A bride on horseback. A message about equality

Here comes the bride… on her mount, brandishing her sword, ready to attack her bridegroom. An Ambala wedding recently drew attention with this reversal of traditional roles, which the bride and her family described as an affirmation of equality. More power for her, to do it her way. Think of the Dalit grooms who fought social bullying to ride horses in their own baraats – claiming their right to equal dignity.

Marriage and the family are patriarchal institutions, designed to “marry” property and control reproduction. It’s no surprise, then, that most wedding traditions across cultures and communities are rooted in these assumptions. From the groom asking the father for permission to the father giving away his daughter, this is considered an exchange between men. An engagement ring or sindoor and mangalsutra are marks of possession, which men are not required to wear. In a Christian marriage, the white robe signifies virginal purity. In the Muslim and Orthodox Jewish traditions as well, the separation of the sexes is essential. And yet, in most cultures, a wife takes her husband’s surname, erasing her past identity.

It’s refreshing to see people questioning the custom and making it meaningful to themselves. While many prefer the familiarity of tradition, and that is their choice, these remarkable examples make us think more clearly about what marriage is and how this commitment can be interpreted in a different time.


This article appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of the Times of India.


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