Phenomenon of “arranged marriages in India”

Cultural Difference

This proposed study will explore the phenomenon of “arranged marriages in India” to possibly unearth the reasons why this practice has withstood the test of time and force of other cultures. This enduring practice is very common in many Asian countries but we will specifically focus on India where the system exists despite a large portion of its urban population adopting western values and lifestyle.

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Cultural differences are interesting and definitely worth exploring to see how those differences emerged and how they have been withstanding the test of time. It is important to understand that over the years, a sort of cultural fusion has taken place resulting in cultural enmeshment whereby many new ideas have entered our cultures and vice versa. However there are still some differences that persist and one of them is the difference in the way marriages take place in east and west. In this paper, we shall be focusing strictly on the tradition of arrange vs. chosen marriages in India which is a country with a strong and very old cultural fabric.

In India, the practice of arranged marriages is still very much present even though over time, young people have begun to choose their own partners and such unions are called “love marriages.” But arranged marriages are not only prevalent; they are also well accepted by the society. Society generally tends to prefer the practice and offers greater support to marriages that take place in this manner. “Love marriages” [Nanda, 2000] even though in vogue in urban centers are still frowned upon.

That however is not the case here in the United States where we have become accustomed to choosing our own partners. The practice of arranged marriages is long gone, if it was ever present and we would now find it rather impossible to allow our parents to choose someone for us. Even though our friends and others would often play cupid, still the whole of the girl and the guy. Things are very different in countries like India where arranged marriage is one custom that has withstood the test of time and it is truly an enduring practice. Nanda (2000) writes:

“In India, almost all marriages are arranged. Even among the educated middle classes in modern, urban India, marriage is as much a concern of the families as it is of the individuals. So customary is the practice of arranged marriage that there is a special name for a marriage which is not arranged: It is called a “love match.” (p. 196)


The method would include interviews with Indians residing in the United States including some secondary research. For this research, primary data would be far more beneficial than secondary data but we would still need the latter to connect our primary data with a psychology theory or concept.


Lack of true self-awareness is the primary reason for the youth in India still relying on their parents’ choice in matters of marriage.


Self-awareness means a person knows his strengths and weaknesses and can hence make decisions for himself. Lack of this self-awareness may lead to lack of self-reliance which .

If X is self-awareness, Y is self-reliance, Z is decision-making:

We can hypothesize that lack of X causes lack of Y which eventually leads to lack of Z.

In other words,

If X is present, then Y also comes in and this leads to great Z.


I feel it would be very enlightening to conduct a study on this cultural difference not only to further explore it but to precisely find out why it survives even in these modern times. We know that India and the entire East is rapidly transforming. They have a in the West and these countries are well familiar with the customs, traditions of the west. So to say that the custom has survived because people are oblivious to what is happening in other parts of the world would be entirely wrong. Interestingly many Indians settled abroad for years would go back to their country to find a girl, get married and bring her back with them. Parents also prefer girls from back home and interestingly most very well educated Indian men are completely satisfied with the idea of marrying someone their parents chose for them.

There can be several reasons behind this enduring practice. Men and women feel that if parents have chosen someone for them, they would also support them through hard times. We understand that all marriages go through rough patches and some more than others. In these trying times, parents and other family members normally intervene to resolve problems. This is a common practice in India and all countries where arranged marriages are still in practice. However if a person chose to marry someone of their choice, it is very likely that during hard times, others would distance themselves saying; “didn’t we already warn you.” The fear of being left alone to ride out the tide might actually push some people in favor of arranged marriages.

The second reason is the ease and convenience that comes with having a partner chosen for you. In the western world, getting married doesn’t come easy. It comes with a long list of rejections, dates, break-ups and finally the right person. Young people may not always have the time to go through the trouble and hence they leave the job to their parents while they can concentrate on their careers and life. In Nanda’s article, one woman names Sita actually said something to this effect:

“One hears that in America the girls are spending all their time worrying about whether they will meet a man and get married. Here we have the chance to enjoy our life and let our parents do this work and worrying for us.” (p. 196)

A third possible reason can be lack of true self-awareness and inability to take responsibility. With greater self-awareness, people like to make decisions for themselves and also take responsibility for their actions. It appears to me that people in these parts of the world and India specifically may not yet have achieved that level of self-awareness and self-reliance where they can allow themselves to make major decisiosn for themselves and take complete responsibility for their actions even if something goes wrong.

A fourth reason and a rather degrading one for the west would be the “character” factor. Some Indian men feel that women from back home are more modest and hence . They have not dated men, they have no maintained relationships with members of the opposite sex and are thus more likely to love and cherish their husbands. They also feel that their women from India understand cultural values better and would thus understand their mental makeup and beliefs.

A study on this subject would enable us to see why some practices have not been influenced by western values and traditions. We generally tend to believe that west has a stronger culture or a more inferential one and that is why wherever west has gone, its values have permeated the local cultures and consequently altered them to some extent. But why is it that some customs remain- Customs that could have been . Isn’t it simply more logical to choose your own partner, wouldn’t I know more about myself and what I like than someone else? There are so many ways to refute any arguments in favor of arranged marriages and still this practice doesn’t seem to disappear or even fade a little.

Even the most modern, most educated and most influenced by the west individuals would make a compromise when it comes to the question of marriage. Many Indian men and women have gone back to their country to find the right person. The question is why? Why would they still choose to follow this system when apparently they have studied in the west, have western friends, watch western shows, and generally accept western values? This would be a very interesting question to ponder and scientifically explore through a comprehensive study.


Serena Nanda. Arranging a Marriage in India. From Stumbling Toward Truth: Anthropologists at Work, edited by Philip R. Devita, 2000, pp. 196 — 204. Published by Waveland Press.

Jodi O’Brien in Robert Kupla edition. “Arranged marriages.” Encyclopedia of Gender and Society. Volume 1, 2008

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