Why you should say No to Kanyadaan?

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As a person who hates dressing up for weddings, for me shopping is usually a last minute affair. When I realize that if I delay ordering the lehenga by another day, it may arrive much after the wedding, I shake off my slumber and jump into action, panicking and creating panic for the hubby dearest who would behave like a parent scolding a careless child, reminding me that he had told me to start preparing early, but I being my usual lazy self, did not lend him an ear.

 

So here I was attending a much-awaited wedding. Standing at the altar and observing what was going around, an array of thoughts crossed my mind and I started wondering whether anybody looks happy in this wedding? The parents of the bride? Nah! Poor souls had thrown such a lavish party but could not eat even a single bite because they had to perform kanyadaan. They stood there, having had just a few glasses of water since morning, greeting everyone, smiling and ensuring that nothing goes wrong. The parents of the groom? Nope! They were busy attending to their relatives and worried about the grumpy mausiji from Ambala who was unhappy with the room that she was staying in, as apparently, it did not have much ventilation. The bride? I don’t think so.This young twenty-something girl looked beautiful but was unable to walk properly with the sheer weight of the red and beige zardosi lehenga and the entire paraphernalia of accessories. The groom did not seem very happy either.

 

After wondering for a few minutes and looking at people around, I finally got my answer. The pandit seemed happy and had a genuine smile on his face and why not? He is not related to either of the parties, has to dish out well well-rehearsed shlokas, gets an opportunity to make thousands of bucks within a few hours and goes home happily with all the sweets, gifts and the respect that people give him. Even I was happy too until the moment Panditji performed kanyadaan which not only made me sad but also made me wonder why in this day and age we have to do something so regressive, in the name of culture.

 

Panditji narrated a shloka in his baritone that implied that be it a pauper or a king, having an unwed daughter of marriageable age, makes the parent’s head bow in shame. He then compared the husband and wife relationship to the one with the master and his servant and no one seemed to be offended in the entire gathering, except me. Panditji, the learned man, who gained all this knowledge by interpreting (or I should say misinterpreting) the scriptures. I am sure that the shlokas have been misconstrued by this male chauvinist who dolls out divine wisdom, as he continues to mutter insensitive words. What irked me the most was another line where he said that the girl’s family will always be inferior to the man’s family, simply because they have donated their daughter. I was not only taken aback but got angry to the very core of my being about such insensitive remarks.

 

In this day and age, when we talk about gender equality, shouldn’t we do away with such regressive customs that treat women like a commodity, whose rights are transferred from her father to her husband?

 

Besides, no Veda or Shastra has the mention of this regressive practice of giving away your daughter. According to the renowned feminist Kamla Bhasin, “Kanyadaan is against the Constitution of India. Slavery is long finished. So how can a father give away his daughter, an 18-year-old Indian citizen, to somebody? It should be illegal.” The father gives the hand to the bridegroom which implies that he is handing over an adult to another adult (Doesn’t make sense in my head). According to this learned man, now that the daughter is a bahu, it is imperative for her to change her name and behave the way the owner (in this case the husband) wants. If the very foundation of marriage, is based on the concept of the woman being inferior to the man, how can we question the second class treatment meted out to a woman, after marriage? Many women complain that post marriage they are expected to consider that their parents and family are secondary. This mainly stems from the belief that after marriage her rightful owners have now changed and hence she should be serving them.
 
Very often we do not give enough thought to things because they do not seem important to us or affect our lives directly. However, if we do not question such derogatory practices, they would continue to exist and may bother generations to come, in the name of culture and tradition.

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Deepika Sharma
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Deepika Sharma is the co-founder and editor of thehappywomen.com. She is an author, blogger and someone who feels strongly about the issues that plague married urban women in India, as they struggle with family expectations and societal norms on one hand and their careers on the other. She is the co-author of the book, ​​’Indian Women and the Shaadi Conundrum’ which is a self-help book aimed to guide women and help them tide over the pre and post wedding hulabaloo.

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