Monday May 20, 2024

Socio-economic impact of combined marriages

By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani
March 19, 2017

The family is considered as basic unit of any society since ancient times and strengthening the family system is essential for ensuring a peaceful society. The role of the family in our society is also very significant due to many reasons such as a transmitting unit of the values for the next generation.

In a typical family set up, the elders take the responsibility to arrange the marriages of young people who are of marriageable age but unfortunately in today’s world, we are witnessing the decline of our cultural values, especially in terms of family system. I believe that the one of the main causes of 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. Situation in rural areas is quite better than urban areas where the delay in marriages is becoming a major reason for damaging the family system. A number of parents fail to marry their daughters due to non-availability of dowry. According to a rough estimate, the cost of minimum Rs500,000 from each side is required for a marriage ceremony. In the current economic situation, many people could not afford to marry and thus, involvement of youth in immoral activities is on rise, which ultimately effecting the family system. Various reports suggest that such unwanted situations frustrate the public and as a result, the entire society suffers.

All religions emphasize on a strong family system and premarital or extramarital relations are forbidden for the sake of society. According to Hinduism, the couple ties the knot for the entire life and there is no concept of separation or divorce. Three purposes behind a Hindu marriage could be defined as Dharam (religious duty), Parja (descendants) and Rati (enjoyment) where religious duty is on top priority. Brahma marriage has the most supreme position of the other types of Hindu matrimony.

Pakistan is a Muslim-majority country where Hindu community dominates among all non-Muslims due to having 50% vote bank.  The Constitution of Pakistan ensures religious freedom to the non-Muslim minorities but this is bitter reality that patriotic Hindu community is facing a number of problems in which registration of marriages is the most serious one in the absence of Hindu Marriage Act. Pakistan Hindu Council, being a representative body of Pakistani Hindus residing all over the country, understands its social responsibility to contribute towards the betterment of society. The council is not only is issuing the Hindu marriage certificates to provide support for legalising the marriages but also organizing the combined-marriages programmes since the last nine years. This year’s programme is scheduled on March 19.

Combined marriage or mass wedding is a marriage ceremony in which more than one couple are 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 the modern history, the Unification Church is known for organising combined marriages. Founded in South Korea in 1954, the socio-religious movement is expanded to other parts of the world with most members living in Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and other East Asian countries. Today, these combined ceremonies are also getting 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. Majority of the participants belong to the remote backward areas across the country where wedding for them is almost impossible in normal circumstances. The annual Hindu combined marriages programme look like a colorful cultural ceremony where every year around 100 Hindu couples – in a respectful and decent manner – are provided opportunity to tie the knot with best wishes and prayers.

Strong social bonds are also being 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 Bait-ul-Mal is of vital importance for the success of these combined marriages. Here, I would like to pay a tribute to the legendary philanthropist the late Abdul Satar Edhi whose selfless services taught us a lesson to help the deprived segment of the society. The late Edhi not only attended the annual event of combined marriages during his life but also practically supported the newly-wed couples to start their new life.

The Pakistan Hindu Council also provides support in the form of distributing rickshaws among the deserving people and sewing machines 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 daily basis.

In my view, God loves those who are most beneficial to the mankind, and it is the major source of eternal satisfaction for me to become the cause of happiness for the people who couldn’t afford to raise a family. By facilitating one wedding, we are bringing happiness to three households; namely the two families of the couples respectively and the couple’s own newly-formed household.

Such combined marriages could also be helpful for projecting the country‘s better image before the international community as the active involvement of non-Muslims could counter the propaganda by vested elements. A positive message goes to the world stating that non-Muslims in Pakistan have the right to arrange their social functions while adhering to their religious faiths. Besides the hundreds of relatives of the couples, the participation of other citizens including media representatives, and civil society to witness the ceremony also promotes interfaith harmony. Combined marriage ceremonies become more important after the approval of Hindu Marriage Act from parliament and in this regard, the future plans of Pakistan Hindu Council include the expansion of such ceremonies throughout the country, so that every individual could play an active role for the improvement of the society.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hindu Council who tweets at @RVankwani