Author Archives: Jalen Cassell

Indian Wedding Ritual

“Alright, Indian weddings…Indian weddings are known for being the longest things on Earth. And, and, they usually go on for like a week. Well, they used to go on for a week, but now they’ve gotten more modern about it and they want to get it over with. Um, so it’s become short, which is like three days. And that’s not including the vari—uh—various, I don’t know, customs and traditions that like, come before it. Oh, I guess the one thing we have in common is an engagement. Basically the guy proposes to the girl, blah blah blah, and there’s a formal engagement ceremony where he puts a ring – they both put rings on each other’s fingers, and then there’s a party. That’s usually like the year before, because that one year goes into, like, preparing for that one week of marriage festivities, because it’s a huge deal in India. And like, relatives call, like, the most distant relatives you can ever imagine, as like, invitations for their wedding and stuff. And then, and then, yeah, basically, there’s like little things, like small games that the girl plays with the boy – just bonding games I guess. Oh, also, in India, there’s like a huge, I mean it’s decreasing, but it’s still a system, of like arranged marriages – like the parents decide who the kids marry. I don’t agree with it at all, but, I don’t know, a large majority of parents still follow that. So, um, yeah, and then the first one is like, the wedding, er, the day of the wedding. People wear like traditional Indian clothes and there’s lots of food caterers around and there’s like a huge deal that people splash a lot of money. And um, yeah, so the most significant part of the wedding is like these seven rounds that the couple takes around the fire – yeah, there’s a fire, like a controlled fire – they have this like, two by two foot box or square, and they light it on fire. And basically the guy and the girl, they like walk around it seven times – I don’t know why seven. The number seven has some significance, like seven lives or something. And yeah, so people throw rice at them – it’s a form of good luck – and yeah, there’s a priest who chants while the couple walks around and stuff. And once they get married, the wife puts a huge garland of flowers on the guy’s neck, of course but yeah, that’s also a very significant part. And then there’s little things, like putting tikkas – a powder that you put on the forehead and stuff – and yeah, that’s pretty much the wedding day. And then the next day is generally called a reception – like I said, it’s a long affair. The next day, people change their clothes, and wear like, westernized clothes, I guess – like suits and stuff. And this is just for like the couple to greet everybody – like everybody who came. So they literally stand on a podium or a stage, then they greet, hug, or shake hands with every single person who attended their wedding. So it’s a pretty tiring affair, then they shake hands with every person who comes. And then they have this huge feast – actually they have huge feasts all the time for wedding, but yeah. So that’s pretty much it – oh yeah! The next most significant part is saying bye to the bride. Basically, the girl goes and lives with the guy in a new house, or in the guy’s old house. But she basically leaves her own family, so it’s a sad affair, and the girls usually start crying and it’s very sappy – I’ve seen it happening a couple times. Oh! There’s also this thing called a Baraat, which is like this huge procession that happens before the wedding, where basically, before the wedding, the groom sits on a horse, uh, and like people dance around them and give them more. Like they literally make garlands for them out of money and give them to the groom and stuff. Then they like march towards the wedding, then they get married, and then after the wedding, the bride and the groom both sit on the horse, and then go to someplace. Yeah, that’s pretty much it.”


As my informant is 18 years old, he’s a ways off from actually being an active bearer in the sense of being the groom in the wedding, but as he has participated in the activities that the guests partake in he is very much an active bearer in that sense. He was very enthusiastic in sharing this information with me as this particular section of information that he included the most details in. I find the length of the marriage celebration to be very fascinating. Three days for a wedding, and in previous years an entire week seems like a very tiring period of exuding nothing but excitement and joy. I actually wish to experience the festivities of an Indian wedding some day.

Indian Folk Dishes

“For Diwali – basically, specific foods are made around specific times, for specific festivals, that kind of how it works. So for Diwali, people usually make sweets – actually they make sweets for everything – but for Diwali, there are snacks called Karanga, Chakli, um…Shankarpali. Those are the main things, and actually my mom sends some to me every time one of the festivals is held. Hmmm, and for…Ganesh Chaturthi – uh, that’s what it’s called – they make Modak, which is a sweet kind of dim sum type of dish. Uh, in my…my…my region, I’m a Maharashtrian – so in my state – the staple food for breakfast is like, flat rice. It’s a yellow color and it’s called poha – it’s really good, I like it. Um, and India as a whole has like a natural…not staples, but, like nationally popular dishes; like Vada pav and then Samosas. And then…oh yeah! Pada puni and stuff, so yeah…those are pretty popular. And there’s an Indian version of ice cream called Kulfi, which is really good.”

I was particularly fascinated when I learned how often sweets were used for festivals in India. Whenever I had heard of Indian dishes in the past, the conversation was always geared to how spicy the food was, so hear about such an extreme opposite was a big eye opener. Hearing the passion with which my informant told me about the food really inspired me to get back into cooking and hopefully before the year is over the two of us can make his favorite dish, Poha, together.

Indian Myth Folklore

“Ok, with respect to religious folklore – basically it revolves around the stories of the various gods that we have. The various thousands of gods that we have – but the two biggest stories are, um, actually two wars. The first one is called Mahabharat and the second one is called, Ramayan. Mahabharat is the war between…um…I forget the names, but it’s basically a war between the good gods and the bad gods – well the demons, I guess, obviously. And Ramayan, as the name suggests, is, well there’s an Indian god by the name of Rama. And it’s basically his war, where – the story goes like, he has a wife named Sita. And then Sita gets kidnapped by, um, an enemy king by the name of Ravana. And then Ravan takes her to Sri Lanka – which is where his kingdom is and then Rama decides to take revenge and um, take his wife back. And then a war ensues, which is what we call Ramayan. And of course, Rama rescues Sita, and takes her back to his home kingdom, Ayodhya.”

While my informant began this explanation with respect to religious folklore, the more I listened to it, the more I realized that it was better suited as a myth of narrative folklore. It was the morals and honor for the characters within the narrative that formulated the religion as he expounded upon. He learned this story from his parents and religious officials as he grew up in Mumbai. I find it especially inclusive to see how stories influence entire cultures all around the world!

Ganesha and Kartikeya

“So, children’s stories…basically, a lot of them had to do with Lord Krishna, who is another god that we have. And basically his story is, you know, saving the village he lives in and like his relationship with his wife-to-be, uh, Sita, uh, sorry, Rada, and uh, yeah…actually, you know, the funny thing is, Krishna was very much involved in the story of Mahabharat. So that’s how the various folklore stories intertwine. And a couple of other stories that I know, are based around Lord Ganesha, who I’d say is the most popular god in India – I don’t know why, he’s just very appealing to everybody. Probably because we have a lot of festivals in his name and people have fun at festivals, but, there are stories about how he and his brother Kartikeya travel around the world – do you want me to tell the story? Ok, so the story goes like this: Ganesha’s brother’s name is Kartikeya, or something. And his mother told them that the first person to, uh, go around the world would win a present from me, you know? Like, both of them got really excited and like Kartikeya started running immediately, and he, like, started running around the world, and he was almost there. But, the whole time Ganesha was like, eating food, just chilling, and then just when Kartikeya was about to come back from around the world, Ganesha gets up and like, walks around his mother and says, ‘Done. I went around my world.’ And then Kartikeya arrives and Kartikeya is very excited because he thinks that he has went around the world. But their mother, uh, accepts Ganesha’s act, because technically, Ganesha was right, and Ganesha gets the reward. It’s basically – every story like this has something didactic in it, you know? It teaches you some sort of lesson. It usually revolves around respecting your elders, or not doing anything bad, like killing anybody or creature, and things like that basically.”

This is a story that my informant learned from his parents, but the interesting thing that I found was in the lesson that the story teaches: It teaches children to value all life, even the lives of the animals that most Americans believe to be worthless, like wild creatures. This is something that strikes home for me as I am of the mindset that every creature deserves a chance at life and that no one being is greater than another. Therefore, my informant’s story resonated with me very deeply!

{Indian Folk Dance} Evolving Traditions

Modernized Folk Dance

[Click Link for Video]

“This dance is a modernized fusion dance of Bollywood with steps that my mother taught me as I was growing up. The beginning of the dance, like the first 40 seconds before you hear Jai Ho, is from a movie that was about learning how to dance, which is why the interaction between Blue and Pink  – just gonna call us by colored outfits – is such. The choreography is done in such a fashion to exemplify the learning how to dance and then just going forth and having fun with the dancing, hence how it is transitioned into Jai Ho and the third song. The entire performance essentially is characterizing oneself and expressing the lyrics of the song through dance. As far as my feelings on the dance, it was one of my favorites. I had a lot of fun with it and all. That performance you have is not one of my favorites. I didnt like it – only because i like to feed off audience energy and quite frankly thought it was rather stagnant for that performance. I feel that the energy of the audience is a crucial component to Indian dancing, and without it the soul is lost. That’s something I picked up on as I was growing up. My mom taught me traditional indian dancing, and how to embed the soul within it.  This dance was a mixture of traditional steps, along with a fusion of the entertainment to appeal to the younger generation of the crowd, so it has some influences from Bollywood dancing. This kinda dance is the heart and soul of indian culture!”


Hearing my informant speak on the matter of the dance was a very emotional process as she began to tell me how crucial it was for the audience to get into the spirit of the dance and provide the performer with the energy to keep the fire of the dance alive. Lately I’ve seen an increasing amount of youth beginning to pay more attention to their mobile devices and social media networks than to the beautiful art that is being performed right before their eyes. I love how, in an effort to circumvent this, Luna decided to mix in Bollywood type dancing to her traditional dance movements to keep the interest alive and give everyone a show that they would never forget!