Nag Panchami Festival

The Nag Panchami festival is today.  My mother in law told me this morning about some aspects of the festival.


This festival is when sisters pray for the wellbeing of their brothers.  Karnataka is a largely agricultural state.  Both sets of Satya’s grandparents were farmers and he still has cousins who farm.  One danger of farming is snakebites.  The snakes get disturbed by the planting and tilling and sometimes come out and bite.  The snakes are extremely poisonous so if a person is bitten they could die.

Now, the festival has widened so that even if the brother does not farm, the sister still prays for his wellbeing.

Who Celebrates



Sisters will dress in colorful, festive sarees and go to the Nag Temple to pray.  At the temple, they will pour milk over the Nag statue.

They will also make sweets, laddoos, for their families.  Sometimes, at home they will make a small Nag out of clay and pray to it also.


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.

Indian-Inspired Wedding Cakes

Planning is going full steam ahead for our August ceremony.  We’d like to find a wedding cake that has some Indian flare.  Below are some links and photos to some of our favorites:

Blue Cake This is one of my favorite cakes.  For us, we’d like the cake to be peach or orange instead of blue.  It does look a little plain, but I’m thinking the small design from our wedding invitation can easily be added.  This cake was found on the Better Homes and Gardens website.  The caption next to the cake says that all the flowers are made from Belgian chocolate.  Yum!

Chakra Cake This cake has a chakra on the top and Indian designs on the sides.  The chakra represents the wheel of life.

Gorgeous pink and chocolate cake from Mehndi Cakes on Flickr. I love the bottom layer of this cake….don’t know what Satya would say about pink frosting though!

This wedding cake from A Slice of Heaven Confections even has horses!  This one is very over the top, but I can honestly say I’ve never seen one like this before.  The caption beside it said that it was inspired by an Indian town with many English influences where the bride grew up. Click on the picture for a close up of one of the layers.

Looking for something fun and modern?  Try this one by Lindys Cakes.  This is our #3 cake.  The bottom two layers look fabulous, but we are thinking the top layer and pedestal would be difficult to replicate.  Gold and red are common wedding colors.

Our #2 choice was inspired by another mixed marriage, this time a Polish-Indian marriage.  We like the bright colors and the simplicity of the design.  It was created by Vanessa O’Brien.

Finally, if you are feeling creative you can try to make your own as this blog explains.  This is way out of my league, so I’m content to let the bakery work their magic.

If you have links or photos of other wonderful Indian-inspired cakes, please share them below.

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.

Intercultural Dating, Part One

I did not intentionally set out to date an Indian.  Most people in mixed relationships say they did not plan on marrying outside their group.  Both of us were looking outside our cultures due to location.  I did not meet any other Scandinavian American Catholics on the East Coast.  If Satya had stayed in India, he most likely would have married another Lingayat.


Below, is my dating advice and links to a few helpful resources.  Most of it applies to dating in general. I will write a future post about some of the specific challenges we’ve faced as a mixed couple.


 Be Open

At first you need to be open to know what you like, what you don’t, and what you can tolerate.  This requires you to meet different people.  One book that explains this well is “How to Get a Date Worth Keeping” by Dr. Henry Cloud.


Neither Dr. Henry Cloud nor I recommend having a lot of relationships, but I am recommending going out on dates (just dinner or coffee) with a variety of people and getting to know them.  Of course, use your common sense.  If someone is dangerous or just seems “creepy”, just say no.


This also means that when you are on a date with someone, listen to them.  Don’t just talk about yourself and don’t judge people without listening first.


Have a Checklist

In my head, I had a generic checklist of qualities I was looking for: kind, intelligent, tall, non-smoker, no drugs, responsible, somebody with similar interests, etc. 


Satya’s list was a bit different.  He had some disastrous dates with Indians so he was mostly looking outside his culture.  He had some quirky (in my personal opinion) requirements.  One of them was that he wasn’t interested in dating someone in his same field.  His reasoning is that if the economy goes bad, the chances of both being out of work at the same time are decreased.


One book that advocates this is Neil Clark Warren’s book “Date…or Soul Mate?  How to Know if Someone is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less” His major piece of advice is to write down what qualities you desire in a partner.  He calls these the “Must Haves”.  Then, when you meet someone, listen to them carefully to try to discern if they have those qualities.  Even if only one or two are missing, discontinue the romantic relationship because that mismatch will just build a greater divide over time.


It may take more than two dates to decide if you’d like to persue a romantic relationship with someone.  That’s ok.  The point is not to compromise on things that you believe are important. 


Be Honest

Satya and I met each other when we both were nearly burned out of dating.  The hidden benefit of this was that we both decided we were tired of playing games and we both decided to be honest.  I think this is why people often say that you meet somebody when you aren’t looking…it is because you are honest. 


What does this mean?  First off, don’t lie.  If you don’t like something, say so.  I decided not to continue dating a man whose passion was baseball.  Baseball to me is one of the most boring things in the world.  I just couldn’t envision myself by his side at the baseball stadium.  Hopefully, he has found a woman who can share that passion.


Secondly, be honest about what you are looking for.  If you are interested in meeting lots of different people, say that.  If you are searching for a marriage partner, say that.  If you don’t know, say that.  Satya and I decided individually we were ready to marry and were looking for that type of relationship. 

       Be Strong

Dating is tough.  It is tough to go through the roller coaster of emotions and to keep your optimism and hope.  One of the books that helped me put dating in a better perspective is, “It’s not you, It’s him” by Georgia Whitkin, Ph.D.  If things do not turn out how you’d like, remember this.  Hopefully, in the future you will find someone.


This book does have some controversy.  Some people who read the book believe the author is advocating that women should be extremely demanding.  This isn’t the message I took from the book. 


The main message I took away from the book is remember, if things don’t work out, it isn’t always your fault.  I do think that women do take relationships too seriously and blame themselves needlessly.  Some relationships just weren’t meant to be.


Give everything your best shot, learn as much as you can, and then move on.



Dating is tough, don’t let anyone tell you different.  Hopefully, someday you will find your match and grow a lot in the process.




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.



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.



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.

More Kannada Words

My mother-in-law has decided to help me learn Kannada.  The current plan is to learn 2 words a day.  Yesterday I learned 1 (onedu), 2 (erdu), along with the word for fruit (hannu), and banana (balahannu). 

“Hannu” is the general word for fruit.  In Kannada, most words for fruit end in “hannu” so it is like saying “peach fruit”, “banana fruit”, etc. 

Both mother and father-in-law agree that more English is starting to creep into Kannada creating “Kanglish”.  People will say “apple” instead of something in Kannada.  My guess is that is because apples are exotic to Karnataka.  Also, apples don’t seem to be popular.  Satya dislikes apples-he says they are too bitter. 

The in-laws also say that the English word “milk” is used often too.  This one I can’t figure out.  Milk and dairy seem to be key parts of the Lingayat Karnataka diet.  Why do people use “milk” instead of the Kannada word?

No Leh, Jose

Kannada seems to place a lot of emphasis on respect.  There are many ways to show respect and many ways to take it away.

Recently, Satya was communicating via Instant Messenger with one of his younger cousins.  This cousin is 7 or 8 years younger and has a reputation for being mischievous (one time he destroyed a project Satya had taken all day to create).  This younger cousin wrote “leh” (pronounced roughly “lay”) which immediately annoyed Satya. 

“Leh” or “le” translates roughly to “buddy” or “guy”.  It can be used when speaking to close friends or to people below you-not to elders.  Satya also says that in Bangalore, in Southern Karnataka, men sometimes use it to refer to their wives and wives can use it with their husbands, if they are nontraditional.  (I’m not too sure about this as he’s from Northern Karnataka and hasn’t been back in nearly 8 years). 

As I learn more I will be writing more posts about Kannada. 

If I get anything wrong, please write a comment below! 

What are other subtle ways to give respect and take it away in Kannada?

Trying to Learn Kannada

I’ve been searching for a good, affordable way to learn Kannada at home.  I thought this would be so simple.  Kannada is afterall, the 27th most spoken language in the world and one of India’s major languages.  A lot more people speak Kannada than speak, let’s say, Swedish or Greek.  These are according to Wikipedia. 

One site that had a nice preview is the India Community Center at  Unfortunately, the site seems defunct as nobody has replied to my e-mail about the Kannada course and it doesn’t look like the site was updated recently.

A site that looks much more promising is Kannada Online at  This site is done by Mysore University in Karnataka.  One of my favorite parts of the site is how they carefully and slowly show you how to form Kannada letters by using a little chalkboard icon.  This course seems intensive and very well thought out.  The biggest stumbling block is that the course costs $50 and must be mailed by check to Mysore, no credit cards accepted.  Satya isn’t sure of the security of this method.  We are thinking of sending money to one of his cousins in India and then asking him to send the money on to Mysore. 

My motivation for learning Kannada is to prepare for our trip to India next spring.  Some of Satya’s older relatives do not speak English.  I’d like to be able to communicate with them.  Also, I’d like to be able to read common street signs and decipher the alphabet.  Thankfully, Satya says that Kannada is much more phonetic than English.

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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