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Monday, October 12, 2009

Traditions: The Lost Meanings

We Indians have always been proud of our culture and traditions. We think that following our 5000 years old traditions shows that we are a civilized, developed and culturally rich race. But have we ever wondered why these traditions were made in the first place? What I mean is that there should have been some reason why something was done or followed even in the ancient ages. Common sense demands that. Those things and rituals that were a part of the life of the ancients are now what we call as traditions. Therefore a term "New Tradition" is a huge OXYMORON. 

I was pondering over it for a while. In case you do not know me, I am a person who doesn't take anything on the face value. Especially when it comes to traditions, customs, rituals and ceremonies. I do not follow the rituals and traditions without knowing why we are doing it in the first place. Let me give you some examples:

1) The tradition of Karwa Chauth: where a wife ( or a would-be-wife) keeps a fast for long life of her husband and doesn't eat anything all day. I asked my mom, why do you do it? and she explained to me the story behind it and how it all got started etc. I said "Yeah am aware of that. But don't you think that this ritual is a bit outdated? I mean... in ancient days Men were the only working people in a home and women used to stay at home and their well being depended on their husband's health and life. So , in that context having a fast and praying for a long life was valid." 

But in this modern day where the gender distinction is dissolving and men are no longer the sole income earner of the house, why is it that the ladies alone observe the fast, shouldnt the men too observe one for their wives? (Maybe not for their long life :P) but maybe as a symbol of Love and Respect for them? 

It so happened that there was a fast that my Mom kept for me. Presumably for my well-being and happiness. That day I too kept a fast for my Mom and we both broke the fast together. :)

To me the reason behind the tradition matters as much as the ritual. I wont do anything unless I know the significance of it. But it is now dawning on me that most people have forgot what these traditions were all about and just do it because "Its Tradition".

2) Another example, speaking of fasts, in the Hindu Calendar, there are some marked dates on which some fasts are to be kept( Don't ask me the dates or the reason, I do not know). These fasts were meant to be kept for some reason. Overtly, it was for well-being of loved ones or some Goddess, or for some ritual. But if you think about it, keeping fast is a good way to Detoxify your body and in general maintain good health. By not eating anything solid, or only taking liquid stuff and fruits etc, the body was purified and thus this resulted in well being of the person itself.

This knowledge really makes one see the traditions in a new light. Many of the traditions that are followed all around the world have been scientifically proven to increase the well-being of a person in some way. But most of them were encapsulated as a ritual to God so that at least the Fear Of Divine Wrath will help keep the people in check and observe such rituals. 

Another example:

3) The upcoming festival of Divali: Now there is a tradition that on Divali, some item of gold, silver or anything worthy of mention needs to be brought into the house( The day of Dhanteras). If you ponder over it you would realize that doing so made the family financial safe with the gold and silver acting as a safety guard in tough times. Maybe it was also a way to save for the marriages and other occasions when such items are exchanged. By wrapping this as a ritual , the ancients ensured that the people were financially secure and saved some for a rainy day.

I could go on and on about the rituals... and DONT get me started on the rituals in Marriage. They are so many and so diverse in reasons that I could write on and on about it.

Well I think I will end this post here....

The idea that I wanted to present here is that:

Traditions, Cultures, Rituals, Festivals are all good as a Society. But we should know why we are doing them. Just because it has been so for 5000 years doesn't mean it is correct. Always remember, Traditions were not always traditions. They were a way of life. Only the passage of time has made them the much beloved Traditions of our Culture. Let us not lose the meaning behind the traditions, others we are no more than blind ants following a blind leader.

Signing off for now. Adieu, Ciao, Bye, Au Revoir, Sayonara, Alvida.


1 comment:

  1. Good post. I liked the part about "new tradition" being an oxymoron.