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Why I Believe Customs and Traditions Need Repurposing

Updated: Apr 18, 2021

Traditions and customs, a pride for some, a dreaded idea for others, for some, it's a way to pay respect to their ancestors while for some a set of meaningless tasks they do to please the elders and avoid unnecessary conflicts, each of us could have our own way of looking at them and it's all good. But, when does it become a problem? Before getting there, let's look into what are these customs and traditions and why were they even created in the first place.

The word tradition/ parampara means handing over or passing down the knowledge to the future generations. Which I believe is a very beautiful concept and has helped us collate, retain and create an enormous ocean of knowledge over centuries. One of the ways in which this handing over happened was by creating a set of customs. Customs are a set of behaviors or a sequence of things to be performed in various events.

Now that we have a little understanding of what they are, I'm sure each one of you reading this article would have followed or performed some kind of custom in your life at some point, while doing it have you ever wondered why was this even created?

Well, in my understanding traditions and customs helped us meet our need for connection. Connection with self, with people in the society, with our ancestors, with nature and the higher power or you may call it God. They were created keeping people's well-being in the center. But as time passed one of the key elements went missing, "The Context". All these customs were designed in a particular context and may not always hold good in the current context. Any tradition or custom that lacks context or cannot be modified to apply in different contexts doesn't prevail.

Stay with me while I give you an example. In ancient times, festivals were probably created to connect with the community, celebrate togetherness and show gratitude to nature and the higher power. Every practice they performed held a certain meaning in that context. But in the current context of fast paced life, festivals often evoke anxiety in most people, where they are forced to behave in a certain way, wear certain kinds of clothes they don't connect to and perform rituals that don't make sense to them.

What changed?

The need for connection has not changed, but the strategies people use to meet that need has changed. In today's context people might meet their need for self-connection through sports and fitness and taking care of their bodies and connecting with their emotions, their connection with people in the society by gathering at a restaurant for lunch, by taking a trip to a new place and knowing new people or by forming communities that work towards a shared purpose, they might connect with a higher power through meditation or some may not even need it.

I was recently reading an article titled "Centre opposes same-sex marriage in Delhi HC, says not comparable with ‘Indian family unit concept’" which inspired me to wonder more about this, I could see how traditions and customs have pushed the well-being of people from the center and have taken the center stage themselves. People are expected to follow them at the cost of their well-being. how did this shift happen? What are we scared of? Change? or are we hiding behind the comfort of familiarity conveniently avoiding the work that comes with reforms? Let me tell you this, any tradition or culture or custom that doesn't adapt to changing contexts and needs to be imposed is already dead.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not here to condemn any tradition or culture or customs, I understand that some of us hold our customs and traditionas very close to our hearts, it's a way we connect with our ancestors, to our roots and we don't want to loose that connection. All I'm saying is, we are moving towards a generation of thinking, questioning and reasoning children. So, before passing down your traditions and customs to them, ask yourself these questions,

  1. How am I connecting with these customs?

  2. What is my purpose to perform them?

  3. How can I make them relevant to my context?

Encourage your children to find their own purpose to perform them and never impose!

This way, you are making space for the traditions and customs to evolve, take its own form and continue to flourish keeping the well-being of people in the center.

I hope this article added value to your 3 minutes.

Do share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Let's learn to connect through our traditions and customs rather than create conflicts.

Sending you love and cheers!!

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