By Richa P
I wouldn’t call myself a religious person, perhaps someone who is spiritual. I mean I do believe in a higher being, but I am not sure exactly who/what that is. I identify as being Hindu, more the cultural Hindu than the religious Hindu. There is a difference between those two. However, after spending a month in Nepal, especially during the Dashain and Tihar festivities, I have been thinking more about traditions and rituals in families, societies, and religions.
There are so many different kinds of traditions and rituals. It seems like there is something for every occasion, both religious and non. For example, almost everyone makes the same dishes during Dashain & Tihar and I am talking about more than sel roti (rice flour fried donut). I guess this is a combination of cultural traditions that are part of religious rituals. Does that make sense? Another example of a specific tradition is how during some holidays, one can only eat certain foods (i.e. only steamed sweet potatoes and yams). We also have the tradition of taking fasts (either once a week, during certain religious holidays, when someone passes away).
My first wedding was unique because we had a very small ceremony that didn’t really follow any religious rituals. No doubt we created our own traditions, but I really wanted to have a Nepali Hindu ceremony. It has a lot of rituals, small details to bigger ones. Again this year, when we went back to celebrate our union, we didn’t have a Hindu ceremony because it was not the month to get married in the religious calendar. I was really disappointed in that, but at our wedding reception, we did some rituals. For example, Chris put the sindhoor on me, a red vermilion powder that goes between the part of my hair, this signifies that I am a married women. Hindu married women wear this. Though I have noticed that less women wear it everyday. He also put a tilhari (a thick beaded necklace with a gold pendant) on me, again only married women wear this. What I really wanted to do, more than having the whole Hindu ceremony itself was to partake in the Seven Steps ritual. In Hindu weddings, the bride and groom (attached in someway) go around the sacred fire seven times. Each round signifies one aspect of their commitment to each other. Here are what the steps mean:
With the first step, we will provide for and support each other.
With the second step, we will develop mental, physical & spiritual strength.
With the third step, we will share the worldly possessions.
With the fourth step, we will acquire knowledge, happiness and peace.
With the fifth step, we will raise strong and virtuous children.
With the sixth step, we will enjoy the fruits of all seasons.
With the seventh step, we will always remain friends and cherish each other.
I find this ritual to be very beautiful because it signifies their commitment to each other, but also to their growing family. No matter what, our celebration was very unique and the party itself was very nice.
Though, there are some traditions I definitely don’t like and would rather not participate in (i.e menstruation traditions). I don’t like the traditions that surround widowed women either, no colors, no jewelry, not having the ability to live their own lives the way they want. I hate the fact that married woman’s identity is only her husband’s and when he dies, she becomes “no one.” Anyway, I’ll leave that topic for another post. This trip made me appreciate the traditions that people have, that cultures do, that religions make way for. It made me love Nepal even more. Even during this time of crisis, these traditions and rituals made the country more joyous, even if it was only for a few days. It made people think less about their suffering and focus more on celebrating. Some traditions and rituals bring people together, they are meaningful, they create joyous memories, and they are fun to do. I hope to create my own meaningful traditions when I start my own family (not quite ready but in a few years) and incorporate some of my Nepali & Hindu ones.
*What are your favorite traditions in your family & society? Which ones do you dislike? Please share!