I did say a word or two about traditions in my previous blog: Simple Ways of South India. That more or less summarises my thoughts about them. I don't care much about traditions myself. I feel I don't need them in most cases. Some lesser mortal do, though! ;)
One of the first things that come to our mind while talking of traditions are elaborate rituals in religious ceremonies of India. And, one of the prime reasons why such elaborate rituals exist in our ways is sheer blind-faith mixed with a dash of histrionics of some pseudo-religious hypocrite.
I remember one such example while in Coimbatore recently. The bride's procession was about to leave from their home to the marriage hall. At that point, Senthil's mom was getting busy with two cute puppies -- Julie and Tommy -- she has adopted. They were innocently loitering around near the gate. Someone, supposed to be Senthil's father's old friend, suggested that the dogs be removed from sight, since it's inauspicious to have dogs in sight while setting out for a journey. I found his suggestion quite novel. I have been having dogs and cats and cows and pigs and men all around me many time while leaving for a journey. Unless one claims that my life itself is a tragedy, I feel those journeys have generally ended in an untragic note. Dogs are inauspicious to journeys no more than human beings are. When I probed the reason of his peculiar suggestion with him, he started giving the very reasonable explanation that after all those were dogs and could create a mess anytime, which is not good...whatever! That person was standing there puffing at a cigarette. I didn't like it; the bride didn't like it; and the dogs had nothing to do with it either. I would well have dragged the chap out of the sight and chained him up in the backyard! Atleast dogs don't give hypocritic suggestions! But the people who were controlling things there found no reason to disagree and Julie and Tommy were promptly removed from sight.
Yes...so a lot of compliance to traditions happens owing to blind faith and hypocricy on one side or all sides.
But there's one other aspect. It's rather positive. It's not unique to traditions and rituals. But, it's certainly true about them. Rituals let us slow down a bit. They let us lovingly proceed through the little parts of an important thing. That way, they lengthen the process, and help us focus on details. If you look at many hard things we do in our every day life, this technique works magic. A bit of concentration; and a bit of patience. Basically, often we stumble when we are in a hurry to get over with the current occupation, and get busy with the next one. Often, we are desparate to attain a feeling of movement; and we erroneously choose hastefulness to get that. Elaborate rituals can be looked at as good indirect lesson in slowing down.
There's another connected good thing about rituals. They involve many people, are often rather joyous or painful, and cause the event getting imprinted in the minds of its participation. That, I guess, is an effective -- albiet non-technical -- way of documenting history.
One other person who was also present there talked about traditions in an offhand manner, saying that traditions are being followed because of some reason that nobody is clear about. They'll all go in good time. Perhaps, it's a very intelligent remark. But I felt that there's snag in it. Old traditions will go; new ones will come. It doesn't seem likely that man is going to do without traditions in any short future. Traditions are abstract legacies that connect people with their past and future. They give them a community identity. All very practical and fundamental requirements of a human creature. Uhm. Traditions are here to stay -- in one form or another!