For Social Cohesion, Inter-Caste Marriages are a Necessity

In Favour


The concept of marriage is a relationship between man-woman as one unit of society that evolved a unique human family system. Marriages are considered in the whole world as holy facet to begin a family. It is also believed that ‘marriages are made in heaven’.


According to Indian Sociologist Mazumdar, “Marriage is a socially sanctioned union of male and female for the purpose of establishing : (a) household, (b) entering into sex relations, (c) procreating and (d) providing care for the offspring.”


The real essence of Hindu Marriage is described in Rig Veda. From time immemorial, Hindus have tried to idealise and sanctify the institution of marriage as no other civil society has done so far. The law of Manu or Manava Dharma Shastra is one of the standard books in the Hindu canon, presenting the norms of domestic, social and religious life in India which is still followed.


Marriages have four main aims of Hindu life : Dharma (temporal interests and spiritual freedom), Artha (acquisitive instinct and enjoyment of wealth), Kama (instinctive desire of human being) and Moksha (Salvation). Further, life has four stages which were : “Bhramacharya (spinster), Grihastha (married), Vanaspratha (seclusion life) and Samnyasa (renounced from worldly life).” The second stage grihastha dealt with marriage and included the goals of dharma, progeny and sex. Moreover, the Law of Manu divided the society into four castes : Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudras.


       Caste in India represents divisive factors and a powerful truism of Modern Indian society. Caste is a form of social stratification characterized by endogamy, hereditary transmission of a lifestyle which often includes an occupation, ritual status in a hierarchy and customary social interaction and exclusion based on cultural notions of purity and pollution. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, defined “Indian caste system as a system based on graded inequality.”


History reveals that efforts have been made by various social reformers and individuals to make India free from the clutches of caste system, untouchability and race discrimination. A change was therefore needed in society. When the British came to India they introduced the English language as well as certain modern ideas.


These ideas were those of liberty, social and economic equality, fraternity, democracy and justice which had a tremendous impact on Indian society by social reformers like Raja Rammohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, Mother Teresa, Vinoba Bhave, Justice Mahadev Govind Randade, Bairagi Charan Mishra etc.


Among these modern ideas was inter-caste marriage, means marriage outside one’s own caste broadly described as Marriage between spouses of different ethnicities and castes. This is strictly not acceptable by the conservative Indian family.


Sociologists classified the inter-caste marriage into two following categories.

  1. Hypergamy or Anuloma—It is a form of marriage which allows a man of higher caste or varna to marry a woman of lower caste or Varna. The old Indian epics and other literatures bear evidence of the practice of Hypergamy. Until recent times, the practice of Hypergamy prevailed among that particular sect of Bengali Kulin Brahmins, Nambudri Brahmins in Kerala etc.
  2. Hypogamy or Pratiloma—Hypogamy or pratiloma is another form of inter-caste marriage. It allows men of lower caste or Varna to marry women of higher caste or Varna. The ancient law givers, especially Manu discouraged the practice of Hypogamy, but a number of scholars have recognised it as an acceptable form of marriage. It is said that Kakushta Varma, a Brahmin king gave his daughter in marriage to a non-Brahmin king of the Gupta dynasty.


In another instance Jajati, a Kshatriya king married Devayani a Brahmin girl. Similarly a number of instances of pratiloma are found in our modern society. This inter-caste marriage is becoming very popular in the modern Indian society.


For years Indians had conformist outlook. They couldn’t imagine marriages beyond the same caste. They had a conception that marriages are only possible in the same community and caste. Those who dared for the inter-caste marriage by violating the social norm had to face the consequence in terms of violence, social boycott, family boycott and death (honour killing). Even in this twenty first century, honour killing is practiced in most parts of India when there are cases of inter-caste marriages.


Until modern times, inter-caste marriages in India have gradually gained acceptance due to increasing education, employment, middle-class economic background, and urbanisation. According to a survey in 2014, about 5% of marriages are inter-caste in India. The outlook of Indian society in the boarder sense of realization of humanitarian ground truth with modernization, development, increase in educational level, employment in modern occupation, globalization, westernization, industrialization etc., the impact of social forces like caste, religion, various taboos etc. become weaker.


Marriages are regarded as the most important social custom and hence, were viewed as the best means to remove the barrier of caste system. Inter-caste marriages serve as a beacon light for social equality. In history of India, the first recorded inter-caste marriage in modern India took place on 4 February, 1889.


Adhere Maurois, French Author has said, “A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day.”


The following are the advantages and disadvantages of inter-caste marriages :

Advantages :

  1. The evil system of dowry can be eradicated.
  2. It became easier for both partners to adjust as they are well acquainted with the personality and behaviour of each other. It is also challenge for them to be ready to adjust in all circumstances and to be more satisfied.
  3. Couples become stronger to tackle the different types of social, economic and psychological challenges in their life.
  4. Better family planning for future of their children.
  5. Less liability and less family responsibility as they live according to their own will and in most cases separately.
  6. Boost the understanding of two different caste’s cultures, ideas, belief and traditions in positive outlook.
  7. Influence distribution of genetic traits and may lead to good mutation.
  8. Steps to reduce the caste-prejudices, abolish ‘untouchability’ and spread the values of liberty, equality, fraternity etc. in the society.


These advantages will enlighten the future generations to reform and revolutionize their mind set to have free caste Indian society.

Disadvantages :

  1. Inter-caste marriages are not generally accepted in our society.
  2. Couples have to carry out the entire financial burden. They cannot expect any sort of help from parents and relatives.
  3. The couples alone have to face problems without any help which may lead to frustration, depression and discontent.
  4. Adjustment with in-laws is very difficult in case of free choice marriages, especially for females, if it is not accepted by the family.
  5. In future it becomes very difficult for the couple to get a proper match for the children in case or inter-caste marriage. The future of the children is also gloomy because they may be denied the love and affection of their grand-parents.
  6. Parents may not allow the couple to inherit their property.
  7. Sometimes the couples show their best help to each other before marriage which may not be the real one. As a result they face problem of adjustment in their married as well as family life.
  8. It is very difficult to adjust with the culture and custom of the partner in case of inter-caste, inter-religion and inter-state free choice marriage.


But, these disadvantages can be ironed out, once the humane attitudes and thoughts alter towards caste on humanitarian ground and consider that all are equal.


In India the percentage of inter-caste marriages is about 11 per cent out of which in 5·58 per cent cases women marry to men of lower caste and in another 5·38 per cent cases, the women belong to lower caste but husbands belong to higher castes. According to a Survey, higher inter-caste marriages in socio-economically developed states like Punjab, Haryana, Assam, Maharashtra and Karnataka in comparison with the socio-economically backward states of northern India namely Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan.


There is need to glorify, give media exposure and encourage such marriages in order to reduce the caste barrier prevalent in Indian society. India will require long time yet to come when the marriage system in India will be completely free of caste discrimination. The Constitution of India gives us the fundamental rights of Right to Equality, Right of Freedom and Personal Liberty, Right to Life, and all these are also conferred to the couples marrying under the Special Marriage Act as well. So the government, NGOs, young students should take up initiatives to promote the inter-caste marriages in the rural areas even at the grass roots Panchayat levels.


I got inter-caste marriage (Hypergamy) with the consent of both parents. My marriage was done with Hindu rituals and traditions and till date it proved to be successful without any problems. It was highly appreciated by our Society people.


       Thus, definitely yes, for social cohesion, inter-caste marriages are a necessity.


Mattie Stepanek, an American Poet quoted, “Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”



“Life has always taken place in a tumult without apparent cohesion; but it only finds its grandeur and its reality in ecstasy and in ecstatic love.”            —Georges Bataille


       Social cohesion is an ordering feature of a society, based on inter-dependence between the members of the society, shared loyalties and social solidarity. The key element of a


cohesive society is characterized by a set of attitudes and norms of the citizens, including trust, sense of belongingness and willingness to participate and help each other. Therefore, to make a society cohesive the primary necessity of its members is to accomplish these qualities first. Now, the question arises—is inter-caste marriage an effective way to make social cohesion ? Before making inter-caste marriages a necessary medium, it is important to evaluate how far it can contribute to social cohesion in a country like India.


India’s vast geographical area, huge ethnic and cultural diversity and widespread economic and social disparity make its citizens socially less cohesive. Besides, political and social turmoils are a common phenomenon is some parts of India. These incidents are supported by certain groups of people, who are less cohesive by nature and also disturb the social tranquillity. Therefore, social cohesion in India cannot be achieved without overall development of all groups of people irrespective of religions, castes and genders.


The caste-system in India is still a sensitive issue and most of the times it gives rise to the inequality and violence. A dalit is seen like a condemned one, not only in backward regions, but to many elite Indians. This barrier is so prevalent in our country, that it is difficult to merge all the classes under one roof.


Majority of Indians seek a bride or groom within their caste. Although, in recent times, modern youths are tying knots within inter-castes, the numbers are very few. Many people from both lower and middle-classes are sternly against it; and therefore, people who are stepping into inter-caste marriages have to face a lot of mental pressure and trauma before as well as after their marriages. In many cases, the marriage causes violence and tension between the two families and can even lead to ‘honour killing’. There is no lack of examples, when the persons tied in a inter-caste marriage have been killed by their own family members to save the family honour. Even, in 21st century, such marriages are seen as an evil. So, if this is the scenario of modern India, regarding inter-caste marriages, then how can we think to make it a necessity for creating a cohesive society.


Besides, according to Indian ritual, girls adopt their in-laws’ culture and customs after marriage. They have to learn the rituals and systems prevalent in their husband’s family and caste. But the same is not applicable to the grooms or their families. So, generally they remain ignorant of the bride’s culture. There is a little chance to make both sides aware of each other’s customs. This will hardly generate any solidarity between the two parties. So, inter-caste marriages will not be proved much fruitful to this matter.


Marriage creates a bond between the two-families; but in India where most of things are decided according to a person’s caste, inter-caste marriage is far-away to make any cohesion among the persons involved within it. As long as we are bonded within the clutches of caste and creed; as long as we are unable to move beyond the different religions and languages, as long as we can’t think all of us as the same human beings over all of these man made differentiation’s, we shall never be able to make any cohesion between us. Without a sensitive and compassionate soul, a unity to stand by and help others, a rational outlook, we can’t never achieve social cohesion. Each member of the different social classes should transform them to this higher degree of personal expression and be equally responsible to be cohesive with each other.


We don’t have to choose inter-caste marriages a kind of necessity; after all, marriage is a matter of personal choice and individual desire. There are a number of other ways available to us, through which we can make friendship and solidarity with people from different group, ethnicity or so-called castes. To respect others, to help them and to trust them we don’t have to be bound within any type of caste-based or inter-caste marriages. Besides, there is no evidence that society becomes less cohesive due to lack of such marriages. This may be an option, but should not be made a mandatory point. We are free to choose our way to develop cohesion.


“Social cohesion is a necessity, and mankind has never yet succeeded in enforcing cohesion by merely rational arguments.”

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