Three men armed with sickles and sharp weapons attacked the 22-year-old student and his wife, who is from a higher caste, on a crowded street in Tamil Nadu state on Sunday.
Local police commissioner N Manjunatha said the 19-year-old woman’s relatives were angered by the couple’s marriage.
“They married some eight months ago and the woman’s family was unhappy. She is an upper Thevar Hindu caste and the man was a Dalit,” Manjunatha told AFP.
The woman is recovering at a local hospital and police are searching for her uncle in connection with the attack, he said.
CCTV footage of the incident broadcast on Indian television showed the couple walking along the street when three men on a motorbike stop and attack them.
Thevars are a dominant community in Tamil Nadu while Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, are a historically marginalised community.
India has long witnessed so-called honour killings, where couples are targeted because their families or communities disapprove of their relationships over caste or religion. Most occur in rural pockets of the north.
They are carried out by relatives or caste groups to protect what is seen as the family’s reputation and pride.
There are no India-specific figures available, but United Nations statistics say 1,000 out of the 5,000 such killings every year are in India.
India’s Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that those involved in honour killings should face the death penalty.