Monday, May 30, 2016

We need to understand, analyze and evaluate all traditions and rituals.

I was born and brought up in a conservative Hindu family, there were many rituals and traditions which were followed in our family for generations, and as a child, I used to participate in them or observe them with a lot of curiosity and interest. One thing always surprised me that no one around me actually knew the real reason or logic behind why we follow certain traditions or perform certain rituals. They just did it because it was a practice followed by their ancestors. If at all anyone raised any question, then the standard answer, "This is what our ancestors did, there must be some reason behind it and therefore we need to continue doing this." While this answer was enough to snub a curious child but it is not a rational and logical explanation to quench the thirst of an inquisitive mind. There were many questions which remained unanswered for a long time, few of them are: why to fast only on a particular day? Why not to eat meat during some religious festivals? If meat is that bad, then why people eat it at all? How come it's good to eat it on a particular day but not good on any of those so called auspicious occasions? Why women are not allowed to worship during their menstrual cycle? Why to feed rice only to crows among all birds to pacify soul of dead people? There were many questions like this and I tried to find answers to many of them on my own. Actually, it is not that difficult to search for answers to many of these questions, mostly it is a matter of applying some common sense and look at the social and economic environment at that time. But, the first necessary step is to ask a question, if your faith stops you from asking these questions, then you may never be able to find any answers related to any of these things.

Many of these traditions were result of some sort of social needs of that era, sometimes it was combination of medical, hygiene and some economic reasons. It makes lots of sense if we analyze these things with respect to that time, but things don't look that rational and logical when we do the same things today without even evaluating if we need to practice these things today or not? Without the availability of personal hygiene products, menstruation can be a difficult thing to handle, maybe that time it made sense to quarantine menstruating women and forcing them to rest. Occasional fasting can be good for our health, so it made sense to fast few days of the year. Rice was easy and cheap agricultural product and crow was one of the abundant bird species which never attained the status of being a pet bird, so maybe it was a great idea to have some ritual where everyone can feed this ignored bird so that they also survive. Meat is a very tasty food, people eating meat might get addicted to its taste and consume it in very unhealthy amounts, that's why they might have restricted consumption of meat on some particular days. Understanding and analyzing these things is very necessary and we all should do it. We can go on like this, finding some kind of explanation or reasoning for each ritual and tradition, but this is not at all the reason to practice these things blindly in today's world.

It doesn't make sense to restrict women from worshiping during menstruation when proper means are available to deal with personal hygiene. Healthy diet is important, with so much of medical advice available, what and how much food one should eat should be a personal choice. Like this we can rebut most of these outdated practices to which people tend to cling just because it is part of their culture. Cultural heritage is undoubtedly something we should study and preserve for the reference of our future generations, but we should not get trapped into it and stop moving forward. So please try to understand and analyze each and every tradition or ritual, try to find logic and reasoning behind it, learn from these things and try to apply them today, if they are outdated then don't hesitate to discard them, if they need any change then change them, but please don't get stuck in the web of cultural dogma. This heritage and knowledge should act as a launching pad of future discoveries and progress.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

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