Indian author decodes meaning behind wedding rituals

Dubai - ‘Magic of Indian Weddings’ provides a deeper perspective into traditional rituals such as ‘kanyadaan.’



Photos/Supplied
Photos/Supplied
by

Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Sat 16 Oct 2021, 1:22 PM

Last updated: Sat 16 Oct 2021, 6:22 PM

India’s marriage ceremonies are a joyous, colourful, and sometimes tedious affair, filled with ancient traditions and rituals which ‘bond man and wife’ together for several lifetimes. In most states across India, wedding ceremonials go on for days on end with intricately planned, culture-rich festivities.

More recently, young couples in India are opting to do away with archaic customs and are putting a modern spin on a traditional Indian wedding. The Netflix miniseries The Big Day took a close look at India’s multibillion-dollar wedding industry while featuring several couples who steered away from traditional customs and practices.

Magic of Indian Weddings argues on behalf of customs

However, retired government civil servant and author Dr Kiran Chadha’s book Magic of Indian Weddings, released in Dubai on Wednesday, October 13, has delved deep into the genesis of weddings rituals, customs, beliefs and astrological perspectives.

Dr Kiran with Dr Aman Puri and other dignitaries at the launch in Dubai

Dr Aman Puri, the consul general of India to Dubai, was the chief guest at the official UAE release ceremony. Dr Chadha released Magic of Indian Weddings in India on August 10 this year.

Speaking to City Times ahead of her book’s release, Dr Chadha argued on behalf of the ancient customs and said the unique dimensions of age-old traditions have ‘logical and scientific reasoning’.

Dr Chadha, who hails from the hill town of Dalhousie, is a retired government civil servant. After a successful career in the Indian government spanning 36 years, she has worked in the Ministries of Petroleum, Commerce, Defence and Women and Child Development. She has donned many hats throughout her professional career and has written two other books – Echoes of the Heart Dil Se… and Dalhousie…Through my Eyes.

Treasure trove of information

She spent three years working on Magic of Indian Weddings, and Rupa Publishers have published the book. The 374-page book is a treasure trove of information on Indian wedding rituals practised in all states and religions across the country.

“I took two-and-a-half years researching the book,” she said. With 100,000 words, 100 photographs, and 80 illustrations, the book is a ‘timeless saga of the magic and mystique of Indian weddings.’

“Ever since my youth, I have enjoyed weddings. I still enjoy them,” she said. However, whenever Dr Chadha attended a wedding, she would always wonder about the meaning of the rituals. “I would wonder and ask – what do these rituals mean? What is the significance of the sindoor? (traditional vermilion married women wear on the forehead), why are mango leaves used in pujas (worship rituals)? Why do married women wear silver toe rings and anklets in some customs? Even wedding pujaris (priests) weren’t able to explain many of the questions I had,” said Dr Chadha.

“Moreover, while researching, I visited book shops in Delhi, and I couldn’t find a single book on just weddings. Many delved into the economics of weddings, but nothing on the rituals,” she added.

Thus, began Dr Chadha’s quest for answers. “Initially, I only began researching on Hindu weddings. Eventually, I decided to feature all Indian marriage ceremonies across religions and states. The book features Christian, Buddhist, Jain, and even tribal weddings,” she added.

The writer travelled across many states in India and met with religious heads and priests from across the country. “From wedding priests in Meghalaya to Gujarat and from Parsi spiritual leaders to tribal weddings, the book covers every custom and tradition that has ever been conducted in India,” she explained. The book also examines the meaning of various superstitions that surround wedding rituals.

Are Indian wedding rituals archaic? No, argues Dr Chadha. “Children today view weddings as a merry-making affair, and sometimes, the worst-hit are children of divorce. We took vows that make sense but did not try to apply it,” she said.

“Even rituals such as the kanyadaan have scientific meaning. Kanyadaan is not the ritualistic act of the father giving away his daughter. It is the sacrifice the father makes, according to our scriptures. In our life, we sacrifice many things, and it is understood that these sacrifices made by us release us from the cycle of birth and death,” she explained.


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