How does the caste system affect marriages in India?

Ground Report | New Delhi: How caste system affect marriages; India is a country with various religions and castes. Each and every religion is treated with equal respect and honour. But many pre-historic beliefs are still practised in India despite the rapid urbanisation and economic development.

As India is becoming more globalised, many families still have a conservative mindset about inter-caste marriages. India’s one million Hindus still in the general notice a caste system. This caste system is thought to have been prevalent in India for 2,000 years.

How caste system affect marriages

Marriages: Most Indian marriages are arranged by the parents. They considered various factors to find the ideal spouse. Of which, one’s caste is a significant factor. People don’t want their son or daughter to marry someone from another caste. Just as the word “untouchables” suggests, a Brahmin would never marry a person from an SC or ST caste.

Education: Public universities have caste-based reservations for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. A person from this background can secure a seat at a top-tier university with academic scores at or below par depending on the reservation. However, the impoverished Brahmins are disadvantaged by this reservation system. For example, a Brahman has to score 100% on certain exams to get into a top-tier university. While the lower caste applicant can even bypass the exam to get a seat in the university.

Jobs: A significant number of public sector jobs are assigned based on caste reservation. Impoverished communities of Brahman origin are significantly affected due to this reservation.

Only 5% married outside of their caste

In India, marriages are considered to be an institution. It is a sacred position and two individuals tie the knot to remain together for the next seven reincarnations. Caste is decided at the time of birth itself. According to Hindu shastra, there are four varnas:- Brahmins, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudras, and the Brahmins are considered to be higher of all the castes.

However the institution of marriage within one’s own caste is strongly preferred, women are occasionally allowed to marry men of higher caste, with their children assuming their father’s status.

 If a Brahmin marries a Brahmin, then the child born will also be a Brahmin. But if a Brahmin marries a Dalit, what is the caste of the child born, it will be considered as nothing as per the regulation of caste and to not have caste within the traditional Indian society, is considered taboo. Such a person is outcast, or out of the caste system, and is supposed to be avoided by the entire society.

Marriages were not supposed to be outside their castes: the India Human Development Survey (IHDS), conducted by the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and the University of Maryland found that between 2011 and 2012, only 5 per cent of Hindu Indians married outside of their caste.

According to the 2017 Survey conducted by the Indian Statistical Institute, inter-caste marriages are more frequent in rural areas (5.2%) than urban areas (4.9%). The Survey also found that inter-caste marriage are more common among poor people (5.9%) than rich people (4.0%).

The lives of countless young men and women have been destroyed because they dared to love across divisions defined by caste and community. The caste system is among the oldest forms of social stratification in the world. It divides people belonging to the Hindu religion into four main categories, which are further divided into about 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes, each according to their specific occupation.

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