I’ve been listening to Mahabharat podcasts and all along, various kings, queens and rishis have prayed and persevered for a boy. Never, a girl. Is the orthodox mindset influenced by our scriptures? I am genuinely curious.
Answer by Raakhee V. Menon:
As per the culture and traditions of most communities in India, the family bloodline is carried forward by the men of the family. Hence, a male child was wished and prayed for. Daughters were intended to be married off and they became a part of their husbands’ families. So her time in her own home was only a ‘transit period’ of sorts…until she moved to her permanent abode post marriage. Probably it is because of this that parents wished to have an offspring that represented some hope for their future, for their old age, for carrying on the family name.
This custom has been in place for hundreds of thousands of years, which is why you would have noticed the same tone of prayer for a son in all ancient texts. I believe that this is also because most of India’s ancient epics are based on events that happened in societies that were strictly patriarchal. It’s not like a daughter was unwelcome. But a son was a fixed asset for any family.
This is entirely reversed in matrilineal communities, like mine for instance. Whatever I wrote above about the bloodline is completely reversed in such communities. The birth of a son is accepted, but it is through the daughters that the family name moves forward. Married couples pray for as many daughters as possible. I personally know many families that have kept on trying for a girl child, getting several sons in the process.
The son’s children inherit the family name of their mother. So naturally, the daughters of the family hold an elevated position than the daughters-in-law, who are perpetual outsiders. The daughters’ children who inherit their mothers’ family name are considered to be the children of the family, while the sons’ children are again just visitors who belong to another family.
So it is not a common orthodox Indian preference to have a son over a daughter. It is there in a majority of communities, but not all. And if this was influenced by our scriptures, then my community was certainly not influenced by it at all. In fact, they observe just the opposite customs.