kanya daan during wedding ceremony
Credit: By Gori Girl [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Several articles have been written about love and marriage that follows a long and exciting courtship. But in most Asian countries, especially in India, arranged marriages are the acceptable norm.


The main reason why arranged marriages are popular is because most Indian families are very involved with their children. From the time the child is born till he/she is married, they are financially supported. Even after marriage, the support continues. Most of the families are joint families with parents and sometimes grandparents living with the couple and guiding them in everything. As a result, progress of every new born is followed and when it is time to marry, some cousin several times removed is proposed.


In arranged marriages, the families of the man and woman take the lead to look for a partner for them. Usually, the proposal comes from within their wide circle of friends or relatives. The man and woman are introduced to each other in a comfortable setting and if they like each other, they can meet up a few more times and set an engagement date. Generally the meetings are in the presence of another family member or in their respective houses. Once the engagement is through, the couple can meet often and go out with each other till the date of the marriage. In a conservative society, like India's, where dating is not encouraged , the engagement ceremony gives the couple a much needed "license" to get to know each other from the perspective of marriage. Most of the time , a couple will get engaged only if they have really liked each other , so it is very rare for engagements to break off. The engagement period is short, but decisions to marry or not is made within this time frame.


In an arranged marriage the partners are easily accepted into their spouse's family and this makes bonding between the couple stronger. In India, caste system and religion rule the society. Most families peruse certain rituals / etiquette's that are unique to the caste and the religion they follow and here is where arranged marriages have an advantage. The caste system in India is broadly divided into Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vysyas and Sudras.Each caste is again subdivided into many sub-castes. There is a vast difference between the castes themselves in terms of lifestyle, food habits, language spoken, dialect, dressing, praying and several such small things that a person is introduced to as a young child and grows with .Within the castes there are the sub castes, which again have differences, more subtle and refined. Now, marrying within a caste ensures that when a bride goes from her house to live with her in-laws (joint families prevail even now), she gets to live in more or less the same atmosphere, see the same kind of cooking and hear the same prayers, understand the language being spoken, follow similar etiquettes. Languages and dialects vary from region to region. In Karnataka itself there are several different ways in which Kannada is spoken, the Dharwad Kannada, the Kumta Kannada, the Brahmin Kannada, the Gowda Kannada and its difficult to follow all of them. Traveling from one State to another is similar to traveling from a country to another. Things differ so much. Similarly many variations exist in the various castes/sub-castes. Hence, arranged marriages ensure that the bride is not forced to change herself in anyway or undergo any feelings of alienation in a new household due to the differences in the way they live. This applies to the man as well.


It really is difficult to marry a person of a different caste, compromise and get adjusted to the new things that the other person follows. These etiquettes may be small, maybe something a person can adapt to, but it’s easier said than done. These small habits and lifestyle define your roots and after a few years of having sacrificed the same, you may wonder who you were and who you are now. These sacrifices can hurt and can lead to broken relationships. Only those couples who have fallen in love and are mature enough to realise this and the impact that it can have on the way children can be raised will forge ahead and marry. They really have to be very understanding and get ample support from their respective families. This is one reason why arranged marriages work. The groom or bride is inevitably from the same caste. So one only has to worry about liking or disliking the partner without worrying about living with him/her and adjusting to or learning anything new.


Apart from this , when parents /friends choose partners, they tend to do so keeping the likes , dislikes , the financial background , the manner in which one has been brought up , all into account before suggesting someone. This creates a common ground for the couple to start getting along in the first place. Parents know their daughters. Know how they behave and what kind of a person would adjust with her. Likewise, with the son. So there are more chances of the marriage working out. The constant tension of "being single" ,of always looking out for a date , of having live-in relationships with a few partners before settling for one , is done away with in arranged marriages. Of course, it is replaced with "seeing" many people before settling for one!! But, at least all one has to do is to specify what one wants in the partner and then relax!


A lot of tradition and commitment goes into an arranged marriage. It is a marriage based on compromises. Love grows slowly in the marriage. Later, children hold them together. The relationship may not be passionate, but definitely is more secure and the husband and wife learn to accept each other and more importantly, trust each other. They remain married for the sake of the children and for the commitment of marriage even if any problems arise. Unless of course, the situation is impossible to carry on with. Again, the story-book kind of romance and love may not exist, but respect for each other and commitment brings in a maturity and deep understanding among the two. The couple does not expect a lot from one another and as such this will not cause undue pressure on both.


The disadvantages can be in terms of health issues that you may not get to know at the time of marriage. Especially issues relating to sexual dissatisfaction that both will have to handle after marriage, unlike in live-in relationships .There again, a health issue can arise anytime in one's life. Learning to be supportive, to trust and to be committed is more important. In certain cases parents take the decision and the marriage takes place, sometimes forcefully. This can be quite consternating. But, education can correct this.