For the greater part of India's history, it has been believed that a male child of a family bears
greater importance than a female child. This view has been passed down for several centuries by
our ancestors. Many beliefs and superstitions leading to the male dominance in our society have,
thus, survived to the present day, although with modification. *This may be observed in the way a
family name is adopted, and continued, the possession and inheritance of property, funeral
practices, the type of support given to extended family etc. As a result, many modern Indian
couples would still prefer to have a male child, if only for the absence of a perceived burden on
them economically. A side effect of this would be the existence of rituals that are performed for
the happiness and prosperity that are brought to the family by the male child.
On that note, I would like to share my research on one such ritual, 'Parojan'.
Parojan is a traditional Marwari custom performed for each and every individual of a family before
marriage. As such, it is not performed in every Marwari family. This is due to the fact that different
families worship different Kul Devs. Under some Kul Devs, it is required that every member of the
family has Parojan performed before marriage. Parojan is normally performed for the male
members of the family. If a couple does not have a male child, then a male child is either adopted,
or the ceremony is performed with the child being represented by a single coconut.
To me, Parojan is an interesting topic for research. It is a tradition that has been practised for
several generations, and has been followed very rigidly by a specific group of families in the
Marwari community. Even so, it has remained relatively obscure to those outside the Marwari
community, and has never been formally documented. It had been practised with great sincerity
until around fifteen years ago. Since then, families have made their own modifications to it. In
certain cases, in order to perform the ritual for the benefit of their female children, some families
choose to adopt a male child from within the extended family. This causes many changes in the
structure of the extended family. An area of study that I believe deserves focus is how the adopted
child copes with the day to day events of his new family, and what changes said family makes for
the sake of the child.
HISTORY / LITERATURE REVIEW
Parojan is a ritual that has been ingrained in the family traditions for several generations. My
family's Kul Devi is Rani Sati Dadi. It is a rule for every member of the family to have the ritual
performed before marriage.
In previous generations, this ritual was performed with seriousness and strict adherence to
tradition. Every family would pray for a male child. Were a couple to not have a male child, the
couple would opt for adoption without a second thought. This custom has been followed for
several generations, but few questioned the reason behind performing the Parojan.
According to the fourth research participant, Parojan was started when an elite Marwari lady had
four to five daughters, but no sons. She prayed to her Kul Devi for a male child, and pledged to
make a number of offerings to the Kul Devi to that effect. It so happened that exactly after nine
months, she gave birth to a healthy son. Whatever she promised as offering to the Devi are the
ceremonies that we perform for Parojan. Since then, this ritual has been followed by many
Marwari families for the wellness of their own or adopted son.
Very few families still practise the ritual, and even then, it is different for the families that do
practise it. After conduction of the interviews, it came to my knowledge that Parojan, in fact,
refers to two rituals.
- The first is a rite or ceremony where a girl receives piercings to either the ears,
nose or both.
- The second, as originally discussed is a ritual that is performed by all members of a
family before marriage.
This paper shall limit itself to the latter, which is the tradition followed in my family.
The interview process was in-depth, while remaining conversational, and centred around the
sharing of experience. Since the second research participant was reluctant to explain the entire
ritual with it's quirks from scratch to me, the first research participant offered to perform the
interview process instead. She was able to coax my second research participant into discussing the
Parojan, by telling her that it was for a college project. The conversation between them was of a
casual nature, where each part of the ritual was named and discussed. Shortly after, was the
process of interviewing the first research participant, wherein the details of the ritual were
discussed, along with the personal account of the third research participant. On the whole, the
process proved to be very long, and very informative.
The Parojan of the first research participant’s children were done by the second research
participant so I decided to interview her as she has been an integral part of the ceremony in her
The second research participant has had Parojan performed for a number of her family members,
including me. Therefore, I decided that she would be an excellent candidate to interview for this
topic. As she was part of the ceremony, and performed the ritual for the Parojan of my brother
and I, I also decided that my mother would be a perfect choice for the interview.
I chose to question about the third research participant primarily because he was actually adopted
for this ritual and future support into a new family.
The fourth research participant was interviewed much later on for her views and opinions on the
impact of Parojan, the importance given to males over females in the Marwari community, and
the reasons behind it.
From the interview with the first and second research participants, I gathered that, the members
of the family conducting the Parojan will leave their home under the shade of the traditional
“chunri” and walk to the family temple where the “pujari” or priest will give them the “devi” to
take home for the duration of the ceremony. Following that, the ceremony of “haldat” takes
place. In this ceremony, the members of the family create rangoli out of crushed dal. Then, the
family offers five bags of raw wheat, each weighing sixteen kilograms to the Devi. The wheat is
later ground in order to prepare dishes such as sweet oats, “poori”, “halwa” and others, which are
eaten by the family members as “prasad”. The remaining prasad is distributed among the
domestic help, and the underprivileged. The same night, the “ratri juga” is celebrated. Here, a
“diya” is lit, and the ancestors of the family are invoked in order to seek their blessings.
Throughout the night, the family remains awake. “Mishranis” sing the “geet”, and all female
members of the extended family apply “mehendi” or henna on their hands and feet. The following
morning, the entirety of the husband's side of the family along with the wife proceed to the abode
of the wife's extended family, and take part in a ritual bathing. They then wear new clothes
presented to them by the parents-in-law of the husband. Afterwards, the entire extended family
proceeds under the shade of the “chunri” to the place where the Parojan for the children will be
carried out. The ceremony itself takes place in multiple parts. The first part is the “anchjala” which
involves the wife and her brother, and is followed by the wife and her sister-in-law. Here, the wife
presents money to the elder females of the family, and seeks their blessings. The husband and
children also seek the blessings of the elders by the act of touching their feet. Then, food and
presents are brought and distributed to the entire family by the wife's parents. On the same night,
after dinner, the “Devi” is returned to the family temple, and given back to the “pujari”.
For every Parojan, the presence of the male child is strictly necessary. Should this not be the case,
the place of the male child is taken by a symbolic coconut. In ages long past, were a family to not
have a male child, it would adopt a son from the extended family. The adoption would take place
following all legalities and religious considerations.
As a specific example, the third research participant was adopted by the older brother of his
father, as all his children were daughters. His new family raised him and educated him as their
own. He was considered responsible for the well being of all his adoptive sisters, and was entitled
to a share of the property. All proceedings were done legally and according to the Marwari
customs as well.
In the days before rapid communication, were a male child to be born to a family, then the mother
or sister of the child would hit a brass plate with a “belan” or rolling pin to announce to the
populace that a boy was born to the family.
Parojan is a fairly unique ceremony in Marwari culture. Perhaps the most unique part of the
ceremony is that, for the couple, it is almost like being married once again. However, this time, the
ceremony takes place with their child on their laps. The smaller ceremonies that make up the
Parojan are near identical to those performed for a wedding ceremony. What is amazing about the
ritual is that even in this age of our ever-greater understanding of science and the ways of the
universe, we still follow symbolic practices such as the invocation of our ancestors, for their
blessings. It is puzzling to know that the many questions one could ask about the ceremony, such
as the necessity of the ceremony, the rigidity with which it was followed, and the significance of
the coconut as a place holder or stand-in for the male child, have gone unasked to the elders.
The families that still follow this ritual strictly will not under any circumstances have their children
marry without the ceremony being performed. Although the custom is now limited to a few
Marwari families, the faith with which they keep this tradition alive is very strong.
This ceremony places large importance on the male child of a married couple, the reasons for
which being mentioned earlier, and to be discussed in greater depth. A principal aspect of this
ritual is the adoption of a male child if the couple does not have one of it's own, though this is not
mandatory in the present day.
It is important to note the effects of placing such importance on the male child. One aspect of this
is the propagation of this unbalanced view on to the next generations, as a consequence of lifelong conditioning to believe the same. It leads to the domination of the male sex over the female
sex, leading to a patriarchal society, and the preference of having a male child over a female,
which in extreme cases can lead to female infanticide.
In the view of the fourth research participant, it was considered essential to have at least one male
child in every family. In the case of an only male child, regardless of the nature, behaviour and
capability of the son, he would be given a long leash, and any untoward behaviour tolerated,
simply because he was the only son. The belief would be that only that child would be able to
protect the family, carry on the family name and family business, and help the parents in their old
age. A daughter is viewed as a liability more than anything else, and as such, might not be
educated. The family would wish to marry the girl and join a new family as soon as possible. After
the “kanya daan” ceremony in the wedding, the woman stays in the house of her husband and
parents-in-law. Her birth parents are disallowed from even taking a glass of water from the
woman's new family. All major responsibilities would be shouldered by the son, who would also
inherit all property, assets and liabilities of the family, while the daughter would be a house-wife
in the family she married into. This was followed rigidly by the Marwari community till around fifty
**Even in the Ramayana, it may be seen that Dasaratha’s sons are given the primary importance.
As the story follows, Dashratha performed two Yagnas with the help of Sage Rishyasringa on the
advice of Vashistha. One was the Ashwamedha and other was the Putrakameshti. As the
conclusion of the Yagna drew near, Agni sprang out from the Yagnakunda and handed Dashratha
a pot of kheer, advising him to distribute it among his queens. Kaushalya ate half the kheer,
Sumitra ate a quarter of it. Kaikeyi ate some and passed the pot back to Sumitra, who consumed
the kheer a second time. Thus the princes were conceived after the consumption of the kheer.
Since Kaushalya had consumed the largest portion she gave birth to Rama. Sumitra gave birth to
Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Kaikeyi gave birth to Bharata.
In recent times, however, the parents have been making a conscious effort to treat their children
equally, unlike the differential treatment experienced by themselves during childhood. Several
families have stopped performing this ceremony, and the female children are given education, and
are encouraged to work. They are also given a fair share of both family property and
responsibilities. They no longer leave the families of their birth after marriage. Instead, they add
the husband's family name to their own.
Parojan, along with it's sub-rituals are performed during the same consecrated days on which
marriages are to take place, according to the Marwari calendar. The ritual is of great importance in
the community, and is performed in a most extravagant manner, attended by every member of
the extended family, and held for between four and seven days at the native place of the married
couple. My own family has been practising this ritual as a custom for several generations.
With regards to the ritual, it is either performed in a grand manner, or not at all. In the present
day, the importance and faith people place in rituals has been diluted. Instead, practicality in life,
and living accordingly, are of greater concern. There is conscious effort among the people to
ensure that men and women are treated equally. Due to all these factors, the relevance of Parojan
is shrinking rapidly, and the custom is doomed to fade away, sooner rather than later.
*PBS NEWSHOUR. (2013). Pervasive Preference for Baby Boys Over Girls Prevails Among Parents in
India. [Online Video]. 23 April. Available from: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/world/janjune13/india_04-23.html. [Accessed: 02 October 2013].
**Wikipedia. 2013. Dasharatha. [ONLINE] Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dasharatha.
[Accessed 22 October 13].
3 interview recordings
One telephonic interview wherein the first research participant interview the second.
2 face to face interviews with the first and the fourth research participants.