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Some parents begin marriage arrangements on the birth of a child, but most wait until later.

In the past, the age of marriage was quite young, and in a few small groups, especially in Rajasthan, children under the age of five are still united in marriage.

Generally, this transition, like everything else in India, depends little upon individual volition but instead occurs as a result of the efforts of many people.

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Brother-sister exchange marriages are sometimes arranged, and daughters are often given in marriage to lineages where other daughters of their lineage or village have previously been wed.

In South India, in sharp contrast, marriages are preferred between cousins (especially cross-cousins, that is, the children of a brother and sister) and even between uncles and nieces (especially a man and his elder sister's daughter).

Marriage is deemed essential for virtually everyone in India.

For the individual, marriage is the great watershed in life, marking the transition to adulthood.

A bride moves to her in-laws' home--the home of her grandmother or aunt--and is often comfortable among these familiar faces.

Her husband may well be the cousin she has known all her life that she would marry.Marriage arrangements often involve looking far afield.In the Dravidian-speaking south, a family seeks to strengthen existing kin ties through marriage, preferably with blood relatives. In the north, every kinship term clearly indicates whether the person referred to is a blood relation or an affinal relation; all blood relatives are forbidden as marriage mates to a person or a person's children.Legislation mandating minimum marriage ages has been passed in various forms over the past decades, but such laws have little effect on actual marriage practices.Essentially, India is divided into two large regions with regard to Hindu kinship and marriage practices, the north and the south.The entire emphasis is on casting the marriage net ever-wider, creating new alliances.

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