Despite India’s progressive growth and the fact that we are the world’s second fastest growing nation, there still remains a chasm between cultural values of the ‘New India’ and ‘Old India’. ‘Old India’, being the oldest civilization has a lot of wisdom and traditions that have been passed down from generations to generations. However, certain customs like Child Marriage, Sati, Dowry, etc. have been deemed illegal and punishable by the state. On the other hand, similar delicate issues associated with marriage like inter-caste and inter-religion marriages have still failed to elicit a stand by the elected representatives – be it the Government or even the Panchayats. So, the question still remains as to which practices to adopt and which practices to discard.
Traditionally, the notion of inter-caste marriages and inter-religion marriages has been frowned upon, but the abolition of the caste system and the ambitions of keeping pace with globalization have led to a partial acceptance of mixed marriages. However, the acceptance now granted to these types of marriages, comes with new complications.
The most crucial aspect of inter caste and inter religion marriages is to protect your individuality. This will not only ensure a smooth transition into matrimony but also help in sustaining the marriage. Some of the points that one must consider while marrying out of their religion/ caste are as follows:
- Adopting a Surname: In India, it is a misconception that the Indian society is patriarchal, for there are many instances of tribes as well as communities in Kerala and the North East where the core premise of the community rests on matriarchal choices. Although traditionally, the larger part of Indian society has seen the wife take the name of the husband’s family and although initially the law in India deemed it necessary for the woman to adopt the husband’s surname, this law was revised by the Bombay High Court. Under a crucial amendment to the Family Courts Act, the Court ruled that “a wife who has not changed her name after marriage, by publishing in the official gazette, may continue to use her maiden name”. Thus, it comes as a decision to be discussed with one’s spouse and taken with one’s own consent rather than a forceful law that compels a woman to take her husband’s surname. However, some religions and communities have a very rigid outlook to adopting the husband’s surname post marriage.
- Taking a ‘Ritualistic’ Interest: To make inter-caste or inter religion marriages work, it is important to take an interest in the rituals and traditions of the other person and harness an interest and reverence towards them. This is not only important to bond with the in-laws but also ensure no discord creeps into the marriage. Such an understanding provides for harmony in terms of which Gods to pray to and what to wear and what festivals to celebrate. Take for instance a Hindu-Muslim marriage. Hindu’s take cows to be sacred and cannot be offered beef while Muslims believe pigs to be haram and hence do eat pork. In an inter religion marriage understanding and internalizing these nuances is essential. Furthermore, discussions such as the religion or caste of the children ensure that there are no rifts in family life.
- Retaining your Religious Identity: Kareena Kapoor was asked whether she was changing her religion even as she declared her impending marriage to Saif Ali Khan. While she was stated as saying that she would adopt the Khan surname to become ‘K3’ or Kareena Kapoor Khan, she was enraged at the prospect of the media prying into her decision regarding religion after marriage. Taking for her, every modern woman should realize that it is her right to choose her own religion and marriage doesn’t come with the requirement to change ones religion. If the woman wishes to, she can change her religion but it must be a conscious decision not a pressured one. Furthermore, adopting a surname and changing your religion are two separate decisions and the former does not mean you subscribe to the latter. While making such a decision it is best to involve family members, your spouse and above all ensure that your individual wish does not get stamped under the general consensus.
Inter-caste marriages and inter-religion marriages are no more complicated than normal marriages. It is all about adopting the right outlook and ensuring that you stand up for your rights and protect your individuality.