A rite of passage mark the point at which a person transits from one stage of life to another. There are various rites of passage that cut across all religions and societies. In both the ancient and modern societies, rites of a passage are a critical point of the individual and the community at large. In a persons lifetime, birth, initiation, marriage, and death are the most significant ceremonies that people celebrate. Birth of a child marks the entry into this world while death symbolizes the exit from the world. Although different customs mark birth with varied activities similar meanings are given to birth rituals in the various religious traditions, even though the forms are quite diverse (Kelsay & Cunningham 75). Kelsay & Cunningham (75) also note that marriage is an equally important stage in life. They cite that traditional and industrialized societies share quite some features in marking of this ceremony. In Hinduism, marriage is marked with some features he describes such as dowry, ceremony, festivity, bright colors, songs, and dances.
Every rite of passage according to Kelsay & Cunningham (74) occurs in three stages. At first there is preparation that orientates the individual into the ritual. After the individual is fully prepared for the rite of passage, they then move into the rite for a period of time. They move out of the ritual to be integrated in to the society with a new title. The preparation of marriage in Hindu societies begins with the paying of dowry. Unlike many societies in the world, the man in Hindu marriage receives the dowry from the woman. The father is responsible with showering his daughter with expensive clothes and jewelry. However, the fathers gesture of kindness is not enough without paying Varadakshina for the bridegroom. Sharma et. al. (243) notes that Hindu marriages are more between families rather than the individuals. Therefore, its commonplace to find planned marriages in the Hindu culture. The brides father only pays dowry for the man that he thinks befits his daughter. The bridegroom must meet certain social and economic criteria for them to be accepted by the brides father for marriage to his daughter. When a man and a woman are fit for each other and both families agree to get into a relationship, a wedding day is planned in which the two are joined in matrimony.
Just before the wedding ceremony, the bridegroom is not allowed by custom to see the bride. Therefore, the bride spends some time confined a room away from the bridegroom. On the material day, the woman, in the company of her parents, approaches the man who is also flanked by his parents on both sides. The woman is disguised in a veil before she meets the bridegroom to symbolize the distance between them before the marriage. The bride also wears the traditional Hindu attires, whose colors and design derive from the religious mythology. Red color, which is predominant in Hindu wedding, symbolizes Durga who is the most revered Indian goddess. After the bride and the bridegroom are joined in marriage, a period of festivities, dances and songs commences that goes up to the end of the ceremony. After the two are weeded, they take up their social roles as a wife and husband.
After getting into a marriage, both the man and the woman enter another stage of their lives. However, due to the extremely patriarchal nature of Hindu societies, the bride is expected to show a high level of submission to the man. Brides are expected to play their social role of a woman which including bearing and raising up children. In this rite of passage, there are defined sexual roles and several marital adjustments that both the man and woman are expected to fulfill. Sex, for instance, largely depends on the autonomy of the bridegroom. It, therefore, follows that the size of the family that a Hindu family raises depends solely on the decision of the man, and minimally on the contribution of the woman.
Bharati Mukherjee, one of the most prolific Indian authors documents the woes of an Indian married woman in Wife. She narrates the story of a young Indian girl named Dimple Dasgupta who had set her heart on marrying a neurosurgeon, but her father was looking for engineers in the matrimonial ads (Mukherjee 3). She illustrates how a planned marriage turned tragic, especially because the couple spent their married life amidst a society that was not friendly to such relationships. Despite the marriage being an important rite of passage in the Hindu religion, parents play a big role in charting the course of relationships for their children. However, these organizations are not welcome in the modern society that advocate for equal rights of men and women in India and elsewhere.
Cunningham, Lawrence, and John Kelsay. The sacred quest: An invitation to the study of religion. Pearson Higher Ed, 2012.
Mukherjee, Bharati. Wife. Fawcett Books, 1992.Sharma, Indira, et al. "Hinduism, marriage and mental illness." Indian journal of psychiatry 55.Suppl 2 (2013): S243.
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