We and our customs



Every race/community, in order to survive in this weird world, develops a piece of its culture which is unique from others. Hinduism, the oldest religion in the world also developed its own unique cultural base, traditions and philosophy of life. Cultural identification is needed for recognition and survival.

In Hinduism we postulated 16 sanskars [ceremonies] from birth to death of a man. Many of these sanskars [ceremonies] are out of vogue now. Two prominent sanskars [ceremonies] which are in vogue are Yagnopavit ceremony and Marriage ceremony. Even these two have had modifications made.


Yagnopavit:-

It marked the acceptance of a student by a teacher [Guru]. With this, the child entered into formal education. This education, besides imparting Vedic knowledge extended to art and craft also. This ceremony can be compared to Baptism in Christianity. Both boys and girls used to undergo this ceremony. Manu Smriti, Harita Dharamasutra and Kurma Puran endorse girl yagnopavit. Girls who opted for marriage instead of gurukul did symbolic Yagnopavit ceremony on their marriage day. In Kashmir this ceremony is done with some modifications introduced by Rishi Logaksha. This ceremony [sanskar] is one of the 16 sanskars a Hindu has to undergo from birth to death. Sanskars are essential for physical, mental and spiritual development of a person. Though ARYA SAMAJ accepts a girl's yagnopavit, orthodox Hindus do not approve of it. This ceremony is for all Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. Bandhayan Grihyasutra even mentions this ceremony for Shudras. Age limit for this ceremony was fixed as:- Brahmin 8 years, Kshatriya 11 years and for Vaishya 12 years. Sacred thread worn on this ceremony has three strands. These three strands stand for three goddesses---Savitri, Saraswati and Gayatri, meaning Goddesses of Deed, Word and Mind. Knot [Brahm gand] represents cosmic energy holding three Goddesses. At a physical plane three strands stand for our three responsibilities towards Devtas, Pitras and Household. Wearer of this sacred thread has to be pure in thought and in deed.

Today Yagnopavit is not done for girls and for boys too the custom is now mainly followed in Brahmin community only. The ceremony seems to have lost its vitality and is reduced to just a social display. The boy even after this elaborate ceremony is not introduced to the Vedas. He is not told about the significance of the holy Gayatri mantra. After ceremony, he does not know how many Vedas are there and what they stand for. Not knowing the true significance of the ceremony, the boy does not care for the sacred thread appropriately. A question comes to mind that if the thread is not to be respected, why do it at all? Shouldn’t we ask Gurujee to impart to us, including the boy undergoing this ceremony, some Vedic knowledge. Should we not learn the significance of Gayatri Mantra and its importance? That way faith can develop in these rituals and guarantee their future.


Marriage:-

This is another sanskar which is day by day losing its sanctity. Hindus are the only community in this world who believe in its sacrosanct nature. For Abrahamic religions marriage is just a contract between boy and girl which can be easily broken. In Hinduism there are various requirements prior to marriage, but the most commonly adopted is the matching of horoscopes of boy and girl. After matching of horoscopes, the compatibility of families is assessed .Only after horoscope matching and family compatibility assessment, consent for marriage is given. Mahurat [auspicious date and time] for ”Lagan” is asked from the revered Gurujee. At “Lagan” time, the boy and girl are told significance of marriage and their duties to each other and to family.

Now finding Mahurat, the importance of the institution of marriage, duties and significance of Vedic mantras has been overpowered by the video filming of events and loud, filmy songs. From DAAR Puja to Posh Puja everything is done without the required spirit. There is no attempt to know true significance of what is being done. Even Gurujee at times is requested to expedite the chanting of the mantras for some less important social events. No one listens to the mantras being chanted by Gurujee. The net result is that the boy and girl do not know importance of marriage and the rituals. Marriage is taken as bondage for fulfilling one’s desires. Wisdom of all that was done in the past is seriously doubted.

Marriage today is a more of gala function with big feast. There is exchange of costly gifts [glumut]. Yet, nobody knows the importance of Glumut in the past and its irrelevance today. With love marriages on the rise, horoscope matching has taken back seat. It is even ridiculed. A question comes to mind, if we have no faith in horoscope matching, Mahurat etc. then why run this drill before marriage?


Conclusion:--

We Hindus are only community on this planet who doubt and ridicule their own customs and cultural heritage. Vedic wisdom is being criticized despite the fact that over 99% of us cannot read or write Sanskrit [language of VEDAS]. When the whole world has started accepting Vedic wisdom, we are leaning towards the west for patronage. Isn’t it a irony that we criticize without trying to know what is written in the holy books!

Are you aware of any Muslim/Christian who is so critical of his cultural heritage, leave alone religion. Yet we Hindus are ready to criticize our religious customs without trying to find their essence. Any society/nation survives because of its cultural base. Mao Tse Sung of China said long back, “To destroy a country, just destroy its culture”. The same was done by Britishers and Moghuls who ruled us. Even after independence we are slaves to western ideology. This is intellectual bankruptcy. We have made a mess of our ceremonies and religion on the whole, citing freedom of expression as reason. We are ever ready to adopt other's customs for petty gains. This shows we are a weak society.

If we have to survive we need to understand Vedic wisdom and significance of all cultural heritage including Sanskars. For this intellectuals have to read Vedas and translate their wisdom in local/ national language. These intellectuals should not trust western translations which obviously are biased and prejudiced. In mother tongue this Vedic wisdom can be easily grasped. This will help us in developing faith in these ceremonies [sanskars]. Once there is faith we will be able to carry these sanskars forward in better and firmer ways. Without faith these sanskars are going to die in the near future.

Need of the hour is to revisit our past to secure our future. Strong cultural base is the backbone of society/community. It should be our endeavor to rebuild our society and culture.
*Dr. Makhan Lal Babu, Born and brought up in Kashmir, lived in Kashmir till his migration from valley in 1990. Retired as Professor and Head Neurosurgery from Institute of Medical sciences, Soura, Srinagar. Has published a lot of professional articles, both in national and international journals. His interests, besides medicine, are in Ancient history of Kashmir, Vedas and Ancient India. His focus is educating youth who are fast losing track of their glorious roots and culture.
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