Kirthi Shekar always knew she wanted a traditional Indian wedding.
Even though she was brought up here (she arrived in Melbourne on her second birthday), she wanted the whole shebang – the saris, the flowers, the food, the ‘homam’ religious ceremony, the gathering of family from across the world.
As she and her family prepared for her wedding this year, they ticked each of these off the list, except for one essential element – a priest who would officiate.
You see, Kirthi was marrying the love of her life, Anita – another woman.
Ultimately, Kirthi’s mum Sivakami found Sydney priest Pandit Rami Sivan who agreed to bind the two in union.
“Pandit Rami has performed same-sex weddings before, and so knew the framework,” said Kirthi, a GP practicing in Skin Cancer Medicine. “I’m so grateful to my mum for helping me have my dream wedding. I’m indebted to her: she was adamant that I shouldn’t be treated any different.”
With her mum, dad and a whole host of aunties chipping in, Kirthi formalised her union with Anita in a traditional Hindu ceremony.
With the sacrificial fire as witness, they took their marriage vows in front of immediate family and friends, and with extended family Zooming in from across the world.
Among those who gave their blessings to the new couple virtually, were Kirthi’s 80-something grand aunt, and the extended families of both her biological dad and her stepdad, all spread across southern India.
“It felt wonderful, to have so many people supporting me,” the bride revealed. “We loved our big fat Indian wedding. As a same-sex couple, we were not taking anything away from the tradition of it all. Our hope is that the more frequently it happens, the more it will get to be accepted.”
Pandit Rami Sivan has spoken before of his “support for equality of all citizens before the Law and (for) the right of everyone to live and love in dignity, peace and security.” As a Hindu priest and marriage celebrant, as well as a teacher of Vedanta and Yoga philosophies, he is well-known in Sydney’s Indian community, particularly for his explanations of rituals as he conducts them at Hindu ceremonies.
Pandit Rami had the young couple perform all the routine rituals such as garlanding each other and putting the thali (mangalsutra) around each other’s necks.
“It was an intimate wedding and I cherished having so many of my family and friends there,” Kirthi recalled fondly.
After the ceremony, they enjoyed a festive lunch, a meticulously organised event with traditional snacks sourced from Sydney and India.
The melding of the universe for the young couple did not exactly come easy.
“There was opposition at first,” Kirthi divulged, “but most people have come around ultimately.”
Was it hard to come out to the family?
“It depends on your relationship with your parents. I don’t think I knew as a child, like some others know. Only about eight years ago did I become more certain. I confided first in my mum, and she wasn’t particularly thrilled. But she’s accepting now. Once my mother and father accepted me, introducing Anita to the family was very easy. Even my stepdad now calls her ‘my daughter’. I always knew he would support me. My brother and his wife were supportive from the start.”
Kirthi met psychologist Anita four years ago after they found each other online. Today they live on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, where they hope to have a civil ceremony shortly. Two puppies make up the rest of the family.
Both are accepting of each other’s religious persuasions, participating in the rituals and marking the holidays.
How would Kirthi advise someone else in a same-sex relationship who wants a traditional wedding?
“Families are such a large part of our culture. Both Anita and I wanted to have our families around us as we took our vows. I’d say, talk to your families. Initial reactions may be disappointment or sadness, but be patient, they may just take time to adjust. By and large, in my experience, parents’ reactions have been positive.”
If you’re not sure how to go about it, she added with a smile, “Call me – being a doctor, and also older, I might be able to help! I also recommend the following website to my patients: Qlife.org.au which has free online counselling.”
same-sex Hindu wedding
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