By Natalie A. Correa
On Nov. 12, 2016 Advocating Student Interest in Asia (ASIA) and Developing and Educating South-Asian Ideologies (DESI) took the Holy Cross community to a traditional Hindu Wedding. Held in Loyola Ballroom, the venue was ornamented with many enchanting decorations, including bowls of water with floating candles, flower petals, and string lights. There was also tons of red drapery and beautifications because in Hindu religion, red is used for auspicious celebrations, such as marriage, the birth of a child, etc., and is a symbol of purity and sensuality. All profits from the event are being donated to Market Place of India, a non-profit free trade company that employs women in India to make hand craft goods at fair wages.
The celebration began with a sampling of traditional Indian food. The event was catered by Dharani, a restaurant in Westborough, MA that specializes in South Indian cuisine. Guests chose from one of three offered entrees: chicken curry, chicken tikka masala and aloo gobi, a vegetarian dish consisting of cauliflower, potatoes, and spices. Guests ate one of these dishes with sides of white rice, naan bread, and vegetable samosas. They raved about the Indian cuisine and were content to hear there was enough food even for third helpings!
Did you know that there are eight types of Hindu marriages? They are Brahma, Daiva, Arsha, Prajapatya, Asura, Gandharva, Rakshasa, and Paisacha. The ceremony most closely represented the Brahma marriage, which typically lasts for several days. ASIA and DESI crafted a short skit to demonstrate the stages of Brahma marriage.
Narrators Vanessa Rai ’20 and Ayleen Santarin ’20 did an excellent job telling the audience about the phases of Brahma marriage. It begins with a matchmaking ceremony where the groom-to-be makes trips to prospective brides’ homes. The prospective bride is selected based on her horoscope and a number she selects between eighteen and thirty-six. If the number is above thirty, it is seen as especially auspicious. Families make sure the astrological sign and number are a good match between the bride and groom. Once concluded, a Brahmin priest is consulted to decide on a “lagna,” also known as a marriage time and place. Before modern times, couples were not allowed to see each other before this consulted marriage date; but now couples may see each other as many times as they’d like.
Students demonstrated this phase with a humorous scene, which was similar to a dating game, to ascertain their compatibility. Two brides did not have a compatible astrology sign or number, and so they cried off stage due to their unsuitability. But the lucky bride-to-be, played by Rachel Cournoyer ’18, was a Gemini with the number 30, and was set to marry her groom, portrayed by Jeeva Jacob ’17.
Other stages of the Brahma marriage demonstrated were the Graha Shanti, a prayer ritual that takes place a day before the marriage ceremony and the Mehndi/Sangeet Function, a celebration where the bride gets “mehndi,” or henna, done on her hand while her guests dance and celebrate. The bride’s henna design includes her groom’s initials, which he has to find in order for the wedding ceremony to commence. To demonstrate the festivities involved at a Mehndi and Sangeet Night, students Vidya Madineedi ’20 and Princy Sindurakar’20 choreographed an upbeat performance.
On the Wedding Day, there are a series of pujas, including one where the couple washes the feet of the elders in their families. Then, the bride and groom process: the groom holds a garland of flowers and enters the venue by foot, horseback, or on the back of an elephant. Jacob ’17 had an amusing entrance, as he entered the room while riding a scooter with the image of an elephant attached to it. The altar had pillars with a canopy called the “mandap,” which has two seats underneath for the bride and groom to participate in a ceremonial pyre. In the center, there was a figurative fire because it believed that fire is the main witness of the ceremony.
While underneath the “mandap,” the bride and groom are separated by an “auspicious cloth,” signifying their separate lives prior to marriage. The couple sits in front of one another while the Brahmin priest recites “mangal mantras” or holy prayers. During this time, the bride and groom exchange garlands, which symbolize their mutual approval. Then, the couple expresses the expectations they have of one another during their married life and consent to those expectations by showering the other with puffed rice.
Lastly, the families approve of one another’s new family members. In particular, the groom’s mother gives the bride a mangalsutra necklace, which she is expected to wear for the rest of her life because it is a sign of the couple’s love and marriage. Soon after these actions of approval take place, the bride and groom stand up, circle the fire, and take seven vows. The bride and groom feed each other sweets four times and the bride’s mother gives the groom a gift. As the ceremony concludes the bride and groom bow to all their seniors according to age, with the eldest being first. And finally, the marriage is official!
ASIA and DESI’s Hindu Wedding was humorous, entertaining, and informative. As a senior, this was the first time I attended this annual event, and I was happy to learn more about the Hindu religion.The greatest thing about ASIA, DESI, and all the Multicultural Student Organizations is they allow you to become more culturally aware. Co-Chair of DESI, Victoria Jackson ’18, commented, “In light of the MSO retreat that took place in the beginning of this year, we, as an MSO community, agreed to make unity a central theme and our main goal. In this spirit, a collaboration between DESI and ASIA seemed like a logical pursuit of this goal. Both e-boards enjoyed working with each other, which resulted not only in a great event but also deeper friendships. This is an accomplishment in it of itself and would have made for a satisfying outcome, however it was the words of a guest that gave us the most pride in the work that we did. He said, ‘In such an emotionally and mentally draining week, I think your event was an excellent way to remind your guests that there is power and beauty in unity.’ Though we started planning this event way before the outcome of the election, we are elated that our event could serve as relief and our newly found unity was able to inspire the community.”
If you haven’t yet, take advantage of Holy Cross’ multicultural events, step outside yourself, and #AskMore.