Friday, June 13, 2008

Marriage Indian Style

My friend got married yesterday. The problem he was facing was in adjusting to the process of marriage in the Hindu tradition. As most of you know the Hindu system entwines the bride and the groom in a ritual where they have to circle the Holy Fire seven times. These seven holy rounds apparently are designed to bind the souls together for seven (re)incarnations. If the rebirth is as a sub-human species then I don’t know if that one counts. That of course would not be logical because no species other than Homo sapiens obeying natural laws have such elaborate mating rituals. So, one may conclude that only human rebirths would get this Holy contract.

Towards the end of the ceremony proper, which would last for almost 4 hours if thoroughly done, the groom puts some vermilion (sindoor) on the bride’s forehead and on the fore-parting of hair. Some say such red colouring of the fore-most-skin preserve in symbolic form the primeval system of bashing women over the head before taking them. (Taking them to the caves in case of pre-civilization polite people.) The same applies to the bangles and foot-ornaments – the latter gradually becoming obsolete – made of gold, iron, conch etc. They represent the chains and ropes with which these women were held before they were properly tamed. In most cases women were stolen from other tribes, and they were neither polite nor philosophical, so they had to be forcefully detained. I guess it was only after a good bit of bashing up that these women understood their predicament and surrendered. Of course, in essence, the A.M. system is mostly the same. Many cases still are as primitive, only superficially refined or redefined.

I should explain, the A.M. system is the Arranged Marriage system, whereas the P.M. system is the Precipitated Marriage system. The cases which stay clear of marriages are of course differently nomenclatured. They may be classified as LT1 and LT2 – Living Together and Lying Together respectively.

The entire ritual lasts for 36 hours, the whole ceremony lasts for 72. Beginning from the early morning fire-worshipping to the last bit where they are pronounced bride and groom is a period of 24 to 36 hours. After that it’s very social. The reception is where the groom’s side throws a party and receives gifts from people. The number of people treated can be anything from 10 to 10,00,000 or more.

When I got married I was trying to kind of interfere. It was after all my marriage. But I was summarily told that I had nothing to do with the whole thing. As a matter of fact I have a creeping doubt other than being the butt of all entertainment I was not even required. Even the smartest man becomes somewhat dazed when he is in two things – striped underwear and topor.

It was thoroughly impressed upon me that such a system is more about the family, the extended one, than any individual. I could not argue with such community communication. So I sat back and enjoyed. I did it all, incantations and everything. At the end of the day it was fun. One of the advantages of being the groom in a household where there are many able bodied people is that you don’t have to do a thing. And that is a rare privilege. After all, we ended up with each other, and in the process the whole family – uncles and aunts, grand-relatives, all my friends and colleagues, neighbours – got together and had a lot of fun. Some money was spent, but I would say it was well spent. The amount never matters, but the value you get for it is all.

1 comment:

Sucharita Sarkar said...

As they say in the Mastercard ad, topor: Rs. 50, benarasi: Rs. 5000, ice-cream with narampak sondesh (if I remember correctly): Rs. 75, making so many people laugh at your own expense (pun intended): priceless!

BTW, who told you that foot-ornaments are becoming obsolete? Visit us, and I'll show you thousands of people with that foot-fetish.

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