A matter of choice
Originally, men and women were allowed a great deal of freedom in matters of love and marriage. People were allowed to make up their mind and choose who they married. For example, Savitri decided to marry Satyavan after meeting him in a forest. Or Shakuntala who married Dushiyant who came as a visitor to her hermitage.
Men and women used to meet at melas, festivals and fairs on regular basis. This was often an ideal time to look for your life partner. It was considered perfectly OK for young people to exchange their heart by means of "love tokens" and the society honoured such pairing by marrying the young people at temple(s) nearest to the fairs. Even now, such traditions are still alive at places like Jabhuva where it is traditional for young people to officially "elope" and than marry at the spring fair.
Royals, due to their wealth and power, held public swayamvars, where women were allowed to choose who they married. It was not a competition, but a festival of choice. Some swayamwars were competitions to see who was worthy of the lady's hand in marriage. Eg Sita / Draupadi etc. Parents wanted to make sure the man chosen to marry their daughter(s) was brave, strong or resourceful enough to look after their child /children. The competition was never based on wealth, or birth, but merit. Even at these competitions, the princesses were allowed to choose who could or could not take part in the swayamvar.
Up until the 12th Century, princess Samyukta (also called Sanyogita) of Kannauj was allowed to choose her husband in an open assembley. She chose the last truly independent king of Dehli, Prithviraj Chauhan. She married against the wishes of her father - once again proving that women at swayamvars were independant to make their own choices.
Sadly, soon after this time, due to muslim interference, this practice was stopped.
Later, mostly due to restrictions placed by foreign rulers, women were married to men their parents chose for them. It was increasing impossible for them to take unmarried girls out of the house for fear of being abducted by muslim men. Child marriage became the rule when forceful conversion by abduction and rape became prevalent. Even now, in Pakistan, Hindu teenage girls are kidnapped and forced to marry to convert them. In Jan 2006, 3 sisters were kidnapped and forced to convert in Karachi - Pakistan's most affluent city !
Why do we look at horoscopes ?
Marriage used to be a choice, there was no searching for horoscopes or caste etc. It was based on love, love at first sight. This changed when it became difficult to meet in mixed groups muslim rulers frowned upon mixed gatherings and hence this became the norm. Sadly, we still do it whenever we congregate, we still sit in separate gender based groups ! When you did not know who the person was, or their real personality traits, it was considered OK to look at their horoscope to second guess what they would be like. It was not a perfect science, but it was the only alternative to a nation being ruled by tyranny of foreign rulers who had little cultural or religious sympathy for them.
Marriage between castes, between racially different tribes, was an accepted the norm in the old days. Later, when peoples motives for marriage conversion became murky, it was considered safer to marry within the caste and known region / towns.
In the old days, parents were financially and socially responsible for their children. Taking their responsibility seriously, they used to look for the ideal life partner for their children, someone who would make their children "happy". Now, people are more independent and are "responsible" for their own life, job, finance, and social standing. So now, parents should take it easy and let their children decide their life partners !
Lets go back to the good old days of total choice in matters of love !
© Bhagwat Bhagwat_s@Yahoo.com
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