8 years of womensweb

The Modern Day Swayamvar: The Right To Choose Mr. Right

Posted: July 16, 2014

Marriage today is a balancing act between finding Mr. Right and obeying parents’ wishes. How should one choose? What should parents do? Here’s an insightful take.

As many of you may know already, Swayamvar was a matrimonial practice in ancient India. It was a process whereby a princess of marriageable age would choose her husband among the available suitors. It was primarily held within the royal families and the upper echelons of the society. Usually, some sort of contest would be held for the princes to showcase their talents.  The princess would then select the prince who had managed to capture her heart, and the wedding would be held right there or some time later.

I grew up in an age where watching Sri Krishna and Mahabharata on Sunday mornings on national television was almost considered a mandatory ritual. Maybe because of the options that would be available to choose from, or just the sheer act of being the center stage -I am not exactly sure, but whenever I got a chance to watch this episode in any of the mythological television soaps or whenever I read them anywhere – it was a topic of fascination to me; about which I marvelled  and fantasized.

As a kid, I religiously believed that it was still followed! So the thought of choosing my life partner when I grew up made me feel like a princess then. It made me feel very powerful.

What we see today, the modern times mimic Swayamvars in the form of  a plethora of matrimonial and dating sites which help you to pick the right one for you. But in reality, how many women in the country have the privilege or the liberty of participating in the modern day Swayamvar to choose their Mr. Right?

You may tell me that the times have changed. Really? I choose to disagree. The instances below will tell you why.

Instance 1:

One of my friends ‘X’ was in love with his classmate during his graduation days. They belonged to different religions. After being in a relationship for 4 long years, my friend informed his parents about her. After initial episodes of denial and objection, his parents halfheartedly gave in to his wish. However, the moment the girl’s father learnt about her “affair”, he made his entire family abandon their own house (in which they had lived for years) and shift to a different city.

Although my friend and his parents made all possible attempts to track down the girl’s family to have a formal discussion at least, all their efforts went in vain. Then, one day, the girl called my friend to inform about her engagement and asked him to take her away.

Because she knew little about her whereabouts, she could not let him know the proper place, and no matter how hard he tried, my friend could not trace the address of the place. And one day, the world came crashing down for this young man, when he learnt that the parents of the girl had forcefully married her off to someone who was more than a decade older than her.

Instance 2:

Another friend from college days, ‘Y’, has an elder sister. Much like the above case, she fell in love with a guy outside her religion. But unlike the above, she managed to deal with the staunch opposition of her father and married the guy in a temple, surrounded by a  few of her friends. Horrified by this “disgraceful” and “shameful” act of her daughter, and to avoid flack from the people around him, her father made the entire family leave the town.

Even today, the father has broken all forms of contact with my friend’s sister and has also ensured that none in the family have any sort of contact with her.

Instance 3:

For my friend ‘C’, her parents have been looking for a suitable match for quite some time now. In a country that is relatively obsessed with the concept of marriage, it is of no surprise that with every passing day, the pressure on her parents has been increasing by leaps and bounds.

From cautioning my friend’s mother about her “age” becoming a “concerning” factor to bringing in all sorts of possible, appropriate (which in reality, are naive prospects) grooms to be  – with the intention of “helping” them, her parents have been at the receiving end of enormous pressure.

And it has not stopped there. My friend has been affected the most. Sadly, she had almost fallen into depression when she decided to take help and is now on her way to recovery. The reason behind the delay is that her parents have not found a family who would “accept” their other daughter’s (my friend’s elder sister) “background”. The background is that her sister has married a guy of her choice. Or in other terms, her sister’s is a “Love Marriage” with a guy of another caste.

The parents are so guilty about it that anybody who wants to enter an alliance with the younger daughter should find their elder daughter’s “condition” to be “OK” for them. Unfortunately, they are yet to find a match who is okay with this! Not only this, my friend has been advised/warned/black mailed to  not emulate her sister’s “disrespectful” way!

What is there to be ‘Okay-ed’ here? Has my friend’s sister committed a murder or has she been convicted for some crime?

These are only 3 of the instances that I am sharing here. They all pretty much resemble the love stories that we see in movies, but unfortunately many do not see a ‘happily ever after’ in reality. Even as you read this, the last two instances continue to prevail and it seems like little is going to change for the better for them.

To choose or not to choose

So where has the concept of Swayamvar vanished today? Where does the matter of choice come up for these women? What is the mistake done by them? Choosing their husbands?

These are all young, educated, successful, financially and emotionally independent women who are pursuing promising careers in their own chosen areas. Yet, when it comes to choosing a man of their choice to lead their lives, they have little or no say in the matter. We read hundreds of stories about young girls being married off even before they reach 18. We read about women being tortured/raped/molested and sometimes even killed because of standing up for themselves.

In most cases, women are left with only two options- Either to give in for their parents or to go ahead and take the giant leap of standing up against the parents for the rest of their lives. In the first instance, the girl had exercised the first option. She succumbed to her father’s pressure and sacrificed her love and happiness for the sake of her parents.

While in the other two, the women stood up for what they believed in and faced the wrath of the parents and society. Either way, there was no complete win-win outcome for these women. Because they were made to choose – choose only one option when it was extremely difficult to choose. Ironically, in the above cases, the people who had to stand up for these women turned out to be the ones who deprived them of support and strength.

If the parents themselves suppress the voice of the girls at home, what message does it send out to her?

If the parents themselves suppress the voice of the girls at home, what message does it send out to her? If society considers marrying a person of her choice as disgraceful and shameful and the parents too echo the same, what can the woman do? If she cannot find the hope and trust in her family, how can a woman expect to find it outside?

I am not against religion or being biased; but for two people to come together and lead the rest of their lives meaningfully, does caste/religion matter at all?  Is it necessary that couple have to be from the same religion/caste to solve marital problems? Does belonging to the same community guarantee a fairy tale, quarrel- free, ‘happily ever after’ for a couple?

Every woman should have a say in choosing her Mr. Right, because she is the architect of her own life – the parents might have brought her up showering her with loads of love; but it does not mean that they are entitled to own her life until the end. There comes a point in life when the parents have to let go of their daughter gracefully and let her face the world on her own terms, in her own style. This doesn’t mean that she has to stop loving her parents or bid goodbye to them. It simply means that she has to build and plan her life as she wishes.

There comes a point in life when the parents have to let go of their daughter gracefully and let her face the world on her own terms, in her own style.

From being the parent’s little girl, she turns out to become a young confident woman –  being afraid that the daughter’s decision might hurt her would only do more harm to her. Because even if it means that she might falter along the way by making some wrong choices, she deserves to have a chance.

If parents look at the bigger perspective and feel that their princess’s happiness is what matters to them the most, they would not make her choose between her partner and them. Because making their daughter choose between having her voice in selecting her suitor and making her turn against them is a bad idea.

A woman really does not want to choose  between her parents and the special one in her life with whom she decides to spend her life with. She loves her parents the most. They would always be her first priority, and  likewise, she would like to be accepted for her choices and decisions till the end.

Pic credit: dskley (Used under a CC license)

A Travel Blogger/Travel writer, photographer and a digital media influencer at The Solo Globetrotter

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Comments

3 Comments


  1. @Kavita – In that case, it would be a very sorry state for her.But I believe that even in that case her parents will have to stand by her.right? because parents are her people in whom she can confide.also,if she is already guilty about her choice, making her more guilty by condemning her choice or letting her down will only makes her more weak.
    Nevertheless, as you know ,a marriage can fail for many reasons.a marriage arranged by parents can go horribly wrong or a girl marrying someone of her choice would live peacefully! So either way, no way gives you full guarantee!

  2. @Mital : Totally agree with you!

    @Nikunj : Sad that this is still happening! Hope the parents will give the liberty to their daughters.

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