Rituals and Ceremonies
Do they signify anything?
Or are their origins lost in the annals of time and we just follow them religiously or as tradition demands without understanding the whys and the wherefores?
While attending a "kriya" ceremony for a cousin's husband, I was wondering about the reasons behind these ancient rituals and whether the next generation or the one after them will slowly let them just die a natural death.
Here are some of the ones which I can understand and which to me are important and significant:
Rakhi & Tikka - It is much more than the tying of a band and giving and receiving a gift. At my daughter's wedding when she asked the priest why "mamas"- (my brothers) were such an important part of the ceremonies, then he told her that this was an extension of the promise they make to their sisters during Rakhi and Tikka. They tell their nieces and nephews that as we have promised to take care of your mother, in the same way we shall look after you. It is a beautiful thought, whether the 'mamas' are able to fulfill it or not is not important. What is important that they happily take part in all the wedding rituals and be a part of the immediate family. I know of no other country where the bond between brothers and sisters is made stronger with just a piece of thread or coloured band.
Immersion of the ashes: If you go to Kankhal near Haridwar to immerse the ashes of a loved ones, you will come back with a feeling of a closure on the funeral process. There are many bones in the crystal clear water there, and you realise that this is where it was all meant to end. This is the reason why the Ganges is sacred to us - this is where nature takes us into her folds and lets us become one with her. Nothing else is so peaceful and comforting as the immersion of the ashes in any sacred river.
Touching the feet of the elders: This does not seem to happen too often nowadays, except maybe in the soap operas or traditional homes. But just bending down in front of the elders is enough for them to put their hand forward and bless us. There is a lot of love in those blessings and we are fortunate to receive it. If you do not feel like touching their feet, then just lower your head and let them shower their prayers and best wishes on you.
Boisterous Marriages: I agree that our weddings, especially the Punjabi ones are noisy, boisterous and chaotic, but then that is what we are - noisy, boisterous and chaotic. The gathering of the clan, the loud conversation, gallons of booze, tons of food - all of these just combine together to give us days to remember.I would rather have all this than a peaceful, quiet wedding where everyone remains solemn and composed. Let us celebrate the way we like to - after all it is merriment time.
Saptapadi - The Seven Steps of marriage:
All of us go through them, but while the process is going on we do think of the significance of each step. The first step is for food and resources for the family; the second step is for strength - both physical and mental; the third step is for wealth and prosperity together; with the fourth step they ask for happiness and harmony; with the fifth step they ask for a happy family with good children; during the sixth step they ask the Gods to give them a long and peaceful life; and with the last step or phera they seek the blessings for companionship, loyalty and understanding among the two of them. Every aspect of their new lives is covered in these prayers and the beauty and significance of the words is evident only when we think about them later.
There are so many more traditions which I can think of which are beautiful, yet I have not really tried to understand them before I follow them.
Yet, I know that I have missed out by not trying to inculcate the value of these traditions and rituals among my children. My grandchildren will not be conversant with them since they are not observed in their lives. This is something I will regret always - we should have always shown them what the rituals were and the significance behind them. Then maybe they would have made them a part of their lives also and our grandchildren would have absorbed it as part of their heritage.