Regressive Indian wedding rituals: Who doesn’t love to be a part of a desi wedding? It is a beautiful amalgamation of our rich culture, it brings friends and family together, it also gives us a chance to deck up and eat till our stomachs give up on us. A traditional Indian wedding celebrates togetherness until… the sexist rituals come back to haunt you.
Call it “woke” evolution or a simply realignment of our sensibilities, it is no longer possible for us to look the other way, when we come across a wedding ritual that finds its roots in patriarchy and sexism and not the idea of bringing two individuals together for a lifetime. No amount of zari, makeup, photoshop or peppy music can cover the repressiveness of the rituals.
So here are some regressive Indian rituals that are steeped in casual sexism and misogyny, that we need to do away ASAP:
1. The Haldi Ceremony
Turmeric is India’s pride and joy, in Indian weddings, the Haldi ceremony is extremely important. It is a ritual typically done for the beautification of the bride before the wedding, being an antiseptic, turmeric is an amazing ingredient for skincare, and I am all for it until the superstitious plot twist overshadows this idea of a healthy skin for bride and groom.
It is believed that Haldi also wards off evil and keeps the married couple blessed. What is that even supposed to mean? That if any thing goes wrong between a newly married couple, the onus of it lies on buri nazar and not incompatibility? Can we stop cooking up formulas for a successful marriage, because seriously there is no such thing. People are either compatible, or not. They are either committed to making a relationship work, or not. These factors determine the future of a relationship and a generous coating of Haldi on your cheeks can’t change that.
This ceremony is basically about putting the bride in quarantine for a day. After getting the Mehendi done the bride is strictly prohibited to go outside, despite sitting for hours rooted to a place, getting mehendi on her hands and feet. Now the problematic thing about this is that the bride must have her husband’s name engraved on her hands. Why? Is she a piece of property that needs to be put in a man’s name? What makes this ritual sexist is that it is mostly for brides.
Also, even the colour of the final mehendi is said the be a forecast on the bride and groom’s relationship. The darker the colour, the more loving and long-lasting their relationship will be. So by this logic, the longevity of a marriage depends not a couple mutual chemistry, but that between a brides hands and Mehendi.
Popular among north-Indian wedding rituals, newly wedded brides are supposed to be wearing these huge bangles for the duration till their first anniversary or when they have a baby. Notice how conveniently all these rituals are targeted towards women only? A woman is expected to go about her daily routine, work and household chores while having to mange these bangles. One can only imagine the amount of extra energy a woman has to put into her daily life, constantly being mindful of her bangles.
A pinch of vermilion is all it takes for a woman’s status to change in the society, In fact its presence or lack of it is used to determine the kind of wife a woman is. Wearing sindoor is seen as a sign of a sanskari married woman, who wears her marital identity on her forehead.
The problem doesn’t lie with sindoor, as it is a matter of a woman’s choice, whether or not she wants to wear it. The problem is how society strong-arms married women into wearing it, using everything from shaming, oppression, scrutiny etc to let women know that wearing sindoor will make their lives easier, while choosing not wear it will cast a question on their character and dedication towards their husband.
Similar to sindoor, a mangalsutra is exclusively worn by married women in India. There is no such ornament for men curiously. Why does society demand women to wear their marital identity on their body? Why are men exempted from this practice? However instead of providing answers to these questions, society simply shrugs them off by saying, yeh to riwaj hain and thus you are expected to follow them blindly.
I was talking to my mom about how I wouldn’t cry at my wedding. After all it’s supposed to be a happy day for me, getting married to a man of my choice, starting a new chapter and all… To my shock, my mom immediately cringed at this thought. She said, “Wouldn’t you be sad while leaving us?”
Sandly, Indian parents still believe that once a daughter is married, she doesn’t “belong” to her parents. This is so untrue, especially in this day and age. I know I’ll be back whenever my parents need me or I need them, then why should I fake tears to convince the world that I will miss them? When I told this to my mother, I heard an even more frustrating term called “shagun ke do aansu” which translates to tears of good luck. Apparently it considered a good thing for a bride to
All these traditions need to be given serious thought by the ones planning to perform these. Are these regressive Indian wedding rituals really justified? Or are we simply doing these as they are handed down to us without a reason.
The views expressed are the author’s own.
We request you to support our award-winning journalism by making a financial contribution towards our efforts. Your funds will ensure we can continue to bring you amazing stories of women, and the impact they are making and spotlight half the country's population because they deserve it.