The Aryans, were the originators of Hindu religion and culture and their books of religion relating to prayers, hymns, music, medicine, rituals were incorporated in the Vedas. Besides the Vedas, the Upanishads were the most important being the main source of philosophy, of Indian civilization and of theology. The 300 or so known Upanishads were the backbone of our society.
The Puranas were the other important treaties which gave religious and ritualistic details of the Aryan civilization containing in detail moral codes, traditions and expected standards of responsibility, behavior and respect towards family members and society for all classed, from royalty to the Shudras. This was the period when society was divided into four castes, based on occupations only. It was not hereditary at all. The epics of Ramayan and Mahabharata belong to this period of Aryan supremacy, when respect for elders, giving up their life for family honour, love and responsibility towards family, immediate and enlarged, were the expected duties of this conventional society.
The moral codes laid down towards family further evolved late in the 19thCentury when ‘Sati’, the ritual of the wife burning herself on her husband’s prey, was banned, but child marriages continued. It is only now that laws have been forcefully implemented to stop this disturbing practice. However it is still being practiced in the rural areas of the Hindi speaking belt. The practice of bigamy or having several spouces despite being married earlier is also being strictly implemented but unfortunately, our country’s legal luminaries practice double standards, having a different set of laws for Hindus, Christians and others while allowing the followers of Islamic faith to have several wives. This blatant use of liberality is one of the prime reasons that the Muslim population is growing rapidly adding to the already groaning and beyond control population explosion. The deliberate misuse of religious dogma and fundamentalism is a cancer for the country. The educated class amongst them need to come forward and teach the majority of lower class and illiterate about these wrong practices.
The advent of the 21stCentury has seen our society and civilization in a dilemma with family life. The exposure to Western media and materialism has created a new generation of selfish persons. They are only interested in their immediate family and the moment these persons get married or even before, when they reach the self-supporting stage, they try to move away from the parents, forgetting their responsibilities.
The tendency is to find faults with their elders and creating a situation where the parents feel that they are a burden to their children. The very children for whom they have made sacrifices all their life, showered them with love and affection, burning the midnight oil when they were sick and even selling off their property to ensure good, quality education for them. The same children ill-treat them like burden and in several cases like unpaid servants, to fetch groceries and vegetables, to collect milk from the milk booth, to fetch their grandchildren from school and to be receptible to change of their moods, usage of harsh words and faultfinding. All this for a few scraps of leftover food and a roof over their heads. It’s a tragic shame that our morality and family life, has stooped to this level of traditions which the more developed countries envy, are withering away.
The wish for materialistic life leaves no time even for their children. With husbands busy minting money by hook of crook. Wives busy flaunting their wealth at kitty parties, social gatherings and shopping with their parents busy, these young children are left in the hands of hired help and grow up to be drunkards, drug addicts and debauches.
The traditional way of marriage handed down to us over millenniums, is slowly getting out of vogue. The need for speed has resulted in cutting down, even totally elimination the rituals. Marriage is a religious ceremony awarded the highest respect amongst Hindus, with religious incantations, invoking the presence of God and presuming the Fire God as witness taking the vows by the couple. The husband promises to look after, respect and for all purpose treat his wife as ‘Ardhangini’. The wife is taught to treat her husband as God and to promise fidelity, obedience and respect for her husband. It was how Indian marriages were made to last, the wife was the homemaker, the goddess ‘Lakshmi’s incarnation, a boon to the family who brought the blessings of the goddess to the household. Unfortunately, the conception has totally undergone a sea change.
The second category is the professional, who is interested in dowry compatible with his job and earning power, but he wants a wife who is also capable of supplementing his already bloated income further with her earnings from a job. He is looking for the qualified professional bride. Today, with a more professional approach one would have expected a healthier, progressive attitude towards women as a logical outcome of evolution but our society seems to have bounced back to the former status. The liberal attitude towards working women is limited to their earnings only. The Indian men needs his wife’s salary to savour the goodies, yet he does not accept her independence and she has to face the suppressed anger, taunts and humiliation of her man. He will need the slightest excuse and generally none at all to come home in a state of intoxication and release his frustrated bottled up anger on the overworked wife.
There in an increase in torture, beatings and burnings alive newly wed brides. These have given rise to a new term, ‘dowry deaths’ and has been seriously taken up as a malody, which needs to be acted against strongly and eradicated totally. In an egalitarian society like ours, where husband and wife complement each other, where men and women have equal rights and where marriages are for a life time, this problem is a blot, being given increasing publicity in developed countries. In our male dominated society, the greatest casualty in the modern age has been women, what is more surprising is that women are the greatest enemies of women. The sister-in-laws and mother-in-laws join hands with the menfolk in tormenting the bride and distorting the amiable atmosphere of the family.
All this insanity has created a different outlook in the emancipated young generation of women today. Having children, giving birth to them, is natural act for women but to conceive, husbands are not a necessity. Seeking freedom from bondage and ill treatment, these women are planning families at their convenience. They have a concept of having a single child in their late twenties. The prerequisites of a family has been defined by them “it takes two to have a happy family and it is the turn of men now to realize their emotional responsibility to their family”.
The effects of years of masculine subjugation has started taking its toll. A famous author has defined the male-female relationship in our country as “before marriage, the Indian male, prunes and preens himself, trying to present his best facade before his best before his object of love. He is ready to cater to her slightest wishes and will beg for her hand. This same male is transformed once he becomes her husband. He will forget his promises of giving her equal rights, will assert himself, restrict her independence and behave for all purpose as a macho”.
The western concept is fast influencing our civilization and the institution of marriage is one the decline and divorces on the increase. Today, a large number of women in the metros prefer to be single mothers avoiding the hassles of matrimony. They have realized that they can face the responsibility of motherhood alone, even outside marriage without facing the hassles that go with Indian marriages. Births without the hassles show that many couples are rejecting traditions today. They live together, have children but have no belief in nuptial ties. With both free to leave anytime they feel that they are no more compatible with each other.
The Unit3ed Nations has reviewed this new concept, now accepted the world over considered it to be a negative aspect of modern day civilization. “The transition from traditional to modern society is characterized by a profound transformation in family and community life, perhaps for the worst”. This is definitely affecting our society too, setting bad examples before the young and gullible and is fast speeding up the disintegration of age old moral values. This attitude will also affect the nation because it is a civilization which motivates the progress of a country. An earlier statement by a UN Secretary General adds “By creating a wide pool of human and financial resources, families encourage economic progress. By caring for family members and the society, social welfare is encouraged”.
The need of the hour is of going back to our age old tested, traditional family life. The scourge of dowry needs to be eliminated and the purity of a marriage alliance with invocations and incantations needs to be respected. This can only happen with respect for each other and accepting moral and emotional responsibilities. The Hindus way of life is a 4000 year old tradition which has successfully set examples before the world.
The problem of AIDS being faced by us is also a result of our moving away from the purity of marriage. Let us prove to the world, the efficacy of our family system which is probably the only ray of hope in our world today of materialism, sex and violence.