Finding Love in India: Forbidden with the Castes
by Ashwini Selvakumaran
You’ve finally found the one, the person you think you are about to spend the rest of your life with. Happy faces and pleasant smiles are visible on you and your partner’s faces as you head to your family’s house to seek their blessing.
They should be happy for you. After all it is your engagement right? It is your happiness…right?
Well in India, the price of love may just come with the cost of happiness. People in India over years were brought up in communities, better known as castes.
A Caste is a traditional and cultural entity, which stemmed from primarily Hinduism but has prevailed across most backgrounds from South Asia.
Often compared to social classes in the West, castes are associated with a working profession or background that you or your family’s heritage belongs to.
Unfortunately, marriages outside one’s own caste is strictly restricted and looked down upon. It is a common practice in marriage to ‘ marry your own kind’ and therefore, within your own caste.
Marriages based on love are strictly forbidden. When asked why they are forbidden, Drishya Kantuka, a young women in India who gave up her love for her boyfriend for the approval of her family, said:
“I love my parents a lot and can't even think of losing them because of my own happiness."
Denying the rules of the caste, leads to being cast out from society, and even being shun from the family.
In the Hindu society marriage is social responsibility, not a personal need. With this reasoning, everyone has the responsibility to raise healthy, well behaved, kind, and generous children. The people have adopted a way to find a bride/groom from the same community in which the health, behavior, habits, and traits of their many generations are known. If they have any expectations of dowry or even ego-massaging, it is expected to be carried out when one marries within the caste.
The saying goes that family is more important than the prospective bride/groom and that the family’s financial and behavioral background were more important to determine if both families would get along. This is because marriage is always viewed as a commitment between two families, not two people. In the case of Indian marriages, there is a lot of interaction between the families in the years after the marriage. Hence, they are always inclined to marry in the same caste where the expectations are better understood.
Though love marriage is becoming more popular in India, with the caste system, marriage is viewed more as a union between families instead of a union between two lovers.