Before you ask, yes that is a picture from my wedding album. This particular ritual in the hindu marriage ceremony is known as “kanyadaan”, quite inadequately translated in English as “giving or rather gifting away of the daughter”.
The hindu vedic marriage rituals pays a lot of emphasis on this particular ceremony. It is supposed to be the highest sacrifice (maha daan); and therefore, it is believed that parents who have performed the “kanyadaan” for their daughter are relieved of all sins and attain heaven.
(Parents who have sons live longer, my brother jokes!)
What exactly the ceremony entails is that the father holds the hand of the bride, while the mother pours the holy water; the father then places his daughter’s hand in the hand of the groom, as the sacred verses are enchanted in the background.
(And so ladies and gentlemen, the official handover of the seat of power and the reigns of control from the dad to the husband happens!)
From my personal experience, I can tell you that even in fairly modern families where daughters are raised and respected as equals to sons, and the “kanyadaan” is more ceremonial for tradition-sake than actually meaning that the father will no longer have any right on the daughter (and the umbilical cord is forever cut), this is a very very emotional and somber affair during the wedding.
Even though at the back of my mind I knew I was doing this for ritual-sake only, the chants of the priests and the whole ambience – the water, the physical “giving away” - and then when I had to go and sit next to my husband instead of with “my” side of the family - and finally seeing my dad stifle his tears, I thought I’d burst with all the emotions brewing inside or just scream my head off and put a stop there and then!
(Fortunately, or unfortunately, the conformist that I am, none of that happened!)
God, why do weddings have to be so emotionally taxing and exhausting!
And that is precisely the point of this post. Why can’t culture and tradition adapt to the current times. Why go through the elaborate rituals when most of them make little practical sense in the world today, wherein girls are brought up to be as independent as their male counterparts and there is no real need for her to be “taken care of, provided and sheltered” by one man or the other!
C’mon, not that I obeyed my dad to the T before marriage that I need to now “obey” my husband instead. And just because I am married, doesn’t mean dad and mom will mean any less than what they have always meant!
If I am blessed with a daughter, I am not sure I will do this kind of an elaborate and dramatic "kanyadaan” at her wedding, not even for custom-sake. Would you?