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Beliefnet News


Hindus Find New Faiths In Marriage

posted by nsymmonds

NEWARK, N.J. — The perfect man for Aparna Kachalia, who was born to Hindu parents from Bombay, will be one who loves the 20-year-old sophomore at Dartmouth College and treats her well.
If he happens to be Hindu, great. If not, no problem.
“A lot of people in my generation are more open to marrying outside the religion,” said Kachalia, a native of Edison, N.J. “It depends on how open your family is. … My mom says that as long as he loves you and takes care of you, that’s all that matters.”
Not long ago, that sentiment was rare in the immigrant Indian-American community. But American-born daughters and sons of Indian immigrants are increasingly likely to marry outside the faith, according to interviews with Hindus in New Jersey, which has one of the nation’s largest concentrations of Hindus and Indian immigrants.
Earlier this year, a Pew Forum survey indicated that 90 percent of American Hindus marry within their religion. That figure raised eyebrows in local Hindu communities, where the rate is generally thought to be 65 percent to 70 percent — still high, but a noticeable drop from the perceived rate a decade or two ago.
In New Jersey, where the population of Asian Indians has risen nearly eightfold since 1980 according to census data, signs of this trend are easily visible in cities and towns with large Indian-American populations.
Dilip Amin, a Hindu resident of suburban Bridgewater, N.J., said he was perplexed by the Pew survey data when it was published last March.
Looking more closely at the 207-page report, he found that 86 percent of the 256 Hindus polled were first-generation immigrants. That made more sense, he said, indicating the survey mainly included marriages of immigrants rather than those of their children.
He decided to conduct an unscientific experiment, using Macy’s online wedding registry. Amin plugged in common Hindu names like Patel and Reddy and found that 38 percent of the 910 engaged or married couples that came up included one name that did not seem Hindu.
“I got better data out of Macy’s than I would have gotten myself,” he said. “I go to so many weddings, and I know it’s not (a) 10 percent (intermarriage rate). It’s much, much higher.”
Asked why they think interfaith marriages are more common these days, Hindus cited the influences of assimilation, American popular culture, the diversity of college campuses and parents’ busy work schedules.
“These kids are not raised as typical traditional Indians,” said Jyoti Soni, a Hindu wedding planner who says about half the weddings she manages are interfaith. “Who has the time? Monday to Friday you’re running a 60-hour work schedule. Sunday and Saturday you’re taking your kids to soccer…Who has the time to sit and instill religious values in all of this?”
The subject is widely discussed in Hindu families, much as it has been in Jewish, Greek, Muslim and Italian families for many decades in this country.
At the Patel Cash and Carry, an Indian grocery store in Iselin, N.J., Ganesh Radhakrishnan, 33, eyed his 3-year-old girl, Ananya, as he talked about how he would feel if she married a non-Hindu.
“It’s her decision,” he said. “If you ask the previous generation, they would prefer us to marry not only a Hindu, but also of the same caste. But my generation’s more open.”
His only wish, he said, is that his daughter’s spouse respect her Hindu traditions.
“We should respect, and they should respect,” he said. “It should be mutual.”
When families do have problems with interfaith marriages, they often come out during the wedding planning, Soni said.
Traditional Hindu weddings can be gargantuan affairs that last three or four days and have more than 600 guests. Problems arise, Soni said, when a non-Hindu couple, expecting their children’s wedding to cost $30,000 to $40,000, are told that the Hindu family is planning a four-day event that can run $50,000 a day.
“Indians save money all their lives just for the wedding day,” Soni said. “There’s often a horse and carriage and drummer, at a bare minimum.”
One of Soni’s clients, Urmi Desai, 25, of Buffalo, N.Y., will marry a Catholic man in June. She said neither family has caused problems. Her fiance’s family is not very religious and the wedding will be a Hindu ceremony.
The affair will be small by typical Hindu standards — about 200 people.
“It was what each side wanted in terms of the feel of the wedding,” she said. “I liked the idea of being able to personally know everyone at the wedding. I like the idea of not feeling that it’s all these people who maybe you’ve met once.”
Of course, there are still first-generation Indian immigrants who have yet to marry. One of them, Kapil Vyas, 28, sitting at an Indian restaurant in Iselin, has noticed many interfaith couples around town but plans, himself, to marry another Hindu someday, as his parents in India would want.
“I don’t believe in marrying with other religions,” he said. “We have to stick to our culture, stick to our traditions.”
He was asked how he would react if one of his children married a non-Hindu.
“Upset, of course. But we have to accept. We might at first react negatively, but if it happens, it happens,” he said. “We don’t know how our children will grow here and what they will think.”
By Jeff Diamant
c. 2008 Religion News Service
(Jeff Diamant writes for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.)
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.



  • pagansister

    Freedom to marry the person they love and who loves them back is the way it should be. Glad to hear the Hindus are open to this.

  • Your Name

    This is good news that families are being more understanding of their children. It wasn’t too long ago that an Indian father killed his daughter for loving a non-Indian. It happened in CA I believe in just this last year. In the twenties RC were very much against marrying a protestant. My Aunt was in love with a RC young man, and both her older sister and his mother chopped it to pieces. In the forties I was with her when she met him in town and he invited us to their turkey farm to visit with his wife and himself. We went and I was about twelve yrs. old, and I still remember the way they looked at each other, after all those years. Sad.

  • Henrietta22

    Forgot again. I wish I had a dollar for each time I’m doing this.

  • cknuck

    I wonder how they would react to same sex marriage? I’m sure they would not find it spiritually sound, or logical.

  • Confessoressa

    Not true, cknuck. The Hindu’s I have known are very open-minded about same-sex relationships. Get to know some, heck, you may even want to get to know a same-sex Hindu couple.
    I agree with the gentleman in this article that thinks the numbers are too low. The Hindu men I have known are very open to dating outside of their culture and religion. In fact, one of the men I dated told me that most of his Indian friends have advised him to stay away from Hindu women and find a nice American!
    Hinduism has a history of being one of the most tolerant to other religions. This maybe because within Hinduism there is such a vast array of worshipping. I’m no expert but if you look at India now, there are religions that have been there for centuries. That’s not to say that there aren’t problems, but heck, even the Zoroastrians are still around!

  • cknuck

    I don’t know any confess, not to disagree with you I know homosexuality is becoming very popular. All of the Hindus I know are very straight arrows.

  • Henrietta22

    Homosexuality is becoming very popular. No, homosexuality is not popular, any more than heterosexuality is very popular. What has changed is that they are no longer ashamed of themselves and hiding who they are. What has become popular is that people and their families are standing up with them, such as (PFLAG) Parents and friends of lesbians and Gays, and others are doing the same to bring their American Rights of equality to GLBT.

  • pagansister

    Homosexuality is becoming popular?? Homosexuals have been around since we crawled out of the slime? This isn’t a “fad”. Now people aren’t as afraid to be themselves and to let others know who they really are. Some of the famous of the far past were homosexuals…Alexander the Great being just one. And he was a “soldier”.

  • cknuck

    Homosexuality has indeed been around for some time but as for crawling out of slime that’s a theory. Yes old A the G was a proud homosexual so that makes H22′s post incorrect P.R. And there were many homosexuals but I wouldn’t hold ole A the G up as a proud point in homosexual history he was pretty brutal and cold blooded.

  • pagansister

    Alexender the Great did a lot in his lifetime….and obviously made history. His sexual orientation certainly wasn’t the reason for his accomplishments.
    Crawling out of the slime with the other evolvements makes as much sense as a divine being poofing people onto the earth….in fact a heck of a lot more…at least IMO. Divne being is as much a theory as some think evolution is. Big Bang is great too…

  • cknuck

    Holding Alexander the great in high esteem is not something positive the fact is Alexander morally was not so great, true he was brutal and powerful but is that a world standard we want lifted? We do think differently.

  • pagansister

    All I did was use Alex as an example of how long homosexuality has been in the world…of course he lived a long time after we evolved into our form of today..so I guess he was a later homosexual. As to his brutality and power? He is just one of many famous folks…men and women…in history…with those standards. He does live in history for his battle tactics etc. If he hadn’t we wouldn’t be talking about him. JC made history too…and so did lots of different folks for other reasons. And many of those famous folks were homosexuals. That’s a fact that will never change … homosexuality has always been a fact of life. Some faiths realize that and some choose to find it “sinful.” (or whatever).

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