THE INDIAN FAMILY
India is a country of traditions. One of those traditions is: family comes first. It’s that simple. The importance of the family unit and unity goes back thousands of years. Before any important decision is made, the elder members of the family will have a say. In India, the family is there for you. But first of all, you are there for your family. You study hard, and work all your life to make your family strong, proud and wealthy.
What is a joint family? In a joint family brothers and sisters, with their wives, live together in one house, with their parents. Often three or even four generations live under one roof: grand parents, parents, children and grand children. The eldest male is called the ‘patriarch’. With every important decision, his vote will decide. Even if his sons are married with children, the sons still obey their father. And the sons’ wives will listen to their mother in-law. When the ‘patriarch’ dies, the children sometimes leave with their families to other places.
It doesn’t always work well. There may be quarrels over property and money. But the Indian family is very strong. In Indian culture, you do not live for yourself, you live to serve your family.
However, times change. Today, most families in the big city live in small apartments. There is only space for a mother, father and their offspring. They visit and support their parents and brothers and sisters, but they can not live together.
When you visit a wedding in India, it becomes clear that marriage is once in a lifetime. Parents will often save up for ten or twenty years to pay for a beautiful weddings for their child. Divorce is not common like it is in Europe or America. Only 6% of Indian marriages break up, compared to almost 40% in Britain and 48% in America.
Indians love fairy tale weddings with lovely gifts and many guests. Even at a normal wedding you may see over a thousand guests! Let’s step into a traditional Hindu wedding and discover how most Indians get married. What do we see?
The bridegroom is seated on a beautiful white horse. His face is covered by flowers that hang down from the turban on his head. Loud music is playing, and all of the bridegroom’s friends are dancing to the music with all their might. Their celebration even stops the traffic in the street. But they don’t see the cars. They are laughing and singing.
The bride is not in white but in red! She wears a beautiful sari and gold jewellery around her wrists and her neck. Her hands and arms are covered with patterns of henna paint. She looks like a princess. Soon the groom arrives, and the guests gather around. The bride and groom come closer, and give each other colourful flower garlands. Next, the groom’s father showers flower petals on their heads. The bride receives a necklace which means that she is now a married woman.
Once the food is served, only close relatives remain for the second part. The bride and bridegroom sit down near a fire. They say their marriage vows to each other before the priest. Then the priest ties a part of the grooms suit to the bride’s sari, and leads them around the fire seven times. By doing that they are saying to each other: In all the stages of life, we will be united; we will be together.