Arranged marriages and astrology in India
While in Jaipur we went to visit the Jantar Mantar, an exquisite observatory with giant objects to measure time and the movements of the planets. There was a unique section with 12 instruments, each corresponding to a specific sign of the Zodiac to be used whenever that particular sign approached the meridian. This coincided with an interesting conversation I was having the day before with an Indian woman about the importance they give to astrology in India and how it is deeply rooted in their culture. To my surprise, this woman was telling me that in all arranged marriages in India, the potential couple only marries if their horoscope is a match. There are other elements involved in this decision such as having to belong to the same religion and cast but it seems astrological compatibility can make or break a decision and is not to be overlooked.
Personally, I thought this was very interesting as I am a big lover of astrology. I was surprised to hear such a big population gives importance to this science and how it oversees important life decisions such as marriage. I was always very sceptical about arranged marriages but this factor awakened my curiosity to better understand this tradition. I feel love and knowing the person you choose to marry (because intent is important as well) should be part of the equation if you want to have a successful marriage and be happy, but hearing this woman talking so fondly about her tradition also got me thinking about the advantages of an arranged marriage and understanding how it actually works.
It seems Indians use Vedic astrology which is a bit different from the astrology in Europe that also considers the influence of planets: Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. They are especially careful with the influence of Mars and whether it is positioned in the 1st, 4th, 8th or 12th house of the birth chart as these may indicate extra marital cases, abusive, unhappy and unsuccessful marriages. People with an aspect in Mars usually have to take pills or do a treatment to smooth the symptoms of this planet as the belief of the impact of Mars on a relationship is very strong.
The success of horoscope compatibility remains unproven despite the very low rate of divorce in India. Skeptics say this is due to society rules and lack of women empowerment. Nevertheless, I recognise how the fantasy of arranged marriages is sold romantically to upcoming generations. People don’t get into those eastern questions about whether it is the right person or not, are not put off by a flaw their partner has and are not as tempted to break a marriage to go and look for a better match elsewhere for instance. They take arranged marriage as a religion, and the only thing to do is to work on the marriage, dedicate and take care of the other person. I already met Indians in both happy and not so happy arranged marriages but one thing seemed to be common in both: they accepted the fact that they were married to the other person and hence recognised that no matter what the other person had wrong she is part of their family and it is their responsibility to take care of the other. This mentality helps them oversee any type of flaw or problem they were having and treat the other person with the same respect they would like to receive.
I met a couple in particular that had an arranged marriage and that the more I learned about their relationship the more it inspired me to see marriage through new lenses. They had no idea who they were before getting married but they still made it work for 40 years now. The first years might not have been easy for them as they were getting to know the strengths, flaws, fears and passions of each other but they took marriage as the most sacred thing they had and truly committed to the marriage not questioning if something else was better. They had full faith in the act of marriage and hence full trust in each other. That was their security. And in this way, each took a step towards each other or followed the other in turns and this is what created love. This bond of trust, vulnerability and full surrender gave place to a new kind of love that unites them as a couple and as a family.
This type of relationship that I had a glimpse of and that I heard about from a few others is what makes me more confident in the culture of arranged marriages. I don't disregard cases of women abuse or how arranged marriages might contribute to wealth staying in the same casts but I also feel that the commitment Indians have to arranged marriages gives the act of marriage a whole new and beautiful meaning: naked of a romantic dimension at first but instead full trusting on the concept of family.