An April Update

We moved into a new apartment last week.  We love that it is so spacious and has lots of windows and light, but it has been extremely stressful so far.  Nothing was cleaned!  Slowly, Satya and I are trying to make it livable, but it is taking lots of time.

-We’ve been eagerly looking at pictures of our new niece.  It will be fun to see how she grows and changes.  We bought her some small gifts-a stuffed lamb, a rattle for her arm since she loves to move her arms a lot, and an onesie with a cute little hat and booties, and of course, books.  Apparently, the traditional Lingayat baby gift is a silver cup, but we are holding off on that gift for a while.

-I found a collection of folktales called, “Old Deccan Days, or Old Hindoo Fairy Legends” by Mary Frere.  Mary Frere lived in India in the 1800s and recorded some of the stories told to her by her ayah, Anna Liberata de Souza.  Anna de Souza was a Christian, but her grandparents converted from Lingayatism.  Also, some of the areas mentioned in the book are the same areas where Satya has family.  Satya recognized some of the stories and names, although he says Mary Frere didn’t record some things correctly.  One of the stories, “the Punchkin” seems to have been very famous.  I’m looking forward to reading more when I have more time.

-We were watching one of our favorite tv shows, “The Soup”, recently and were surprised to see Anil Kapoor, Bollywood star, do a skit with the host.  Anil Kapoor will be appearing on episodes of “24” as a Middle Eastern leader.

-Last night we were watching some episodes of “Yeh jo hai Zindagi”.  It is a very funny, relaxing show from the ’80s.  We watched an episode called “The Antique Gift”.  It is fun to see some cultural differences.  One I noticed in that episode is that the couple visited their friend, the colonel.  The next time, they brought with them the wife’s brother and mentioned to the colonel, “We wanted him to see your house.” And then they wandered freely through his house!  I don’t think that would happen often in the U.S.!

Celebrating Shivaratri

Today, Monday is Shivaratri. Satya and I went to the temple Saturday to commemorate the festival and it was very crowded! I’d never seen it so crowded before. On the way back and forth I peppered Satya with questions about the festival. Here is what I discovered:

Why:

He said that Shivaratri commemorates a man named Kanappa (literally Mr. Eyes). Kanappa was hunting one night and sitting in a tree. On the ground below unbeknownst to him was a linga, Shiva’s sacred symbol. All night Kanappa was dropping leaves on the ground and many fell on the linga. Shiva was so happy about this that he appeared before Kanappa. Kanappa shrugged off the meeting initially and just continued on with his life. As he told the story to others, they told him, “You met Shiva! You are so lucky!”. Kanappa then wanted to see Shiva again so he performed many devotions to Shiva and even decided to sacrifice his eyes to Shiva if only he could see Shiva again. He poked out one eye and was preparing to poke out the next when Shiva appeared again to him. Shiva told him not to poke out his eye and even restored the other eye to Kanappa. Thereafter, Kanappa became a loyal follower of Shiva.

Satya says that this story demonstrates how easily pleased Shiva is and how generous he is. Satya and his family emphasize that Shiva is a simple, generous god. Before I met Satya all I knew was that Shiva was the destroyer-that was it, only that one dimensional view. Satya also says that Shiva even has worshippers among the demons, something I can’t quite understand yet. From my observations so far, Eastern thinking does seem to hold more complexity/shades of grey than Western.

At the temple:

We arrived 10 minutes before the temple was supposed to close for the night, but everything was still happening. In one area, the priests had placed a linga on the back of the Nandi and were leading it around. The priests were also doing the usual ceremony with the fire, blessing hat, and blessed liquid (forget what the liquid is). I still have to improve my sipping abilities-I can’t drink the liquid from my hand gracefully yet as it still goes onto the floor and on my wrist and chin. Little girls wore their most colorful outfits as did some of the women. Satya was a little confused with one group because they were chanting “Narayana Narayana” near Shiva. This confused him because that is one of the names of Vishnu, not Shiva. I guess we will have to ask his parents about that one. Satya also made sure to ring the bell near Shiva area. This was a little difficult because there were so many people there and a lot of people wanted to do the same. A lot of parents would also hold their toddlers in their arms so that the toddlers could ring the bell too. I tried to stay close to Satya, but there were so many people that sometimes we got separated as we made our circuit to the altars of various deities. This time, I did not get the peaceful, holy feeling at the temple but I think that is because we rushed to get there, had to deal with the crowds, and after all that only stayed for 20 minutes.

Last year we went to a small, North Indian temple for this festival. It was a lot different there. There, people poured milk over the linga and then in the main room people were chanting. Satya had no idea what they were chanting, but Saturday at the South Indian one he didn’t know either exactly all that was happening. Last year on Shivaratri was the first time I’d ever been to a Hindu temple and the first time we’d gone together.

Celebrating at home:

Satya called his parents and sister and told them we were going to the temple for the festival. His sister mentioned he was supposed to fast for the day. He sort of followed this because after our usual breakfast of oatmeal we didn’t eat a full meal until the evening. We also made sure we took showers right before we left because being clean is so important for Hindu celebrations. Satya mentioned wanting to bathe the idols we have in the house, but we didn’t get to that this time. In India, his parents had some family members over at their house. All in all, Shivaratri seems to be a smaller, quieter festival compared to some of the other festivals although Wikipedia mentions people staying awake all night in prayer, listening to musicians and watching dancers.

Conclusion:

There is a lot about Hinduism/Lingayatism I do not understand yet. I still feel awkward going to the temple, but that is ok. There is a lot that Satya doesn’t know as well. We do what we can. We both think it is important to worship together and to support each other’s festivals and traditions.

Cousin’s Lingayat Wedding

Satya’s cousin got married in India this past weekend.  It was a little bittersweet for him since he is happy his cousin is getting married, but sad he wasn’t able to attend.  Here are some things we found out:

-The festivities occurred over 3 days.  The dates are checked astrologically to make sure they are auspicious.  It is also important that parts of the ceremony are done at certain times, down to the minute.  Again, this is to make the ceremony is auspicious and the marriage begins on the right foot.

-Each of the three days Satya’s cousin got turmeric applied to his skin. 

-He wore different outfits for each day–one day in a suit, one day in a sherwani (the long-sleeved coats that end around a man’s knees), and the South Indian dyoti.

-3,000 people attended which is medium-sized.

-The cousin’s hand hurt after shaking so many hands.

-On the invitation, the women’s names go first.  This is a reverse of how it is in the U.S.  For formal occassions here, invitations are addressed Mr. and Mrs. Man’s first name Man’s last name.  There, the Mrs. goes first and her name is written out first and last and then her husband’s name is mentioned his first name and last name.  Is it the same in North India too?

-Brides are considered incarnations of Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, happiness, and health.

There was one tradition that puzzled both me and Satya…for some reason after the wedding his cousin was not allowed to return to his home.  This was a big deal because Satya’s sister took lots of pictures and so the two of them wanted to e-mail pictures.  They ended up going to a friend’s house, but the friend’s computer has a virus.  No fun. 

Another part that confused us was that Satya says that in his family it is tradition to set out a pole and bucket in front of the cousin’s house.  The pole is then set on fire.  I don’t know what happens with the bucket…in case the pole fire gets out of control??  Has anybody else heard of this tradition and/or know the reasoning behind it?  Maybe the pole is to tell time….after it is burnt the cousin can re-enter his family’s house?  Satya has no idea. 

Yes, the cousin did have a traditional arranged marriage.  It was a process that took a few years because sometimes a girl was found that his cousin liked and his parents did not or the his parents would like a girl and he didn’t.  They met each other in August and decided by early September that they would get married in late November.  Both are Lingayats and they are both professionals in their mid to late 20s.  It turned out that the bride was related to somebody in Satya’s old neighborhood so perhaps that is how they found each other.  No, there wasn’t a dowry because in general dowries make Lingayats uncomfortable.

Everything went well, from what Satya heard.  His sister is returning to the U.S. this week.  Someday I’d like to see a Lingayat wedding, but that will have to wait.

Celebrating Deepavali

Today is the first day of Deepavali (or Diwali).  This is an important holiday for Satya’s family and for many other Indian families.  I don’t know much about it at the moment.  I know it celebrates light and the victory of good vs evil. 

 

Here is what I do know:

 

Accessories:  small votive candles put around yard and home, large lit star for front of the house, new clothes for family.  In India, people set off firecrackers.

 

Preparation:  cleaning house, decorating home, buying new clothes, cooking sweets.

 

Food:  As this is a very holy time of year the vegetarian diet gets stricter.  Eggs are not supposed to be eaten (they aren’t supposed to be eaten anyway, but especially now).

 

What we’ve done:

Satya cooked carrot halwa yesterday and Saturday.  He says this is something that is usually made for Deepavali and other festivals.

 

Similarities to other religions:

The lit star reminds me of how around Christmas Christians often put lit stars on their homes.  The lamps remind me of Hannukah.

 

As you can see, I have much to learn!

 

How will you celebrate the holiday?

Names

What are your favorite Hindu names?  Satya and I like to day dream about the future and think about what we’d name our hypothetical children.   This day is a few years off, but it is still fun.

 

We have a few names for girls, but are having a tough time with boy names.  Also, we’d like to keep close to our family’s naming traditions.  In my family everyone is named after a saint and after a beloved family member.  This isn’t too hard to stick too because nearly all Western names are matched to a saint.  It does eliminate newer names like Britney or Ashley.

 

My favorite grandfather’s name was “Valentine” which is a name that I think would work for a girl.  Satya is afraid of that name—he thinks that if we give a girl that name she will take after her name too much and if we gave the name to a boy that he’d get bullied at school.

 

 

In Satya’s family it is a bit different.  All the men in his family of his generation and back are named after an incarnation of Shiva and end in either “esh” or “ish”.  He says that kids should not be given the name of a beloved elder because it would be disrespectful to use the elder’s name when scolding the child. 

 

His cousins who recently had kids are changing this up a bit.  Maybe Lingayat name fashions are changing?  His cousins selected names for their children that aren’t related to a god or godess, but are related to a positive quality.  One of the names translates to “Long life” and another to “Success”. 

 

Our girl name is “Anushka” or “Anoushka” because it is both a Slavic European name and a Sanskrit name.  Also, it can be shortened to “Anu” which is a common name in Karnataka.  The middle name isn’t decided yet.  Satya kind of likes the name “Kiran”, but I’m not sure.

 

One of my sisters and I created a name from the middle names of our beloved grandfathers.   We came up with “Blaise Eric”, but Satya thinks that is a terrible name.  I suppose it does seem a bit too “romance novel” like.  Also, he would be creeped out by giving them the names of my dead grandfathers. 

 

We haven’t found any boy names yet that we both like.  Does anyone have any suggestions?

Lingayats Targeted for Conversion

To Lingayats, perhaps this is old news.  To those in the U.S. or married to Lingayats this may come as a shock.  I knew I was shocked and angered to discover that Lingayats are being specifically targeted by American Evangelicals for conversion.

 

 Satya is not shocked at all.  He’s heard of Christian missionaries settling near his home. He says that some people are initially tolerant of missionaries, until they discover that the missionaries are trying to convert them.  Then there are reactions such as the missionary being ignored, beat up, or of people converting for material benefits. 

 

Satya has a lot of patience.  This spring we attended Mass with my family and the priest was talking in his homily about the importance of worshipping only one god.  My family all cringed, but Satya was unconcerned.  He’s heard it all before and I guess it rolls off of him pretty easily by now. 

 

We both do not have a problem with Christians-I am Catholic after all, and he has attended Mass with my family a few times.  Satya grew up in a very tolerant and diverse environment-he has Christian and Muslim friends he’s known for years.  He attended a school founded by German missionaries.  It is the conversion part we both have issues with.  To me it is insulting and condescending.  Lingayats are not lost people without a history or culture nor are they immoral.  Satya and my in laws are extremely intelligent, kind, tolerant, and spiritual people. 

 

 My own view is that everyone should be left to their own devices.  The best witness to a religion is being a good person.  If anyone is going to convert in our relationship it will likely be me because I do not agree with the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church and I think that Lingayats know better how to live in a multicultural world.  If people ask, then tell them about your religion.  Do not manipulate people or bribe them.

 

Missionaries can destabilize an area and put their believers in danger.  If the missionaries or their followers anger a group of Hindus or Muslims then the Hindus and Muslims could persecute the followers.  The missionaries leave to return to their homelands and the local converts are left to face the wrath of their neighbors.  It also fuels the fire of the Hindu and Muslim fundamentalist groups. 

 

 

 Links

Baptist Press   This article is of Baptists bragging about their success converting Lingayats.

 

Joshua Project   This website shows which groups around the world are being actively targeted by Evangelicals.  Not only is it offensive, some of their information is blatantly wrong and/or condescending.  One of the links they list to learn more about Lingayats is www.everyculture.com

Here is what they say about Lingayats and the arts “Although Lingayats in past centuries were noted for their religious poetry and philosophical writings, today the chief arts are the singing and playing of hymns. There is no marked ability shown in the visual arts.” Who judges that?  How?

And about Medicine, “Lingayat priests (called ayya or swami) are also astrologers and medicine men, often dispensing herbal remedies to sick villagers. This is a useful craft for them to possess, rather than a learned profession.”  This is despite the fact that Satya’s family has numerous doctors and dentists.  The site makes Lingayats sound like a primitive tribe complete with witch doctors rather than a group of people part of the modern world. 

 

 

Here is a website of Indian Christians trying to evangelize Karnataka.  I do have some sympathy for their cause because they are trying to help people few are willing or able to, namely street kids and eunuchs.  Also, these are Indian Christians trying to evangelize other Indians.  Still, I’m uncomfortable.  I don’t think it is a tragedy that the number of Christians is falling in Karnataka.  Christianity won’t solve Karnataka’s challenges.  Neither do I think that Hinduism created those challenges.  This website has false claims such as that thanks to missionaries Kannada is a written language and its people speak English thus allowing them to compete with the rest of the world.  Kannada has been a written language for hundreds of years.  The people of Karnataka know English because India was a British colony.

      

 

 

Blog

 

This blog records acts of persecution against Christians in India.  Although it does do an important job of recording some injustices, I do wonder about the full back story of the incidents.  What was the situation like before the attacks?  Were the Christians providing a peaceful witness by being good people, or were they using questionable tactics to gain converts?  Were they in a location that wanted their presence? How long had the Christians been in the area-hundreds of years, or just a few? There is no excuse for violence, but usually there is a reason.

 

 

Conclusion

So where does this all leave us?  Would more education in U.S. schools about geography, languages, and cultures help?  Will the conversion laws in India be effective while still allowing those who genuinely feel the need to convert, convert?  How do we show tolerance towards those who themselves are intolerant? 

 

 

 

Hospitality

This past weekend, Satya’s brother and his wife visited our apartment for the first time.  Satya’s mom made sure we followed a hospitality tradition.  His brother and his wife both had to eat something from our apartment.  We offered them a banana since they weren’t really hungry at that time-actually they each had half a banana.  Satya’s mom just made it seem very important that we offered them something and they ate it.

In general, it seems that all cultures value hospitality and offering guests enough food and water to satisfy.

I wonder what is so special about the first time someone visits?  Is it supposed to set a precedent of hospitality?  To ensure that we have family and friends visit us regularly?  Here in the U.S. I’ve never experienced this particular tradition before so am curious.

Birth Order and Marriage

Yesterday my mother-in-law told me more about some traditional Lingayat beliefs surrounding marriage.

She told me that traditionally, birth order was strictly followed.  This was especially true for girls.  If a younger sister got married before the older, people would ask, “What is wrong with the older sister?” The older sister’s chances at marriage decreased.  For men, this was followed more loosely. 

Another belief is that it is not good for the last child to remain unmarried for long after the older siblings are married.  Often, parents would wait until siblings could be married together or shortly after each other.  This is so that if anything happens to the parents, none of the grown children would be left alone in life.

After all the grown children are married, the parents relax more.  They believe their children will be more secure and less lonely. This last view isn’t so very different from beliefs in the U.S.  Most parents do want their children to settle down with a family.

This all emphasized to me again the importance of family.

Lingayat Wedding Rituals

Since some people have come to this blog to find out more about Lingayat Wedding rituals, I will share what I know.  So far what I know has been gathered by speaking with Satya, his sister, and looking at some wedding photos from his sister’s wedding ceremony.  As our wedding ceremony in India draws closer and after we get back, I’ll be able to write more authoritatively and completely.

 

Preparation

Invitations are delivered by hand.  Sending invitations by mail means that you don’t care if the recipients come to the wedding or not.  Even though people may be scattered throughout the state or even India, this is still expected. There might be hundreds of people to invite as well, but the personal invitation is still expected.

 

Like most Indian rituals, bathing is an important first step.  Usually relatives bathe the bride and groom beforehand.  Turmeric is rubbed into the skin to lighten it (not sure if this would happen to me-I’m already very pale.)  The bride gets henna applied to her hands and feet and flowers are put into her hair.  Jasmine is a popular choice because it is very fragrant.  It grows easily and well in Karnataka and from what Satya has said, seems to be always blooming.

 

Ceremony

My mother in law has warned me that we will be sitting cross-legged on the floor for two or three hours.  I will be wearing a silk saree because it is traditional and because it is probably the most comfortable option (sitting cross-legged in a Western-style gown made of satin or polyester sounds extremely uncomfortable to me.)  Satya will have a suit and possibly a more traditional Indian outfit.  He is a little unsure of this because he’s never worn traditional clothing in his life.

 

The family is important to the ceremony.  At one part of the ceremony, the groom’s parents feed the bride’s parents sugar and vice versa.  My parents most likely will not be making the trip to India so this will not be included.  The bride and groom also have to serve each other sugar.  I’m a little squeamish about this as I’m still working on being able to eat rice comfortably with my hands.

Other important things are coconuts, symbols of good luck, and fire.

 

As you can see, my knowledge at this point is minimal.

 

Anyone have more details, stories or advice to share?  I welcome your comments.

Book “Mixed Matches”

Sunday Satya and I began reading “Mixed Matches: How to Create Successful Interracial, Interethnic, and Interfaith Relationships” by Joel Crohn, PhD. 

We just read the first chapter which basically said:

           -Sometimes conflicts arise from differences in culture, not just in personality and temperment.

           -It is better to try to discuss things as clearly and as in much detail as possible beforehand.  One example from the book is a Catholic/Lutheran couple who vaguely discussed religion in terms of, “I want our children to be good Christians” instead of discussing exactly what being “a good Christian” is.  Turns out, the wife’s family convinced her to baptize the child without consulting the husband.  Big mistake. 

  So far the book hasn’t led to any great insights, but it is early yet.  Next weekend we will tackle another chapter. 

  We have discussed a bit how we would raise any possible children.  We would introduce the stories of both religions.  For my Catholic faith, this would mean Bible stories, prayers, and stories of the saints.  Satya remembers really enjoying some Buddhist stories so he’d like to introduce our future kids to those stories, especially since Buddhism and Hinduism are so closely related. 

  I know my family would really like for our future kids to be baptized and to attend Catholic Mass with the rest of the family on key occassions. 

  One difficulty will be differences in how our families passed down religion.  My family believed that it was the duty of the family to introduce the kids to religion and keep them on the right track (requiring kids to attend Mass with rest of the family each Sunday, requiring attendance at religion class, etc.)  His family believes religion is more of a personal matter and that the choice of what to believe and how to practice should be left up to the child.

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