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My Wedding!

After OonjalThe traditional Hindu wedding is a multi-day affair. I won’t take you through the whole thing, just indicate some highlights of the second, and arguably main, day of the wedding:

Kasi Yathirai (Or, Wherein after much fasting and even a re-engagement, I’m supposed to get cold feet?)

Me: [Run Away!]
Father-in-law: Boy, where are you going?
Me: I’m off to Kasi to further my studies and become an ascetic.
Father-in-law: The life of an ascetic sucks. Married life is better. I’ve got a very beautiful daughter whom you should marry.
Me: Okay

The above is roughly the ritualised re-enactment that is a part of a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony


Mangalya Dharanam (A.K.A. giving away the bride)

At this point, my in-laws are tearing, which is understandable.
Priest: Now, chant as I tell you and tie just one knot. Your sister will tie the other two to signify the welcoming of the bride into the family.
Me: What kind of knot?
Everyone: [Laughter]

That wasn’t planned. It’s just that sometimes priestly instructions can be really vague…


Saptha Padi (Seven Steps)

From Wikipedia:

Step 1 Groom’s vow: O!, you who feeds life-sustaining food, nourish my visitors, friends, parents and offsprings with food and drinks. O! beautiful lady, I, as a form of Vishnu, take this first step with you for food.
Step 1 Bride’s vow: Yes, whatever food you earn with hard work, I will safeguard it, prepare it to nourish you. I promise to respect your wishes, and nourish your friends and family as well.

Step 2 Groom’s vow: O!, thoughtful and beautiful lady, with a well managed home, with purity of behavior and thought, you will enable us to be strong, energetic and happy. O! beautiful lady, I, as Vishnu, take this second step with you for the strength of body, character and being.
Step 2 Bride’s vow: Yes, I will manage the home according to my ability and reason. Together, I promise, to keep a home that is healthy, strength and energy giving.

Step 3 Groom’s vow: O!, skillful and beautiful lady, I promise to devote myself to earning a livelihood by fair means, to discuss, and let you manage and preserve our wealth. O! dear lady, I, as Vishnu form, cover this third step with you to thus prosper in our wealth.
Step 3 Bride’s vow: Yes, I join you in managing our income and expenses. I promise to seek your consent, as I manage our wealth, fairly earned, so it grows and sustains our family.

Step 4 Groom’s vow: O!, dear lady, I promise to trust your decisions about the household and your choices; I promise to dedicate myself to help our community prosper, the matters outside the house. This shall bring us respect. O! my lady, I, as Vishnu, take this fourth step with you to participate in our world.
Step 4 Bride’s vow: Yes, I promise to strive to make the best home for us, anticipate and provide necessary things for your worldly life, and for the happiness of our family.

Step 5 Groom’s vow: O!, lady of skill and pure thoughts, I promise to consult with you and engage you in the keep of our cows, our agriculture and our source of income; I promise to contribute to our country. It shall win us future. O! my skilled lady, I, as Vishnu form, take this fifth step with you to together grow our farms and cattle.
Step 5 Bride’s vow: Yes, I promise to participate and protect the cattle, our agriculture and business. They are a source of yoghurt, milk, ghee and income, all useful for our family, necessary for our happiness.

Step 6 Groom’s vow: O!, lovely lady, I seek you and only you, to love, to have children, to raise a family, to experience all the seasons of life. O! my lovely lady, I, as Vishnu, take this sixth step with you to experience every season of life.
Step 6 Bride’s vow: Feeling one with you, with your consent, I will be the means of your enjoyment of all the senses. Through life’s seasons, I will cherish you in my heart. I will worship you and seek to complete you.

Step 7 Groom’s vow: O friends!, allow us to cover the seventh step together, this promise, our Saptapad-friendship. Please be my constant wife.
Step 7 Bride’s vow: Yes, today, I gained you, I secured the highest kind of friendship with you. I will remember the vows we just took and adore you forever sincerely with all my heart.

So, now we were married in the eyes of God.


Civil Ceremony

Bride: I promise to love you, honour you, comfort you and keep you, in sickness and in health and be faithful to you so long as we both shall live.
JP:[Aside to my parents] Are they allowed to kiss now?
Parents: Not here in public
JP: So, by the power vested in me by the Republic of Singapore, I now pronounce you husband and wife.
Uncle: You may now kiss the bride.

And so, we were then married in the eyes of the state.


The wedding dinner itself was 6 days later. Apparently over here, it is common that even though there is a cake cutting, no actual cake is cut. The whole thing is made of plaster and there is a groove for the knife to go in so that it looks from really from away that you cut a cake. SSM related tussles with bakers suggest that this is not so common in the states. Has anyone attended a wedding with a fake cake?

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Murali did his undergraduate degree in molecular biology with a minor in biophysics from the National University of Singapore (NUS). He then changed direction and did his Masters in Philosophy also at NUS. Now, he is currently pursuing a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Warwick.

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17 thoughts on “My Wedding!

  1. We should totally start doing “Kasi Yathirai” in the states. I mean, if it weren’t patriarchal and appropriation besides. You guys should totally stop doing that!

    We should start doing that.

    Saptha Padi is also beautiful. I mean, it’s also patriarchal. You guys should be more like us here in America. Stop doing stuff from your culture and start doing stuff from ours. It’s still beautiful, though.

    (I’ve never seen a fake wedding cake outside of the displays in a bakeshop that specializes in wedding cakes. It’s supposed to be a reasonable facsimile of the cake you’ll eventually get instead of something to impress the rubes in the back of the hall.)

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    • Your reactions mirror my own. The vows are beautiful and poetic and loving, but also really heavy on the traditional gender roles. Burt and Murali’s posts below provide valuable context to that. It feels regressive for the present day, but it’s progressive for something a few thousand years old.

      Although one can view them as somewhat metaphorical and a broad description of married live as a partnership. I would guess Murali doesn’t actually own cows.

      I hope you and your wife will be very happy, Murali. Thank you for sharing this.

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  2. This was very interesting and I appreciate you sharing it. May you both be very happy.

    FWIW, I think the American (inferior) equivalent to Kasi Yathirai is the traditional photograph of the groom trying to escape out a window while others hold him back. (Remember Dman’s wedding?) I never encountered this in Canada but I was never quasi in the groom’s party in Canada either. Equally patriarchal, a lot less community-building.

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  3. Step 3 is interesting — the groom promises to earn money to bring in to the household; the bride promises to manage and control the money. Step 5 is congruent with this: though the husband is empowered to take the lead in economic transactions outside of the home, he must not dispose of the household’s cattle without the informed consent of the bride, for to do so would intrude upon the bride’s sphere of control of the household.

    In a more modern society, it’s somewhere between quaint and condescending. But in the context of the not-liberated, pre-industrial society from which the tradition takes its roots, this exchange of vows was probably thought of as both progressive and protective of the role of the woman as an economic actor and as a human being, vesting her with agency, authority, and responsibility. A substantial sphere of ultimate control is allocated to women, and both parties are enjoined to consult with one another before whichever one of them exercises the ultimate control in which they are vested. Patriarchal, yes… but with nuance.

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    • 1. Well if the Saptha padi is authentically Vedic (as is claimed by the priests) then this is not merely pre-industrial, but iron-age. For the iron-age, this is way ahead of its time.

      2. Are you reading it as “cattle, (which is) our agriculture and business” instead of “cattle, our agriculture, and business. If the latter, then the wife has control over all or almost all familial assets and not just the portion of it which is cattle.

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    • That’s similar to an argument one of my undergrad professors made about divorce laws in the Korean Yi dynasty. The laws forbidding divorce were according to him intended to protect the woman from the husband eschewing all his obligations. (My professor wasn’t defending the law. He was noting that the law, in addition to other patriarchal laws that eroded women’s rights, had a more complex heritage than simply patriarchy.)

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  4. Apparently over here, it is common that even though there is a cake cutting, no actual cake is cut. The whole thing is made of plaster and there is a groove for the knife to go in so that it looks from really from away that you cut a cake.

    What a travesty!

    That said, congratulations and best wishes, Murali!

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  5. Here is the States, the wedding tends to be quick.
    It’s divorce that takes a long time.

    Funerals have changed rather recently though.
    Hearing older people talk, the church bell used to ring when someone died, and you could tell whether it was an old person or a young person that died by the way it rang. The body would then be sat up in the living room, so people could come by to pay their last respects. A pepper sauce on the fingertips to keep the cat from nibbling was standard.
    The body went into the ground fairly quickly after that, and I was told that it was pretty much a certainty that people had been buried alive.
    These days, a funeral will drag on for days.

    Makes me wonder where our priorities are at.

    And congratulations.
    I am very happy for you.

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  6. Can’t abide seeing an unlucky 13 comments on this post any longer: Congratulations, Mrs. and Mr. Murali!

    Forthose critiquing the Iron Age patriarchal sexism of the ceremony, I agree that a more modern view would be preferable. All this stuff about man, woman, gods, economics, households, etc., can be presumed very hurtful to those who lack parents, families, home, religion, fixed gender-states, aham-buddhi, and cattle.

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