Tuesday, July 21, 2009

KANYADAAN---- DONATION OF YOUR DAUGHTER?????

While going through a book on Hindu culture I came across a passage,
The ritual of Kanya Daan is considered very auspicious in Hindu religion. It is a very pious and dutiful ritual which is said to bring fortune as well as relief from the sins for the bride's parents.. Kanyadaan means when the father hands over all his rights and duties towards his daughter to her prospective groom. This way the father gives her daughter as a gift to the groom. As per tradition, groom is considered a form of Lord Vishnu. Thus, presenting him gifts is deemed as the greatest honor for the parents of the bride. As a result, they offer their daughter to the groom, who is their most cherished gift. As a symbol of acceptance, the groom touches the right shoulder of the bride, promising to take care of her and holding her responsibility”

And this was followed by a hot discussion with my mother in law who like millions of Indians believe that If you don’t do Kanyadaan in your life you will not get salvation from the sins of present life.

I just couldn’t digest this belief and what I had read earlier.

Firstly the world Daan (which literary means to donate) is so humiliating. How can anyone donate one’s daughter to anyone? Is the daughter or in general women a commodity which can be donated or gifted to anyone?

And why should she be gifted. The whole concept doesn’t appeal to me at all. Marriage is supposed to be meeting of souls, two persons, two families and in marriage both the partners are equal. So how can a father or mother just give away their daughter as alms to someone?

When a boy and a girl is getting married then why not have Putradaan (give away the son) why only Kanyadaan?

And how can parents think that after the marriage ceremony of their daughter “we have done the Kanyadaan, we have got our daughter married off so our place in heaven is fixed ” .How can parents think that they can just give away their child who was with them for almost 20 or more years, who was a part of them and become so insensitive towards their own daughter.

I am not trying to hurt any one’s religious sentiments but I feel insulted when women are degraded like this.

I am sure many of the grooms and their parents must really be thinking that the girl’s parents are actually getting rid of their child and the groom’s family is obliging the girl’s family by accepting the Kanyadaan. Not only they are getting some material thing ( the bride) as the girl’s parents give so many other things in the form of Dowry along with the girl and that could be the reason for the miserable status of many of the women

When parents themselves treat their own child as commodity how can they expect some strangers to respect their daughter?

I wonder why the women’s organizations or the ones who are fighting for women’s rights are not raising their voice against use of this terminology.

I told my mother in law that I am not in favour of this ceremony and use of this derogatory word and I will not do Kanyadaan.

I am a strong believer of following all the customs but only from the angle of enjoying the marriage function and to bring some excitement, fun and celebrations and make it a festive occasion. And I may follow the ceremony where the Pundit will ask me and my husband to keep my daughter’s hand in her groom’s hand but not because we will be doing Kanyadaan (NO WAY I WILL NEVER DONATE MY DAUGHTER TO ANY ONE. SHE IS AND SHE REMAINS AN INTEGRAL PART OF US) but only with the intention to join their hands and with the prayer that they remain together all through their life and face the struggles, the happy moments, the sad moments etc as one being and with each other.
I do believe in the sanctity of marriage and responsibilities, duties, commitments, loyalty and faithfulness which are part and parcel of married life but I am against the use of the word KANYADAAN

35 comments:

Milan Mehta said...

Excellent. I love the word "putradaan". I wish there was such a thing although it might technically be called "putradaan" if you get a "Ghar Jamai". I think the word "Kanyadaan" evolved from the fact that the girl leaves her parents house and lives with his significant other.
But i agree that the word "Daan" is kind of corny.....

AnjuGandhi said...

Milan that again raises a topic for discussion. why should the girl always leave her parent's house and live with her husband? why can't the boy leave his house and stay with the wife? I know this is quite a revolutionary idea and this tradition is acceptable all over the world except for the ones who follow matrilocal form of marriage.

Milan Mehta said...

Its a great thought. I don't know where the idea of the girl leaving her parents house to live with her husband but i guess its an established norm in society which people have been following for years. Not so say it can be changed but it would take good hard work to get an acceptance in the society

Queenmothermamaw said...

One of my granddaughters had an Indian girl for a friend while in middle school. The girl had come to the US with her family when her father became head of one of the Industries in our county. She had been in the US her entire school life and knew she would go back to India to marry a young man, she did not know, that had been arranged by their families. I find it hard to understand how the girl educated in this country would fit into the old traditional life of the young man who had never left India. I love to learn about different cultures.
QMM

Shruti SriHarsha said...

I cried a lot the day I got married and was about to leave for my hsband's house. That moment, all I was thinking was, I had lived with my parents for 20 odd yrs and now, am no more going to be living with them ( there was a sick feeling in my stomach)..This is the REALITY. I visit them at times and miss them a lot....I still question often " why is it only the girl gets to leave her family and stay with husband / In laws?" who did this rule?
This is cos, I miss living or being with my parents....Am not sure how much of Kanyadaan is "Considered auspicious" or whatever....
The concept or the idealogy our ppl follow, will never change...am unhappy at times.

hitchwriter said...

Thing with the word putradaan is no one would accept it.... lol...

daan of only good commodities is accepted... lol ...

PEOPLE, PLACES, VOICES, FACES... said...

Hi Anju,
Nice to have seen you on Faces I've Seen. Hope to see you soon on some of my other blogs.
I've thought about Kanyadaan too (I guess all mothers of daughters would have to at some time or the other) and have found the thought humiliating too.

Having grown up into a Sikh family, I fortunately did not need to think about my father performing my daan. But married to a brahmin, now, I cringe at the thought of my husband having to touch his to-be-son-in-law's knee and ask that he be allowed to donate his daughter and that his daughter be received...you know how the mantra goes.

ZiLliOnBiG said...

the society i live, in Kerala are very different. i think this is mainly in North India.

We(Menon/Nair of kerala are equal to probably sharma, gupta, in the north, the most prominent caste) have a Matriarchal society, where my SIR NAME is derived from my mothers family name.In our society matriarchal side of the family is more important than the fathers side.Mama plays the most important role, after father of course.

I agree about the degrading part. Why a daan?

read this wonderful article by my friend Santanu Dada.You would sure like his memoirs.TC nice post.

http://santanusc.blogspot.com/2009/05/kudali-tazhathaveedu.html

Ketan said...

Anju ma'am,

Nice post! Now I've figurede out how to wade through your blog without hassles using even my cell phone. So, you'll see me more often.

In olden days, I think (and still to a great extent in India), men were the one thought to be able to 'run' the family and the society. Women were merely seen to be in assisting role. This was so because without the advent of industrial revolution, physical strength and endurance were the source of all 'productivity' in the civilizations--agriculture, hunting, defending household against criminals, fighting wars (??), taming animals, etc. So no wonder, males were bestowed with the responsibility to 'inherit' their parents' legacy. So they won't leave the houses. And the women were in general respected less.

But with advancement of science, industrial revolution, dissemination of knowledge (education), brute force was no more the quality most admirable. Rather it started getting frowned upon. The new set of qualities that are respected are: intelligence, creativity, perseverence, planning, specialized manual skills (surgery, jewelry designing, etc.), which are seen distributed between both the genders in comparable measures (maybe). That's why the countries that are most industrialized are more advanced also in terms of gender equality. I believe, as India progresses further industrially and educationally, women would come to be respected more and more.

Religion is nothing but an embodiment of values we ourselves cherish and hold dear. If old practices--sati, killing brides for dowry, child sacrifice--seem savage, cruel and sinister--that's only because people following them were that way.

However much we respect our religious scriptures and try to deny the fact, we've to remember, they were written by people like you and me. What is written in the scriptures reflects nothing but the moral fabric of the society in general--those writing them, and those willing to follow them.

As a simple example, if you're the principal of a school, the rules you frame will be a reflection of your vision for your students, and if parents choose to send their kids to your school, it'd only imply they share your vision for their kids.

Hope this much of ranting is enough for one comment, and that it doesn't miff you much! :)

TC.

Ketan said...

Anju ma'am,

Nice post! Now I've figurede out how to wade through your blog without hassles using even my cell phone. So, you'll see me more often.

In olden days, I think (and still to a great extent in India), men were the one thought to be able to 'run' the family and the society. Women were merely seen to be in assisting role. This was so because without the advent of industrial revolution, physical strength and endurance were the source of all 'productivity' in the civilizations--agriculture, hunting, defending household against criminals, fighting wars (??), taming animals, etc. So no wonder, males were bestowed with the responsibility to 'inherit' their parents' legacy. So they won't leave the houses. And the women were in general respected less.

But with advancement of science, industrial revolution, dissemination of knowledge (education), brute force was no more the quality most admirable. Rather it started getting frowned upon. The new set of qualities that are respected are: intelligence, creativity, perseverence, planning, specialized manual skills (surgery, jewelry designing, etc.), which are seen distributed between both the genders in comparable measures (maybe). That's why the countries that are most industrialized are more advanced also in terms of gender equality. I believe, as India progresses further industrially and educationally, women would come to be respected more and more.

Religion is nothing but an embodiment of values we ourselves cherish and hold dear. If old practices--sati, killing brides for dowry, child sacrifice--seem savage, cruel and sinister--that's only because people following them were that way.

However much we respect our religious scriptures and try to deny the fact, we've to remember, they were written by people like you and me. What is written in the scriptures reflects nothing but the moral fabric of the society in general--those writing them, and those willing to follow them.

As a simple example, if you're the principal of a school, the rules you frame will be a reflection of your vision for your students, and if parents choose to send their kids to your school, it'd only imply they share your vision for their kids.

Hope this much of ranting is enough for one comment, and that it doesn't miff you much! :)

TC.

The Panorama said...

A though provoking post, Anju. However I feel simply removing the terminology Kanyadan will not eradicate this tardition.
Zillionbig is right, this is a north Indian tradition. What is worse that a lot of parents because they know the girl child is to be "donated", do not spend money on her as that is a bad investment. She is "praya dhan".

Very nice post and I get really angry and upset too at the way our girls are treated sometimes

Smitha said...

That was one more very thought-provoking post! And you have voiced all my sentiments on this issue! I totally agree! The word and the concept of 'Kanyadaan' is deplorable.
1. The assumption that the girl is being 'donated'
2. That she is a commodity that 'belongs' to someone, who chooses to 'donate' her!!!
If more parents think like you - Kanyadaan would soon become an obsolete and looked down-upon concept. Loved this post - I think it is very relevant.

Raj said...

Good observation, but you have considered only those marriages where in groom lives with the parent. The concept of bride going to groom’s house is disappearing. Now a day’s couples live by themselves away from their parents..now do you categorize this has bride living with groom or would you categorize this has groom living with the bride…??? As said by someone, in olden days men were considered to be capable of earning , so bride was sent to husband’s house and it has continued from then with slight modification.

sm said...

very nice article. i agree with you.
went through the comments also.
wanted to add that Indians may live in australlia or usa or canada, they just get the natinality and money of that contry,but they never mix up with the culture of that country. This is reason they want traditnal husand and wife from India.

Deepa said...

Hello. This is a thought provoking post. I myself am enraged at some of these archaic traditions which enslave women and have tried to write about them in my own blog - http//deepalifeandtimes.blogspot.com (Patriarchy and the twice born, Assualted/Provoked) if you like you can take a look.

The responses of the readers was rather encouraging. I would like to add my thoughts to this if you dont mind. Two people have said here that Kanyadaan is a North Indian tradition. I am a south Indian - Tamilian. I don't really agree on this point. The terminology maybe different (I think it is called 'Paanigrahanam'down south) but the ethos is the same! The ultimate goal of the parents of a girl is that she should be "given" in marriage to a suitable boy.

Family systems have changed somewhat. So the 'leaving parents home for the marital home' has undergone a change - in many cases, especially in middle class India, the couple set up their own home. But again, the ethos remains the same. The first right over the girl is that of her husband.

Lastly, an example of the matriarchal family system in Kerala. I would not agree on this point also. The family system is MATRILINEAL - which is different from matriarchal. The lineage is derived from the mother's side. But power and authority (eg. control over property) does not rest on the woman. It is the Maama (maternal uncle) - as has been acknowledged by the reader. In what way does this make for a better option?! Unless power and decision making are in the hands of the woman herself, this is just a different version of patriarchy, cleverly disguised.

Durga Nandan said...

"When a boy and a girl is getting married then why not have Putradaan (give away the son) why only Kanyadaan? "
Similar thoughts have come to my mind when I was a kid. Why is there only pathivratha? No pathnivrata[n]?
Matriarchal societies do exist. But I should say, that is also not fair. The couple should have equal rights. Not one of them dominating the other. Always.

Roshmi Sinha said...

Interesting read.

Ummmm.... given the prevalence of dowry, it should be "putrabuy" and not "Putradaan" (give away the son)... what say... ?!!

AnjuGandhi said...

@ Roshni ur are absolutely right.In most of the Indian marriges it is Putrabuy only. lets do something to change the terminology

Aparna said...

A lot of customs and traditions exist in Hindu religion whch are archaic.
We need to change them and move forward to a society which does not discriminate between genders. The Christians also have the concept of 'giving away the bride', but that is different than 'daan'.
A thought provoking post Anju.

Sameera said...

Hello!!

Hmm.. I agree with what you have to say. The cermony shouldn't be given so much weight. It is a part of other things we do when one gets married. Can we reframe it and say... the bride's parents trust the groom to take proper care of their daughter and thats why they can part with her.
More than kanyadan one thing bugs me! Why should daughters leave their parents...? Aren't her parents her responsibility...? It detests me how some happily married girls avoid their parents!

Arunima said...

I will never let my mom-in-law read that text. She already thinks that husbands are Gods without having to read anything. :-)

Quest said...

There can always be a different perspective for the whole process of 'kanyadaan'. In Mahabharata Karna gave his own armor as daan and became known as Danaveer karna for not even thinking about his life being in danger in the battlefield because of this action.

Woman is considered as the mother, the one who can bear all the hardships without hesitation, strong willed like Savitri who can bring her husband back from the dead.

And anyone who can give such a great asset to someone else through marriage is indeed doing a great donation by his deed and would not be wrong at all in calling this 'kanyadaan'.

When such a word could be coined with noble intentions, treating this as something to get rid of one's daughter(s) would be entirely wrong on that person's part.

Indian Home Maker said...

Brilliant and relevant, and goes without saying I completely agree. The custom is degrading no doubt but one more reason why we should refuse to perform kanyadaan is it reinforces the belief that:
1. Customs once made, cannot be changed, we must follow them to please the elders (as if elders have no thinking capability) and others.
2. Girls are to be given away, girls must go to the boys family, girls are paraya dhan and a liability ... endless list.
I have no intentions of using my daughter to achieve a place in heaven, I would rather go to hell than degrade or donate my daughter.

Love this blog!!!! I am so glad your daughter introduced you to blogging! :) Thank her from one of your readers :)

Apanatva said...

Hi anju
have you heard a word ghar jawaai.
If one is rich and has only one daughter then property inheritence becomes big attraction and easy to get ghar jawaai.It was very common in Rajasthan in oldendays.
thanks for visiting my blog.we have few things in common.Our daughters introduced us to blog. my elder daughter is in
u s and second one is in london.i have written one post on betee too you will like it.

Chrysalis said...

Ma'am You have got the whole thing about kanyadaan wrong. I don't know whih book you were reading but it certainly was not the right one. ia m not surprised at you anger ...we are sorely lacking for good translations/interpretations and Pandits who know truly the ceremonies and shloks they are reciting.
Shastars and Sanatan Dharm...the only faith which says husband and wife are equal.
A groom is considereda Narayan beacuse of a certain psychology...the parents are naturally worried about the boy who is marrying their beloved daughter and yet we can only control some things and not all. Hence to lesses the anxiety of the father the shastras say that assume that this boy is Narayan and move forward.
Daan is not a weakness but a sign of tremendous strength....you are misinterpreting the word. The woman has some natural instincts..which are in no way her weaknesses but her strength.
As far as washing one's sins through Kanyadaan ...its not true. It is infact considered an important rite of passage because you it is one of your dharmas as a parent to see your daughter married and happily settled. No sin or such thing involved if it does not happen for some reason.

Chrysalis said...

Anji Ji I do not see your reply. Am I checking in the wrong place? I was writing about Kanyadaan after reading this piece...the correct meaning and truth behind the rituals...do take a look. I think I should post it either tonight or tomorrow.

AnjuGandhi said...

Hi Chrysalis, just now I noticed that you have also written something on this topic in your blog.
the book which I read was on the rituals of Indian marriage. and what I wrote are my personal views and written after seeing the status of women in our society.
daan literaly means to give away somethin, you donate soemthing.
and before writing this i talked to many people even some pandits and pujaris of various temples.and they were all of the same view that " agar kanya daan nahi kiya to swarg mein jagah nahi milegi" if u dont hve a daughter of your own then you must do kanyadaan of soem other girl by contributing something towards the ceremony. and this is a very popular belief amongst most of the Hindu that kanyadaan karna is punya ka kaam.
kanyadaan literaly means to donate your daughter and i still stands to this. and few days back some one told me that daan mein aayi vastu meri apni hai, and the donar had no value for it that is why he donated it to me. if it was so precious to him then he shuld have kept it to himself.
and I do beleive in the strength of woman ( after all I am one) but to see women being humilated and insulted by the opposite sex pains me a lot

Doodleduck said...

Nice post, Anju. I wrote on Chrysalis' blog that my Mum did the 'kanyadan'. If we do follow a ritualistic traditional wedding, we have to perform all the rituals....my purpose of mentioning the kanyadan is this ...it is considered to be done only by the father or in absence of father than by mama or chacha...but since my mum brought us up all by herself she didn't even consider to let somebody else take that honour....so my mum did the kanyadan for me as well as my elder sis. And I am very proud of that. I totally agree with ur views that daughters donot cease to be daughters once they get married....obviously, if such thoughts are adopted than how can we really blame the inlaws for making the lives of daughters in law hellish...when her own parents didnot stand by her!!

Pranab said...

Hi,
This is unodoubtedly a thought provoking post, even more the ensuing comments so much so that a laggard like me was compelled to respond. I have written a detailed comment @ http://manukhajuria.blogspot.com/2009/08/ritual-of-marriage-and.html as I felt the podium of discussion has now shifted over there.

Pls do consider reading it when free.

Anonymous said...

the problem is that you view this too literally. rituals and ceremonies in hinduism relies a lot on symbolism. When the father does the kanyadaan, he is passing his responsibilities of protecting and caring for his daughter's wellbeing to the groom. Women are revered in my family ( i live in southafrica) and held and treated with the utmost respect. i never could argue with my mother without a slap or hiding from my father. At the point of kanya daan, the groom has to promise to ensure he looks out for the bride's dharma, artha and kama.... if a husband does not treat his wife with respect then he should get married at all

desifeminists said...

hello!
i came across your article while searching for how to do hindu weddings without kanyadaan. i totally agree with you that the concept of kanyadaan is degrading. although i am tempted to say that there is something very spiritual about giving away something which is very precious. everyone gives away things they don't care for, which makes kanyadaan a great deed since you're giving away something that is precious. but in that case, why doesn't the groom's family give away the groom to the bride's family as well? after all, marriage is a joining of familes, not just taking away from the bride's family.

i'd really like to have a hindu wedding ceremony without kanyadaan. the trouble is finding a priest who's willing to do it! maybe i can just tell one of my family members to read the verses.

what i find most disturbing is that kanyadaan is derived from the vedas themselves. i used to think the vedas would be equal, unlike hindu culture. but it seems that the vedas themselves were written by patriarchal men.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you because Saturday I did puja with my family, first time after my wedding. And as the puja was finished and it was time for Arti. So i was going to Arti my father and mother, and the pundit stopped me and said that I am not supposed to do that because he has given me away to my husband..I mean my father is and will always be my father. How can this be correct. And he did speak about Kanyadaan and that my father washed my feet.. In other words he cannot take back something that he has given away. I felt very sad for this...

Anonymous said...

when the social structure was such that people had number of children and of both the sexes, things were fine... but now as family size is reducing one cant continue having children in wait for a Boy. The process of joining a two people in matrimonial harmony is not with the intent of giving away or getting. Hence I do agree that Kanyadaan is not the most appropriate word. Further, in families where there are no sons, do the parents of a girl deserve to be isolated and throw to their fate that daughters were born to them? It is UNFAIR. There has to be a legal support for girls to take care of her parents and no inlaws have a right to stop that. Unless the country's law allows for that, this male dominated society would prefer the customs that are to their advantage.

anxiousdad said...

I started reading the net in search of the real meaning and the reasons for Kanyadhan. My two daughters (both Proffesioanlly qualified) are soon to be of marriagable age and i for one abhor the word KANYADHAN. I had decided and made up my mind for sure i will not do the ritual of KANYADHAN and sent out E mails to a few friends who i thought were forward thinking and belong to todays real world but was amazed and heartbroken when they started to explain and justify the terminology and the relevance of KANYADHAN (sic)giving it a hue of the brides father to be the real daanveer and shit like that. On reading this article and the comments on this link i am really happy and relieved that i am not alone and there are right meaning and correct thinking people there in this world this makes my decision easier. I for one have decided to have my daughters married off in proper traditional style with all the fun and pomp and fervour but NO KANYADHAN. I will not treat my son in laws like any Gods i will love them equally like my daughters( i dont treat my daughters like laxshmi or durga or for that matter they are no sati savitri`s)he will not be any lower then them and please excuse me i refuse to look up to him as anyone better or superior to my daughters.

Anonymous said...

My dad an ex-priest, now an atheist! Credentials: MA in Sanskrit//Gotra Garg.

Dad used to perform wedding ceremonies but refused to do the kanyadaan. Instead he used to do kanyapradhan which is not donating your daughter to charity! but handing her over to the groom, similar to what is done at english ceremonies i guess when the father hands his daughter over once father and daughter have walked down the aisle.

Case of changing how wedding ceremonies are conducted!

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