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Explained: Arrange marriages, their evolution

Arrange marriage is more of an arrangement between two families to stay together. Source: Photo by AMISH THAKKAR on Unsplash

If you belong to Eastern Asian countries (E.g. India), the concept of arranged marriages is something you already know and a very common practice in the society where you live in. But for other people, this is a strange concept. Let us try to unfold it and understand its evolution.

Arranged marriage is an institution in which two families come together and marry their children. The selection of the groom/bride is done on various parameters that are more influenced by social practices.

History of marriage

Previous marriages followed different cutoms

Looking at the evolution of mammals, it is easy to understand why would individuals form groups for survival. In those groups, they could reproduce, increase their population, and had a better chance of survival. Since we are talking about very ancient human beings, we can expect they changed partners just like other mammals. But the humans were smarter and they knew the risks. The males/females would easily ditch their partners when presented with a better choice.

No one knows how much time did it take but humans invented a more stable system of existence in which the male and female partners would stay with each other. They were not yet taking vows of marriage but staying together. These were ancient times, the societies were primitive. Thus, the partner selection was primarily based on their capabilities for survival, the ones who had better chances of survival were treated better than others. You can consider their marriages to be an affair of the individuals who were marrying. The two parties (individuals) would select each other based on their looks, physique, the capability of survival, etc. They would often change partners for various reasons like: their expectations were not met, the partner didn’t survive, etc.

But they were switching partners quite often. Some of those humans would have wanted to minimize this and that’s when they invented a formal system of marriage. It was an institution in which two parties would come together, share some promises, and then stay together. It would have been a different game back then. A different set of customs, vows, and practices and those would be dependent on the tribe/ group.

Parents started influencing the choice of partners

As the societies evolved, the people started living in villages, cities, and kingdoms. The boundaries of these villages, cities, and kingdoms offered them a secure environment. They would engage in various tasks to sustain their livelihood. The individuals of those times would produce something, change it for other resources, or engage in services. To increase their worthiness, they would employ their families in the same tasks. Thus, a blacksmith would employ his son/ daughter to help him complete his pending tasks and become more productive.

At the same time, these new generations were spending more time living with their children and thus had a high emotional investment in them. The parents wanted their children to be safe and happy. Unlike the previous generations, they had the means to support their children. Thus, these parents started to influence the choice of partners their children were making. But the system of marriage was still an affair between the two parties (individuals) who were marrying.

The selection of a partner was not just a choice of the child but was also influenced by the parents now. But the parameters were very basic such as wealth, social status, physique, etc.

Beginning of Arrange Marriages

Arranged marriages started as an additional layer of scrutiny for making marriage last longer

As the societies evolved further, segregation started to happen. This was the start of the caste system and other forms of segregation. Individuals were segregated based on their place of living, their duties in the social system, their work practices, and some other factors. These castes or other representations were often changed when the individuals changed their places, work, activities, and responsibilities in those societies.

The following years saw those systems becoming more rigid and people remained stuck in the castes/ segregated systems. A large majority of those individuals didn’t change their work professions (either due to pressure from the ruling parties or due to any other factors).

It was around the same time the concept of arranged marriage gained prominence. There were two major factors supporting it.

1. Changing of caste was not easy and thus marrying within the same caste was an easy option.

2. Marriages in other castes were not very successful (due to compatibility issues)

It was the time when the Indian sub-continent saw females choosing for the males which they would marry to. (Referred as “Swayamvar” in the ancient texts). The males were primarily of the same castes and would compete to marry the female.

But such a system was not very pronounced in the lower classes as they didn’t have resources to support the tournaments and other practices. The common people married based on their choices of selection in the same castes.

Evolution of Arrange Marriages

The societies evolved further and people became more settled in the work practices. Some were engaged in farming, trading, teaching, and so on. Each group was making their living via some activity. They were happily living with their families, selecting partners based on their own personal preferences in which the selection of partner was highly influenced by the individual themselves but within the same social circle (caste).

With the evolution of humans, the thinkers observed how lifestyle, behavior, and other life choices were influenced by the work activities of the person. The traders were smart and cunning as compared to the farmers which were hard-working, reserved, and simple. The soldiers were brave, short-tempered as compared to other classes. Their families were also influenced by these traits when they lived together. The children picked certain traits from their families, such as: the time they wake up, their ethical traits, their food habits, adaptability to social practices, etc.

And when these children married to people of other trades (belonging to the same social status, class, and segmentation) they experienced friction in their lives due to inherent differences in their lifestyles and behavior.

Evolution of a granular system of caste division

Within the same social classes, the castes became divided into multiple subgroups. They developed differently in different areas and were indicative of the type of group each person belonged to.

To increase the success of marriage, new kinds of experiments started happening. The families would scout for partners which would belong to the same subgroup, were engaged in similar lifestyle practices, had similar financial status, had similar life experiences, etc.

This form of partner selection was without the active involvement of individuals. The selected candidates were highly similar in their lifestyle choices. The children were living with their families after marriage and the selection of a partner who made similar life choices increased the chances of success of the marriages.

Since the partners were selected by the families thus it became their responsibility to take care of any issues that would arrive at a later stage. Just like other marriages, the couples would face similar issues but the families would come to resolve them. The choice of abandoning the partner became hard.

Abandoning a partner would mean the research done by the families was wrong, the selected family/partner is not right. Both of these things would hurt the social prestige of both families and thus the families did anything to make the marriage work.

Thus, despite differences, struggles, and issues, the marriages lasted longer. It created more faith in the system and increased the acceptance of this system. More and more families joined this type of marriage selection and it became a prominent part of eastern culture.

To be followed…..

Thank you for the reading. The next part of evolution, social stigma, issues in current times would be covered in another article. Please share, support, comment for your views on the topic.

Happy Reading.

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