Arranged Marriage: Common Worldwide till the 18th Century; India and Italy were Exceptions

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Ironically, Indians during the Vedic Period were one of the few exceptional people to engage in marriage, of free choice (Swayamvara) and live-in relationships (Gandharva Vivah) back in time when arranged marriages were quite common throughout the world until the 18th century. Arranged marriage is not loveless. Nikita tells us about the arranged marriage of Rohan and Ankita, the highs and lows that they have had. Despite the fact that they belong to different worlds, the two of them found. Here’s an interesting account that dispels many beliefs (read biases and prejudices) about arranged marriage, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

Arranged marriage is a kind of marital union where families select the bride and groom. Most people think of arranged marriage as something the parents have arbitrarily decided on, with no consideration as to what the child actually desires.

Ironically, Indians during the Vedic Period were one of the few exceptional people to engage in a marriage of free choice (Swayamvara) and live-in relationships (Gandharva Vivah) back in time when arranged marriages were quite common throughout the world until the 18th century.

Gandharva Vivah is a marriage where the girl selects her own husband. They meet each other of their own accord and consensually agree to live together. This form of marriage did not require a consent of parents and anyone else. According to Vedic records, this was one of earliest and common form of marriages, over time, which became controversial, disputed, and debated. In one of the most sacred religious texts of Hindus, the Mahabharata, it is said, “No man any longer asks for the daughter, nor does a father give away his daughter, they (girls) find the man for themselves.”

The world might associate arranged marriages solely with India today but their history reveals a different story. There must be something terribly wrong with arranged marriages, as its opposite is a love marriage. Does that mean there is no love in an arranged marriage?

I would like to share a tale of Rohan and Ankita, who found true love in an arranged marriage. Rohan is a fun loving; carefree and ambitious globetrotter, who has traveled to 14 countries and 49/50 states by road in the USA, covering more than 40 National Parks, whereas Ankita is a family-oriented, professional lady with no desire to leave behind her hometown, Mumbai. Their likes and dislikes perfectly contradict; they live in two separate continents, brought up just the exact opposite way. Who would have believed they would be head over heels in love one day?


Rohan visited his future in-laws all by himself after much thought, anxious and worried about the first meeting. He landed up at her place. He was not hoping for anything from the meeting. He was already making excuses in his head about why this would not be a good alliance.

They finally met over a coffee date when forced by their parents; both half-heartedly arrived at CCD and ended up talking for six hours, almost missing the very reason Rohan landed in India, Cricket World Cup Finals. As everyone assumed, a boy and a girl in an arranged marriages set up talked if a girl could cook or the boy smoked and drank, their conversation started with Chase debit cards.

Girls do not anymore enter the room with tea and samosa, covered head to toe; stealing glimpses at the proposed spouse, they drive around the city and shoot questions like those that Ankita did, “Why you even want to get married? You surely do not dream of settling down being a world traveler, honestly, you do not even need a partner.”

Their relationship faced everything a couple faces during a courtship except parents’ objections. They had awful arguments, moments of uncertainty, disagreement-ups, and what not, but they held on to each other seven oceans apart. The virtual long distance relationship had started growing. Everything was sailing right until Rohan lost his job. “My full-time job was to apply for a job and talk to Ankita as much as I can,” he told. Ankita became his pillar rather than walking out of the relationship and beautifully handled everything.

Rohan did not want to move back to India and start from the beginning, he had in mind it would be unfair to Ankita who was already doing great professionally. Hard times left, and he found a job, after discussing immigration status with lawyers, he decided to fly back to India. His girl overwhelmed with flowers as she turned up to pick up him.

Being an enthusiastic explorer, he was certain that the greatest way to figure out someone is to travel with him or her. They somehow convinced their parents to approve of them a week’s road trip together in the hills of Himachal Pradesh. Their parents hoped for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ now.

They remained hesitant, took some more time to get to know each other, and eventually consented. Rohan had planned a romantic dinner for Ankita’s birthday, in Paris. Ankita traveled from India and Rohan boarded a flight from the USA to Paris, where he officially proposed his beloved in front of the Eiffel Tower.

This was not the end. Rohan was robbed. His passports, wallet and the ring were stolen before he could propose Ankita. He says, “I knew she is the one when she did not panic at all despite losing our passports in an overseas land.” They somehow managed to get new passports and headed for the pre-wedding photo shoot, which appeared as a movie with costumes, design, makeup, locations, transportation, and accommodations.

They compelled us to question the very concept of an arranged marriages, where love happened after tying knots. This was proved wrong in Rohan and Ankita’s situation. They are getting married on February 13, this year, on the eve of the Valentine’s Day, in Mumbai, India.

We wish them the best for their storybook romance and wish them conjugal bliss!

©Nikita Goel

Photos sourced by the author.

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Nikita Goel is a Texas-based writer. She is actively associated with Aagaman Literary and Cultural Society’s English Publications. She has worked as the managing editor for Purple Hues. She has co-authored three books. Her poems have been published in five anthologies. She has been featured online on Readomania, Aagaman -The Arrival, Writers e-zine, Writing Geeks, Literary and Creativity Magazine. Her blog, Enchantress, has been adjudged India’s best blog for three consecutive years.