Kanyadaan is not relevant in today’s age (or is it?)

 

Kanyadaan is an emotional moment for every parent. Just before giving me away (part of me chokes as I revisit that memory) to my husband my father was washing my husband’s feet!!

That right! The idea being that my husband is Lord Vishnu incarnate and that my father was giving away his precious daughter to the gods themselves!

In North Indian customs too, they perform the ‘shuddhi’ ritual of washing the feet of the bride and groom. Then the father of the bride places his daughter’s palm in the hands of the groom. The symbolism of ‘kanya’ aka ‘virgin’ being given away for ‘daan’ is complete. Do you see where I am going with this?

Problemlematic Indian rituals #101

Asking a father of the bride to wash the groom’s feet is scarring, to every daughter. It does not show humility, it shows supplication. This one needs a change urgently.

The ritual of calling a bride ‘kanya’ or a virgin, is one that smacks of patriarchy. Is the groom a virgin? Why is virginity so important?

‘Daan’ literally means giving away or donate. Now that child marriages are banned, it is time we change this term that harks back to an era when 10 year olds were being married. After all the modern woman is nothing like those dependent, undereducated women of the yore.

Change

This custom needs a desperate revisit. Just like we did away with sati, or ritualistic animal slaughter, or child marriage- can we upgrade the software of kanyadaan to suit modern day sensibilities?

When we asked our readers, we were flooded with responses. Here are some responses:

Nah!

 “It is a shreshta daan. She will become the heart and soul of the other family too for the rest of her life,” says Sonali Patil, mother to an infant girl. 

“It is the most emotional moment of a wedding, the toughest for a dad, as he is giving away his princess with hopes abundant to a groom he believes is the right match for her. Kanyadaan is extending gifts of prosperity and happiness to her new home and also telling the groom to protect and care for her, unconditionally as she was by her dad,” says Krithika Ramesh, even though she is a feminist to the core.

“Mighty Sun stops for a second to witness the magnitude of this daan. Proud are the parents who are lucky to have daughters to do kanyadaan for. That’s what we say,” says Sneha Jitani mother to a boy.

“Father sharing his daughter with another family to complete it, is a godly gesture,” says Susmita, mother of two girls.

Yay!

 “Girls are not objects to be given away. How can one ‘donate’ a part of themselves for a noble cause for tradition?” asks Anumeha.

“Kanyadaan is an outdated ritual in today’s times. Then people should be ready to accept putra daan from groom’s parents as well,” says Sangeeta Lakshman, mum to two lissome girls.

“I am definitely not willing to do a kanyadaan of my daughter. How did it become a custom?” questions Dhanya Prasanna Iyer mother to a 9 year old daughter.

“After kanyadaan parents never show their right over their daughter. They won’t eat food at her house.. stay at her house.. that is ridiculous,” says an exasperated Rizoota Kashyap Chaubey, mum to a one year old daughter.

Origins of Kanyadaan

Kanyadaan is a social custom that is representative of the times it evolved in. Around 2000 years ago. It is said that the social system became very aligned towards having male progeny or boys because the lighting of the pyre by them ensured moksha to parents.

In order to compensate the parents of the girl child, the ‘brahmins’ came up with a rule book that stated that kanyadaan is equally if not more sacred. Doing this would ensure that parents of girl offspring would also attain moksha. 

Ps: moksha – release from the cycle of rebirth impelled by the law of karma, merging with the universal God.

Hastamilaap instead of Kanyadaan: Software upgrade in progress

Popular mom-blogger Anju Gandhi was inundated with responses when a couple of years ago she decided that she is going to do away with the word kanyadaan for her daughter’s wedding.

She categorically told the pandit not to use the word kanyadaan. “The pandit stood there with stunned expression and open mouth, but for a change I was very firm in my stand,” she writes. Because of her insistence, the word was changed to Hast Milap, and the word kanyadaan was not used throughout the ceremony. 

Our view:

As parents we need to realise when a custom has outlived its validity and take a stand to change it. 

 

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