Byline: Shruti Date Singh Daily Herald Staff Writer
Family. Tradition. Emotion. Color. Music.
My wedding - as most all Indian Hindu weddings - was a combination of all these in a whirlwind of events spanning half a year. Each occasion, dictated by a rich culture thousands of years old, celebrated the bond my husband and I forged with each other and each other's family.
Although my husband, Rajiv Singh, and I were both brought up in the suburbs of Chicago, we carried with us the Indian heritage and wanted to follow age-old rituals for our wedding, or shadi.
We had to keep in mind, however, we could not carry out the wedding exactly as it would be in India. We would need to adjust and improvise here and there. For example, Hindu families turn to priests and religious calendars to identify the most auspicious day and time, or muhurat, to hold the marriage. The muhurat can fall on any day of the week and any time of day. With our American sensibility, however, we knew our wedding would need to be on a Saturday as a matter of convenience for all parties. So, we asked for the most auspicious Saturday in June. We decided June 15, 2002 would be the day Rajiv and I would unite.
We also had to keep in mind that our families come from different parts of the large and diverse country of a billion people, although they are both Hindu and Indian. My family originates from the state of Maharashtra on the western coast of India. Rajiv's family draws its roots from the state of Uttar Pradesh in the northern part of the country. While the predominant language in India is Hindi, each state in the country is home to a unique language and set of traditions. As you might have guessed, Hindus around India practice the same basic wedding rituals, but with some variations. We tried to follow the traditions and respect the feelings of family members from each side.
In the Hindu culture, receiving the approval and blessings of both families holds great importance to the couple. In fact, in India it's common for parents to find a suitable match for their son or daughter, or to search side by side with their children to find the perfect addition to their family. But more and more, young men and women in India have begun to find their own life partners.
Growing up in the United States, Rajiv and I had the choice of either allowing our parents to search for us or finding someone (preferably Indian and Hindu, according to our families) on our own. Luckily, we found each other. I am not sure exactly when our thoughts turned to marriage. But by the time Rajiv got down on one knee to propose to me with a beautiful diamond ring - on the 95th floor of the John Hancock building in Chicago - our marriage was a foregone conclusion. Our parents had met a couple of months earlier to discuss our marriage and establish a date for my godh bharaii, which in Hindi literally means filling the lap with presents.
This event, and other wedding-related functions that followed, begins with a ceremony, or a pooja, to show our devotion and ask the Hindu deity, Ganesh, for blessings. During the godh bharaii ceremony, which is usually hosted by the girl's family, the parents of the groom officially accept the girl as their daughter-in-law in front of friends and family members from both sides. They present her with a set of traditional clothing and jewelry to wear to the event as a token of their acceptance, which bonds the girl to the boy's family. Following the traditions of Rajiv's family, this ceremony serves as the first step of the engagement rituals.
The role of the groom's sister holds great importance in this event. She helps the bride dress and then escorts her to the room where the ceremony will take place. In my case, we held the event at a banquet hall Oct. 27, 2001. I came dressed for the event draped in …