Indian weddings are a beautiful, soulful yet tedious affair, filled with ancient traditions and rituals which claim to bond the husband and wife for the next 7 lives. But then, while some of these traditions are beautiful and meaningful, some of the others are dated. Keeping up with the times, shouldn’t some Indian wedding traditions be done away with already? Some of these sexist traditions are not just unfair, but downright insulting.
A tradition in all Indian weddings without which the wedding is incomplete. The very name Kanyadaan is made up of 2 words: Kanya and Daan. While if taken literally, it means giving the daughter away, according to old Hindu traditions, it means the “gift of virginity” or “gifting a maiden”. Yeah, well. It is an age-old tradition and there are many reasons as to why it was brought into existence. One of the most popular ones is that the scriptures stipulated that the eldest son or the ‘son’ of the family was supposed to light the funeral pyre of his parents to absolve them of sins and pass on happily into the afterlife. The patriarchal Hindu society began to thus revere boys and condemn daughters. To salvage the situation, Hindu priests then created the concept of Kanyadaan wherein they said that giving the daughter away was one of the highest honours as it too absolves the parents of sin. After the ritual, the “duty” of the daughter is passed on from the parents to the groom and she is now his liability. Also, it is always a ‘kanya’ daan and not a ‘stree’ daan which implied that only virgins were allowed to have the honour of absolving the sins of their parents.
While it might have been sensible in ancient times, the treatment of women as property is incorrect in every way. Some traditions are better left buried with time and the tradition of Kanyadaan is one such. Just because the daughter marries off, it does not mean she now has no ties with her family. She has lived in the womb of a woman for 9 months. No ritual on Earth can ever break that bond.
Another problem with Kanyadaan is that it is only the father who is allowed to give away the daughter. If the father is absent, another male relative has the honour. The mother is not in the picture at all. If not the tradition itself, even the steps associated with the ritual are chauvinist.
A popular tradition in South India, Kashi Yatra is today treated as more of a fun event. And yet, it is an inseparable part of Tamil weddings. According to the ritual, the groom gets up from the wedding and refuses to marry the bride, saying he wants to give up worldly pleasures and complete his religious studies. He carries an umbrella, a walking stick and a towel containing lentils (dal) and rice. As he commences this mock pilgrimage, the bride’s father stops him and pleads with them. He then tells the groom the benefits of married life versus ascetic life. He promises his daughter to him and that she will aid him through the ups and downs of life. The groom then returns to the wedding and the wedding continues.
Seems innocent and fun. But then, the question arises in the modern world, why is only the groom allowed to embark on a Kashiyatra? Why can’t the bride want to study further and decide to get up and leave the marriage hall with her mother-in-law tagging behind her, begging her not to leave the groom? Why is it treated as ambitious only for the groom. In modern days, the bride’s life will definitely not end if the groom decides to get up and leave. Rather, she might just decide to move on in life and get much ahead of the groom in education and career.