Marriage has been one of the important social institutions of the Indian society that plays a significant role in order to regulate the sex life of human beings. Not only in our society but marriage as such is a universal social institution that has been established by the human society and works as a cornerstone of the same. Marriage can have different implications in different cultures, its purposes, functions and forms may differ from society to society. In the Indian context; a great importance has been given to marriage since time immemorial. Marriage is almost obligatory and unavoidable for an average Indian, life without marriage is almost unthinkable in our country and there is a deep-rooted, long-standing and widespread tradition here in favour of marriage as a basic ritual. Since the ancient time marriage has been considered as a sacrament and not a contract, even the Rig Veda itself speaks of the sanctity of the institution of marriage. Marriage was a ritual which enjoined the husband to regard his wife as a God-given gift it is basically a religious sacrament which is considered primarily a complex of obligations, religious and moral, on the one and social and economic on the other. But this vitality of marriage has now been drastically transformed in the modern times, today the young generation of India; perceives this old-established social institution with new and transformed visions.
In the modern era the social institution of marriage has observed many changed trends and the ones who are responsible to bring about those changes are the young individuals for whom the meaning, significance and purposes of marriage have entirely transformed. Although we cannot completely state that marriage has lost its emphasis for the youth, but certainly it has undergone some radical changes. The Indian youth are now getting more influenced by the modern and western values, their perceptions and ideologies are getting reshaped within the structure of westernization, modern education, urbanization and reformed Legislations, and this has also impacted the implications of marriage within our Indian society. The youth of the modern era has come up with new and fresh dogmas and they rather seek the authenticity in the bonding of marriage, with the time numerous of things have changed and for the youth as well the institution of marriage has also been reformed as a sacrament of companionship, love and trust. Following are the changing trends of marriage among the Indian youth of the modern era:
- Change in the Aim or Purpose of Marriage: traditionally the purpose of marriage was to tie a male and a female in a sacred knot that was considered to be the ‘dharma’ of a male to become the life-long protector of his wife and to fulfil the vows of the marriage but in the modern era the young generation perceives marriage as a bonding of a male and a female as the life-long companions. For them, marriage is taking place not very much for the performance of religious duties but for obtaining a life-long companionship of the individual of the opposite sex.
- Change in the Process of Mate Selection: the youth no more believes in the old patterns of finding a mate for marriage rather they believe in seeking the mate on their own terms and choices.
- Change in the Field of Selection: traditionally marriages were pursued within the framework of the caste or ethnicity but in the modern era the youth rejects the rigid structure of the caste system, ethnicity or racism. Their selection has become enough wide to include the inter-sub castes or inter-caste marriages. They look for a good person rather than sticking to the caste or an ethnic identity.
- Change in the Party of Selection: earlier parents, elders and relatives of the family used to select the mate for the eligible adult but in the modern times the youth want to accomplish this very task by themselves, because they truly feel that marriage is a bonding for lifetime thus, their mates should be of their choices and consent. This trend is reflected in the increase in the instances of love marriages.
- Change in the Criteria of Selection: In the modern times the young individuals give much importance to their personal interests, preferences and considerations rather than to family considerations. Earlier, family used to look for very basic criteria for selecting a girl or a boy for marriage, but today the young generation look for many other criteria other than basic ones such as; employment, housing, working status, prestige, goodwill, friend’s circle, compromising attitude and etc.
- Change in the Age of Marriage: the youth of today focus more upon personal and professional growth they believe that one should concentrate on acquiring higher education and good job at first and then should get settled in the bond of marriage. They believe to make themselves economically and mentally strong before they step into the phase of marriage and that is why most of the young individual now get married at an older age. Where earlier girls preferred to get married at the age of 18-22years and boys 23-25years now in the modern times it has changed to 24-26years for girls and 25-30years for men respectively.
- Change in the Economic Aspect of Marriage: the practice of paying dowry is associated with the economic aspect of marriage, however in the modern time the practice of paying dowry has not been changed a lot but particularly the young generation show a strong disfavour against this practice. The modern men do not prefer to take dowry from the girl’s parents but rather prefer to give every comfort and facility to their wives on their own. Many educated youth refuse to take even a single penny from their in-laws and maintain their dignity.
- Increase in Divorces and Desertion: most of the youth of today follow the individualistic values that make them focused on personal selves, they first look at their own growth and wishes than of others and such attitudes sometimes result in arguments, disagreement and disputes with their spouses and that is also why in the modern times the instances of divorce and desertion are on the increase.
Thus, we can say that however the youth of the modern era perceives the institution of marriage with modernized and westernized visions, marriage has not been reduced to the level of a mere civil contract although the sanctity of the same is little affected. The youth rather trying to embrace the companionship of a husband and a wife on the foundation of empathy, trust and mutual consents. Although the values of the youth are individualistic but those also provide space for each other’s growth and preferences.