Monday, March 17, 2008

Of weddings

All those who have married in the traditional Hindu way, tell me what is the meaning of marriage that you gathered when you sat opposite the fire and repeated the mantras one after the other.

After witnessing two-three weddings, including my own, I have come to a conclusion that traditional, ritualistic weddings offer a wholly unsatisfactory insight and guidance to starting a new life.

Wedding ceremonies are simply an expensive social obligation that each man and woman is made to tolerate. You basically wed for your parents, parents of parents, and the 'society' rather than to understand what scriptures say about what a marriage means.

I have no problems with the celebrations per say. Anything that brings joy and people together is justified and a marriage tends to do both. What irks me are the elaborate rituals that boil up to be an aimless, half-baked, commercial and socially obligatory formality. I find in rituals a certain disregard, manipulation and highhandedness in imparting information and insight.

Many of the ‘Whys’ remain unanswered for weddings or poojas are timed in accordance with hall bookings, catering services and other logistics. It seems that the modern day harried ritual ceremonies are for nothing but a placebo effect- to simply give us a moral conviction of having done things the right way than anything else.

On the other hand, if I were to be explained everything in detail, it would take almost a week. I would rather get my hands on some book and read it on my own and get my husband to read it.

The sweaty boredom of sitting beside the so-called holy fire and listening to mantras in a completely alien tongue (Sanskrit is alien, admit it) is not exactly what you call a pleasant experience. They say that the rituals, if performed with the right ingredients and attitude, can invoke the presence of Gods. Never once in my life, can I digest that Gods can actually concede a descent from heaven in the chaos and hullaboo of a few hundred friends of friends and relatives of relatives to make their way through the stuffiness of expensive silk sarees to bless the couple.

An ideal wedding would be under a tree, with a hand-picked few individuals who are close not by relation, but by bonding and understanding. To do the ritualistic honours should be just about any respectful person whose wisdom we are certain of and who can guide us to a new beginning, who can tell what exactly the Vedas mean by a wedding as crisply as he can. And please, no fire and ghee and all that stuff. Or to the minimum- I am sure we have done enough sins in thought and kind to actually expect Gods coming over to say a hello, so better chuck the formality altogether.

Talking about ideal weddings- my mama mami actually tied the knot under a tree somewhere in the USA while studying there. And so they have the privilege and moral right to stiffly admonish the unnecessary extravaganza that has become synonymous to traditional weddings. I had a very clear idea of what kind of a wedding I wanted but my family dismissed my preference as 'impractical'. (I wanted an extremely small ceremony in my own house in the presence of a few hand-picked people followed by a grand ‘free for all’ reception outside)

I believe that a marriage essentially boils up to be a commitment that you make with each other. Rituals and the presence (and approval) of others is a social adage that developed over a period of time.


bhumika said...

I don’t understand why the elaborate weddings? why the expensive lehengas? why the 500 people whom you don't even know?

Everybody, except the couple tying the knot, has a good time. But come to think of it, I would never go for a court marriage. I’d rather do the pheras in a gurudwara, which hardly takes 15 minutes. But again, it all boils down to what ‘people’ like and hence our parents do what they do.

Fictitioustruth said...

Law says lack of knowledge of law is no excuse for a crime.

I don't think we can condemn a ritual done in an "foreign" language as redundant just because we are unable to understand or comprehend its significance.

Calling millions of people and sitting through mantras in front of fire are independent and exclusive activities and to be judged independently.

Maybe they are useless or maybe they are not. It is always better to be in a position from where one make categorical statements before one makes one.

"I think bengali is a pretentious langauge and its literature pure bunkum and should be abolished." - I hope that helps explain what i mean.

Pranay said...

well i don't entirely agree with the part that rubbishes those pheras. Every religion and sect has a way of doing things and thats the hindu way. And today's pandits translate in hindi and english, most of the shlokas chanted. I find it quite interesting as they make the bride-groom say and vow to very basic yet important things.
But yes, the fact that we have made it all such an elaborate display of wealth n power.. sucks. The celebrations go on and on thill eternity.. and they ultimately tax on the bride-groom. theres only one saviour... 'food'!!!

Gauri Gharpure said...

@ bhumika-- this post is not abt weddings w.r.t to elaborate, expensive celebrations per say. It is rather abt the seeming water down of rituals in the entire process in recent times. more often
than not, the bride and groom get up clueless from the ceremony abt wht the hype was all abt, rather relieved tht the formalities are done with.. just like u said, u wud still rather prefer a marriage in a gurudwara than simply a court marriage, shows our innate faith and expectations to gain some insight from the scriptures before starting a new life.. the post is more abt how in most cases, the process ends up being unsatisfactory...

@ fiction-- i ve not condemned the rituals, but the current manner in which they are conducted.

moreover, its your implication tht just because we are unable to understand significance, these shud be chucked out, not mine...

the post is against half-baked social ceremonies that tht wear a pseudo-ritualistic mask and neither satisfy intellectual curiosity, nor cater to a useful guidance for future.

again, as I said, if rituals were to be performed exactly as prescribed, wud take weeks, if not more. The point is, we are already choosing as per our convenience, and if it so, why shud we get alarmed by different ideas that attempt to simplify things out further?

ur last statement is born out of an assumption tht i condemn the rituals.. I am rather one of the most eager persons to actually know wht these things are all abt..

@Pranay... Hellooo...again--- read carefully.. nowhere have i rubbished the pheras.. dont make such drastic conclusions please.. all i am saying is tht on the whole, rituals, as conducted these days, are more of a fastforward and formality, pained all the more by presence of so many people stuffed together..

again, as fictionous truth points out, rituals and the number of people invited are two different things.. perhaps the post is more abt finding a decent midpoint.. (like my suggestion to hold a small ceremony and a large reception, remember? :)

Pranay said...

probably the word 'rubbished' wasnt appropriate.. but u said na, that:
'The sweaty boredom of sitting beside the so-called holy fire and listening to mantras in a completely alien tongue (Sanskrit is alien, admit it) is not exactly what you call a pleasant experience.'
And you also said that..
'To do the ritualistic honours should be just about any respectful person whose wisdom we are certain of and who can guide us to a new beginning, who can tell what exactly the Vedas mean by a wedding as crisply as he can. '

so m saying just that.. that pandits these days properly and sometimes even in sarcastic manners, explain the meanings of the prayers they say... so its not all that boring for the couple these days, though other rituals and repeated photo-takes etc may be extremely tiring as rightly pointed out by you...

Gauri Gharpure said...

hmm :)ur sentiments, observations and clarification stand a firm place.. jus tht i wrote the post keeping a few personal observations and thoughts in mind..u r right (and most welcome) in contesting any generalisation u may ve noticed and objected..

Anonymous said...

I was amazed at the prospect of God getting angry at somebody for reciting a mantra wrong...I mean, somebody has got that job up there to listen to all the mantras being recited at all 14,000 marriages in one city in a day, (without getting distracted by girls and food) and then jump all of a sudden..."There!Right there! he said it wrong..Rewind it! Rewind!!"

feddabonn said...

RO the bloody FL @ antisense.

@gauri: them firangs have a nice thingy-renewing vows. gives you a second wedding, and the way YOU want to do it, thankyouverymuch.

Trailblazer said...

Interesting thought. But just because we don't understand those mantras, doesn't mean they aren't for the good.

You can never really speak about things you don't know is what I believe.

feddabonn said...


i think that is precisely gauri's point. she doesn't understand what is being said, so doesn't see the point of saying them! :)

shex said...

well they are boring for you perhas but for they have been fun at least u get to flirt like anything who cares abt rituals or anything bechare dulha and dulhan at their expense everyone has fun
and know what it is also fun when u look into all the arrangements and receiving people
i quite enjoyed my mama's and sis's wedding
good food and lots to watch talk and u know..... :P