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Contemporary marriage practices in North India : evidence from three Uttar Pradesh villages




MacDorman, Marian

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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 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 were offered.






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