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Student Organizations Stage Same-Sex Hindu Wedding

By Sonali Y. Salgado, Crimson Staff Writer

Dressed in red saris and adorned with flowers, two South Asian women met in front of the Science Center on Sunday afternoon to be joined in pretend wedlock.

“May my mind move your mind in love.... My life is linked to your life, my mind with your mind, my vows with your vows,” the two women, Sasanka N. Jinadasa ’15 and Kirin Gupta ’16, said to each other during a mock same-sex Hindu wedding.

The event was organized jointly by several campus diversity organizations, including Harvard Dharma, the Harvard South Asian Association, Harvard Queer Students and Allies, Harvard Gay Lesbian or Whatever, and the Office of BGLTQ Student Life.

The ceremony, entitled “Suhaag: A Hindu Same-Sex Mock Wedding,” was one of the first student events to take place in the newly renovated Science Center Plaza, transforming the concrete common space into a colorful scene of celebration.

Against the white and gray backdrop of the new plaza, the brides and their pretend family members, all adorned in brightly-colored saris and tunics, lit a ceremonial fire that represented light, power, and purity.

The ceremony began with a swirl of dancing as Dharma representatives invited the crowd to participate in the entrance processions for the two brides and ended with onlookers tossing red and pink petals upon the newly-married brides.

“A Hindu wedding has so many great parts to it. The only thing we’re missing is a groom arriving on a white horse, although I guess we could have had a bride on a horse,” said Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies Diana L. Eck before the ceremony, eliciting laughter from the crowd.

Dharma, Harvard’s Hindu Student Association, has staged mock Hindu weddings for the Harvard community in the past but has not done so in recent years.

Nishin Nathwani ’15 said the decision to make this year’s ceremony same-sex was made in response to the ongoing debate over gay marriage in the United States. The coordinators also hoped the event would serve as a recognition that homosexuality is a far from a foreign concept in South Asia, he added.

“This idea that same-sex marriage is a new concept from the West is incorrect,” said Nathwani, noting that many ancient Hindu texts allude to same-sex relationships.

Jinadasa and Gupta, the two brides who both self-identify as queer, said both their sexuality and ethnicity were fundamental components of their identity.

Jinadasa, who is currently on the board of the South Asian Association, and Gupta, who described herself as a part of the queer community at Harvard, said they appreciated the opportunity to celebrate both of these communities through the event.

“Kirin is bringing her South Asian into her queer. I’m bringing my South Asian into my queer,” Jinadasa said.

—Staff writer Sonali Y. Salgado can be reached at ssalgado@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter @SonaliSalgado16.

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