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.