Rituals and rites for the study of anthropology functioning at levels of individual and society play pivotal role to actually make up the essence of a human existence providing a sense of before and after of human lives. They have positive vibes and effects over the lifestyle of humans being touched by the blessings from the Almighty. Rituals are a way to make and embark a journey of spirituality to bring about a change in the lives and to complete an authentic task (Stein, 2011) requiring the presence of the superpower. The joyful things worth savoring brings about a satisfaction and peace of mind among the lives of people. Rites and rituals are pathways to relive and remember, to honor and to re-enact some of the ancient practices and to live upon some of the historic teachings. Rituals are symbolic of some values and beliefs meant by the ancestors however, the festive group gatherings have become less powerful with the course of time. Modern world practices of ritual have lost their focus and true purpose but they are still alive in some or the other form to uphold the integrity of the set practices. The purpose of participating in a ritual is to reintroduce the lessons of the accessorial heritage, to set up a solemn mood of the harmonious rites and to instill a feeling into inner self and conscious in order to have a judgment of correct manifestations (Bharati, 1971).
Indian weddings are famous all over the world for the rituals practiced for a few days surrounding the grand day and I was really opportunistic to have a chance of attending such wedding of my Indian friend. I was astonished by the series of colors spread across the land of marriage which made me feel lively and vibrant. The vivacious, splendor and extravagantly traditional weddings have various rites and rituals practiced with each of them having a meaning inherent in them and with every rite done with a spiritual purpose. On the day of the wedding, the banquet was decorated with fresh flowers which were a welcoming symbol and also spread fragrance all over the place for a soothing, pleasant experience. These marriage rituals are meant to be sacred in the presence of all the Gods and Goddesses present in the form of pure fire to bless the bride and the groom. The bride and the groom were accompanied by their families which were extended to a limit of awe with even the extended families attending the function to bless the couple. There was a priest who was there to perform some ritual activities for which I was really unsure about. I think he was similar to the father of the church and therefore everybody treated him with respect and honor. There is a tradition to touch the feet of the elders in order to receive their blessings and hence I totally enjoyed a complete fun filled package for me.
The marriage begin one night before when the groom’s home was lightened up with various brightly colored lights and there was a small gathering with people and relatives dancing and enjoying up on the beats of heavy rhythmic and popping music. My friend also danced till the level of extremity and had pegs of alcohol since it was a cocktail party. This was his last day of bachelorhood and hence they were enjoying it in their way. He told me that on the bride’s home there would be an arrangement of applying henna over her hands and then I insisted to visit her place to have a complete experience of an Indian wedding style. Another friend of mine took me to her place with due permission and I was widely welcomed with pomp and show as I was a groom’s friend. They served me with various food items and one of them known as Jalebi with Rasmalai was outstanding. I met the bride who was busy in applying henna and I observed her from a distance. Some the elderly ladies explained me the meaning of this ritual that the henna on the hand of bride is a symbol that she is happily married and the color of the henna is symbolic of the love and bond between the bride and the groom. The charm on the face of the bride with the help of some packs was a symbol of glow and happiness of the bride. I returned to me friend’s place where ladies were singing various peculiar songs accompanies by some musical instrument. Other people were madly dancing on the beats and some of the men were acting like fools making different sounds and doing weird gestures. One of the relative told me that it is a custom of Punjabi’s to get drunk and behave in a peculiar way and hence, nothing is abnormal. The night was full of happening and hip hop and the next day was the wedding. The brother and his wife of my friend got ready for a ceremony to hold water pots over their heads and visit the temple to seek blessings of God. The real meaning of this ceremony was still unknown to me and hence I did not pay much heed towards them in order to enjoy the festivities of the function. In the evening a veil of flowers were tied on the head of my friend and hence he looked alien to me but this also had some secrets behind the curtain and is a form of ritual practiced by the Indians in their weddings. He climbed the horse and the proceedings held further with groom. Some of the people mocked that the groom is given a chance to run away from taking the responsibility. On reaching the venue we were welcomed with a shower of flowers most probably they were the fresh rose petals and this was a sign of respect and love showered over the family and relatives of groom in order to welcome them and greet them with love and regard. This was a beautiful scene and it filled my mind with immense pleasure and happiness. There were numerous food items which depicted the arrangement done by the family of the bride was really appreciative. The bride came and then the ceremony of exchange of flower garlands took place. It was symbolic of exchanging of one’s part with each other and thereby giving a promise of eternal love. Then after some while the priest present called us for some spiritual rites conducted at the late hour of night. Both bride and the groom sat beside a container in which fire flames were coming out and the priest was enchanting some dialects. There were some flowers, leaves, water, rice, color and many other things which were a part of rituals in the ceremony (Bhattacharyya, 1996). Every individual element of the prayer held some importance. The seven steps done each signifies a sign of trust and responsibility of a married couple with both bride and the groom promising certain things to each other to be followed for the entire new life. These promises take the form of a rite and hence are solemnized in the form of rituals practiced since an age long time in Indian culture and traditions. The prayers by all the family members is for the good wishes of the couple and hence they adopt ways of rites and rituals to complete their wishes and blessings.
There are various phases through which each ritual undergoes and most importantly in Indian wedding there are various stages reaching to the final wedding including various ceremonies which sometimes have a religious bend and sometimes are an outcome of fun and enjoyment. The pre ritual stage has various ceremonies leading to the auspicious occasion of marriage. The post stage also have various rites for the bride in the home of her partner where she is regarded as the goddess of good luck, wealth and prosperity. The pre-liminal stage (Pinnock, 1997) is when both the bride and the groom are separate from each other seamlessly integrating into liminal stage wherein transitions, rites and ceremonies are performed and finally resulting into post-liminal stage where all the elements are incorporated into a relation and work hand in hand with each other. For a wedding, pre-liminal stage is for the bride to leave her home entering onto a new place to spend her life, the rituals of the marriage and ceremonies for becoming a couple is the liminal stage and establishing a new life with new philosophies is the post liminal stage of rituals.
There are various objects associated with the rituals carried out on the day of the wedding. As I was totally unware about any ritual therefore, I relied upon my friends or their relatives to make me understand the importance of every ritual which is happening and also let me know about the story behind it. The sacred fire is an evidence of presence of blessings showering from heavens from the good luck of various Gods who are giving regards the newly-wed couple. The fire is the epitome of purity of this relation and it depicts the sanctity (Wadley, 1980) of the bond between the couple. The religious bent of every ritual gives a clear sign of the past traditions followed and the respect in the hearts of people for those age old traditions. Henna, bridal makeup, bridal attire, and every other ritual thing attached with the ceremony is a symbol of bride’s charm, successful married life and blessing for her bright and happy future. The sacred fire is a religious symbol whereas priest is meant to be incarnation of God who ties the strong unbreakable bond of marriage. Sweets are presented in the service of the God to please them so as to give blessings to the couple. Sweets further symbolize adding onto the sweetness in the future life of the married couple. Every symbol holds importance in rituals and hence must be regarded with due respect for the ancestors.
Each of the ritual carried out in the wedding ceremony holds utmost importance according to the Hindu mythology as they seek blessing from their Almighty in the form of offering flowers or sweets to them and by remembering them to undertake a spiritual task for making two lives intertwined with each other. Rituals form a channel and bridge to express some of the emotions which reinforce a bond. They support the status quo and are intimately connected with personal lives in the social life. They are source of prosperity and fertility in the case of wedding and in other scenarios they also form a part of right form of relationship along with the supernatural forces of the Lord to hold the deep rooted values of the ancestral past (Abu-Zahra, 1988). Traditional religions and rituals are a break from the routine ordinary life into the realm of ultimate reality or an evolutionary force which is actually a power symbolized by various symbols and ceremonies taking place during the ritual. Rituals hold a special place as an important ingredient of every auspicious function and rites are the way and manner to carry out the practices of the ritual effectively. The ritual of wedding is really important for giving blessings for a happy future of the couple and hence holds a special place close to their heart. Rituals have their own fun and frolic and hence means a lot to the participants and practitioners. The authenticity and auspiciousness of the wedding is a day worth remembering the whole lifetime.
The rituals and rites for wedding are practiced all over north India and have religious implication to remember God at the time of an important task of the life. In the field of anthropology, socio-cultural implications also affect the way rites are performed (Tomas, 1991) and therefore in the scenario of the wedding taken up for the case study, rituals and rites form a status symbol and enhance the respect in the eyes of the society and to further polish cultural skills. Different cultures in India have different ways of performing a wedding and doing rites which are special to a culture’s identity and integrity. Socially, rituals are a way to catalyze the processes required to solemnize a marriage and rites are the actual activities and the way in which religious practices take place taking care of the values, beliefs and ethics of the society and the requirements of the culture. The ritual is a tool to actually carry out the proceedings and wishes of the religion.
There are mainly six categories defined for the actions and rituals undertaken in good luck tasks. These are, rites performed during the situations of life crisis or difficulty. Commemorative rights are based over certain dates (De Coppet, 2002) to perform some of the set activities during the process of rituals and rites. There is also a regard for rites for affliction and also some of them are widely exemplifying exchange of regards and greetings. Some of the political rituals are also performed which inspire the whole mass. Last but not the least, festivals and feasting rites are famous and they give a high quality experience of actual fun in the rituals. I was highly inspired by the culture and would definitely plan some occasion in my family like a hefty, big, gracious and awestruck culture and setup similar to this Indian wedding. These practices and rites overlap each other and beautify the rituals in the eyes of the society. Establishment of social entity within whole society is also a task and a matter of work for the rituals under practice. Various modes of rituals are well suited and praised rather than an approach which incorporates checklist for the rites and rituals. The modes under use are decorum, magic, celebration, ceremony, ritualization etc. The approaches are suitable both as an individual level and in the eyes of observers because of the diverse modes and moods of the rituals and rites to be undertaken specially for some tasks.
Ritual is a mode of action affecting the lives of the family members in reality going from one phase of functioning to another and marking the events in the society to be remembered lifelong. Participation into rites are a symbol to showcase the social group solidarity (Van Gennep, 2011) and beliefs which have religious bend. Sometimes, it is evident that the rites performed during the rituals are ways to reduce anxiety and potential strokes by sharing the performances, and to enhance a sense of security and to reduce the sense of fear from one’s mind and heart. Rituals and not necessarily religious with various rites being performed as an outcome of a routine practice, a timely ceremony or a sacred activity of social belief and values.
Rituals can be well segregated into main five categories, namely technological, therapy, ideological, salvation and revitalization rituals (Heesterman, 1985). Technological rituals may include rites for predicting the future to gain some hidden information, rites pertaining to intensification and some protective rites to cope up with any situation of uncertainty. Therapy rituals are performed to control the death caused to a human and deterioration of his health with people having curative powers and performing rituals pertaining to witchcraft or sorcery. Ideological rituals contain my chosen ritual of an Indian wedding coming under the subcategory of rites of passage wherein there is a change of role and also geographic movements. Intensification rites ensure that people tend to adhere to the customs and values like the church services on Sunday. Taboos and courtesies to regulate human behavior is also a sub type of the ritual practiced. Rites of rebellion to allow certain people to vent their anger and frustration before starting onto a new life of happiness. Salvation rituals develops and refines the damaged self-esteem principles to gain possession of and individual’s identity monitored by the presence. The mystic experience to adopt a sacred being and to lose personal identity and fame to abandon the saviors of the world and their desires. Revitalization rituals are actually movements and campaigns carried out by the mass to create a better culture or to refine the culture.
Hence, it is evident that rituals and rites play an integral part of the society and a component which is deeply rooted into the soil of religion especially in India. And therefore, I was lucky to have an opportunity to be able to an Indian Punjabi wedding which seemed and proved to be one of the best experiences of my life with my eyes awestruck with the hues and lights, my ears beating onto the rhythm of the instruments, and my heart which is jumping and pounding over the beats to celebrate the essence of marriage. Various rituals and symbols forms a part of the wedding and each have a special meaning attached to it which is both of an individual’s and social benefit. Rituals always showcase mutual benefit and development by keeping care of the ancestral religions and social development of an individual. Hence, rituals are embedded deeply into the culture of the society and the seeds of rites are germinated on the onset of any auspicious new task which require blessings from the Lord and from the elders too.
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