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Mate Selection And Marriage

Marriage in India is regarded as one of the most significant life-cycle rituals and is a familial and societal expectation for Hindus. In traditional Hindu society, marriage was considered a sacrament and not a contract and therefore was expected to be for life. It is important to point out that vivaha (wedding) is generally obligatory for all individuals. According to Kanailal Kapadia (1966), the primary aim of a Hindu marriage is dharma praja (progeny, particularly sons) and rati (pleasure). Furthermore, marriage is regarded not only as a union of two individuals, but also as the union of two families, making them almost like blood relatives. Marriages are religiously, economically, politically, and socially oriented and they are generally arranged by the elders and extended family members (Chekki 1996; Sureender, Prabakaran, and Khan 1998).

Even in contemporary Indian society, Hindus consider marriage as a social and cultural obligation and a contract for life. Marriage is not viewed as a means to attain personal happiness nor as a means of sharing your life with a person you love. Instead, the basic qualities of family unity, family togetherness, family harmony, family cohesiveness, and sharing of common family goals, values, and a way of life are of significant importance, and personal considerations are secondary. That the couple is not in love with each other or that the two partners are not physically attracted to one another or the possibility that the two do not have too much in common are not considerations because love is expected to come after marriage (Medora 2002). It is customary for individuals to marry within their religion, caste, and subcaste.

Most marriages in India are arranged to a greater or lesser extent. Even among the educated middle- and upper-class families from urban areas, marriage is as much a concern of the families as it is of the individual (Mullatti 1995; Nanda 1995). Most Indian youths do not believe that they have the experience, knowledge, or wisdom to select a prospective mate. They also do not believe that it is essential to date many partners to pick the right spouse. The type of family that the prospective spouse comes from is given primary consideration, along with occupational and cultural compatibility. Educational and social class homogamy of the family are also qualities taken into consideration by the respective parents on both sides (Nanda 1995).

A Hindu bride and groom in traditional Indian dress with flower garlands during the wedding ceremony. Hindus consider marriage a social and cultural obligation and a contract for life. NILUFER MEDORA

The last decades of the twentieth century brought an increasing trend to consult and get input from the children regarding their marriage. Typically, parents or kin select a prospective pool of eligible partners who have been screened by them first to ensure a similar social, cultural, educational, and economic background. One of the most common ways in which the partners are often selected is from among the children of friends and extended family who have a similar socioeconomic background (Medora 2002).

The use of matrimonial advertisements is increasing and thus becoming an integral part of the mate selection process (Banerjee 1999; Das 1980; Nanda 1995). Advertisements are placed in the newspaper because it is likely to attract a wide readership. Screening is first done on the basis of photographs. Next, the young adults are allowed to meet and talk over the phone, and occasionally go out with a chaperone who is usually an adult family member who accompanies the young couple while they are trying to determine the person with whom they are most compatible. While this exchange is occurring, marriage is foremost on the minds of both partners and all forms of premarital sex are discouraged (Medora 2002). After the couple go out a few times, the male generally proposes to the woman. If the woman accepts the proposal, the respective parents are informed about their children's decisions.

Before the engagement is announced to friends and the marriage finalized, most Hindu families consult an astrologer to ensure that the two prospective partners are well suited for each other (Sureender, Prabakaran, and Khan 1998). The astrologer matches the two horoscopes and predicts whether the couple will be compatible and happy, enjoy good health, enjoy financial success, and, most importantly, have children. Indians are fatalistic and believe their lives are predestined, their fates preordained, and that they are helpless as far as choice is concerned, and therefore they must succumb to the celestial forces of the universe (Gupta 1976).

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsIndia - Caste System, Family Life And Family Values, Mate Selection And Marriage, Dowry System, Status Of Single And Divorced Persons In India