How our patriarchal system affects the essence of marriage
Pre-Vedic times and to some extent Vedic times saw the Indian society as matriarchal society, where the woman was the head of the family. She decided on the role and responsibility of each family member, controlled and distributed the finances to address everyone’s needs, daughters after marriage stayed home and husbands joined them in the girl’s family.
With the coming of the Classical Hindu Orthodox system, the traditional society was turned completely on its head and made staunchly patriarchal. All rights of a woman were taken away. She was placed under custody and dominance of the male; deemed no better than to cook, clean, raise children and satisfy the husband and his family. The system ensured that over time her self-confidence and self-esteem be taken away.
This behaviour slowly saw a rigid impact on the very essence of matrimony. The patriarchal system was only interested to see the Indian bride fulfil her responsibilities from the word-go, expect no rights, express no voice or opinion and accept it contently without a murmur. Matrimony, from a liberal and compassionate institution, turned into a well-oiled but hard-hearted machine.
Through centuries, the patriarchal system took away the rights and independence of not only the younger women but also the men, who were expected to obey the eldest males of the family even if secretly they disagreed or had better idea. Disagreement or expression of a different thought was considered rebellion and severely looked down upon. This practice started with Hindus but slowly started spreading to other religions as well.
What resulted from all this was a complex behavioural problem. For an Indian bride to make her place in her matrimonial home, she either became totally subservient or participated in the complex power play, resulting in women actually becoming more ‘patriarchal’ than men themselves! To win a man’s heart, loyalty and cement her own position in the family, she actually ended up perpetuating the patriarchal practices on the next generation women, resulting in evils as dowry, wife-beating, bride burning, refusing the bride conjugal permission with her son etc.
The greatest impact of this system was the breakup of the joint family. With women getting educated, financially independent and finally standing up against the injustice, nuclear families within the same city or different cities became more prevalent.
However, patriarchal system can still continue and balance the essence of marriage as seen in Western worlds. Most western countries have patriarchal system, which is lenient and practical. It does not see individuals to be controlled; rather ones with equal rights and freedom without fear of losing them.
Luckily, many Indian families are adopting this thinking at an early on stage-equal rights and mutual respect without the head of the family fearing the loss of control. Matrimonial sites, by providing the prospective Indian bride and Indian groom the freedom to select their prospective future partners are also helping to break free from the traditional patriarchal dictates of arranging matrimony.