When visiting any country, it helps to understand the basic customs of the culture. The basic rites associated with birth and marriage are covered here. Understanding these basic attitudes, as well as those regarding death, will foster understanding from visitors to this country.
Central to Hindu society is the joining of two families through arranged marriages. Adolescent girls offer negotiated dowries to the selected husband and the two are married. This is more than a joining of two people; it is a joining of two families. Money, land, tradition and social convenience all play a part in this union.
India is slowly moving into the modern world in regards to marriage. Education and more widely available birth control methods have given women more say in who they will marry and why. As women gain more control of their own lives, the middle class is showing an increased tolerance of marriages for love. Before long arranged marriages may become rituals of the past.
Rituals surrounding fertility range from making offerings at naga shrines dedicated to the snake-god of fertility to donating black stones to an ancient cactus at Calcutta’s Kali temple. When a woman in Rajasthra dons a pido, a yellow veil with a large red dot, it announces her accepted pregnancy by her community.
Male children are honored in Indian society. When a boy is born, conch shells are blown in Bengal and Assam and drums are beaten in Maharashtra. When a girl is born, the women of Rajasthan hide behind their veils and wail loudly.
In traditional Hindu homes throughout the country of India, an ancient ritual to invoke the producing of a male child is still performed over pregnant women. In a society where it appears women are starting to make strides, it is still evident that they are considered second-class citizens.