Intercaste marriage in India is a controversial topic. Parents invariably want their children to marry someone from the same caste and religion. However, changing attitudes towards traditional beliefs, greater exposure to the outside world and urban migration has resulted in changes in attitude towards intercaste marriages.
In spite of these changes, the perception of change remains just a perception as facts about intercaste marriages in India say something else.
1. Only 5% of Indians have intercaste marriage
According to the India Human Development Survey, conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and the University of Maryland, only 5% of Indians have embraced intercaste marriages. The IHDS Survey is the largest non-government household survey in India and covers 42000 households.
There is no major difference between the % of Indians in rural and Urban India when it comes to intercaste marriage. Over 11% of the survey respondents claimed to have intercaste marriages in Gujarat and Bihar while only under 1% of the survey respondents in Madhya Pradesh said they had an intercaste marriage.
2. Intercaste marriage and honour killing
According to the paper Honour Killings in India: A Study of the Punjab State, a paper written by Satnam Singh Deol, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar,
“The phenomenon of honor killings is the outcome of that socio-psychic milieu of typical societies where certain patterns of the behavior of human beings, particularly the females, are recognised as marking dishonor to their families and communities and the lost honour is reimbursed by killing them.”
India sees about 1000 honour killings every year and accounts for 1 in 5 honour killings in the world! Experts seem to agree that the intolerance of upper caste men to intercaste relationships (pre-marital as well as matrimonial) is a key reason for honour killing in India.
3. Bollywood stars and politicians don’t mind intercaste marriage
Look around and you will notice that Bollywood royalty and political heavyweights don’t seem to mind intercaste marriages. Maybe this is one redeeming feature most of us tend to ignore while we latch on to everything else with religious rigour.
Here is an extract from a presentation on the topic of intercaste marriages among Bollywood stars and politicians in India. This is by no means comprehensive. For example, it leaves out Shah Rukh Khan and Amir Khan but serves as a good indicator.
4. Intercaste marriage is not popular with arranged marriages
In a paper titled “Marry for what? Caste and mate selection in India”, researchers conducted an interesting study among 783 urban Indians that placed matrimonial ads on a major Bengali newspaper.
Researchers asked the survey respondents to rank the responses they received for their ads and also specify which responses are good enough for them to follow up on for further conversation. The researchers noted that on the bride’s side, there was a willingness to trade off education level of the prospective groom for the sake of finding someone from the same caste.
Similarly, on the prospective groom’s side that placed the ad, there was a willingness to shortlist self-described “decent-looking” women as opposed to “beautiful” women from a different caste.
The researchers noted that on the bride’s side, there was a willingness to trade off education level of the prospective groom for the sake of finding someone from the same caste. Similarly, on the prospective groom’s side that placed the ad, there was a willingness to shortlist self-described “decent-looking” women as opposed to “beautiful” women from a different caste.
5. “Caste no bar” – Really?
The Hindu published an interesting article on the topic of what Indians seem to declare in public and what they actually practice. A 2013 research report published by researchers from the University of California Santa Barbara and Berkeley revealed that more than half of the prospective brides contacted by the researchers through
A 2013 research report published by researchers from the University of California Santa Barbara and Berkeley revealed that more than half of the prospective brides contacted by the researchers through matrimonial websites expressed an interest in potential partners belonging to caste groups other than their own.
The willingness to go beyond the caste was found to be higher among less affluent upper caste women and more affluent scheduled caste women. However, this willingness was motivated by the opportunity to climb the social ladder by marrying an upper caste man or improve the economic prospects through intercaste marriage.
The study tracked online matrimony sites for caste preferences and reports that anywhere between 20% to 60% of users choosing to say “caste no bar” in their profiles. However, researchers learned that stating “caste no bar” does not mean that the users discounted caste when shortlisting profiles.
6. Which Indian state has the most intercaste marriages?
According to a study done by researchers from Princeton University in 2011, It is found that inter-caste marriage is highest in the western region (17%). Intercaste marriages are the highest in Goa (26.67%) followed by Punjab (22.36%), Meghalaya (25%), and Kerala (21.35%).
States having moderate to high intercaste marriages are Haryana (17.16%), Manipur (18.33%), Tripura (17.81%), Maharashtra (17.79%) and Karnataka (16.47%).
The states showing very low percentages of intercaste marriages are Jammu and Kashmir (1.67%), Rajasthan (2.36%), Chhattisgarh (3.38%), Madhya Pradesh (3.57%), Bihar (4.60%) and Tamil Nadu (2.59%).
The southern region of India is socio-economically more developed than other regions of India. But the study results show that incidence of intercaste marriages in India is only about 10% of the marriages.
7. Does better education result in more intercaste marriages?
It seems like common sense to assume that as more men and women get a better education, the incidence of intercaste and inter-religion marriages will go up substantially. However, the Princeton study (as referred above) shows that increasing education levels have no impact on the preference for same-caste / same-religion marriage. In fact, more education leads to a drop in preference for intercaste marriage!
The study found that couples who married recently have a higher % of intercaste marriages compared to couples that married 20 years ago. Also, inter-caste marriages happen more when either the man or woman or both have a second marriage.
Intercaste Marriage – Problems and Benefits
If you are planning to go through an Intercaste marriage, you probably know why it is challenging. Data presented in this article paints a grim picture indeed. However, it’s not all gloom and doom. While there are significant challenges associated with intercaste marriages, you also have certain benefits through an intercaste marriage.
Here is a laundry list of intercaste marriage problems and possible benefits.
Intercaste Marriage – Problems
- Parents and family members see it as an affront to their honour and the family “bloodline” is considered to be diluted.
- The opposition from parents and family members translates into family feuds. Some families even disown their sons or daughters for their transgression.
- Honour killing is a big issue across India and education or economic background of the family makes little difference.
- Compatibility between couples who come from different castes can become an issue considering the difference in lifestyles and habits.
- In small towns and rural areas, where people know each other, intercaste couples will face challenges interacting with members of the community.
- Children of intercaste couples may find it difficult to go through arranged marriage as the “intercaste” label is seen as a negative trait.
- Problems associated with inheritance of wealth and property disputes are common when there is an intercaste marriage.
Intercaste marriage – Benefits
- Intercaste marriages prove to everyone that artificial barriers and false notion of purity cannot stop love.
- Promotes integration of diverse families, cultures and lifestyles true to the idea of celebrating unity in diversity.
- Enriches your lifestyle as you get exposed to new customs and habits.
- You can avoid any health issues in your children due to consanguineous marriages (marrying within the community or family).
- Your children have the advantage of having greater exposure to different cultures and traditions.
- Certain states in India provide monetary benefits for intercaste marriages and some even provide employment opportunities in the Government.
Click here to read our comprehensive blog post.
Jodi Logik’s stance on intercaste marriages
There is no explicit provision for stating your caste or indicating caste preferences in your Jodi Logik profile. However, you can write about your caste or your preferences around caste in the About section. We believe shared values, interests, lifestyle habits and goals are more important in determining the success of a marriage.