 01,2004 Page Last Updated: January 24,2006 What is Dowry ? Dowry (a.k.a. dahej and varadakshine) is a form of wedding gift prevalent in India, that is also sometimes called price-of the-groom. The dowry system was a security blanket for married women in case of marital problems or abandonment by husband. It was an emergency fund setup by the the bride's father and brothers and was rarely cash, and instead consisted of valuables such as jewelry, and immovable property. The dowry system also acted as the girl's inheritance from her father, because the Hindu joint-family system afforded all the property to the male descendants. Social Menace of Dowry Over a period of time, the abuse of the dowry practice has developed in India to the extent that it has become the biggest problem facing women. Many marriages are strained because of the dispute over dowry, and during 1980s, numerous cases of "burning brides" were reported in the media, where newly wed girls either committed suicide or burnt alive by the in-laws over dowry disputes. As girls started expecting a fair inheritance from their fathers, the grooms also started demanding more and more. Some people went to the extent of deciding such matters as love, status, and prestige in the society depending on how much dowry a family could bring (or afford), and those who could not afford an expected dowry were subjected to humiliation. As the women in India got more educated, many of them thought that the system of dowry was demeaning to women. The Indian courts have banned the practice since 1961, forgetting that it is indeed a strongly rooted tradition. So in today's India, the dowry system plays a huge, but largely underground and illegal role in match-making, and forming of marriage alliances. It is the dowry system that is the primary cause of female infanticide in India, and the primary reason why everybody wants to have only male children. The system of gift-giving has turned into a system of absurd demands, and one of harassment of women. What are some of the problems facing the women in India? The problems Indian women face are same as those faced by their counterparts in other nations. Additionally, there are some unique problems in India for women. The Dowry system prevalent in India calls for a large sum of money to be paid to the groom at the time of marriage. Brides that cannot meet the husband's expectations are sometimes harassed after the wedding. (see: Dowry System) Desire for males has caused natural imbalance and numerous problems for women. Unwanted touching of women in public places -- this problem is known as Eve teasing in India. Unequal share of inheritance -- in most Hindu families, only the sons inherit the wealth of the parents as married girls are considered no longer part of the family. Lack of public toilets --this is more of a hygiene problem of India, but making even more difficult for women to get out of the house. Ill treatment of widows -- many families blame the untimely death of a husband to the misfortune of the woman. In extreme cases, the widow is made to wear only unattractive clothing and shave her head, although this practice is on the decline. Why do Indian women wear the dot on the forehead? Traditionally the dot (known as bindi, kum-kum) was the symbol of an auspicious privilege enjoyed by married Hindu women in India. The practice has now evolved to cover young girls and women of other faiths as well and has become part of the make-up. What is the status of women in Indian society? The answer is a complex one -- women are both abused as well as revered in the Indian society; sometimes within the same household. The Hindu religion calls for worship of the womanhood, and several rituals are conducted in honor of women. At the same time, it denied such privileges as performing the last rites and equal share of inheritance. The conditions of divorced women, widows, and unmarried working women need substantial improvement. Do Men Cook in India? Even though traditional household work is performed by women, a large number of men cook/can cook in India. Men are called upon to prepare festive meals, especially during religious occasions. A large number of Indian males grow up away from their mothers (due to poverty, purposes of education) and have learnt basic cooking due to necessity. Professional cooks in restaurants and eateries are invariably men. Is it true that men in India do not know the woman till they marry her? Yes, many men & women in arranged marriages in India have very little knowledge about the person they are about to wed. How do the women in India spend their time? Indian women spend time with the family members -- mostly other female relatives. The educated women have friends they have made in school or work. (Contrary to perception, a large percent of women in India work) Indian women also spend time with chores, raising children, watching movies, and caring for community. What was the role of women in India's freedom struggle? The role of women during decades of India's freedom struggle was very big, thanks to the vision and encouragement of Gandhi. See the article Gandhi and Women for examples of how women got included in the India's nationalistic agenda from the beginning. Many women leaders emerged, and even many more engaged in social service, social reform, and improved the life of women in India.