So, my cousin’s wedding just got over and in taking an active part in her wedding, I got an opportuniy to observe keenly all that is so intrinsicly a part of the proverbial big fat indian wedding!
Seeing all ‘rasma’s and riwaazs [customs]I was surprised to see the sheer logic and sense behind even some of the tiniest of customs we follow so casually .
For starters ‘dowry’..no not the dowry we talk of today but go back a couple of hundred years I guess.A girl going to a new place would simply feel more comfortable using things she gets from her own home….than actually going to new and strange people and asking them for it.
By giving things like utensils etc as part of dowry the girl’s parents set up a mini household for her simply for her convenience.
The whole huge gathering that happens at the wedding--I think in ancient times also all the community members would gather for a girl’s wedding. The reason? My guess is that instead of being the grand show of one’s riches and affluence that a wedding now sadly is, it was ,I guess ,meant to ensure that all from both the sides got to meet one another and know the other one better.
Similarly customs like ‘joota churai’ et al ensure a light atmosphere during the wedding itself and also helps the two families to get to know each other better.
The excessive make up girls are supposed to put on during the wedding and the bangles and ‘bichia’s , the ‘mangal sutra’s and the sindoor ; now I have two theories on that. One is that since these are telltale signs of a girl being married, random men who would see the girl would know before hand that the girl is married and hence no untoward incident would happen.
The other logic is that that makes the girl look more attractive and there by the husband would feel more attracted to her. Now this brings me to another aspect of the whole thing. The ‘ghonghat’. Why the ghooghat? I have done my bit of talking to a lot of people on this and have come to a conclusion which is as follows. See, culturally we are not a ‘nuclear-family’ society, we have joint families ,with the father , all the sons and their families –everyone living together. Now from what I have heard apparently incest is quite common in rural and probably also in urban India even today. So, keeping the girl’s face covered, particularly when she went in front of the other men of the family was a tiny step in ensuring that that would not happen.
Similarly take the widows; they are not supposed to wear any kind of makeup, no colorful clothes, nothing that makes them attractive; this being done to ensure that men would not be interested in them!
The saying ‘Ladaki ke shaadi waaley ghar mein kaam karne se punya milta hai’ [You are blessed if you help out in a household preparing for their girl’s wedding ] is one of the smartest thing our pundit jees have come up with. I have seen enough of a household preparing for its girl’s wedding to know how much of work there is to be done!!! So they really need people to come forward and help! And if people generally believe that by helping out they are getting brownie points , so be it!!
Customs like the ‘chauthi’ according to which the girl is supposed to return to her parent’s house for a day on the 4th day after her wedding is another smart one! See, obviously the girl is suddenly face to face with so many strangers , so like if she knows that she would be going back to her house in just a few days , that might make things that little bit easier for her! I also think that the custom of the girl celebrating her first Holi at her parents house is just another gimmick our ancestors cooked up to ensure that the poor girl gets at least one more break!!
If you look closely at the nitty gritties that happen during the actual wedding you will notice that there is some tiny thing that only the ‘bua’ is supposed to do, something the ‘chacha’ is supposed to do. This distribution of roles and duties amidst the members of the family probably kept the interest of all alive and kicking! This probably came about as the only way to keep the whole family together and make them feel important!
I don’t know really, I have no great knowledge of the human mind, nor do I claim to possess a great insight into our culture and history. Hence this can but be called only a very naïve attempt at understanding the science and logic behind the manner in which the marriages in our society in general have been shaped. Everything that we refer to as being part of our ‘culture’ is nothing but probably a way of keeping the society in order. What we think of that ‘way’ per se might be good or bad ; it depends on us as individuals but I feel that with most of our customs , if you look just that closely , you will come across some thing that definitely makes sense.If nothing , you will atleast be able to make a vague guess of what was probably going on in mind of our society at that point in time.