A Hindu marriage
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Bengaluru: As India becomes more globalised, there are intense deliberations in orthodox families on the merits of getting married within their own community.

The obvious go-to-market strategy is to ask for family recommendations and visit websites tailored for the community. This is typically followed by patrika and gotra matching, and some family meetings.

But as our scientific understanding of diseases and other heritable attributes increases, we have to question whether continued insistence on community-based marriages is relevant.

Endogamy is the practice of marrying within the same community, and genetic diseases arising out of a limited gene pool are a major consequence of it.

There is a growing need to reflect on these practices and determine what’s the best way to choose a life partner.

A tradition gains ground

Getting married within one’s community made sense through history, in times of longer commutes between villages and lack of effective communication tools.

Further, our social structures have dictated community behaviours for a long time, from the way communities prepare food to the way they pray (if they choose to).

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It makes sense that parents prefer to get their children married within communities — it is easier to welcome a family member or send them into familiar traditions.

For example, a non-vegetarian woman marrying into an orthodox vegetarian family would find her diet constrained. Attending family gatherings if you do not speak your partner’s native tongue can also make you feel like an outsider.

But as India’s families become more nuclear, and globalisation transcends traditions, one has to wonder if it makes sense to stick to this community-based marriage system.


Also read: How elite medieval Rajputs ignored Hindu laws to practice polygamy


Endogamy today

Community-based marriage systems remain prevalent despite rapid urbanisation and the proliferation of smaller families. They are surprisingly more prevalent among rich urban Indians than the rest of the country.

The option of choosing from the community is really not wrong or unethical, but it comes today with one major caveat — genetic diseases.

Centuries of endogamy have lead to a limited gene pool within communities. If there is a defective gene in this gene pool, its presence gets amplified across generations. This might not necessarily lead to diseases.

Inbreeding led the Habsburg royals to have peculiar jaws and also eventually led to the demise of their rule as the last king could not produce any children.

The presence of genetic mutations that lead to diseases present in a community gene pool puts future generations at heightened risk. Striking examples of such phenomena are present all around the world, from the Ashkenazi Jews predisposed to Tay-Sachs to Arya Vaisya community members who cannot break down a particular anaesthetic molecule.

Interestingly, it is advised that one should not get married into one’s own gotra. This system suggests some semblance of cognisance that marrying into one’s family could cause adverse reactions. Yet, once a woman gets married, her gotra supposedly changes to her husband’s.

Under this system, one is allowed to marry their aunt’s children. The changing of gotra does not mean that the woman’s genes have changed, and you share an equitable gene pool across all your cousins. The custom of marrying cousins further exacerbates the impact of a decadent gene pool.

The freedom to make an informed choice

Community-based marriages should, therefore, come with a warning (actually this is true for any marriage, but endogamy increases the risk). The children of such a marriage may be predisposed to genetic defects and diseases.

For a select list of diseases, genetic tests are available to identify the likelihood of a potential child suffering from them.

For example, mutations that cause thalassemia, a blood disorder, are well-known. When both the genes in a child are mutated, the child suffers from a full-blown form of the disease — thalassemia major. If only one gene is mutated, the child suffers from a milder version — thalassemia minor.

Pre-checking of parental DNA for thalassemia-related mutations can predict the likelihood of the child developing thalassemia. If there is a strong likelihood, parents could choose to screen the child during pregnancy or opt for pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to determine and implant a healthy child.

Gene-testing is now becoming more common, with the idea of a gene “patrika” — to see whether a couple is genetically compatible — gathering ground.

However, robust scientific data only helps determine risk with regard to a limited number of diseases. There is no scientific evidence to perform genetic matches to pre-determine other attributes such as health, intelligence, etc. Genetic analysis is also not advanced enough to actually suggest matches based on compatibility. The danger with genetic testing, however, is that we have only scratched the surface of how genes work and what we can learn from studying them.

The other end of the genetic compatibility spectrum is to get swayed by untested scientific claims regarding marital compatibility and physical attributes of future children.

India as a society needs our future generations to be healthy, educated and productive individuals. There is a nature and nurture component to their development — endowing them with healthy genes, bringing them up in a peaceful environment, and providing them the opportunities to learn and explore.

But for that we need to give our current generations the education and freedom to make informed choices about their partners.

Shambhavi Naik is a research fellow with the technology and policy programme at the Bengaluru-based thinktank Takshashila Institution


Also read: Inter-caste marriage isn’t the problem, marrying a Dalit man is


 

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71 Comments Share Your Views

71 COMMENTS

  1. Why don’t you say straight forward,that a marriage b/w hindu girl or muslim boy is highly compatibility,while opposite for vice versa.

  2. Is the writer basing his thinking on some groups of South India. In North in any Hindu community, gotra of father and mother both are taken, also no ensured marriage with any
    distant relatives. Cannot say the same for muslim who do cousin marriage.

  3. Its BULLSHIT 【Under this system, one is allowed to marry their aunt’s children.】Should do ur research more profoundly….In our GURJAR caste and many others too, it’s not allowed to marry either from Father’s or Mother gotra..Some communities in North India do not allow marriage with certain other clans, based on the belief that both clans are of the same patrilineal descent….In other communities, marriage within the gotra of the mother’s father, and possibly some others, is prohibited…Even (aunt) is not specified in West culture…Please Don’t copy west.. for more information watch SADHGURU’s video on this topic…Next time be more factual…

  4. what a load of BS!!! The author has tried to reach a certain outcome with a lot of gibberish. the fact is Endogamy in Hindu caste system is 5000 yrs old and it is still holding strong despite propaganda by christian missionaries and western-educated scientific, rational-minded hoomanists. Even some of the great geneticist have attested to this fact that endogamy is awesome in Hindu caste system.

    • Right … Marrying outside of one s caste means women will have to change their surnames .. Then they will also be considered of that particular caste. It leads to increase in community of their husbands community and women have to leave their caste forever. Also, the children born out of intercaste marriages get their father s surname. So a woman makes no contribution in expanding her community as her children will be considered of different caste now. Endogamy ends this discrimination towards women. We should be proud of our community and caste and must contribute to it. Also, generally ,in intercaste marriage women are never accepted whole heartedly and are treated differently.

  5. It is absolutely correct and more scientific to go for inter caste inter religion marriages to sustain our species. The fools keep talking about caste and other things gotra and all… What they don’t understand that homosepiens breed with Neanderthals…. And we got a very improved version of homos… And we like foolish again… destroying everything to that same extentent that we become defective.

  6. While inbreeding is proven to promote genetic difficiencies, it is again not guaranteed that cross breeding would eliminate this problem. Genetic deformitie also evolve due to environmental and food habits. Continually subjected to malnutrition or exposure to adverse environment could result in gene mutation. Unless the individuals of the marrying partners are both ‘gene healthy’ the chances of carrying defective gene to the next generation is as probable in cross- as in inbreeding.

    • Inbreeding doesn’t mean marrying in ones community. Ever heard why there is gotta, clan. No hindu community marry in ones own clan, this problem is more in muslims

  7. The author has bestowed efforts using scientific reason for his own feelings to encourage inter caste marriages. It is a dream in hindu culture, as there are different castebased customs and traditions

    • There can be a strong case based against tendency to marry within a small subset of partners due to societal norms. Marriage of cousins had been prevalent across many communities irrespective of religion. Just like exposure to multiple domains strengthen your technical skill, ability to meet and find a partnerfrom a cross section of people will be good for one’s own happiness.
      The article is short on scientific studies and pass on biases as scientific thoughts. Towards the end it seem to be more a promotion for genetic testing! Fyi stemcell harvesting clinics already making business on gullible new parents without any science or common sense base. Not really to do anything for societal mindset. Where is your editor?

  8. I wonder why Hindu and Jews examples were quoted on this article. Marrying 1st cousins. Close members of the family is highly prevalent and encouraged among muslim communities. This information is questionable. Mind you…. among hindus there are elaborate methods like kundali matching, gotra, varna were put in place to filter.

  9. Very good article. Thanks for highlighting the ill effects of marrying within one’s caste. The so-called Hindu preachers should get out of their narrow mindset and promote inter-varna marriages. The privileged and prejudiced upper caste Hindus should make an effort of looking out of the box and see the big picture. Their faulty and narrow minded notions of caste and Varna which ultimately aims to keep the resources of the country to some fixed group of people will not work anymore. The nation is rising, the forever oppressed Shudras and Dalits are rising. Either you incorporate them as “Hindus” or you lose “Hinduism”. THERE IS NO THIRD OPTION.

  10. Endogamy represents not only marriage within community but also within consenguinal relationship.
    But from first day, your sole motto to portray Hinduism in dark light.
    You may use photo of nikah instead of hindu marriage photo but you can’t, because it’s not match with your hidden agenda and propaganda.
    Don’t do anything in biased manner and now you exposed by many.

  11. The scientific theory of DNA should be elaborated more in order to make readers explained about impact on human race and it’s lineage ..there are similar family trees in Western and middle East regions too ..viz Smiths and Suart’s ,UK ,their inter community marriages have similarities excluding live and love marriages prevailing in all day to day life .how gotta ,within gotta and outside gotta showing impact on genetic order should be discussed .it should be denied or accepted ..reasons should be elicited from the point of views of Anthropology,sociology and science in particular …the author failed to mention Super X theory and Super Y theory in chromosonal lineage ,andrology and androginous personalities to be taken into account also ..

    • Of course, why would a Brahmin want their thousands of years old caste propaganda to end with scientific knowledge? If people marry outside caste, soon there will be no upper castes and no lower castes. And you fear that day that Ambedkar wanted us to dream of.

      • we have our own gotra in which we know is he/she is belonging to one forefather or different if someone belonging to same forefather that means they are from one family ,so they cant marry .outside gotras are only married each other otherwise no.and if u marry upper caste lower caste hindu muslim that not scientific , scientific means two different DNA not two religion and caste,so we are educated enough to know what to do ,let educate ur mulla brother wo fuck their own mom and sisters ok.

        And listen we are not here to fulfilled the ambedkar dream so dont tell us what ambedkar dream his view is hardly matters to us by the way he is irrelevant to us we dont give a damn about him.

  12. Above article is very. Interesting.i think our forefathers had something in thier bags so we were well afvanced in our process of selecting bridegroom or bride. We are married in our community because we are familiar with same God ,with little varation, food is most important ingredient in extended family other wise it will be difficult to survive.if we marry outside the system then we will be outsider till I die. So our sages have brought wonderful system even today scientific theory can’t beat it. L whether we marry within our community or outside community health issue goes hay wire beacause of the ease of living has increased our disease to ten folds all my grand parents and my fire father’s livied 90 to 100 years so there is nothing to do with genetics

  13. A recent report revealed that while British Pakistanis were responsible for three per cent of all births, they accounted for 30 per cent of British children born with a genetic illness. DAILY MAIL , LONDON

  14. For last 40 years governments have been doing praise-worthy public service ads about screening for sickle cell and thalassemia before marriage and getting genetic counselling. Parents should please read up and speak to their family doctor when arranging matches for their children, because the life of the future grandchild depends on it. Thalassemia is a cruel blood disorder. Please google the name of your community to see if you are vulnerable to thalassemia and sickle cell.

  15. We are Hindu is humbug. Caste determines everything. Inter-marriage among intermediaries are allowed. When a so called untouchables( inhuman act) is chosen to marry, they are killed and named shamelessly honor killing.

  16. Yes this is the time, we should understand the genetic health problems rather than build in the same course of thought and call ourself educated.

  17. Indian philosopher and yogis were having eminent knowledge of physiology and spirituality. The societal systems were designed and developed to integrate everything with the soul.
    Science is still limited to physical world. There was one more reason to marry in the same community I.e. the soul can continue it’s journey to nivarna. It was easy if the soul gets rebirth in same community as it will be easy to start from where it left rather than learning new things in a new caste/ gotra/ community.
    Buddha is a reality and after enlightenment he could remember his past lives. He was born Shatriya in previous twenty four births. So this also could be one of the reason beyond diseases and other material factors. Actually it is big subject rather than promoting inter community marriages here. This article is an one side of the coin.
    Just one question, there was a johhar pratha in one state in India{ (I am not in favour of it), but when it was practised do the author think a girl from any other community would have agreed to it? Those who did were having that daring in their DNA passed on through centuries.
    The recent example of marrying outside community and after affects is royal blood of Britain.
    There is one incident that I read somewhere, Once a reporter asked one senior person of a royal family in India, ‘ Sir , today business families are extremely rich and they can buy anything they want like you then what is difference between you and them, and his Highness replied they can have everything but what they cannot buy is DNA of a royal family which differentiate us from them.
    All this community marriages system was developed after experimenting thousands and thousands of years for the benefits of society. DNA is only one of them. I am looking forward for more scientific facts and theories before we start questioning current practices

  18. Who says gotra of wife becomes that of husband? I m from haryana and for match making gotra of mother and grandmother are most queried as the father’s gotra is quiet obvious because of the village you reside in. A village is established in the past by same gotra males brothers and their temple stands in every village seeking blessings before or after any auspicious occuring.

  19. The author doesn’t have proper understanding of how marrying in one’s own community works in India.
    Traditionally, the thumb rule for Hindus was to marry in one’s own varna( Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras). Now, there are hundreds of subdivisions within each one, and marrying to geographically distant familes of same varna/class has always been preferred; so, genetic variations had always been promoted to evolve the forthcoming generations while preserving cultural identity.

    Marrying first cousins etc. are all muslim practices. Hindus wouldn’t marry even in neighbouring villages, let alone their own village or extended family.

  20. Useless article. He don’t know about Best Indian culture. Why he is taking the medical problems in hand, this may be in in thousand, he could not see medical fitness in the same community.
    Such guys are spoiling the nation.

  21. It is really silly and absurd to see how a whole race has been ill feed with their own history.

    Those baseless theories fed over for centuries to indian masses do not weigh any with the foreign occupiers themselves today. ie., The south dravidian, north aryan, east austronesian things. Now when it comes to race the sub continent people are categorized as south asian from americas to europe. They have accepted the fact. They are instant to note sub-cultures below one base culture, put in their words.

    Further when classified, south asian/Indians do not have ethnicity down to race as of europe. Classified further down have clans or any similar term should be re-discovered. Thus rayalasema, andhra, guj, sourastra, maratha, marwar, chola, pandiya, malabar, tulunad are the clans to understand. These clans have hundreds of castes within and are geographically limited.

    Generally a caste is made of numbers of groups called kudi/groups. When it comes to martial relationship or customs people from one kudi can have it only from other kudis, not within. Otherwise these kudis/sects are set into two opposite groups and martial relationship should be with opposite, the home group is brothern and opposite is of brothern-in-laws. It is as much as of Anna and Mama. So what one get brothers in his own group and uncle in opposite group.

  22. Calling Vegetarians as orthodox is right?
    Because they don’t kill animals, they hate meat, they worship them, they respect them..
    And those who eat all those shit and kill animals to feed themselves are more civilised then I believe vegetarians are better then non-vegeterian.

  23. This is must read for Muslims who marry within there family and to those Hindu community who also practice same kind of tradation.
    Writer must to take care if he presenting views for the nation like India include all section and religion, try not to give biased view.

  24. This is more common in Muslims than in Hindus. Unless your point is to defame hindus by ridiculing their practices and beliefs, as you guys always do.

  25. Nice Article. But the article seems to provide all the scientific arguments for avoiding Incest than practice intercaste marriage. And also this is a huge problem among other communities in India who are not bound by caste including tribals and Muslims.

    • Kula/Kothram in Caste/Tribe is basic unit in प्रजाति/Race. It is as of building blocks in a structure.

      So what you got to see so much of noise around it. Disturb and dismantle the basic structure of a society to destabilise and destroy a nation. It was lately introduced while british era and for centuries the indian rulers were influenced by those foriegn masters. Political elements are desperate and depend on it for politicking.

      Myth is myth. Belief is belief. Hinduism is real and science in ultimate

    • Lol, tell this to Muslims they are the most endogamous and also do cousin marriage. Hindus mainly follow clan exogamy not any endogamy.

  26. To have best of both worlds, or all the world, marry whoever you want: cousin, within community or outside your caste/religion and then adopt a child from orphanage. If only a small percentage of population does this, humanity will benefit immensely out of it.

    • Food that we eat and milk what we have is not as same it was decades back rich in vitamins and essential nutrients. Our agrarians are also not growing the same abundant, juicy grains and vegetables with locally cultured organic fertilizers and insecticides. They are made to depend on brought in cultivation items and given no price for their hard grown crops.

      More and more epidemics and outbreaks are to happen with newer and newer lifestyle diseases to emerge in humankind by consuming hybrid and genetically tampered crops grown by chemical pesticides, laboratory developed seeds and harsh fertilizers. The processing and packaging add the finish with were we proudly feed our kids and pets.

      Only our inborn and in natural community system, rituals, customs and native food with number of spices and condiment would prevent from a self extinction. Not God or Lord. They might even leave before things go far from their reach.

  27. This article is no use simply waste of time for reading it is bound to imaginary concepts and sticked to perticular communities

  28. This is a capitalist mindset and following what you suggested is going to result in a country where castes also start behaving like political parties. This is because everyone wants more and more people having a mindset similar to his. So the bigwigs from every caste/religion will start offering more and more sops/freebies etc to attract more people to them. This will also end up becoming a business. People from the caste whose numbers are dropping would make all attempts to attack the ones whose numbers are rising. This will lead to a new dimensions of communal acrimony and disharmony. So please put your ideas to rest and let people be in peace lest the entire society should Rest In Peace

  29. GOTRA SYSTEM-3
    The Y Chromosome is the only Chromosome which does not have a similar pair in the human body. The pair of the Y Chromosome in humans is X Chromosome which is significantly different from Y Chromosome. Even the size of the Y Chromosome is just about one third the size of the X Chromosome. In other words throughout evolution the size of the Y Chromosome has been decreasing and it has lost most of its genes and has been reduced to its current size. Scientists are debating whether Y Chromosome will be able to survive for more than a few million years into the future or whether it will gradually vanish, and if it does so whether it will cause males to become extinct! 

    Obviously because Y Chromosome is the one which makes a person male or a man. And the reason for all this is that unlike other Chromosomes, there is no way for Y Chromosome to repair itself by doing cross over with its Chromosomal pair. All other Chromosomes come in similar pairs and when there the DNA of one Chromosome gets damaged the cell can repair it by copying over the DNA from the other Chromosome in that pair as both the Chromosomes in all other pairs are almost identical in nature. 

    This copying (or crossing over as it is called) also allows different combinations of mix and matches to happen between the genes of mother and father and allows the best of the matches to survive and hence make the Chromosomes stronger as they evolve in successive generations. Even X Chromosomes in female undergo this mix and match since there are two X Chromosomes in women.

    Females have XX chromosomes , and any damage in one X chromosome can be corrected by simply copying the genetic data from the other X chromosome. 

    Men have XY Chromosomes !  Y Chromosomes do not have any corresponding equivalent Chromosome in its pair. It can exist only in a XY Combination and X cannot mix and match with Y except for a small 5% of X which matches with Y, while the remaining 95% of Y Chromosome which is crucial in the development of a male have absolutely no match at all!. It is this 95% of the Y Chromosome which is completely responsible in humans for creating a male or a man.

  30. It is amazing that 7000 years ago, the Vedic Maharishis, in all their wisdom knew of the Y chromosome.  The Gotra system was designed to track down the root Y Chromosome of a person quite easily.

    Gotra means cowshed in Sanskrit.  The Gotra system was started among Brahmins, which was a system to classify and identify the families in the community. 

    When it comes to handing down Vedic knowledge verbally, from 9000 BC to 5000 BC, this is most important. The Vedas were written in 5000 BC.

    The Gotra are descents from ‘Saptarishi’, meaning 7 sages. The seven sages are Agastya, Angirasa, Atri, Kashyapa, Bhrigu, Vasistha, and Bharadwaja.   

    Much later Kshatriyas and Vaishya’s jumped into this system,  to be one up above the Shudras, and they subverted the Gotra requirements.  

    This was induced by the British Christian invader – to alienate the vast majority of low caste Shudras and drive fissures into Hinduism with the assistance of false gods like BR Ambedkar and Periyar EV Ramaswamy , who declared that British rule is better than self rule..

    The gotra system was an attempt by Vedic Maharishis to protect the Y Chromosome from becoming extinct. It was NOT all about conveying the Vedas by oral route alone.

    It was to sustain the human race, too.

    One ancestory line is the direct female line, that goes through our mother’s mother’s mother, down which we inherit the mitochondrial DNA inside the X chromosome, that we all have. The other is the direct father-to-father line,  down which men inherit the Y chromosome.  

    Gotra is a family tree whose root can be traced to a common ancestor.  Since it is exogamous and patrilineal, it is based only on the  the Y chromosome. . A man cannot marry a woman of the same gotra. But a male can marry a woman of the same gotra at least seven degrees removed from his father.

    The rule of the Gotra system is that the Gotra of men remains the same, while the Gotra of the woman becomes the Gotra of their husband after marriage. Now suppose a person has only daughters and no sons. In that case his Gotra will end with him in that lineage because his daughters will belong to the Gotras of their husbands after their marriage! This was probably the reason why in the ancient vedic or hindu societies it was preferred to have atleast one son along with any number of daughters, so that the Gotra of the father could continue.

    • There are 23 pairs of chromosomes. only one pair i.e. XY is the one which decides the sex of the child. For a child to be male Y + 22 chromosomes comes from father . For the child to be female X+22 chromosomes come from father.
      So the girl is also carrying the same amount of genetic material from father as the son.

  31. Entire article has no mention of word caste. What is author afraid of? Instead of highlighting how caste system is the root of all social evils in India author uses words like community to mellow down the impact. Author in several places justifies the age old system of caste endogamy in the name of familiarity, distance communication etc. How ridiculous? Please expunge this article as it is highly disrespectful towards us and years of social stigma and trauma faced by bahujans. It dismisses our disability. This is shameful.

  32. Author seems to have availed help from scientific sources to put forward an argument favoring intercaste marriages. A thorough understanding of gotra system will clear the doubts regarding the doubts in dangers about endogamy. Gotra system when perfectly maintained will prevent endogamy. If the author’s aim is to prevent endogamy , questions should have been asked differently. Somehow, there seems to be dislike for the author for same caste marriage, hence reasoning has been derived from the logics which were actually derived for a different context. For example, can we say this year sale if alcohol and tobacco in a state has increased and coincidentally number heart/liver problems decreased for the same year. Can we say alcohol and tobacco has improved heart conditions? Poorly understood details and half knowledge can cause a bigger damage to the society.

  33. This article has been written to encourage inter-state, inter-caste, inter-religion marriages, rather than looking into morally and customary marriages by way of providing scientific reasons. But it is stiil not acceptable in India, provided they are love and live-in relatioship in this modern and materialistic world.

  34. Your information is incorrect, gotra system recommends you to not marry in father’s and even maternal uncles gotra. So, better not to spread misinformation.

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