India is a country in South Asia renown for it vast geographical terrain as well as its high population in the world. It is also a country with a variety of cultures ranging from the religious, social and regional traditions. Hinduism stands out as the most practiced, as well as the oldest religion, standing on three pillars; polytheism (a belief in many gods), pantheism (god in everything) and theism (a belief in a personal god) (Rajbali, 17). It is within this religion that a majority of the cultures and traditions of the Indians lie. Among these religious cultures, are a series of sacraments collectively known as the samskaras. These are the sanctification and purification rites associated with the various stages of life, from conception to death.
There are around 16 samskaras. They are as follows: The Garbhadhana (conception ritual), the Punswana (fertilization ritual), the Seemantonnayana (safe delivery), Jatkarma (the birth ceremony), Namkarana (naming the baby), Niskramana (sunbathing the baby) and the Annaprashana (weaning ceremony) (vedantacharya 20). Then there is the Chudakarma (shaving ritual), Karnavedha (ear piercing), Upanayana (thread ceremony), and the Vedarambha (initiation). The adolescent is then taken through the Samavartana (the commencement of the study of Vedas). Then there is the wedding ceremony, the Vivaha, the Awasthyadhana, a ceremony during the wedding, the Tretagnisangraha, a ritual for the commencement of the family and finally the Antyeshti which is funeral rite.
The vivaha particularly stroke a great deal of interest through its rich display of fashion, the saris and the sherwani worn by the bride and the groom, the dances, and the entire venue set-up left such an effect on me. During the ceremony, the families and priests of both sides make an ajya oblation into the sacrificial fire, and then the groom grabs the hands of the bride, taking her three times around the fire in a ceremony called the Pani-Grahanam. On the last round, the groom makes the bride step on the stones surrounding the fire, a sign of their steadfast love. Then there is the sapta-padi where the two take seven steps to the north, symbolizing their companionship. The wedding is preceded by numerous sacrifices, with the fourth day Garbhadhana, where the two consummate the marriage. The step by step processions couples up with the sacrifices, the dressing up, the presence of the clergy and the environment created all symbolize the sacred institution marriage is. The site of gold on the saris and the numerous jewellery on the bride bring into the picture the theme of royalty even in the most humble of situations.
Given a chance to visit India, I would love to visit the city of Delhi, which is a metropolitan area, yet rich in the material as well as the non-materialistic cultures of the natives. Of the various places and sites of interest are the red fort, the India gate, the old fort, and the Qutab Minar. I would love to get to taste the meals within the region, take part in a few religious activities, especially the temple visits and try on some of the designs by different designers. The one thing that drew me in into the Indian culture is their fashion when it comes to clothing, cosmetics, and jewels. Then there was their food, creatively prepared with pepper to bring a taste that confuses the taste buds. Cultural diversity has made the worlds an ocean of varying thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and customs; therefore, when interested in studying the culture different from one's own, a great deal of appreciation is paramount.
Rajbali P. Hindu Saskaras: Socio-religious Study of the Hindu Sacraments, 2nd Edition, Motilal Banarsidass. 2013. Pp. 15-16
Vedantacharya S. S. Sixteen Samskaras. Shree Narnarayan printing press. 2010. Pp. 13-43.
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