Marrying not for One’s Self but for Others: Hinduism in India

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by Aya Murakami

“We believe in Love Marriage. But we cannot marry someone who have different customs, religion, speak different language. ”

Different ethnic groups, religions and language exist in India, where has the 7th largest area and 2nd largest population in the world. In India, there are over eight religions, complex social stratification system called caste, and more than 15 language is spoken in different areas. Since different religions have very different cultures, I will talk about Indian Hindus in this post, which accounts for 80% of the total population in India, and consider their ideas towards marriage. (When I mention “Indian” in this post, it refers to “Hindu”.)

Arranged marriage is very popular in India. There are newspaper ads and internet matrimonial service has been becoming popular. Currently, I live with several Indian students and I asked them about this matrimonial service. Most of them have visited one of these websites and told me which factors they look at when choosing the partner.

  1. Caste
  2. Economic Class of the Partner and his/her family
  3. Job Status for Men/Appearance for Women

The same religion and the same caste are absolute requirement, and better economic class is preferable, they told me. But, the third comes job status for men and appearance for women. Job status for men is related to economic class, however, what is exactly “appearance” means? Which characteristics Indians put importance on?

  1. Fair
  2. Slim
  3. Facial Features

Having “Fair” skin is the most and very important feature of appearance, Neha and Tanushree, two Indian girls told me. Although there is a famous skin lightening cream called Fair & Lovely, Neha who belongs to the highest caste, Brahmins, said that skin-lightening cream is barely used in her caste since most of the people have “fair” skin. General idea of skin tone in India is that the lower the caste the darker people’s skin tone becomes and the darker their skin tone the more likely people use skin-lightening cream.

family

“It is not about how you feel, it is about how it will affect your family and how it will portrait your family in the society.”

Coming back to the Indian Hindu and their marriage, through reading books and talking with my Indian friends, I realized that they often used the word “we” instead of the word “I”. I thought that it represents the idea that first priority for Indian people is not how they feel but how the others feel. Thus, when it comes to marriage, their first concern not whether or not they love someone but how their society and families judge them. That is one of the reasons why arranged marriage is popular than love marriage in India. Religion, caste, economic class and appearance, each factors plays important role in Indian marriage. Marriage determines social status of Indian’s family in their society, thus arranged marriage is considered as necessary to carefully consider how well the partner can represent the family in the society.

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