The word hoary refers to something that is old, traditional and possibly not too frequently used. Haryana has witnessed a lot of history and has evolved through time. The society that we see today has emerged through the ravages of time that has seen assaults from outsiders on its culture, tradition, language, religion, and lifestyle, and yet it is amazing that Haryana has still managed to hold on to many of its hoary traditions. Some good and some not so good.
The people of this land have essentially been simple agrarian folk with very frugal needs and a basic lifestyle. It has managed to hold on to its identity despite influences from the Mughals, the British and now from contemporary India. It is in perpetual conflict between hoary traditions and its modern evolution.
Richness of Sanskrit
When speaking of hoary traditions of Haryana, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is the Sanskrit language. Many of India's richest texts from its ancient past have been written in Sanskrit and by writers for whom this land has been their cradle. Sanskrit was the language for thousands of years before losing out to various forms and dialects and subsequently being reduced to a language learnt only in academic institutions but not used as part of daily communication.
Unfortunately, the state government has not done much to make Sanskrit a part of daily communication, not even as a third language. There are enough academic institutions that teach the language but there are very few patrons of the language outside the institution that practice the hoary tradition.
Special cuisine on specific occasions
Another hoary tradition relates to food. From time immemorial, Haryana has had a tradition of making and distributing Goond ka Ladoo, which is prepared in desi ghee and is distributed to celebrate the arrival of a new born. This is a tradition that is still prevalent in most homes even today. Likewise, there are a range of churmas that are served on specific occasions. This too has stood the test of time and very typical of Haryana, in taste and flavour.
Tradition of festivities
There are a range of festivities that are still practiced in many parts of Haryana, especially rural Haryana. There is a celebration when a bride comes home, when she leaves for her maternal home, at childbirth, during harvest and of course during religious festivals, they all have their traditional ways of ritual, all still practiced.
Controversial hoary traditions
Being a traditional society, Haryana has its own social beliefs and practices. The state has failed in its responsibility and played little role in influencing or educating the older generation on the need for gradual change in beliefs and practices. The law does not agree with the traditional belief and this brings to question the legal debate on the introduction of a Uniform Civil Code. The state government is in fact playing politics on this controversial issue and is playing with both sides of the fence, for electoral gains. This is indeed unfortunate.
Killing of the female child at birth is indeed one of the most unfortunate hoary traditions that is still being practiced in the state. Being a traditionally agrarian state, the need for additional labour to till the fields has always been on a father's mind and he has always seen the male child as a future help in the family and one who will carry the family name into the next generation.
Added to this has been the support from the mother who also views the female as a cost centre on whom the parents would have to spend money in her growing years, only to lose her subsequently in marriage, a time when they will have to spend even more money. This age old view that has lost its relevance in modern times, has been the primary cause of preferring to rear a male child instead of a female one. This practice has negatively impacted the gender balance in the state with young men outnumbering young women and therefore being unable to find a suitable partner.
Female infanticide is one hoary tradition that must be given up immediately.
Denial of female education
Being a traditional society that has grown around a simple lifestyle, the roles and responsibility between genders has been clearly defined and practiced for centuries.
The men would till the land and do all physical work outside the house, while the woman of the house had to bear children and provide for food, in addition to maintaining the house. The boys would assist the father while growing up for all outside work, while the growing girls would help their mother with household chores. With time, society has been open to accepting the male child to pursue academics and subsequently find work but the same society has not been very open to growing girls going outside the house to pursue education or work.
In fact going to school and college is seen as a cause for girls becoming rebellious and pursuing their own independent lives outside the family. This is something the present society is still trying to come to terms with, where girls are taking on many traditional activities that have been the domain of men for long.
Practice of the purdah
This is another tradition that has been around since time immemorial. Once a girl attains puberty, she is expected to practice purdah. Though not as restrictive as practiced in some Muslim communities, nevertheless, the women are expected to keep their face covered when they step outside the house. This is another hoary tradition that is fortunately being given up gradually, as more women are beginning to participate in more social activity and in earning a living.
Failure of the state
It is indeed sad to see that some of the negative hoary traditions are still being practiced in the state and a large part of the blame lies with the government, which has failed to create a social awareness movement against most of these negative traditional practices. The government could have been more proactive in engaging the elders, both men and women, in an inclusive debate, on the need for social change, in keeping with the changing times.
While the elders are crucial for their role and influence in society, it's the youth that will define the future society. Therefore, the government could have done much more to educate and create a general awareness of these evil practices amongst the youth on the need to give them up in order to build a modern and progressive society.
If Haryana has to evolve into a modern and vibrant state, we must learn to retain some of our better hoary traditions like our respect for the elders and a lot of other positive traditions and give up those that are regressive and hold back progress of an emerging society. It's time for a Nayi Soch. Think about it.