Illogical, Thoughtless, Outdated Wedding Rituals Like These Are… Appalling Today!

Daughters are NOT things to give away, nor are they in any DEBT to their parents. Time to chuck outdated wedding rituals; move with the times. 

Daughters are NOT things to give away, nor are they in any DEBT to their parents. Time to chuck outdated wedding rituals; move with the times. 

A quintessential traditional Indian wedding (read Hindu here, as I am one) is at once an ornate and an elaborate affair. The paraphernalia of rites, rituals, customs and ceremonies simply drag on for hours, days, weeks, and even a month or two. To put it simply, a wedding is merely an excuse to enable friends, acquaintances and extended family to converge at one place for enjoyment and merry–making.

According to scriptures and sacred texts, as the pundits and scholars point out, each ritual or ceremony is replete with great symbolism and significance. Be that as it may, there are some outdated wedding rituals which educated, enlightened, liberal minded women difficult to accept, merely for the sake of upholding tradition.

Most communities across the country practice some such baffling (read illogical) and outdated wedding rituals. I wish to focus on a couple of them which are commonplace in our Bengali community till date.

First, the kanya ‘daan’

Like in most other states, we have what is known as KanyaDaan implying that the father of the bride (or an elderly male relative of his), officially hands over the ‘charge’ of the bride to the groom.

In common parlance daan connotes some kind of grant or donation – sans any obligation or rider. And it is for keeps. The object of daan usually involves huge amounts of money, land, jewellery or other valuables. Everyone will agree that these are mundane, inanimate substances.

By the same rationale: how can a vibrant, youthful, human being be made an object of daan, to be glibly ‘handed over’ to another human being? Isn’t it preposterous?

By the way does anyone care as to what the bride undergoes mentally during such a ‘transaction’? In a bid to avoid a ruckus or as a ‘face saving’ gesture (keeping her parents in mind) she may go through the entire process demurely. But is her heart really in it? One never knows.

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A feisty feminist and MBA professional Mimi Sen says in this context, “this unconditional handing over of a bride to a groom will only inflate his male ego. He will think no end of himself; he may even unleash violence and torture upon her since all her ‘rights’ are now officially (and ceremonially) in his custody.” Papia De, a social worker opines “Marriage is meant to be a mutual contract based on love understanding and faithfulness. The very fact that the girl is being ‘handed over’ to the boy undermines her dignity as an individual. In this situation they cannot attain equal footing so essential for conjugal harmony.”

Second, the Kanakanjali

Another ritual I find irksome is Kanakanjali, wherein the departing bride supposedly ‘repays’ all her outstanding ‘debts’ to her parents (read mother). The mother stands behind the girl with her pallu (sari end) outstretched like a basket; the daughter scoops up a palmful of rice and tosses behind it over her shoulders into the ‘sari basket’ while she mutters “there now, I repay all I owed you.” This is repeated twice more. Then she marches ahead into her ‘future’ without looking back.

Some may term this as sentimental. But I consider it absolutely mindless and illogical. After all, parents (particularly moms) bring up a daughter with loving care – from changing nappies, hourly feeding, staying awake all night long so that the little cherub sleeps in peace … watching her grow, teaching her the ways of the world, shielding her from unwarranted attention, creating values, educating her– they devote their entire life and energy. But post-wedding all that the girl is expected to do is this symbolic gesture? A classic case of love’s labour lost?

Outdated wedding rituals

Parents make their best possible effort (with little sacrifices thrown in) to rear a daughter/s. It is a profound sense of duty blended with unalloyed affection which propels them to do so. Nor do they expect any sort of compensation for their toil. Secondly, paying off debts would entail the two parties involved sever all ties for good.

Does this really happen within families? Should it?

No way. Because married daughters are daughters for all their life. Then how does the question of debt repayment arise? I can’t fathom why and how our prudent (?!) ancestors evolved this idea.

Be it kanyadan or kanakanjali the natural bonds between parents and daughters are timeless. Hence they can’t be manipulated like this for the sake of conventions and social demands.

As a footnote, I’d like to add that as I don’t subscribe to such practices personally, I opted for a non-glittery, simple civil marriage. But that is another story…

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Am a trained and experienced features writer with 30 plus years of experience .My favourite subjects are women's issues, food travel, art,culture ,literature et all.Am a true feminist at heart. An iconoclast read more...

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