There are different cultural practices of people across the world which varies in one way or the other. According to Crapo (2013), a careful study of these cultures reveals that although there are some fundamental differences in the practices, sometimes it is common to find some similarities. In this study, the researcher will focus on comparing the rites of passage among two different communities. Each community had its own rites of passage and unique ways of celebrating such events.
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Some of these practices may have been restructured due to globalization and modernization that is turning the world into a global village. However, various communities still maintain their traditional heritage, preferring to continue with these practices despite the changes brought about by globalization. In this study, the researcher will compare and contrast the cultural rites of passage among the Egyptians and that of the Hindu. The researcher seeks to confirm although these two cultures differ in their rites of passage practices, they also share a number of cultural values.
Hindus have been able to maintain their cultural practices despite the changes that are taking place in the global world. Although they have embraced modernization, they have been able to maintain most of their cultural practices not only in their home countries in India, but also in various other parts of the world where they live (Rinehart, 2004). On the other hand, the Egyptians have maintained their heritage within their country.
Most of the Egyptians who travel to other countries, especially the West, are always easily converted to other cultural practices that are permitted by their Islamic religion (Moscovitch, 2007). However, those who live in the rural settings along river Nile have maintained some of their traditional practices. Most of the Egyptians have maintained their traditional heritage, especially the rites of passage even though they have also embraced Western education. The education has helped them shape some of the practices, especially those that were considered barbaric.
How the two cultures approach the rites of passage
As mentioned, the Hindus have remained loyal to their traditional rites of passage. According to Rinehart (2004), the Hindus consider the rites of passage as stages in life that cannot be ignored. They celebrate these rites as per their traditional believes. These rites will always bring together the members of the extended families to share in the joy or grief, depending on their beliefs. Different rituals would be conducted in such ceremonies based on the nature of the event. The Egyptians, especially those in the Upper Egypt, had specific rites of passage for boys and girls from the time of birth, to the time they join adulthood, and their ultimate death at old age. This strong cultural heritage is still common in this region, and other communities that have lived together with the Egyptians for years, such as the Nubians, have embraced the culture and are still practicing it.
Comparing and contrasting rites of passage practices among the two communities
As previously mentioned, although the practices among the Hindu and that of the Egyptians have fundamental differences, there are some striking similarities which show that they had similar views of life in one way or the other.
Similarities between the Hindu rites of passage practices and that of Egyptians
There are fundamental similarities in the cultural practices among the Hindus and the Egyptians during the rites of passage. Both communities have three main rites of passage that are celebrated in different ways. The first rite is the birth. In both communities, this is an important ceremony that is celebrated by the family and friends as they welcome a newborn into the society.
In this ceremony, it is clear that members of the family and family friends would come with gifts as a sign that they welcome the newborn with open hearts. According to Asante (2002), the Egyptians would visit the parents of the newborn with gifts such as olive oil, myrrh, and other precious gifts. This is a practice that has been maintained among this people. Similarly, the Hindus would visit the family with various gifts. Members of the extended family would offer to conduct various chores for the mother of the child so that she would not strain.
Marriage is another rite of passage that is common among the Hindus and Egyptians. Although there are some differences in the activities and manner in which this function is conducted, it is clear that some similarities come out. One such similarity is that the marriage is organized by the parents. According to Moscovitch (2007), although the current generation among the Egyptians prefers choosing their own partners in marriage, their parents still have the final decision as to the marriage partner, especially among the girls as per the Islamic teachings.
The same thing is still common among the Hindus. The parents would propose the marriage partner and the two would be allowed to interact in order to determine if they are comfortable with each other. The parents then take over the entire process of organizing the ceremony. In both cultures, there is always the payment of dowry before the wedding can take place.
The two families would meet and negotiate the payment, and it is only after a mutual agreement that the two would be allowed to wed. In both cases, the celebration of marriage involves singing and dancing. According to Mohamed (2007), the Hindus had specific songs that were meant for wedding celebrations. The celebrations would also involve giving of gifts to the couple as a way of appreciating the noble move to start a family.
Another common rite of passage among the two communities is death. In both societies, there would be mourning when one died. The ceremony involves singing sorrowful songs and in an attempt to console the bereaved family. Death was an expected but feared eventuality. In most of the cases, it is expected that the very old will die ahead of the younger generation. In case a person dies at a tender age, it brings even greater grief. According to Asante (2002), the Egyptians still believe that when one dies, there is a new world for the dead. This belief is also shared among the Hindu. Both societies believe that God will judge the dead based on their deeds when they were alive. This means that they may go to hell, burn in fire if their deeds were not good, or lead a happy life if they led virtuous lives. This explains why both communities would conduct rituals as an attempt to purify the dead in order to make them righteous during the judgment day.
Differences between the Hindu rites of passage practices and that of Egyptians
In these two societies, there are some differences that exist in the practices during the rites of passage based on the difference in the religious beliefs. During the celebration of the birth of a child, the Hindus have a number of sacrifices and prayers offered in order to ensure that the child is protected from the evil spirits. On the other hand, the Egyptians have eliminated most of the traditional practices during birth other than the prayer offered to the mother and the newborn.
Circumcision is a common practice among the Egyptian boys. Soon after birth, boys would be circumcised. In other cases the process would be undertaken later after some days, but it had to happen during infancy. This is very different from the Hindus that do not value circumcision. Instead, Moscovitch (2007) says that they have a ceremony of the sacred thread which is meant for the adolescents to teach them about values of life. This is considered a rite of passage on its own among the Hindus. The process is presided over by a guru who is expected to teach the boys values of the society as they come of age. This practice is still very common, especially among the young men who seek to become priests.
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In marriage ceremonies, there are a number of differences that exist between the two societies. Among the Hindus, the bride and groom are allowed to date in order to get to know each other better before marriage. This is not the case among the Egyptians because the Islamic religion does not allow the unmarried men and women to be together alone.
Cultural context of the rites of passage
As clearly demonstrated above, these cultural practices during the rites of passage were meant to symbolize specific issues as per the cultural background of the society. In both cases, a child is showered with gifts and a prayer is offered to symbolize a religious and successful life that the child should have. During the wedding ceremonies, there are always songs and a celebration which is meant to symbolize the kind of life that the new family is expected to lead.
The family is expected to lead such a joyous life and the presence of the family members and friends is a symbol of support they will receive from them. These practices are also strongly entrenched in the religious beliefs of the communities. The rituals conducted to the dead are expected to cleanse them so that they may be accepted in the afterlife. The religious beliefs of the two societies discussed above make it necessary to conduct these rituals as a way of appeasing their gods. During these ceremonies, especially during marriage, communication is vital because two different parties are brought together.
Different societies have different cultural practices that make them unique in one way or the other. In this study, the researcher compared and contrasted the rites of passage practices among the Hindus and that of the Egyptians. It is clear that these two societies share a number of rites such as birth, marriage, and death. However, it is also clear that there are some fundamental differences in the specific activities conducted during such ceremonies to mark the rites.
Asante, M. K. (2002). Culture and customs of Egypt. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.
Crapo, R. (2013). Cultural anthropology. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education.
Mohamed, M. (2007). The foundations of the composite culture in India. Delhi: Aakar Books.
Moscovitch, A. (2007). Egypt the culture. New York: Crabtree Pub.
Rinehart, R. (2004). Contemporary Hinduism: Ritual, Culture, and Practice. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.