This study employed a micro-approach methodology to examine the social and
demographic implications of marriage practices and marriage change in a rural north Indian
area. Female age at marriage rose from 13.2 in 1930-39 to 14.6 in 1980-83. This
change was entirely due to a reduction in the time lag between the marriage and consummation
(gauna) ceremonies, and there had been no increase in age at effective marriage
in the study area from 1930 to 1983. This Finding calls into question...[Show more] previous
analyses of the relationship between age at marriage and fertility in the region based on
census data documenting the age at ceremonial rather than effective marriage. Factors
influencing age at marriage and cohabitation are discussed.
Marriages in the study area were overwhelmingly parentally arranged. The criteria
for selecting a marriage partner were primarily based upon considerations important to
the extended family, rather than upon individual characteristics which would lead to the
formation of a strong conjugal bond. The field of marriage selection was circumscribed
by strict rules of caste, kinship, and village exogamy, which greatly narrowed the
universe of potential partners, thus creating a highly hierarchical and regulated system
of marital alliances.
Although a minority of marriages of the intermediate and scheduled castes involved
the payment of a brideprice, the vast majority of weddings were of a groomprice
type. In groomprice weddings, although the families of both bride and groom spent large
amounts of money on wedding expenses, in fact, the majority of clothing and ornaments
given by the groom’s family returned with the bride to the husband’s house upon consummation
of the marriage, while the cash and goods given by the bride's family were
permanently lost to them. Once resident in the husband’s family, the young bride relinquished
control over the items of her dowry to the family patriarch and his wife - thus
the payment was effectively a “groomprice,” rather than a dowry payment.
These and other practices were evaluated in terms of the prevailing systems of social
stratification, by age, sex, and caste, found in the society. Some policy suggestions
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