I am a Hindu and a proud one at that. No, no … that’s not it. I am happy that I am a Hindu. Why? Because this is the only ‘religion’ which insists on building relationships with Human Beings (our near and dear ones, those who touch our lives) just as much as building relationships with animals, birds, trees, rivers, mountains, you name it – if something exists, we have to build a relationship with it thanks to our rituals. And in these rituals we find happiness and bonding with our family, friends and society.
Take a look at our Vat Savitri Vrat – we tie a thread around a tree and ask for blessings for the long life of our husband. You have to just see the women all decked up, singing songs, putting vermillion on the trunk and tying the thread. No amount of anyone saying that it is patriarchal in nature, is going to dull their happiness. The Karva Chauth Vrat of the North – full of dressed up women, singing songs, sharing stories with other women, and waiting with longing for their husbands to turn up. What about husbands? Many keep the food to a bare minimum on those days and feast with their wives. BTW did you know that men who wear the janeu, wear two sets of them after marriage … this is because the 2nd set is for the wife who is supposed to get all the blessings of any puja that the husband does, automatically. What kind of an environment are we giving the children here? One which says that even if there are arguments in the household, parents are going to wish good for one another.
Then look at Raksha Bandhan and Bhai Dhuj. In both these festivals siblings bind themselves with love and a promise of protection. In Raksha Bandhan, the brother promises to protect his sister and in Bhai Dhuj, the sister ties a thread around her brother to protect him from untimely death. Obviously in both these festivals there is love spread in copious quantities with elders and children joining in the fun and feasting. Marriage rituals themselves have a whole load of bonding right from the Mehndi and Sangeet ceremonies to the actual marriage itself – holding your wife’s hands together during the Paani-grahan and while putting puffed rice into the homa, not to mention the very act of exchanging garlands, has many friends and cousins raising their eyebrows and giving sly smiles and laughter during the very somber ceremonies.
The sixtieth birthday celebrations of the patriarch (where the father and mother are married off again) and the various Pujas that every family indulges in almost every year, are all occasions for merry making with family and friends. Of course, they are ceremonies to remember our elders, our Rishis and Brahman, but they are also occasions to renew ties with relatives. The very act of bowing down to our parents, our elderly family members, our purohits, acharyas and gurus – all make us aware that there are those we should be indebted to for our existence. Fascinating way to help us improve ties with the human kind.
But unfortunately every few days we hear stories of how these rituals are old-fashioned, patriarchal, demeaning to women or some such thing. We also hear stories of how in Christian schools, students are punished severely for wearing Mehndi on their hands, flowers in their hair or bindis on their forehead. Application of leave by students for attending ceremonies and rituals is not accepted in many convent schools and even in other ‘Modern’ schools. We also see tweets and articles by many ‘intellectuals’, many of who are either non-Hindus or non-believers (Leftists) who demean our culture and make fun of it. (http://deshgujarat.com/2018/08/28/rakhdis-cut-down-in-christian-mission-school-in-gujarat-capital/)
For many years, I used to wonder why they did it. It is only now that I realize that they probably do it because they themselves cannot enjoy these rituals or festivities. Nuns and Christian priests have hardly any occasion to celebrate and even then, it is not with fun and laughter with family and friends. Most of their celebration is restricted to attending the mass and then feasting on food, usually only among close family. Where is the dance and mingling with far off relations, like Hindus do? Even in Muslim culture, intermingling of sexes (even grown up siblings) is forbidden, dance and singing among all relatives and friends together is frowned upon. Luckily in Bharat many Muslims celebrate like the Hindus do, during marriages and even on festive occasions (like Ramzan Eid). But then again the occasions are fixed and infrequent. Therefore some frustrated people want to impose their restrictions indirectly on the Hindu community, mostly by making them feel ashamed about their rituals and ceremonies. I have noticed that when celebrity Indian Christians and Muslims want to invite their Western friends for their marriage rituals, they all want to showcase many Hindu customs like Sangeet and Mehndi, not to mention even Saat-Pheraas. So if these customs are lovable then, why make the ordinary Hindu feel small about following them?
It is time the youth realize that such selective targeting of our customs and rituals is aimed at destroying our strongest area – our family system. When families break, society becomes angst-ridden and then spawns individuals who are not balanced. We become diseased, mentally and then physically. Protect our rituals and customs. Understand them and honour them.