The Role and Relevance of the ‘Family’ Concept in the Indian and Western Culture
Whenever we refer to ‘Indian’ (Bharatiya) culture, most people tend to understand that it relates to certain modes of worship, poojas (offering of flowers etc), wearing ochre clothes and sporting a religious mark on the forehead. However, the ‘Indian’ culture is actually based on the ‘family’ system and concept, established by our ancestors.
In the Indian ‘family’ concept, a married couple live as husband and wife throughout their lifetime. The principle enshrined in the epic ‘Ramayana’, “one man- one wife”, ie monogamy, is followed even today. When a married couple beget children, they are brought up and finally married to establish their individual families. This tradition is continued in India, even today, for ages.
Many of us do not understand the greatness of this traditional family concept. To appreciate this, we have to examine how the people in the West live as families.
In the West, unlike India, many couples have a ‘live- in’ arrangement, at the premarital stage. They may even have children from this relationship. After a few years, they may seperate, and get married to different partners. What happens to the child born out of their wedlock? The child ends up in an orphanage. This is the case with many families in the West. Under the Indian culture, such instances are unlikely to arise.
For a moment, assume that an unwed mother gets a daughter. The mother may wish to bring up this child. But as she grows up she comes to know that her mother’s present husband is not her biological father. This is the case with many families in the West. Under these circumstances, a grown up girl leaves the house not through a marriage as in India. She leaves the house, when she feels that she is not safe in her mother’s house. This is also true in the case of boys born through wedlock. Often such children, seperated from their families, live together even without getting married. The marriages in the West are not arranged marriages. These are decided by the boys and girls, as a matter of convenience.
In an Indian family, the parents undergo a lot of troubles and sacrifices in bringing up their children. In the West many parents are not bothered about their child’s welfare. They are concerned only with their own comforts and pleasures. In such an enviornment can you expect the children to take care of their aged parents? As a result, old-age homes have become a necessity to take care of the old people in the West.
In a family system prevelent in the West as explained earlier, who will be responsible for the education of the children? In India, the parents support the children through their school, college and even upto their doctorate level. In the West, in many cases the children have to fend for themselves. Most of them become independent at the age of 15 and live seperately. Therefore, these children cannot compete with their Indian counterpart. This type of freedom, often misused, affects the education of the children.
The Indian culture does not permit premarital sex (Avyabhichara). It is considered as adultery. A celibate (Brahmachari-student) cannot have carnal desires. A recluse or ascetic should not succumb to sexual urges. Even a householder cannot have any extramarital relationships. Such a concept keeps the Indian family system safe and undisturbed.
We usually come across many people who praise the Western culture. Those who advocate the adoption of Western culture, and method of living, will be bringing into this country the culture of premarital relationships, and the freedom to indulge in such pleasures. Along with this they also bring in diseases like AIDS. If one lives a righteous life, as prescribed in the Indian culture (Dharma), is there a need to fear AIDS?
The Indian Christians and Muslims follow the Indian culture, because at one time they were Hindus. Therefore they are really Hindu-Christians and Hindu-Muslims. The Christians in the West do not consider the Indian converts as ‘real’ Christians. Similerly, in Saudi Arabia, the Indian Muslims are not considered as ‘real’ Muslims. Even after conversion, many of them follow, the age old Indian way of life.
The traditional Indian culture, does not permit divorce and remarrige. This is what is taught from the time of Ramayana to what is taught under Sree Narayana Dharma. This is what constitute the ‘real’ Indian culture. If people live like animals, without preserving the sanctity of a marriage, can we call that a civilised society? Therefore the use of the word ‘culture’ to describe Western family life is inappropriate.