Indian Community

For the Indian community, visitations are better made on appropriate days. For example, visits on Hindu New Years, or to houses of those who have just moved in. Visits on Sunday, Tuesday or Thursday will be forbidden as those are not considered good.

Indians practice various types of greetings, commonest way being to put both palms together and lifting them up to the chest. While this is done, the words are greets such as “Vanakkam” (Tamil), “Namaste” (Hindi) and “Sastrigal” (Sikh).  In addition it would also be accompanied by questions on health, family, work, business and such matters.

Before entering the house shoes must be removed and placed outside the door.

If the host serve drinks or snacks it is forbidden to refuse without any reason. A guest is expected to at least taste a little.
When something is given or received the giver or recipient must use the right hand. The phrase such as “I am going” must be avoided as it will appear as if the guest will not want to visit again. It is better to say “I will return” when leaving the house. The host will usually accompany the guest outside the house and say “good bye and come again” while placing both palms together and raising it to the chest level.

Births

On the child’s birth the father will inform relatives and friends either verbally or by letter. The family is not considered holy or clean for a period of 16 days after the baby’s birth.

A ceremony will be held on the 16th day to formalize the naming of the child. On the day the house and cradle would be decorated and a special meal prepared for the guests.

The name of the child is usually chosen carefully after referring to the Hindu calendar and determining the zodiac of the birth. The name of the baby will start with a letter that is compatible to the star.

When naming the baby the older relatives will take turns to hold the baby while songs are being sung by womenfolk. Relatives will usually give bracelets and anklets. On a suitable day (for example 30th day) the baby will be taken to the temple where a ceremony for giving thanks will be held.

Marriage

Weddings to Indians are very important events. Each step taken is done with the purpose of ensuring the harmony and peace of the bride and groom and their families.

Marriage ceremonies are said to dominate the social lives of the Hindu community and plays an important part in their faith. This is because the Hindu community sees marriage as a religious ceremony which connects the religion with the community structure and economics.

The marriage ceremony is considered to be a festive and expensive event, and is a meeting point for those from both the same and different castes to meet. The marriage ceremony is a very important one in the Hindu ceremony where parents would be willing to be in debt to ensure a grand wedding

A marriage is said to elevate a man’s status. They must produce offspring to avoid being looked down by the society. If a woman fails to provide children the man is allowed to marry again. The woman’s status can be said to be lower than the man, and therefore the women will require protection by the man. Her responsibility would be to produce children and satisfy the man’s desires (Srinivas, 1970:47).

A second marriage is absolutely forbidden for a woman. During the olden days women whose husbands have died will be burnt with the husband. This situation exists amongst royalty and the upper classes.

Although remarriages are forbidden for women who have lost their husbands, as practiced by the Hindu upper classes most caste members allow it now. Second marriages for women will normally be done quietly while the husband can choose to have either a grand wedding or otherwise.

Spouse Hunting/Looking for love

Normally when a family has a son or daughter of a marriageable age, the parents would start looking for his or her match. For a man, when he reaches 25 years old, he is considered eligible for marriage. A woman of 21 and above would qualify. From the writer’s own research (3 have been done), the average age for women to marry above 23 years old while the man would be above 28 years old.

In searching for a spouse, parents who have marriageable children will usually get assistance from marriage brokers to find a suitable match for their child. Some of them seek the help of family members in their efforts to find the match. They also set down the criteria that must be found in their future daughter or son in law. For example, the criteria include education level, good looks, background and stable finances.

Usually the man’s side would be more anxious to find their son’s match compared to the women. The selection of future brides is based on who the parents like and sometimes are based on personal choice. They also try to find matches from the same caste. According to one informant, marrying into another caste can only disrupt family practices. The Hindu community encourages marriages within the family to ensure that the couple is of the same caste. This can be seen more commonly in the matchmaking process of higher class caste such as the Brahmins.

Where the procedures of selection involves a broker, when a broker finds a suitable match , the process of making an inquiry or proposal will be carried out. The parents of the boy will try to investigate the background of the choice, such as the appearance, education and age. The background and financial situation of the girl’s family are also investigated. This is done to ensure that the girl is compatible with the boy in every aspect. If she is not, the match is either rejected or a higher dowry is set.

Seeing the Match

Before the boy’s family comes to see the girl, the girl’s family will be notified first by the broker and if the girl’s family agrees with the choice of the broker then the process can be continued. The boy’s family and entourage will arrive at the girl’s house on a day deemed as suitable by both parties. Usually only the closest family will accompany the boy. No gifts would be brought as this is a normal visit.

Upon arrival , the boy’s family will be invited in by both the girl’s parents and family. The girl chosen will serve drinks thus allowing the boy’s family to indirectly look at the girl. If the boy’s family likes the girl, they will then voice out their intention. If they don’t like the girl, they will send a third party or use the broker to break the news as nicely as possible so as to avoid causing offence. After the boy’s family agrees with the choice then the process of fortune telling will take place next.

Fortune Telling

The fortune telling process will be carried out as soon as possible according to the parents’ wishes after the man’s family agrees with the choice of bride. Normally, the parents will go and it will be done by either the priest at the temple (iyer) or fortune teller (johsier). During the fortune telling, the fortune cards of the future bride and groom to be will studied. These fortune cards contain all information on a person, usually written by the priest at a temple based on the person’s time of birth. It provides a forecast on his life, and is even used to choose his name. This card will be brought to the fortune teller on every important event of a person’s life, such as puberty, wedding etc. If the cards are compatible then the match is considered suitable. Following the fortune telling process and if found suitable then both sides will determine the date of the wedding. A special ceremony will be held for this purpose.

Wedding Date (Nichaya Thartham)

This ceremony is usually held at the house of the bride-to-be based on the date set by the priest according to his fortune telling. This is done on a small scale where guests comprise of close family members, the priest and close friends only.  The bride-to-be’s family will cook for this ceremony as the number of guests are small.

The groom’s family will bring with them trays containing gifts to the bride, filled with items such as kum kum powder, sandalwood (scent wood), coconut, betel leaves and betel nut, and fruits such as oranges, apples bananas and grapes. Upon the arrival of the groom-to-be entourage, they will be welcomed by the family of the bride-to-be and invited to sit on special mats provided in the living room. All guests will be sitting on the floor. The men will put the trays in the middle of the living room and will normally sit circling them. The priest will then invite the spokesperson for both sides (usually the fathers) and the spokesperson for the groom-to-be will hand the trays to the bride’s side. The handing over and acceptance of the trays signify the acceptance of the match by both parties.

Subsequently the two parties will discuss on setting the wedding date. This is done based on the date that is deemed to be a good date, usually obtained from the studying the fortune cards of the prospective couple. For this purpose the help of a priest will be sought who will provide suitable dates according to his prediction. The families will also discuss on the payment of dowry by the future bride. The amount will be one that the future bride’s family can afford to pay, although there are those who ask for more which can result in delays in the wedding or cause the family to borrow to pay for the wedding.
Both parties will discuss the amount of gold and gifts in the form of necessary items and bedroom sets, which the future bride’s family is willing to give. After all these terms are agreed on, the date of engagement and wedding will be set. This ceremony to determine the wedding date will end with a feast for guests where the food will be prepared by the future bride’s family.

Engagement

The engagement ceremony is held at the bride-to-be’s house and only close friends and relatives will be invited. The bride-to-be’s side will again be responsible to prepare foods for the guests and usually cooks in their own homes.
The engagement is usually held several months before the wedding. In the three ceremonies reviewed, the engagement ceremonies were held two months before the wedding. For the ceremony, the groom will bring trays containing an engagement saree, betel leaves, betelnut, coconut, sandalwood, kum kum powder, jewelry, jasmine, cosmetic, banana, rock sugar and floral garland to be given to the bride. The value of the jewelry depends on the promise of the groom-to-be to the bride-to-be during the ceremony to determine the date of the wedding and also on what the groom’s family can afford. These things are brought in odd numbered trays usually seven, nine or eleven. Odd numbers are considered to be lucky in Hindu community and are a good sign.

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