Friday, April 22, 2011

Arranged Marriages In India

Hey all,

It's Friday and I'm back up and running with by Friday Guest Bloggers.  Today's author is another fellow TMDRA blogger and once I read her blog I was so please to have her here.  Here is a little bit about this awesome author.

R. ANN SIRACUSA is involved in many activities, but her two favorite are traveling the world and writing fiction.  This talented author combines those loves into novels which transport readers to exotic settings, immerse them in romance, intrigue, and foreign cultures, and make them laugh.

After receiving a degree in Architecture from UC Berkeley, she traveled to Italy.  There she worked in Rome for an Italian architecture and urban planning firm and married the Sicilian policeman she met at the Fountain of Love on her first day there.  When she and her husband returned to the United States, they settled down to career and family.  But the travel bug never left her.  While working for over thirty years in her chosen career, she made time to travel and began to write fiction that incorporated many of her experiences and observations.

Today, she is retired, lives in San Diego, California, and writes full time (which is as many hours as an Italian husband, three grown children, and eight grandchildren will allow on any given day).  She has been active in Romance Writers of America since 1985 and recently served two terms as Co-president of the San Diego RWA Chapter.  Her first novel was published in 2008, and since then Sapphire Blue Publishing has released seven more works.

Shall we see what she has to tell us about her travels?  Please join me in welcoming her to my blog...


I love to travel almost as much as I love to write, and I’ve managed to combine those two passions into writing novels which transport readers to exotic settings, immerse them in romance, intrigue and foreign cultures, and make them laugh. In 2009, I traveled to India’s Golden Triangle, the cities of Jaipur, Delhi, and Agra, located in the heart of northern India. India is a large country with a population of 1.1 billion people and has an amazing variety of language, culture, and tradition.

When I travel, I’m always looking for something so unique about the country that only certain stories could happen there or for pieces of information about the culture that spark a story idea. When our Indian guide, Amit, mentioned that, even today, ninety percent of Indian marriages are arranged by the families, I was surprised and interested.

While readers and writers of historical romances are familiar with the arranged marriage scenario, contemporary romance novels generally deal with two people falling in love. What kinds of situations could occur in contemporary India where most marriages [I can’t vouch for the ninety percent figure] are still arranged even though women are out there getting educations and working in the work force?

In India today, there is a difference in the terminology used. “Wedding alliances” are arranged marriages brought about by parties other than the bride and groom. If the partners choose each other, the term is “Love Marriage.” “Love marriages” are more common in the big cities and urbanized parts of India.

Historically, because the religious caste system didn’t allow interaction between men and women, an arranged marriage was the only option. All the references I could find indicated that even today the instance of arranged marriages is very high [no percentages given], but―there’s always a but in there somewhere―the criteria have changed. More and more frequently the preferences of the bride and groom are taken into account in the negotiations. However, marriage is still considered a marriage of families rather than a liaison between two individuals.

Who actually does the negotiating depends on the community and the family. Sometimes it is the parents, but may also be uncles, aunts, or other older relatives. At times, an official matchmaker is called in, particularly when there are complications like a less attractive woman, a divorcee [divorced women are still treated as social outcasts], or previously broken engagements. [While the references didn’t mention gender, I assume these sources mean women who have broken engagements, not men, but I don’t know for sure.] Matchmakers may be individuals or businesses, perhaps the Indian equivalent of a dating service or
The Process

While the steps in arranging a marriage differ from one community to the next, they are basically the following:

• Announcement. The guardians of the bride or groom make it known publically they are seeking an alliance. The announcement is usually triggered by another event such as graduation from college, getting a job, or the marriage of an elder sibling.

• Horoscope Matching. This is big. Interested parties have to be astrologically compatible. The wedding date is part of this. The families don’t just choose a date. A muhurta, or auspicious moment, is chosen based on the time of the year and the horoscopes of the bride and groom. Sometimes the wedding has to be planned for nearly a year in the future, while sometimes the auspicious moment is within the month. Some sources say astrological compatibility is often used to reject an offer.

• Background Check and Interview. Well, I guess marriage is a little like getting a job. The families exchange photos or videos. If that pans out, they may arrange an interview, or darshan, between the couple with other family members present. Often the bride and groom have met only two or three times before the marriage. The process also includes a background check including bad habits such as smoking, drinking, drugs, as well as other issues like anger management. That one blew me away. The background checks are done through friends, relatives and sometimes by more modern means like record checks and PIs.

• Contract Negotiations. The dowry and the logistics of the marriage are negotiated by the families.

• Engagement. Once everything is settled, the engagement is announced. The “Eating of the sweets” marks the end of the negotiations, followed by gift exchanges between bride and groom begin. The engagement period and the actual wedding are whole topics unto themselves. Indian weddings are generally as elaborate and expensive as the family can afford within their economic range.

I also found in my research that divorce rates in India are beginning to rise, particularly in the new middle class and among working [empowered] women with independent incomes. That tells us something, doesn’t it?

An interesting case in point. A young woman originally from Sri Lanka, who worked for me in my prior career, had been in the United States for at least ten years and graduated from UCLA. She was a professional woman making good money. Upon returning from one of her periodic trips to Sri Lanka to visit her mother, she announced she’d gotten married. Apparently, her mother [concerned regarding her marital status] had hired a matchmaker who identified several eligible men. The mother had interviewed them, picked three she liked, and insisted her daughter meet them when she came to visit.

My employee [and friend] said she “kind of liked one of them,” and so they were married. Frankly, I was shocked that after her integration into American culture she would marry a man she’d met only once. It took three years for her to get a visa for her husband to come to the US. When he did, they had a child and not long after that she divorced him. When I asked her why, after all the brouhaha, she said he treated as he would treat a Sri Lankan woman, and she didn’t like it.
Well, duh! Bite my tongue. At least I didn’t say it aloud.

I’d love to hear comments from women knowledgeable about this topic. I’m dependent on what I was told in India, one Indian acquaintance and research on the Internet. Personal stories always offer new insights. What one reads and hears isn’t always correct, and usually leaves out some important facts or mitigating circumstances.

The high point of the trip to India was a visit to the Taj Mahal, one of the eight man-made wonders of the world. Located in Agra, the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his dear wife and Queen, Mumtaz Mahal. Part of the wonder and allure of the Taj Mahal is the beautiful love story behind its construction.

Shah Jahan, whose real name was Shahab-ud-din and known as Prince Khurram before ascending to the throne in 1628, was the son of Jehangir, the fourth Mughal emperor of India. At the age of fourteen, he met and fell in love with Arjumand Banu, later named Mumtaz Mahal, a Muslim Persian princess of fifteen [born April 6, 1593]

After meeting her, Shah Jahan told his father he wanted to marry her. Five years later, they married. [I assume this was an “arranged marriage” but was definitely a “love marriage” also.] When Shah Jahan became the Emperor in the year 1628, he entrusted Arjumand Banu with the royal seal and gave her the title of Mumtaz Mahal, "Jewel of the Palace". Shah Jahan had other wives also, but, Mumtaz Mahal was his favorite and even traveled with him on military campaigns.

In the year 1631, when Mumtaz Mahal was giving birth to their 14th child, she became ill and died due to complications. It is said that Shah Mahal was so heart-broken after her death that he ordered the court into mourning for two years, and eventually undertook the task of constructing an unsurpassed monument to honor the memory of his beloved wife. The monument, completed in 1648, took 22 years and the labor of 22,000 workers to construct. It cost 32 Million Rupees.

I’ve used my travel experiences in writing a humorous romantic suspense series entitled The Tour Director Extraordinaire Series, published by Sapphire Blue Publishing. The setting of the latest full-length novel in the series, Destruction Of The Great Wall, is based on my travels in China.

For more, visit me at my website:


Sounds awesome, doesn't it.  Like me, she uses her travels to make her stories exotic and delicious.  Give some of them a try and see what it's all about.

And if you're looking for an exotic story, don't forget my FREE READ, Hustle into Love.  It's set in Macau, an island nation off the southern coast of China.  It's the Las Vegas of the East and the story will literally blow you away.

I'll be back next week with whatever catches my fancy!

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams


Ray said...

Very interesting blog. I know an Indian woman who used to come into Starbucks every day. She and another Indian woman who lives in the UK got me interested in India. The UK woman showed me pictures of her and her daughters celebrating the Festival of Lights at her local Indian community center.

The woman who lives near me in Virginia Beach had me sign up for a social network site primarily for Indians called Orkut. I just went to that site today and looked up arranged marriage. One woman asked the question, "Arranged Marriage, are you for it or against it. Her post called the current practice a business arrangement and a practice akin to slavery. No one took her up on her query.

My friend also took me to two Indian markets where I was turned on to Samosas.

The name Siracusa is like the name of a beautiful city in Sicily where I dined at an out of the way restaurant on what looked like an alley. There was a large photo with the caption, "The Pope dined here." I also had the best ice cream in Siracusa that I have had in my life.


R. Ann Siracusa said...

To All,
If you comment, you will be entered in a drawing for a free e-book, so leave me a way to get in touch with you.

To Ray,
Thank you for the informative comments. India is a fascinating country, and a few days there doesn't scratch the surface of the culture. I'd love to see other parts of the country, too.

I'm not surprised that no one answered the question about being for or against arranged marriages.

My husband is from Messina,Sicily, not Siracusa. It's a beautiful city. The traditional Sicilian wisdom is that if your surname is the name of a city, your ancestors were either Jewish (dating back to about the thirteen hundreds) or illegitimate. Thanks for commenting.

jean hart stewart said...

Enjoyed this very much....Thanks, Ann

Toni Noel said...

I'm not knowledgeable, but find the topic fascinating.

Toni Noel

Viola Russell said...

I have a friend from Pakistan whose marriage was arranged. Her parents arranged a marriage for her as a child. At the time of the wedding, her husband, a doctor, was studying medicine in the US. He returned for the wedding. They had not seen each other until the wedding day. She sent one of the girls to check him out. The other young woman returned, saying, "Well, he's handsome." Today, they are happily married and have three children. Since their children are now grown, they are lovers, friends, and companions.

Phylis said...

I always thought I would have had problems living in earlier times and one of the problems would have been arranged marriages. Just boggles the mind. lol Thanks for the info on India. I have a nephew who was adopted from India when he was an infant.

CJ England said...

Thanks all for stopping by. You see this practice over here in Asia as well, but I have to admit, it makes me uncomfortable.

To each his own, I guess. But I truly enjoyed learning more about it. Thanks for the great blog.

The Adventures of Razor and Edge said...

Very well researched article, Ann. I live in Vancouver Canada and we have a large indian community. My neighbour next door invited us for dinner recently (yum, Indian food) and they talked to us about how arranged marriages are much better than love marriages.

I believe in European and Jewish traditions they had arranged marriages for centuries. My sense is marrying for love is a fairly recent invention.

Ray said...

Razor and Edge from the Movie HACKERS. I can't believe as many times as I have seen that movie I have never connected it to a book I read decades ago, THE RAZOR'S EDGE by William Somerset Maugham published the year I was born 1944. Does this mean I just recovered from a senior moment?


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♥ conselheira ♥ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

its a very nice blogs and the topic is good