M A T R I M O N I A L A D V E R T I S E M E N T HARJIT A H L U W A L...
M A T R I M O N I A L A D V E R T I S E M E N T
HARJIT A H L U W A L I A * *
I N P U N J A B *
The present study is the result of an only as an 'opener' (of communication)
analysis of 799 matrimonial advertisements between the interested persons. T h u s an
(555 coming from males and 244 from advertisement per se
warrants an analytical
females) which appeared in the Tribune1 treatment only of those traits and qualities
during the First quarter (January-March) which are considered most important and are
of 1964. T h e sample includes people from thus frequently mentioned.
all walks of life. There are some who are
under matric, others are highly educated.
T h e following traits have been analysed in
a seriatim according to their frequency of
Then there are people in the income listing in the advertisements.
brackets of Rs. 100-200 to Rs. 3,000-4,000.
People practising occupation from clerical to
—A very high percentage, i.e.
class I officers, and belonging to different 8 3 . 3 % of the male advertisers and 73.77%
castes (Brahmins as well as people from of the female advertisers have mentioned
scheduled castes) are also found. T h e sample their religion. Among the males who have
can thus be said to be fairly representative of mentioned their religion, 58.44% are Hindus
the people of Punjab, at least of its urban and the remainder are Sikhs, except one
inhabitants. T h e very sample rebuts the advertiser, who is a Christian. 6 6 . 1 % of the
popular notion that only those people resort females who have mentioned their religion
to matrimonial advertisements who do not are Hindus and 33.9% are Sikhs. Among
stand chances of matrimony otherwise.
those who have not listed their religion, it
could be inferred from the requirements p u t
It is well known that the contents of by them for their mates. It is significant to
advertisements are limited by space and note that there are 3 males who have speci-
cannot include details; only those qualities fically mentioned to accept brides from other
and traits are mentioned which are considered religious denominations also. O n e of them
important in selecting a mate. An advertise-
is a Sikh a 28 years old bachelor and son
ment, it may be mentioned in passing, serves of a retired Military Officer, engaged in
*This paper is a revised version of one read at the section of Anthropology and Archaeology
of the 53rd Session of Indian Science Congress held at Chandigarh during December,
**The author wishes to thank Mr. D. Kapoor, Lecturer, Department of Anthropology and
Miss Kulwant Anand, Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Punjab University,
Chandigarh for their helpful guidance in writing this paper. T h e author also acknowledges
his indebtedness to Prof. N. K. Bose and Dr. B. K. Roy Burman for going through the
paper and offering valuable comments.
1 Th e newspaper selected for the present study is widely read in Punjab. It is fair to ad d
that an attempt was also made to be fairly representative in arriving at certain conclusions
by including the language newspapers, but it is regretted that on going through some
of these dailies and monthlies which are published from Punjab, it was found that none
of them carried matrimonial advertisements.
H A R J I T A H L U W A L I A
government service and earning Rs. 300/-
even the difficulties the intercaste marriage
per month. It may also be pointed out that couples have to face have become compara-
between Hindus and Sikhs, inter-religions tively quite mild. With the spread of higher
marriages do take place, but this has been education both among the males and the
found to be mentioned only in two advertise-
females, intercaste and inter-religious marria-
ments; both clean shaven J a t Sikhs, settled ges find greater favour amongst the younger
abroad and desiring H i n d u or Sikh brides. generation. 'Indeed one could safely assert
None of the females have advertised that that the graph of intercaste marriages is
they would marry outside their religious steadily rising, never becoming a plateau
much less declining' (Kannan, 1963: vii).
It may also be added that another important
—Next to religion, the caste has been factor which contributes to the intercaste
most frequently mentioned. In the present marriages is the lack of suitable spouses.
sample, caste has been mentioned by 78.2%
—The criterion of the greatest import-
males and 70.9% females. 6.5% of the males ance in the selection of a mate after religion
and 12.5% of the females have not mentioned and caste is age. 81.44% of the males and
anything about caste (neither their own nor 75.82% of the females have mentioned their
of the mate.) It might be inferred that these age. In some cases (4.14% of males), the
persons might not be concerned about the age of the male could be inferred vaguely
caste; they would accept brides or grooms from the age requirements of the prospective
from other castes also. In the remaining brides as mentioned by the advertisers such
cases, the caste of an advertiser could be as 'below 23 years' or 'between 18 and 23
inferred from the required caste of a spouse. years', it being implied that the male adver-
Among the castes which have been most tiser must be older than the required bride.
frequently mentioned are, the Brahmin, Similar is the case with the 8.64% of the
Arora, Khatri (Hindu and Sikh), J a t Sikh female advertisers who have not mentioned
and Sikh Ahluwalia. T h e frequency of listing their ages. 14.42% of the males and 15.54%
of 'caste no bar', is equally good among the of the females have not mentioned anything
Hindus and Sikhs, high as well as low castes. about age, neither their own and nor of the
21.26% of males have clearly men-
tioned 'caste no bar'. Females are also not
lacking in this respect. Among them 7% have
T h e majority of the men are between 25
categorically stated that they have no caste and 28 years, while the women are between
prejudices. This tends to show that inter-
21 and 24 years. This is an indication of the
caste marriage are becoming more and more rising age at marriage, which is a departure
desirable in Punjab. It is pertinent to quote, from the traditional age of marriage and as
'Just twenty-five years ago, the instances of also form the Hindu Marriage Act2, which
the inter-caste marriage were very few; and mentions the minimum age at marriage as
those individuals who dared to marry outside 18 years and 15 years for males and females
the caste had to undergo truly great hard-
respectively3. In another study, Aneja has
ships. Today the situation is altogether also shown the lesser age at the marriage of
different. Not only has the prevalence of girls as 17 years and 20 years in the years
intercaste marriage become considerable, but 1943 and 1953 respectively (1964:21)
2No.. XXV of 1955.
3Section 5 (iii) Ibid.
See also the Special Marriage Act (No. 43 of 1954). The minimum
age requirements under this Act are 21 years and 18 years for males and females respectively.
MATRIMONIAL ADVERTISEMENT IN P U N J A B
But the sample under study does not engaged in any occupation it becomes
reveal any male and female upto and under necessary, rather incumbent on their part to
the age of 20 years and 17 years respectively. describe their educational qualifications as a
premium to lure their would-be-mates (see
T h e upper age limit among the males is also Anand, 1965: 62).
slightly above 40 years, and that too in a very
few cases, and among women is 32 years with
We have seen that a good number of males
only one case of 40 years. This does not in have not mentioned their education; 46.13%
any way suggest that there is also a tendency the males have given the expected educational
of late marriages; but the fact is that these qualifications of their prospective brides. It
persons are either widower/widow or divor-
is found that the graduate brides are in
cees seeking re-marriage.
great demand. On the other hand, we find
there are only 16.36% females graduates (of
Though a great majority both among the those who have mentioned their education)
males and females have mentioned their age, as compared to 20.70% who have been asked
yet only 1 1 % of the males and 1 3 % of the for by the males. Next to graduation, comes
females have referred to the required age the degree, M.B.B.S. Again there are to
of the prospective bride or groom respectively.
10.55% of the males who have asked for
4 0 % of the males who mentioned the age of qualified female doctors as against 5.45%
the prospective bride, have placed it between who are available (the latter figures include
19 and 22 years. There is only one case in B.D.S. also.) Here we find that the demand is
which the age required is above 40 years.
This advertisement is from a widower, who more than the supply. Though we cannot
wants a widow for matrimony.
make a rule out. of this, yet one cannot but
say that the advertisers do put a high level
Similarly, the majority of the females who of expectation from the prospective spouses.
have mentioned the required age of the groom
prefer the age between 25 and 30 years. It
As regards the females, it may be said that
may be pointed out that while men seem they are not specific about the type of groom
to be more accurate in quoting the age of they need. With regard to education, only 11
the bride, the women in general are not out of 244 female advertisers, have men-
specific about the age of the spouse. Very tioned the educational level of their prospec-
often they have mentioned the required age tive grooms. Among them, there again a
as 'between 25 and 30,' below 30 or '25-35 majority of females are not very specific in
this respect; they have given several prefe-
rences as "M.B.B.S., post-graduate, engineer
—Fourth in the frequency of or highly educated". But the medically
listing comes education. While only 47.58% qualified girls have been found . to be most
males mentioned their educational qualifica-
precise and specific. They have demanded
tions a very high percentage, as high as 90.16 none else than physicians.
of the females have described their educatio-
nal achievements. This does not in any way
—Aneja has hazarded
mean that those of the males who have not a guess that a time will come when males
mentioned their education are not educated will be publishing their photographs along-
or less educated, the occupation of a man with the matrimonial advertisements (1964:
often implies his educational level. On the 21). She had perhaps in her mind, that many
other hand, as a majority of women are not persons would describe their physical looks
in the advertisements. But, according to
Strange and surprising though it is, the
Anand, 'the personal appearance of the men physical appearance of the males as desired
is not listed as frequently as that of women' by females is not listed as frequently as that of
(1965:67). From the sample under study, the latter by the former. The figure is as
we find that only 34% of the males have low as 3% of the females; only this small
mentioned their physical appearance ranging number of females have mentioned the
form 'tallness', 'handsomeness', 'smartness' to physical qualities of the prospective grooms.
'fair complexion'. Only two persons have The qualities mentioned for the males are
referred to their 'short stature' (not a only 'handsomeness' and 'height'.
favourable trait) and three about their
defects, such as 'right leg artificial' 'right arm
Only 1% of the females have demanded
amputed' and 'blind'. It is interesting to note
that these persons have taken a very realistic photographs of the males.
approach and seem to be liberal towards
their prospective brides. One with 'artificial
—Occupation as a factor for
leg' who it appears is quite well off-a practis-
matrimony has been primarily mentioned by
ing doctor with landed property, has put in the males. The occupation is suggestive of
'no bars'. Others have not mentioned any-
two things: social status as well as income,
thing but for the 'blind', who has required and it is no wonder that more importance is
the bride to have 'spirit of service'.
attached to the latter than to the former.
88.29% of the males and 37.7% of the
The 68% male advertisers are very much females (fairly high percentage as compared
concerned with the physical appearances of to Niehoff's, whose calculations are 62% and
the prospective brides. 75 males have asked 11% for males and females respectively:
for 'beautiful' wives, some have asked for 1958-82) have mentioned their occupation.
'beautiful', "very beautiful", "good persona-
The latter figures show the changing attitude
lity", "pretty", and "white complexioned" of females. Traditionally a Hindu woman is
not supposed to earn or engage herself in any
employment, and no parent ever utilises the
Only 26 males (4.68%) have asked for money earned by their daughter.
photographs. Some of them have asked for
photographs on a returnable basis. It may be
mentioned that the males belonging to this
A majority of the persons who have
category enjoy good social and economic mentioned their occupations are engineers,
closely followed by businessmen and officers
in the Armed Forces. These three occupations
50% of the advertisements coming from in order of frequency of listings are again
women described their personal appearance followed by government executives, lecturers
as 'fair', 'tall', 'slim', 'good looking', 'healthy' and doctors. It may be pointed out here that
and 'attractive features'. In some of the 26.94% males have not specifically mentioned
advertisements, height in feet and inches has their ranks though they have often mentioned
also been mentioned, thus implicitly demand-
as 'government service' or 'service', etc. The
ing the prospective groom not to be any case way, such persons have put in the facts and
less than the height of the female. Three of figures, shows that they belong to middle or
the females have also listed their defects: 'one lower middle class or to a low rank (may
eye artificial', 'defective hearing and speech', not be the lowest), of the hierarchy of
and 'slight squint in left eye'.
MATRIMONIAL ADVERTISEMENT I N P U N J A B
Only 8 . 1 1 % of the male advertisers have that command prestige in our society, e.g.,
mentioned the desired occupation of their doctors, lady doctors, engineers (males) and
class I officers (males).
T h e profession of lady doctors is preferred
.—Close to the frequency of
mostly by the persons who are doctors them-
listing of occupation, comes the reference to
selves. There are some persons, who simply high family status. 2 0 % a n d 3 5 % of the
want their would-be-brides to be 'employed', male and female advertisers respectively,
never bothering about the occupation. Also, have described their family status. There is
when we look back at educational particulars only one case in which a m a n has mentioned
we find that there are 23.05% males who his family as 'simple' one, whereas there are
want educated brides and more so with 4 cases among the females who have
professional qualifications. Some of these mentioned their family status as 'middle'.
persons no doubt desire employed brides, but T h e family-quality most often listed by both
still a majority of them while listing men and women is 'respectability'. Some of
preferential professional qualifications have them, of course., have emphasised economic
not mentioned anything regarding their position and high social status of their
employment or occupation. Perhaps the family. 9% and 3 2 % of male and female
professional qualifications of the female advertisers respectively, have gone to the
provide an insurance for any unforseen and extent of mentioning the occupation and
unfortunate eventuality when the 'wife' may even income of their fathers a n d brothers.
have to earn.
One male has also mentioned 'brother and
sister, both M.B.B.S.'
T h e number of women who have men-
tioned their occupation is 92 i.e. 37.7%, which
T h e family status required of the spouse
is reflective of the high educational level and has been mentioned by 10.24% males and
progresiveness. Among the women who have 2 . 3 % females. It is quite obvious that females
mentioned their occupation, is a great have emphasised their own family qualities
majority of teachers, which is perhaps the and have not shown any interest in the men's
most respected occupation for women.
No doubt a good number of women (as
It is quite interesting to note that one of
compared to men) have mentioned the pre-
the Sikh advertisers—a 25 years old I.A.F.
ferred occupation of their prospective spouses, officer has put 'no bar' to the family status
but most of them have simply mentioned as of the w o m a n : 3 others have preferred 'poor
'well settled' or 'well established'. From families'—all of them suffering from one or
among the females who have mentioned the the other disability (for matrimonial
occupation of their future grooms, a majority purposes), one of them being parentless,
have utilised the services of an engineer or others are of advanced age.
doctor or class I officer or lecturer'.
T h e rest of the advertisers who have
However, it may be stated that doctors, referred to the family status of their mates
engineers and class I officers are in good have used attributes like, 'respectable and
demand. A comparison of the relevant figures cultured' 'well connected', 'high' and 'decent'.
again reveals that in both the cases (of males
and females), the demand is more than the
This trait has been mentioned
'supply', in case of good and fascinating jobs by 48.65% and 8.61% of the male and female
H A R J I T A H L U W A L I A
advertisers respectively. O u t of the males who 'decent' or 'excellent marriage'. Only 3 . 7 %
have mentioned their monthly income nearly females have held out prospects of a 'simple
5 0 % fall in the income group ranging from marriage'. 6 males have desired 'simple
Rs. 100 to Rs. 400. Among the females there marriage'. All these are in the income group
is a preponderance of the middle and lower of Rs. 150-200, except 2, one of whom is a
middle income group. It is significant that widower and the other one is suffering from
quite a good number of males and few a physical disability. Only one male has asked
females are in the income categories which for an 'excellent marriage', much depending
are thought to be quite high in India. There upon his imagination as to what he means
are also 7 persons among the males who by 'excellent'.
earn more than Rs. 4000 per month, all of
them in foreign countries.
Manners and Behaviour
Manners, accomplishments, etc. have been
Regarding the income of the prospective found 10th in importance. 1 5 % of the
grooms, it may be added that this is the females in describing themselves have listings
only factor, which has been mentioned very in these categories as against only 1.26% of
sparingly and hesitatingly. Only 2 females the men. Only one of the females has asked
have mentioned the income of their pro-
for a 'vegetarian teetotaller' husband. For
spective grooms as 'above Rs. 250' and women, 'cultured', 'accomplished' and
'Rs. 600'. T h e majority of the women have 'homely', are the most popular attributes.
required their would-be-groom to be 'well Some of them also are desired a 'talented',
settled' or 'well established'.
'knows dance and music' 'interested in fine
arts', 'sweet' and 'adjustable temperament'
Though 8 . 1 1 % of the males have and 'aesthetic tastes'.
mentioned the desired occupation of their
prospective brides, yet none has asked for
4 . 5 % of the males who have specified the
any specific income level.
characteristics of the brides have used such
terms as 'accomplished' and 'homely'. A few
—Though legally the dowry system have also required 'moralist', 'sociable' and
stands abolished in India, yet one cannot 'vegetarian' brides. T h e attributes which very
deny its wide prevalence among all classes few of the males have mentioned for them-
of people. T h e majority of the advertisers selves are 'cultured and enthusiastic',
in the present sample have not said any thing 'brilliant', 'non-smoker' and 'teetotaller'.
regarding dowry. T h e male advertisers have
shown more inclination towards change with
It may also be stated t h a t 11.32% of the
22.52% who listed 'dowry immaterial' or males and only 2 females have mentioned
'no dowry'. This category includes males as 'girl's merit only consideration' or 'boy's
from all walks of life in the sample. On the merits only consideration' respectively. One
other hand only 4 . 5 % of the females have can say that perhaps such persons are more
put in such phrases as 'no dowry', 'dowry concerned with the personal qualities of the
seekers to please excuse'. 5.32% or the females spouse rather than the traditionally important
have also hinted at dowry by such terms as factors.4
4 T h e attributes which were considered importan t in the past for the settlement of a
marriage have been p u t forward by Dubois as 'that which chiefly concerns the young
man's family is the purity of the caste of his future wife. Beauty and personal attractions
of any kind count for nothing in their eyes' ( 1 9 2 4 : 2 1 3 ) .
MATRIMONIAL ADVERTISEMENT IN P U N J A B
—-Yet another specifica-
settled in foreign countries, the remainder
tion which is of considerable importance is have either described themselves as 'going
'early marriage'. A fairly high percentage of abroad', or 'foreign trained' or 'working in
females i.e. 1 6 . 3 1 % as compared to 7.4% a foreign firm'. O n e has even mentioned
of the males has asked for an early marriage. 'sisters and relatives in foreign' and has pre-
T h e average age of these advertisers comes ferred a 'foreign-settled' bride. A majority
to be 23 years and 27.85 years of the females of them have laid more stress on the personal
and males respectively. This again fits in with qualifications of the brides, such as physical
our result of the age factor of the advertisers. traits and education. 6 0 % of them have
neither mentioned their own caste nor
—20.9% of the
of the prospective bride. 3 0 % of them have
females have mentioned their domestic categorically mentioned 'caste and dowry no
achievements. It appears that the women bar', while only 1 0 % have mentioned their
advertisers consider their household
caste or the caste to which the prospective
accomplishments to be more important than bride should belong.
the men do, since only 1.8% of them have
specified such qualifications. This is perhaps
As in other cases, here again the females
suggestive of the fact that this qualification have shown not even the slightest tinge of
is taken for granted in females and by 'progressiveness'. T w o females while mention-
tradition also she is thought to be 'well ing their own caste have not mentioned
versed in household affairs".
anything regarding the caste of the male,
while the remaining females have specifically
—In order to emphasise demanded Jat Sikhs.
their qualifications and increase the chances
of matrimony some of the advertisers have
T h e Hindu (not the Sikhs) believe that
also listed as 'having property' or about a marriage of a person born under the
their 'bright prospects'. 1 3 % of the male influence of Mars (Manglik)
to a non-
advertisers belong to this category and while Manglik
has a disastrous end. This supersti-
the majority of them have mentioned about tion still persists in spite of education. 2.52%
their possessions, some having given figures and 3.28% of the males and females
as 'owner of lakhs, besides car and property' respectively have either specifically required
and 'owns u r b a n / r u r a l property'. Next to their spouses to be Manglik
or else have stated
property, 20 persons have listed their 'bright themselves to be Manglik
prospects', while some have also referred to that the spouse should also be one. T w o of
dubious qualifications like 'insurance for the females have even demanded horoscopes.
Rs. 7,000', 'paying wealth tax' and 'promo-
tion due'. Only one of the females has
—Marital status has also
referred to the 'wealth' of her father.
been mentioned by both males and females,
of their own and of their future spouse. Only
The 'Foreign' Label.
—Today, in India, 3.24% of the males and 2.46% of the females
people are engaged in a frantic scramble for have mentioned their marital status.
anything which is 'foreign'. 'Foreign' as a
qualification or symbol of status has been
Though it is quite safe and justifiable to
mentioned by 1 0 . 8 1 % and 2.2% of the males presume that those who have not mentioned
and females respectively. While 66.7% of their marital status must be bachelors/virgins
the males (who belong to this category) are as the case may be, yet we find that there
have been some persons who have mentioned their own values about different areas. Only
themselves as bachelors and virgins. The 10 males and 3 females have either con-
percentage of divorcees among the females sidered this as a trait important enough to list
is higher than among the males. On the for themselves or else wanted the spouse
other hand, the widowers are more than the from a certain area. Most of the advertisers
widows in the sample. The figures regarding belonging to this category are from West
re-marriage of divorcees, widowers and Punjab of pre-partition days, which now
widows are quite significant to show the forms West Pakistan.
change that has indeed been brought about
Conclusions.—The study of matrimonial
in their attitude towards re-marriage, parti-
advertisements shows the following results : —
cularly in the case of widows whose re-
marriage was looked down upon formerly
( i ) I n almost all respects, males are less
(see also Anand, 1965: 89; Aneja, 1964:
conservative than females. Though
most of the advertisements come from
the parents or guardians of the persons
It is interesting to note that in the case
under advertisement and the present
of this factor, people are very much realistic
study reflects the behaviour of the
and justified in their demands as compared
parents or guardians more than that of
to other factors like occupation and educa-
the persons advertised, yet we can
tion, where high aspirations are made from
expect more progressive results, if the
the prospective mates. This is manifested
concerned persons are left to their
from the fact that the persons of advanced
age, widowers, widows, and divorcees demand
(ii) There is an emergent attitude to dis-
persons of similar marital status. Very rarely
regard the caste-rules, particularly the
a widower or widow has demanded a virgin
root one, its endogamous nature.
or a bachelor, if he or she has, due considera-
tion has been given to age (of the advertiser
(iii) That there is a definite rise in the age
as well as of the would-be spouse).
of marriage of both males and females,
which is 25 years and 21 years
'Only Son', 'Only Daughter'.
has also been mentioned in the advertise-
(iv) Education has come to be the most
ments. Perhaps, the advertiser adds this as
preferred trait for women.
a qualification, since it is the prevalent view
(v) The occupations which are preferred
(and of course a truth), that the 'only son'
most by the females for their pro-
or 'daughter' is to the sole owner of the
spective spouses, in order of preference
property of his/her ancestors. By marrying
are doctor, government executive
such a spouse, one can easily become a
(I.A.S., P.C.S. and class I officers)
coparcener to the 'sole ownership'. 9 females
and engineers, while lady doctors are
and 5 males have mentioned of their being
preferred most by the males, who are
'only daughter' or 'son' respectively. None
of the advertisers has desired of this trait
from a mate.
(vi) Men show great concern with the
personal appearance of women.
—Close to the bottom of
(vii) Widows are not looked down upon
frequency of listings, comes preference for a
as mates as they were in the recent
mate from a specific area: people having
MATRIMONIAL ADVERTISEMENT I N P U N J A B
(viii) T h e traditional concepts of selecting
disability (social or physical), the
a mate are changing and are being
more liberal he or she becomes about
substituted by personal qualifications,
his/her mate's qualifications, and
such as age, education, physical
conversely the more one possesses
appearance and occupation.
'good points', one's demands from
the prospective mate tend to m o u n t
(ix) T h e more a person suffers from any
Anand, Kulwant (1965) "An Analysis of Matrimonial Advertisements", Sociological
Bombay: Sociological Society: (March '65) pp. 59-71.
Aneja, Nirmala (1964) "Matrimony Through Advertisements", Social Welfare,
Publications Division: Vol. XI, No. I, pp. 20-21.
Dubois, A. J. A. (1924) Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies
Oxford : Clarendon Press : (Third Edition).
Kannan, C. T. (1963) Intercaste and Inter-Community Marriages in India,
Niehoff, Arthur (1958) "A Study of Matrimonial Advertisement in North India":
Lucknow: Ethnographic and Folk Culture Society: Vol. XII,
No. II (Dec, 58-Feb. '59, pp. 73-86.