The role of the family in our society is significant for various reasons. In a typical family setup, elders take the responsibility to arrange the marriages of the younger generation.
Unfortunately, we are witnessing the decline of our cultural values, especially in terms of the family system. I believe that one of the main causes of the decline in our family values is materialism. Having money is not bad but loving money too much while compromising on ethical values is bad for everyone.
The situation in the rural areas is better than the urban areas where delays in marriage are becoming one of the key reasons that are damaging the family system. A number of parents fail to get their daughters married due to the non-availability of dowry. According to a rough estimate, a minimum of Rs500,000 from each side is required for a marriage ceremony. In the current economic situation, many people cannot afford to marry. The youth end up indulging in immoral activities.
All religions emphasise a strong family system and premarital or extramarital relations are forbidden. According to Hinduism, a couple ties the knot for their entire lives and there is no concept of separation or divorce. The three purposes behind a Hindu marriage can be defined as Dharam (religious duty), Parja (descendants) and Rati (enjoyment). Religious duty is the top priority.
Pakistan is a Muslim-majority country where the Hindu community dominates the non-Muslims due to its 50 percent vote bank. The constitution of Pakistan ensures religious freedom to the non-Muslim minorities. But the bitter reality is that the patriotic Hindu community is facing a number of problems. The registration of marriages is the most serious problem, especially in the absence of the Hindu Marriage Act.
The Pakistan Hindu Council is not only issuing the Hindu Marriage Certificates to provide support for legalising the marriages but is also organising combined-marriages programmes since the last nine years. This year’s programme is scheduled for March 19.
Combined marriages or mass weddings are marriage ceremonies in which more than one couple is married at the same time in the same ceremony. Historically, it is believed that Alexander the Great was married to the princess of Persia in 324 BC. On the same occasion, as many as 40 officers and soldiers were also married to other Persian women. In modern history, the Unification Church is known for organising combined marriages. Today, these combined ceremonies are gaining popularity in Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Iran, the Arab world and Western countries as a number of news reports appear on regular basis.
I believe that the driving force behind the popularity includes social and financial factors. A majority of the participants belong to remote, backward areas across the country where it is difficult to organise weddings ceremonies in normal circumstances. The annual Hindu combined marriages programme resemble a colourful cultural ceremony where every year around 100 Hindu couples – in a respectful and decent manner – are provided an opportunity to tie the knot with best wishes and prayers.
Strong social bonds are also developed among the participants on this occasion as they celebrate their big day in a joint gathering. The positive role played by Edhi Foundation and Baitul Mal is vital for the success of these combined marriages. Here, I would like to pay a tribute to the legendary philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi whose selfless services taught us a lesson to help the deprived segments of the society. Edhi not only attended the annual event of combined marriages during his lifetime but also practically supported the newly-wed couples and helped them start their new life.
The Pakistan Hindu Council also provides support in the form of distributing rickshaws among the deserving people and sewing machine for women, so that they can feed their families with lawful means. While distributing rickshaws, candidates are asked to provide free transportation for at least eight school-going students on a daily basis.
By facilitating one wedding, we can bring happiness to three households – the families of the couple and the couple’s own newly-formed household. Such combined marriages could also be useful in projecting a better image of the country before the international community as the active involvement of non-Muslims could counter the propaganda stirred by vested elements. A positive message is sent to the world, showing that non-Muslims have the right to arrange their social functions while adhering to their religious faiths. Besides the hundreds of relatives of the couples who attend the ceremony, the participation of other citizens including media representatives and the civil society would also promote interfaith harmony. Combined marriage ceremonies have become more important after the approval of the Hindu Marriage Act. The future plans of the Pakistan Hindu Council include the expansion of such ceremonies throughout the country so that every individual can play an active role in the improvement of society.
The writer is a member of the National
Assembly and patron-in-chief of the
Pakistan Hindu Council.
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