The other day, I received an invitation from a Muslim friend’s family to attend the Dawat-e-Walima following the Marasim-e-Nikah on the previous day. These two ceremonies are akin to Preetibhoj and Vivah of Hindus, respectively. As there are no religious constraints or taboos and the majority of Hindus find it easy to adopt and assimilate terms and practices of other cultures, many of them simply use the term marriage and reception in their connected ceremonies.
As the family, particularly the groom who is also a member of the Indian Armed Forces, is very kind and dear to us, it was our pleasure to attend the ceremony whole heartedly and full indulgence. As such I have genuine interest in knowing and honouring rightful humane practices of different religions and cultures. Besides, it is my belief that one should not appear out of place and ignorant of the significance of the occasion. While I have several Muslim friends and have greeted and participated in their festivals like Eid-ul-Fitr, Bakra Eid etc. year after year, incidentally there was no occasion to attend a marriage in any Muslim family in the recent past.
Keeping the above in view, I deemed it necessary to find out whether one needs to follow or observe any particular requirement on the occasion in the matters of attire and social etiquettes. So I shared my concern with an officer, a senior Civil Servant who had worked with me couple of years ago and is also from Lucknow. Surprisingly, he laughed and assured me that, except for a few private religious rituals, there is hardly any difference and in fact their community too celebrate reception in the same manner as Hindus do.
I indeed participated and enjoyed the party wholeheartedly with absolute physical and mental presence and involvement. Being one of those who prefer to go in time and come back early during the usual late night parties and celebrations, for me it was a sort of wilful deviation of taking meals late than usual, staying longer and greeting the family and newly wedded couple with a blessed and joyful life before leaving the venue.
While trying to figure out difference, I found no difference in the venue, its layout, decorations and cuisine and it looked like any other party that common Indians masses are familiar about. As a keen observer, I can say that even in the matters of attire, etiquettes and fashion sense too, there was hardly any noticeable difference. After coming back, I kept on wondering then what is that compelling difference that makes two communities so different and often a cause of individual and group tension and conflict.
To my mind, the answer lies in the conduct of many religious leaders, preachers (Priest, Pujari, Imam, Maulvi etc. of communities) and politicians who for their vested interests target and exploit less educated common man from potentially weaker sections as also other vulnerable groups with strong religious leanings by spreading untruth and wrong interpretations of holy books, scriptures and practices. Unlike Islam which is believed to be monotheistic religion, Hinduism is largely a polytheistic religion but it allows debate, opinion, choice and right to disagree. Civilizations evolved in different parts of Globe are bound to have different religious beliefs, social customs and rituals and there should be no cause of friction or conflict so long they have freedom of choice and liberty to exercise their socio-religious customs and rituals.
In a way this also explains why only relatively less enlightened weaker sections are ones who are enticed to follow evil social practices and also made to suffer most physically and materially during the communal tension and clashes triggered by the interested parties, who need a dedicated clientele to exploit for their own prosperity and growth. Their reach in educated middle and upper class is minimum that explains why this class, irrespective of their faith, display some elements of commonality in their social customs and rituals with the changing times besides remaining more or less unaffected from any socio-religious tension or conflict caused by the vested interests.