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Weddings - why we all love them! || Acharya Prashant, with IIT-Ropar (2023)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
26 min
61 reads

Questioner (Q): Namaskar, Sir. My question is related to Indian weddings. Since in the last two months only — November and December — we saw there was some wedding season on every consecutive day. There were some processions and a lot of noise. And even social media was flooded with pics and videos of luxurious royal weddings, which have been followed not only by film stars now, but that is being followed by the masses as well. Even the common middlemen are also making up those marriage ceremonies. And because of this reason, even I stopped using Facebook. And whenever I open my account, I just see my feed flooded with marriage or pre-wedding shoots from some of my relatives or friends.

So, while I was looking at all these things, I read some results of some surveys related to India, which showed that about sixty per cent of Indian families spent about their more than a year's annual earnings on wedding ceremonies. Even more shocking was about twenty per cent of Indian families spend even their lifelong earnings on the wedding ceremony. And among these people, more than sixty or seventy per cent of people are those who actually borrowed money to finance these weddings. So, I've been in a middle-class family. I know how hard it is for a common man to earn. He does all this himself to earn this much money. And then, on the next side, I see that within two days, they just spend all that money just in a fraction of a second. So, it is very much shocking for me.

And also, during this survey, I got to know that this was not the case about thirty or forty years back. Previously, the scenario was, people did have marriage ceremonies, but it was in small numbers with small budgets. And even way back in 1975, even in some states, there were regulations that in a wedding ceremony — there should not be more than twenty people in that gathering, what even COVID forced us to do.

So, I just wanted to hear your views on this. Why are we Indians so much crazy about big fat Indian weddings? And you might have seen this trend a few years ago; they started pre-wedding shoots. Now, I think they're even starting this pre-engagement shoot. After this, they may also start some other pre-pre; I don't know what they'll do. So, I just wanted to hear your views on this. Why are we so much crazy about this?

Acharya Prashant (AP): This should not surprise you. A wedding is the utmost celebration of a subjugated consciousness. We are people of consciousness, our species, the Homo sapiens. We have consciousness, we think, we formulate, we conceptualize. So, there is this consciousness, and this consciousness is subjugated to the body. That's our condition.

Before you understand why weddings mean so much to us and why there is so much glamour and such a big flow of money, you'll have to understand who we are and, therefore, what is this wedding thing in the first place. We are people with enslaved consciousness. A consciousness that is a slave to the body. More politely, more classically, it is called a body-identified consciousness. But that does not really expose the real state of consciousness if so politely put.

If you really want to understand how we are within, then the word "subjugation" is much more appropriate and revealing. So, we are people whose minds are full of bodily business or whose thoughts are all full of bodily business. At the same time, we aren't exactly animals. The moment we say that our minds, our lives, in fact, are full of bodily businesses, one is tempted to say that we are de facto animals then because it's animals that are characterized by being almost a hundred per cent body identified.

An animal — its entire life is driven by its bodily imperatives. The body says get up — the animal gets up. The body says I am hungry; get me food — the animal starts running around. The body says I am tired; let's sleep — the animal falls to sleep. The animal does not have to think; the animal does not have to decide. The body decides for the animal. Whatsoever the body says, the animal has to do. And you cannot make the animal do something that the body is not asking it to. We are very, very close to the animals, unfortunately, in the sense that we, too, live lives that are very body-centric. But we cannot openly declare that because we think we are not animals. If you openly declare that all you live for and live as is the body, it would be a thing of shame, not so much internal shame, but much more social shame.

We are subjugated to the body and we are also slaves to the society. So, even though we have to live as bodies and live for the body, we try to pretend as if we are higher beings living for nobler causes. That's just a pretence, but nevertheless, we continue with that pretence. Now the body, what does it want? What is its ultimate desire? The body's ultimate desire is to have pleasure and to avoid death. Have pleasure, avoid death. Have pleasure, avoid death — these are the two things that the body wants. And because we are body-identified people, to ensure these two things, we have come up with the institution of marriage. Marriage ensures continuous supply of sexual pleasure and also the pleasure that comes from emotional and financial security. Also, marriage ensures reproduction, and that's what the body wants — its own continuity in the form of other smaller beings of its own type.

So, because marriage represents exactly what this animal body wants and we are very, very bodily people, therefore we go bonkers on weddings. Do you understand? I am living as the body. I might not be declaring that because I pretend to be a higher being. If somebody tells me I am an animal, I feel offended. So, I will not openly declare that I am the body just like animals, and I live just for the sake of bodily things. What are bodily things? — Security, pleasure, reproduction, and that's all. What else does the body want?

So, if you look at the life of the ordinary man, which is pretty much everybody, we all are living just for the sake of these things. Are we not? We say happiness is the purpose of life. We say your life is incomplete if you don't have kids, and by all means, we want to have measures of security and armour all around us. We want to collect money so that we feel secure. We cultivate a network of relationships so that we feel secure. We try to have more and more knowledge so that we feel secure. All these are very animalistic things. These are things that even an animal wants. These are not really things that separate us from animals. In fact, the more you go after these things — pleasure, security, continuity — the more you are ascertaining that you are an animal. And now you see why the wedding has to be such a big thing. It is the biggest festival of the body, and we are animal bodies.

We are dogs and cats. We are dogs and cats that must pretend that they are not dogs and cats. We are dogs and cats with a social face. So, dogs and cats can just go and mate anywhere. We are not allowed by the society to do that. Dogs and cats just mate and litter anywhere on the street. You don't identify a pup by its father, do you? Or a kitten by its father. But we say we are noble beings; we are respectable people. So, we cannot just mate around like that. Hence, we organize a festival. A festival to grant us religious and social, and legal license. That's called a wedding.

A wedding is an occasion where it becomes absolutely open that the biggest thing for you is pleasure and continuity and security. Otherwise, why would you be found celebrating so much? What exactly are you celebrating? You celebrate so much in a wedding, right? What exactly are you celebrating? You are celebrating pleasure; you are celebrating security; you are celebrating continuity by way of reproduction. That's what you are celebrating. Because wedding is the biggest celebration. We all know that by our everyday empirical experience, and you, too, shared some data ascertaining that. And because marriage is the biggest celebration that we have, that just proves that bodily pleasure is the biggest thing in our lives and security and continuity. Otherwise, why would you celebrate so much? What's there to celebrate? Think of it. What's there to celebrate?

Yes, we are celebrating sex. We are celebrating the body. A male body, a female body coming together, and we have gone bazooka. The entire society is dancing. And if you just ask them a very objective question, exactly why are you dancing? What is this celebration all about? Nothing. Male cells and female cells coming together. That's the name of that celebration. And if you call it out in an obvious and flat way, very directly, everybody would be offended, and they are offended just because they have never bothered to look at the mirror. They do not know who they are and why they are indulging in stuff.

You become better as a human being. Does the society bother? Do they come and garland you? Do you invite two thousand people and spend seventy lakh rupees? No. But now you are ready to mate a girl, have a sexual union, and produce kids and everybody wants to dance. Is that not obscene, actually? Is that not obscene?

I used to think since I was a kid that on that stage, there is that man and that woman sitting. And why are they being displayed and paraded this way? I could never bring myself to accept that probably such a thing, the same thing is going to happen with me one day. I was very clear — "No." Because the whole thing is obviously vulgar. These two are going to have sex now, and everybody is jumping and hopping and shrieking and partying. I mean, seriously, is sex such a big thing? First question. Secondly, what do you have to do with the intimate affairs of those two people? Had we been a society that valued something higher than the body, then the topic and the context of our celebrations would have been very different.

It would sound weird when I say so. But you would have celebrated finishing a great book, and you would have invited people to come over and dance. Why? With great sincerity, I just completed my first run of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita , and now that's really something to celebrate. Come over, everyone. And not necessarily something religious. It could be something from Marx or Dostoevsky, from the philosophy side, from the literature side, anywhere. ‘I am a better human being.’ Now, that's something to celebrate. ‘Two people are going to have sex now.’ How is that something to celebrate? And if you celebrate that, you are an animal. Because it's only animals that have nothing better and higher than sex to indulge in. Human beings are supposed to be targeting higher things, no? How can we say that my entire life savings have been reserved for a wedding celebration?

But we do that. And when we do that, we do not even know what we have declared ourselves to be — "Animals! Animals!" We have declared ourselves to be animals if we are so fascinated with weddings. The kid just cracked a difficult problem in mathematics. Now that's what would make me throw a party, not his birthday. I'll organize a great party. Why? Because my kid just cracked a great problem in mathematics and that's something of an elevated consciousness. That's something animals cannot do. So that's something to be joyous about.

“You know, the kid was born this day. So, I'm calling everybody, you come over, and we'll cut the cake, and we'll have meals and such things,” what stupidity! Even animals give birth. You and your wife, in one moment of animalistic fetish, had sex and gave birth. And you are celebrating that day for twenty years. Are you mad? Even if you are not mad, you are just vulgar. You are telling everybody, “You know, this was the day when we decided to fuck. So please come over and dance.” Why should anybody dance? Why should anybody clap? What a great achievement! What have you done? That which you have done is happening all over the place. The entire jungle is nothing but a huge mating ground. And God forbid if the husband forgets the anniversary — "You know, this was the day we got licensed to have sex. How can you forget this day?"

And I know a lot of romantics would say, "You know, this man can only see sex wherever he looks. Marriage is actually the union of two souls. Sex and all are incidental." Alright, let's conduct a small experiment. Let's tell the two souls that sex will not be a part of their union. Let's see whether the union still happens. Both of them will run away. Tell the husband — you can have the wife without sex. Tell the wife — the husband you will get but no sex. And then let's see whether any marriages happen. The conclusion is obvious. The two are getting together only for sex. Just that they want to pretend as if the matter is nobler, higher, more virtuous, more respectable, so you create a whole tamasha around the thing, and you call the priest, and you spend five crores, and you want to display that you are better than dogs and cats, which you are not.

Exercise your imagination. Think of a more conscious society. Think of the occasions that such a society would celebrate. They would celebrate a man fighting his physical limitations. The doctors had declared somebody to be so badly impaired that he would never be able to walk again. But this person, this man or woman, just by way of willpower, kept trying, trying, exercising, and today he has been able to not just walk but actually run. Now, that's something we should celebrate at the town hall. Let this man call the entire city. Let's have a gala feast. This is something to celebrate.

The literacy rates in the city have raised one hundred per cent. Now, we'll celebrate that. Somebody in the family had been wanting to write a small book of short stories, but he never felt inspired enough or free enough or daring enough to attempt that or complete that. Today, the book has been published. Finally, he could challenge his barriers, complete the work and get it in print. Let's celebrate. Now, these are things to celebrate.

One boy, one girl running around the fire by the sound of verses they don't comprehend at all, verses uttered by a priest who, in all probability, himself does not comprehend the verses. What's there to be so happy about? In a conservative city, there emerges a girl who wins a medal in a state-level athletics competition. We will celebrate that. We'll celebrate that. Even if she does not win a medal, she just manages to participate; we'll celebrate even that. That is something that deserves our respect.

What is meant by a celebration? You do not celebrate your meanness. You do not celebrate your fall. You do not celebrate being an animal. You celebrate when you rise. Don't you? That's the very definition. You celebrate your rise. You celebrate your ascension. You celebrate when you overcome a hard challenge and a worthy challenge. That's what you celebrate. Those things must be celebrated. Instead, all the money is going towards weddings.

With the result that came just this month, it's almost becoming certain that India is already the most populous country in the world. Don't you see that level of the population directly corresponds to our fascination with weddings? What is the purpose of life? — "Go, wed." Go, wed — that's the purpose of life. Still, in small-town India and rural India, the day a daughter is born, at least, the financial purpose of the father's life is decided — cast in stone, now I have a daughter. So, all I am doing is saving for her wedding. And the expenses that you quoted do not go merely towards the celebration, a lot of that is actually towards dowry. So, what is the poor father doing for the next twenty-five years since the girl is born? — Just saving, saving, and saving. And if he, by chance, happens to have three girls, think of his predicament.

And now, do you see that this fat wedding business is also directly related to female infanticide and feticide? Because if a daughter is born, you'll have to arrange that kind of wedding and dowry. And you already have two daughters. And your means do not permit you that kind of expenditure the third time over. So, the moment you know that a third girl is about to arrive, you kill her in the foetus, in the womb. Do you see this? Do you also see how the wedding thing is actually very derogatory to both the groom and the bride, especially the bride? Do you see how it promotes all kinds of wasteful industries — cosmetics, gems, jewellery, the entire wedding industry, including event management and whatnot? And these are all very wasteful industries that provide zero value addition to the society. Still, they exist. Not only do they exist, they prosper. And banquet halls?

Even the best of hotels have turned into de facto banquet halls. You go anywhere, what you find is a wedding. You just go to some proper good hotel, and you sit in their restaurant. You want to have a quiet cup of tea. And you cannot have that quietness. Because just next to the cafe there would be a huge wedding being organized on the premises of the hotel. And then you call up the manager, the senior most manager you call up, and you say, "Sir, I come to you because I love the silence and the solitude you provide. Why are you harassing me with this dhol tamasha ? And it is happening continuously." Do you know what he says apologetically? He says, "Sir, we can't help it. The kind of money these weddings provide us with is irresistible. We cannot deny that money. And when weddings take place, they book the entire hotel — hundred per cent occupancy is guaranteed. If we deny these weddings, they will go to another hotel, our competitor. And he will get a competitive edge. So, we have to have these." Because the entire money is being spent on weddings, how can the hotels now deny the wedding? So, the whole atmosphere is polluted. The silliest kind of vulgar songs at the highest volume, and you have to tolerate all that. Why? Because two beasts are coming together physically. And they are just so happy about it. They can't get over it. If there is one thing that very loudly tells of the cancer, we as a society are suffering from, it is these obnoxious wedding celebrations.

I'll go to the extent of saying, "A man who is fond of attending weddings is someone you should stay away from, a man or a woman." If there is someone who actually manages to enjoy being in a wedding — it's a dangerous man — avoid this person. Any sane person, anybody with even dimly lit consciousness, would clearly see the horror, the vulgarity, and the absurdity of the whole wedding tamasha . He'll feel very misplaced, very misfit. If he is there in that celebration, he'll want to run away.

The horror of that cumulative action — so many people have come together, and somebody is doing this, somebody is doing that, and there is a photographer and a videographer, many of them actually are running after you. Every single thing is simply obscene. Obscene, obscene, obscene. And then there is the groom who is arriving on a poor animal, that too a poor female animal. One cannot miss the sordid symbolism there. Why does the groom have to ride a female animal? Don't you see what we are implying?

Farmer suicides, we know about them, right? Do you know that a lot of the farmer suicides were not entirely due to just crop failure or high rates of borrowing from the market? We talk of all those things, right? We say microfinancing in India is a huge problem. We talk of those things. What we do not talk of is the fact that a lot of those farmers had to die because a lot of their debt was due to cultural reasons, not economic reasons. The man had to spend lavishly on his daughter's wedding. He has to; he is supposed to, because we are beasts. Now how does he spend on the daughter's wedding? — By borrowing. So, he borrows from the local money lender at some arbitrary rate, and that rate is usually a monthly rate. It does not sound too big. So, he would say, for example, 1.5 per cent, but that's a 1.5 per cent monthly rate. So, when you look at the compounded annual rate, it's huge, very huge.

So, he borrowed that money for his daughter's wedding. Obviously couldn't repay. What does he do? He is a social animal. He has to carry his respect. He said, "Fine! Instead of being exposed and humiliated every day in front of the money lender and the entire village and my relatives and everybody, I choose to end my life." Not necessarily the money is borrowed for the wedding, it could even be borrowed for the entire set of functions spread over two weeks that follow somebody's death. We do not want to cover that aspect of farmer suicides. We do not want to think of female feticide. We do not want to think of the relative lack of literacy among women, especially in the northern states. Women are still a full ten per cent behind men when it comes to literacy in the northern states. Why is that so? Think. And even if you say that men have an eighty-two per cent rate and women have a seventy-two per cent rate approx., that does not tell the whole story. The boy would be sent to a college offering professional courses in a distant city at a high fee. So, the boy has been allowed to pursue an engineering degree in a good college eight hundred kilometres away, and the cost of that degree is eight lakh rupees — that's the fees spread over four years. The girl has been told to pursue B.A or B.Com from a local degree college.

On paper, it would be said that the father was very fair and both the brother and the sister, the son and the daughter are graduates — BTech and B.A. On paper, there is no difference — both are just graduates. Really there is a great difference. The father decided not to spend on the girl's education because he knew he would have to anyway spend on the girl's wedding. So, he said, "I am saving money from her education. I will spend it on her wedding. So that the entire town can have a great tamasha — one-night tamasha ."

The boy wanted to pursue cricket as a hobby. So, in a local club, he got himself admitted. The father happily paid the membership. The girl was not allowed to cultivate any hobby. Hobbies cost money. A cricket bat or a tennis racket cost money. The father said, "Why spend on her? I am anyway going to spend on her wedding." The boy was gifted a huge bike. The girl kept begging for a little scooter for a very long time. Why? Because the father knew that, anyway, he will have to give a car to her as a part of the dowry package. So, you are anyway going to get a car. Why ask for other vehicles beforehand?

The matter is still not complete. The law since independence says that the son and the daughter will have equal right over the father's property — that's on paper, but that does not actually happen. What happens de facto? When the girl is being married off, she is told, "You already now have your share of the property. Think of all the money we have spent on your wedding and all the dowry gifts you are being given. So, you have already received your share of the property. Now, please sign here to declare that you are not interested in the father's property, in the ancestral property anymore. Now, the brother will keep all the property." So, that's what happens on the ground. The law has kept itself clean on paper, ideally. But the ground situation is very different, and a lot of that has to do with these lavish weddings.

Celebrate when she is able to master her game. If she is enrolled into tennis classes, celebrate when she serves her first ace. That's when you should throw a party. Celebrate when she proceeds on her first solo tour. She is saying, "I want to visit the hills on my own. I am grown up now, Dad," and the parents tremble a bit. It's India; they don't want to let their girls lose. But the parents, by virtue of their consciousness decide, "Yes, she is growing up, and if she wants to travel on her own, we must let her." And she proceeds, and when she returns, that's when you should throw a party, not when she gets wedded — that's all nonsense, nonsense. And the loud music and the blare and the glitz all the works, the zoom, and the blaze, how can any person with any sensitivity come to terms with that? Weddings are the occasions that display our worst core. And you will have, and you will continue to have, weddings like these as long as we remain the beastly people that we are. It's impossible to be a beast and not celebrate sex, continuity, and security.

That's exactly what a beast lives for — pleasure, reproduction, security. That's what the institution of marriage guarantees. That's what is enshrined on the holy occasion of marriage. We do not say, "We won't be beasts anymore." We say, "We'll be respectable beasts. So, we'll do everything that beasts do but with religious, social, and legal sanction." Instead of saying, "We won't be beasts, come on, let's transcend the beast. Let's evolve. Let's rise. Let's discover the meaning of being human." We don't say that. We say, "We are beasts, and we are okay with being beasts. But let's be cultured beasts. We are very cultured people. Weddings are occasions that demonstrate our great culture. Look at the music! Look at the clothes! Look at the food! We are showcasing our great culture. So, we are beasts with culture." What good is this culture if it cannot help you transcend your beast?

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