Out of the many rituals that are involved in a Hindu wedding, Kanyadaan (giving away the bride) is a very important one. During the ritual, the father of the bride entrusts the groom with the future wellbeing of his daughter. The sentiment-laden ritual signifies the trust that the father of the bride has on his son-in-law who is relatively a stranger. If the father of the bride is deceased, sick, or isn’t present at the wedding, the honor goes to her uncle or an older male relative who performs the ritual on behalf of the father. However, it’s uncommon for a woman to perform Kanyadaan and especially a widow or a single mother because it is considered to be inauspicious. This particular side of our customs is so dark that such women aren’t even allowed to bless the newly married couple since they didn’t have a long-lasting married life themselves.
Well, time progresses and so do people. The ritual of Kanyadaan was given a much-needed makeover when Raji Sharma, a single mother, gave away her daughter Sandhya during her wedding. The precious moments of the wedding captured by wedding photographer Varun Suresh warmed the netizens hearts and encouraged them to share similar stories. Want to know more about the unconventionally traditional wedding? Read on.
The Unconventional Wedding
Often when a child’s father passes away or leaves the family, the mother takes on the responsibilities of the father as well. She earns for the living for her children and cooks their meals as well. However, when it comes to their daughter’s wedding, the single mother is denied the respect that she deserves and the honor to perform rituals like Kanyaadan goes on to the men in the family. The blood, sweat, and tears that she shed to raise her daughter gets lost in oblivion on the most important day of both their lives. Even if a mother wants to perform the ritual, there will ideally be her own family members and priests who will go against it.
Raji Sharma was also worried about the same. “When Sandhya wanted to have a Hindu Brahmin wedding, the one thing I was worried about was Kanyadaan. In my daughter’s case, I wanted to take on the father’s role, but I didn’t know if my family would support my decision, or if I could even find a priest who would do it,” recollects Raji. Luckily, Raji’s family was very supportive and they told her that she deserved to perform the ritual since she had been not just the mother but also the father to her daughter.
After making the decision about the Kanyaadan, the family searched for a while to find a priest who would perform the unconventional wedding without any qualms about it. Raghava, a young priest who Raji had met at her niece’s wedding agreed to conduct the wedding and from there on, things went pretty smooth for her. Varun Suresh, the photographer who shot the wedding wrote on his blog — “This wedding definitely got the better of me. The sheer extent of happiness that was shared and celebrated was humbling. I can easily say, even if this wedding lasted another week I would have shot through every second of it without breaking Facebook with my complaints.”
The wedding took place in a completely traditional avatar and the joy of the family is clearly visible in the photographs. They look so adorable! Raji’s daughter Sandhya who has been supporting her mother in all of her decisions said, “Having spent most of her time in Australia has given my mother a different perspective to challenge the traditional society and its norms back home in India. We took the best out of its rich culture without being bound by customs that are discriminatory.” Sandhya is happily married to Sam, an Australian citizen who was all excited for the traditional Hindu wedding.
Raji was born and brought up in a Chennai settled family. She moved to Sydney, Australia after her marriage that ended in divorce after seventeen years. “I was at risk of losing my job, and I was going through a tough period in my life. I used to tell myself to think and be inspired by the other Indians who had just landed in Australia and were trying to build new lives. With my amazing kids for support, I was able to get through it,” she remembers. The mother of two is currently working in VMware and credits her children for being her support systems. Raji is also an enthusiastic cook and she teaches others about cooking on weekends.
While our tradition is a part of our identity, they are imperfect just as we are. Raji’s story is an eye-opener for those who follow the unfair beliefs and practices of their culture blindly. We hope that Raji inspires more and more women to step forward and practice their rights regardless of their caste, gender, and marital status.