Tag Archives: Hinduism

Hindi Proverb

Tags: Proverb, Folk Saying, Hinduism, Caste System, Reincarnation

Text

“Do the right thing, not the easy thing.”

Informant Info

Race/Ethnicity: Indian

Age: 21

Occupation: College Student

Residence: Arizona, USA

Date of Performance: February 2024

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Bengali

Relationship: Friend

Context

RB, the informant, is of Indian descent and actively practices Hinduism.

Analysis

In collecting texts from the informant, I asked him the standard questions, “what is a proverb, rebus, joke,… What was a folk tradition that was important to you growing up?” 

He responded, “The biggest thing that I believe is central to the culture [Hinduism] I was raised in was the idea of doing the right thing, not the easy thing.”

Upon doing more research, I found that Indian culture is heavily rooted in being moral as morality is strongly tied to how one would be reincarnated in the next life [in Hinduism]. Notably, Hinduism believes that doing the “right thing” is related to making sure your life’s purpose is fulfilled, also known as dharma. Having a culture of people wanting to fulfill their life’s purpose has resulted in a classist structure in India, especially amongst people in higher castes.

I caught up with the informant after doing some independent research and asked him if dharma affected his “do the right thing, not the easy thing” mindset and he said “although the caste system is legally gone, its impacts are still very much there.” Acknowledging the idea that morality is a huge standard in Indian culture, one that is heavily influenced by the now gone caste system.

Hinduism Gesture

Tags: Gesture, Hinduism, India, Spiritual and Religious Practice

Text

Offerings can only be given using the right hand.

Informant Info

Race/Ethnicity: Indian

Age: 22

Occupation: College Student

Residence: Northwest Arkansas, USA

Date of Performance: February 2024

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): N/A

Relationship: Friend

Context

AH, the informant, is of Indian descent. Her father practices Hinduism and speaks Tulu. He has been a very influential figure in her upbringing.

Analysis

This gesture/cultural practice stems from an Indian practice where the left hand is used to cleanse the body, leaving the right hand reserved for purity exchanges. A purity that is valued in Hinduism spiritual and religious rituals, for mind, speech, and body. To use the left hand to give offerings, for example, would be considered taboo.

Hindi Proverb: Zameen aasmaan ka farak hai

Text: ज़मीन आसमान का फर्क है

Romanization: Zameen aasmaan ka farak hai

Transliteration: zameen → land / aasmaan → the sky / ka →  of / farak → difference / hai → is

Transcription: It’s like the difference between the land and the sky

Translation: There is a world of difference

Context: My informant – a 20-year old international student from Kolkata, India – explained to me that this is a common Hindi phrase spoken in India. When translating for me, he said that it means “it’s like the difference between the ground and sky” and it would be used when you are comparing two things that are extremely different. He couldn’t remember where he heard it for the first time, but he said it is a very common proverb used in day-to-day colloquial conversations where he is from. While he has heard it from his elders, he says that it is predominantly used among friends and in informal settings.

Analysis: While the literal translation of this phrase might be “there is a world of difference,” my informant interpreted it to be “it’s like the difference between the ground and sky,” leading me to believe there ought to be cultural factors that play into his interpretation. The proverb comes from India, a country in which the dominant religion is Hinduism. In the chapter “Riddles and Proverbs” by F. A. de Caro in Elliot Oring’s Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: An Introduction, Caro writes that “the four Hindu castes are said to have sprung from the body parts of the creator god and in social status they also descend from head to foot” (191). He proceeds to emphasize the importance of the head, as the multiple heads on a single body are emblematic of the divine power of the Gods (Head: Symbolism and Ritual Use). Considering this, I believe that there is a connection to be made between my informant’s phrase and the Hindu religion that is a major part of the society from which the phrase originated. As the head is closer to the sky – a representation of divine authority in Hinduism (Symbolism of Sky in Hinduism) – and the feet are on the ground – a realm without divine authority – the two spaces are vastly different from each other and cannot be conflated. So, when someone attempts to compare two drastically different things in conversation, responding with “zameen aasmaan ka farak hai” is to not only showcase the dissimilarity between them, but to also emphasize that one is potentially of greater importance than the other, pulling on the Hindu belief of the sky’s superiority to the ground.

References:

De Caro, F. A.. “Riddles and Proverbs.” In Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: An Introduction, edited by Elliot Oring, 175-197. Utah State University Press, 1986.

Meslin, Michel. “Head: Symbolism and Ritual Use,” Encyclopedia.com, https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/head-symbolism-and-ritual-use. 

V, Jayaram. “Symbolism of Sky in Hinduism,” Hinduwebsite.com, https://www.hinduwebsite.com/symbolism/symbols/sky.asp. 

Hindi Joke: Randi rona mat kar

Text: रंडी रोना मत कर

Romanization: Randi rona mat kar

Transliteration: randi → whore / rona mat kar → don’t cry

Transcription: Don’t cry, whore

Translation: Don’t cry, whore

Context: My informant – a 20-year-old international student from Kolkata, India – explained to me that this is a common Hindi phrase spoken in India. When translating it for me, he said that it means “a prostitute crying” and it is an inappropriate jab that he and his friends use towards each other. He has heard it most in North India and has described it as slang in Delhi and the Punjab region used in his age group. The jab is used when someone is perceived to be whining about something and the people around the whiner are fed up with it, so they call that person a whore and tell them not to cry. In recent years, he has also heard the phrase in the content of social media influencers, making it more widespread in his country.

Analysis: While prostitution is permitted in India, there is a large portion of the population that sees it as unethical and a violation of cultural values (Prostitution: Legality and Morality in India). In Hinduism, the dominant religion in India, marriage is believed to be a union made in Heaven, and when that marriage is completed on Earth, the marriage bond is believed to persist through seven lifetimes (Hindu Wedding Ceremony). Considering this, there are many who believe that prostitution is an insult to the sanctity of marriage, thus rendering the subject as taboo. In the phrase “randi rona mat kar,” you are explicitly calling someone a prostitute or a whore, pulling on language that is bound to reap discomfort given the perception of the profession in the culture. In the chapter “Jokes that Follow MassMediated Disasters in a Global Electronic Age” by Christie Davies, the author writes that “disaster jokes, like jokes about sex or race or, in some societies, religion or politics, are a way of playing with the forbidden for the sake of amusement” (32). Pulling on this analysis and the perception of prostitution in India, the utilization of “randi rona mat kar” is a way for young people to play with the sacredness of cultural values in an attempt to subvert or challenge traditional norms and beliefs. It serves as a medium for cultural defiance and pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable in their society. Additionally, my informant was adamant about the phrase only being used in his age group, and he also mentioned it becoming more widespread due to the Internet. Davies also writes that the Internet “stimulates the invention of disaster jokes and of death-of-a-celebrity jokes by providing templates for, encouraging emulation among, and granting legitimacy to disaster joke-tellers” (33). With this, I believe that the proliferation of “randi rona mat kar” among younger generations is a product of the Internet’s ability to disseminate information at a faster rate, and with that comes a larger amount of young people playing with a taboo topic that is bound to reestablish cultural norms.

References:

Davies, Christie. “Jokes that Follow MassMediated Disasters in a Global Electronic Age.” In Of Corpse: Death and Humor in Folklore and Popular Culture, edited by Peter Narvaez, 15-34. Utah State University Press, 2003.

Harsh, Garima. “Prostitution: Legality and Morality in India,” The Times of India, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/readersblog/welfaremeasuresunderthefactoriesactacriticalappraisal/prostitution-legality-and-morality-in-india-55396/. 

“Hindu Wedding Ceremony,” Sikh and Dread Photography, https://www.sikhanddread.com/hindu-weddings#:~:text=In%20Hinduism%2C%20it%20is%20believed,life%20%E2%80%93%20the%20’Grihasthashram’. 

Navratras festival – not using sharp objects

Ritual:

There is a Hindu holiday, which occurs twice a year, called Navratras. It lasts 9 days. During these 9 days, people who fast do not use any sharp objects, except for a knife to cut food. People do not cut nails or hair or shave for 9 days. It is believed to bring bad luck if you use sharp objects.

Context:

JG is 59 years old and my mother. She grew up in India with a very religious Hindu family, before immigrating to the USA. She still practices Hinduism to this day, and follows all of the religion’s traditions, observes the festivals, and believes in its myths to this day. She tried to pass this on to me as a child, but her religious beliefs never really connected with me. She agreed to retell this celestial myth to me for this assignment.

Analysis:

The Navratras is a Hindu festival in which people worship Goddess Durga by fasting. Some people believe that Goddess Durga stood on the tip of a needle while fighting the evil forces – this is why sharp objects, like needles, are probably associated with bad luck. The festival has its origins in ancient Hindu texts and has been observed for centuries – this shows the great effort that many Indian cultures make to preserve their stories and traditions. This particular aspect of fasting is probably a form of making physical sacrifices, in the form of small changes in one’s everyday lifestyle, for the gods.