India Unveiled – Cultures and traditions

sneha3 311Buland Darwaza or ‘Victory Arch’: An imposing piece of architecture set in the south wall of Jama Masjid in Fatehpur Sikri near Agra. The city served as Emperor Akbar’s capital from 1571-1585.

Indians in general are deeply rooted in tradition. Our culture gives us our identity. Most of us (especially those living away from the homeland,) cling to it, even though several aspects especially in these modern times, make no sense at all.

Why do we do so?

Perhaps because it brings us together as a community and provides us comfort in a foreign environment. The same I think applies to immigrants from all across the globe.

Here I will try to expand a little (very little,) on the various aspects of Indian culture, traditions, customs, beliefs, religion, art, architecture, music, dance, cuisine and so on.. Essentially all the things that defines my country to me and others in my community and which I hope would help people of non Indian origin understand India and Indianness a little better.

I encourage everybody to pitch in, and take the opportunity to discuss possible similarities or dissimilarities which exist between our various cultures.

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Let me start with a subject which continues to baffle a lot of people in the west: Arranged Marriages. 

I have been asked by some of my friends to elaborate on the tradition of arranged marriages and explain why they continue to be so popular, as well as describe the various rituals which take place during a typical wedding.

As a part of Hindu culture, arranged nuptials remain resilient even today despite the invasion of modern thought into every aspect of  Indian society. Times are definitely changing but many young Indians still prefer it.

Why?

Because your work is done for you. When you have reached a certain age (early twenties in women and mid to late twenties in men on an average,) the hunt for a suitable match begins. After a lot of deliberation, one is chosen for you by your parents with advice from the elders in the family, taking into consideration among various other things; caste and social class. Marrying outside one’s caste is frowned upon and in some rural communities it can even lead to dire consequences.

The horoscopes (very important for suitability,) are matched. The girl and the boy can get to know each other. They are often able to express reservations if any and sometimes also have the veto power. But if all the I’s are dotted and the T’s crossed, who would want to say no?

Why do arranged marriages succeed?

I’m not sure about the answer, but as one of my colleagues suggested, perhaps they succeed because there are zero expectations on both sides, in addition to a willingness to compromise and make it work. There is also considerable social monitoring.

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More on the culture of marriage..

In Hinduism, marriage is an essential stage of life. It is the sacred responsibility (Dharma) of each and every individual in the society, unless the individual has accepted a life of renunciation (Sanyasa) due to an intense yearning for liberation.

Marriage is a sacred relationship. It is not just the meeting of two individuals but of two souls. It’s purpose is for the continuation of family and to practice one’s Dharma. There is no concept of divorce. Once married, a couple are wedded for life. Divorce is a modern concept introduced through the Hindu Marriage Act of India.

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Wedding traditions vary according to the different regions in India (North, South, East and West.) But in essence the basis of the rituals is mostly the same.

Coming up next: Milan (A wedding Story — Indian Style!)

I hope you are enjoying it so far.

24 thoughts on “India Unveiled – Cultures and traditions

  1. ramzzb

    Very well put Simi.. Loved it..

    But sad thing abt our tradition now is in the name of westernization people here tend to lose the tradition whereas it is not the case in west..

    However there are people still to value our tradition..

    Reply
    1. Simi K. Rao

      Thanks Ramzz. I’m surprised myself at the differences I see between Indians in India and those living in the west. It’s like being pulled in opposing directions.

      Reply
  2. priaa

    Actualy the problem with our society right now is that we are travelling on two boats . We dont want to loose our culture completely and not accepting the western one completely.so in short we r dangling in between.whi ch in my view is very dangerous.

    Reply
  3. Heer Kats

    yes we shouldn’t forget our culture even if we are far from our mother land but some people follow the culture where they live and loose our tradition and rituals, marriage in Hindus are identity of an Indian girl with all her signs of been married like sindoor, bangles, bindi and mangalsutra some people don’t put all thinking its a morden world but for me i think its ur marital states and one should be proud to be Indian and got this chance, coming to arranges marriage two people meet at the first time talk to each other and all vituals followed like khundli in this they got more space to understand each other
    thanx di for this topic of our culture

    Reply
  4. aasma Ulhaq

    cool babe thank you.. ive got my exam tomorrow and thirsday and then the whole of next week so wish me luck babe.. i really need it.,… xxxxx

    Reply
  5. Anica

    It is difficult living with two cultures. Sometimes, you feel very torn between the two. Yet, when I hear Croatian music it takes right back to “home”. I have never had that sense of “home” and belonging as in Bosnia and Croatia.

    Thanks Simi for giving all of us expatriates from all over the world a forum to discuss what we love about our various cultures and to learn more about other cultures.

    Reply
  6. Tulika

    It is an amazing blog Simi with soul stirring poetry, beautiful pictures and the enlightening “India unveiled ” section!! also loved reading about you!! looking forward for the short story!!

    Reply
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