INDIAN FAMILY VALUES
Indian culture is considered the oldest in the world dating back to 5,000 years. India being predominantly a Hindu land, the culture of India is synonymous with Hindu culture. Such is the reverence of this culture that it is described as ‘Sa Prathama Sanskrati Vishvavara’ in ancient Sanskrit literature. The best of all Vedic philosophies has been distinctively incorporated in the Indian culture and these remain relevant in the world even today.
Our culture always believed in encompassing the entire world in its embrace. ‘Vasudhaive Kutumbhakam’, the entire world is one family. It does not differentiate between man and man and all such distinctions based on caste, creed, region crept in much later. Samasta loka sukhinoh bhavanthu – may beings in all the worlds be happy is our prayer. The traditional Indian family has a set of values that is passed on from one generation to another. Indian family value system is unique, as it is intertwined with our rich cultural history.
One of the longest surviving institutions of India, ‘Indian Family’ represents the three pillars of Loyalty, Integrity and Unity. The first lessons of collectivism and sacrificing individualism are learned from the family. Extended family and kinship are the major aspects of the Indian family system. In India, both patriarchal families as well as mother-centric families are found. Respect to the elder members of the family, especially taking care of the parents in their old age is considered as the utmost duty of every son and daughter. Our culture has strong belief in the law of karma. ‘As you sow so shall you reap.’ Hence it is ingrained from a very young age that if we do not take care of our parents when they are old we would be left in the cold during our twilight years. Also it is a great way to express our gratitude to our parents for all that they have done when we were young.
Family always takes a prime focus in the Hindu cosmology. Members are always bound by the fair name of the family, family honor, family tree etc. One’s individual wants and needs are always kept in check and can be sacrificed for the larger interest of the family. Anecdotes abound in our Scriptures about a truant son or king who met with destruction as he tried to transgress age old customs and code of conduct. The Ramayana and Mahabharata abound with tales of sons, kings and young men and women like Rama, Yudhishtra, Bharata etc who followed family values and those that didn’t like Sakuni, Duryodhana and other evil men who ultimately faced ruin because of such transgressions.
It is to be noted that there are few rituals and codes of conduct that fulfill the scope of Indian heritage, culture and its family system. Some of the salient aspects of Indian family value system are as follows:
- A young person should always respect elders and touch their feet
- One should never speak in a rude manner or in a high tone to their elders
- One should abstain from smoking and consumption of alcohol
- One must always try to speak the truth and be non-violent in temperament
- One must always wear decent clothing in public places
- One must always try to maintain a good bond with his family and relatives
- One must always try to welcome guests i.e. ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’
- One must be hospitable to anyone who visits his home, irrespective of caste, creed and color
- One must always consult elders before taking any important decisions
A family is a wonderful place for each individual to grow and evolve as a person. It is the older members of the family who sow noble thoughts and ideals which become the norm later on. Children observe and imbibe these ideals sub consciously and fashion their later years to a large extent based on the experiences they have received in their childhood. Overtime these bind the members of the family together and in times of distress these values help one another to tide over the crisis. The family as a solid unit is a bedrock of support and helps each one to find his or her moorings eventually.
Observing our ancient customs and traditions is a great way to foster family values. As we observe the customs and traditions of our religion our children also learn to respect our priceless heritage and inheritance. Indian ethos stresses on the joy of giving. Thena thyakthena bhunjeetha– Enjoy thy wealth by renouncing it exhorts the Isa vasya Upanishad. Indian family values stress on this aspect of dana or practicing charity believing that we are mere custodians of our wealth. Compassion or daya is also another great value that has to be fostered.
Our culture speaks of the four stages of life every man must pass through, Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprstha and Sanyasa. Every man has to go these stages diligently and the ultimate goal of life is moksha. The four Purusharthas or goals of life mentioned in the scriptures are Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. At every stage atma vichara or self-enquiry is stressed. It is only a man who has the immense thirst for knowledge who can improve towards achieving his goals successfully. This is also a family value that is practiced in India.
Prayer is another great value that is stressed. Every action is an offering and this bhava or attitude helps us to do things in a spirit of supplication to the almighty and also have a degree of detachment to all things as we feel the lord is the real doer and we are merely his instruments. These are values passed on to us by our ancients so that we can lead a stress free life. Even mundane everyday activities like cooking, eating are sanctified when we perform them in a spirit of surrender. There are slokas for every act, be it bathing, cooking, eating or the like. Eventually our life itself becomes a beautiful offering.