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Cultural Experiences = Learning

By: Dr. Lisa M. Coffey

September 15, 2022

I had the pleasure of attending an Indian/Hindu Wedding Celebration! The cultural experience was unlike any celebration I had witnessed. Before the big day, I watched youtube videos and read articles to familiarize myself with the various events, customs, rituals, and cultural norms. Not only was this a celebratory time this was a learning experience!

Weeks before the big event, I had to shop and assemble my traditional Indian outfits. Since I rarely shop in brick-and-mortar stores, I resorted to online shopping. The Sarees, Lehengas, Cholis, and Salwar Suits were vibrant, full of color and embellishments. Still, I had no idea how long it would take for delivery or how they would fit my fuller body, so I opted for a personal styling experience with a local Indian boutique and tailor. There I was able to purchase my garments and jewelry. I was comfortable knowing that an expert styled me for the events, so that was one less worry.

My mother and I attended four events in two days:

  • The Sangeet (sung-together) is a celebratory event that gathers families and guests for food, games, music, dancing, and performances. The atmosphere is relaxed yet invigorating. I danced a traditional dance in a big circle resembling a line dance. The dance is exquisite and graceful.

  • The Baraat Celebration is a parade with drummers, music, dancing, and singing that ushers the groom to the wedding ceremony. The parade processional includes all of the groom's family and guests. Although I was a guest of the bride, I did not want to miss the learning experience, so I marched in the processional too. Once inside, the groom is welcomed by the bride's mother and family in a celebration called the Pokwanu, and several rituals occur.

  • The Marriage Ceremony is unlike any I have ever witnessed; several rituals during the ceremony honor the couple's sacrament of Varatas (vows). The uniqueness of the ceremony is the faith-based rituals and the incorporation of the family members. The parents sat center stage under the Mandap, unlike the bridesmaids and groomsmen adorning the altar in my culture. The uncles gave the bride away. The siblings are incorporated into the ceremony, and married women from each side of the family. There is also a presentation of gifts to the groom's family at the ceremony. The "You may now kiss your bride" moment was absent from the ceremony. Public affection is too personal for a public setting.

  • The Reception is a formal affair that introduces the new couple. This affair is most like the receptions I know. There was a first dance, cake cutting, speeches, dinner, dancing, and fellowship.

My summation of this big, extravagant, colorful weekend is; a celebration of love, commitment, religion, family, and culture. But, beyond the pageantry, there was genuine love and adoration for the couple. The guests traveled from all over the world to take part in the weekend. The family members and guests in the program gave speeches, sang, and danced, which was heartfelt. It was an honor to attend the celebration and be in an atmosphere filled with so much love.

Thanks, my friend, for the invitation and the opportunity to celebrate with you and your family. Congratulations to your daughter and her new husband. May they live a life of love, peace, harmony, prosperity, and grandbabies.

Key Takeaway:

Do not shy away from new cultural experiences. Instead, embrace the opportunity to learn about others' customs, traditions, and norms. You will be enriched by the experience and find commonalities between the cultures and differences. However, the learning process allows the expansion of your mind and heart.

(C) Copyright 2022- Dr. Lisa M.Coffey, all rights reserved.



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