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Exploring Dating, Relationships & Marriage in a Changing World

A Tale of Two Cultures: Bengali Marriage Customs

Two thirds of Bengalis are Muslims, and a further third are Hindus, with the majority religion being one or the other, depending where in the region you are.

One area in which the two religions overlap is in marriage. Almost all Bengali marriages are arranged, be they Muslim or Hindu and family plays a huge role in both cultures, especially when it comes to matchmaking.

This golden rule aside, marriage rules and norms between the two cultures are markedly different. Here are a few examples of the variations in Bengali Muslim and Bengali Hindu marriage laws and customs…

Caste and Criteria

Caste is an important consideration for Bengali Hindus wishing to get hitched and marriage typically occurs among Hindus of the same caste. Members of closely ranked castes can marry if the woman is marrying “up” the caste system, but marrying “down” the caste system is strongly discouraged for Bengali Hindu women.

Islam, on the other hand, doesn’t place caste-related restrictions on young couples wishing to marry, but interestingly, Bengali Muslim society seems to echo the caste system to a degree in this respect. Social rank is an important criteria when it comes to selecting a suitor, and the groom-to-be’s profession and employment status are of utmost importance, often determining whether he is suitable husband material or not.

Keeping it in the Family

Marrying a first cousin is forbidden among Bengali Hindus, but Islam doesn’t raise the red card on it, and its common practice among Bengali Muslims.

Polygamy is extremely rare among Bengal’s Hindu community, and permitted for Bengali Muslims under Islamic law, although recent studies undertaken in the region, suggest polygamy rates among Bengali Muslims isn’t high.

At the End of the Day

High caste Bengali Hindus are strongly dissuaded from divorce. Islam discourages divorce but does allow it, and the divorce rate among Bengali Muslims is naturally, much higher than among the region’s Hindu community.

For the past century, legislation has repeatedly overturned ancient rules that forbid Bengali Hindu widows from remarrying. Nevertheless, it still carries a huge stigma. Islam doesn’t frown upon remarriage for either partner following spousal death, although it’s not common for elderly Muslim widows to remarry.

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