Sometimes you gotta break tradition, especially when it comes to following your heart and making the ones you love happy. Such was the case for Rajeshwari Sharma, a single mother who fulfilled her dream of giving her daughter away in marriage, despite Indian customs.
The single-parent family found a way around "kanyadan," a ritual traditionally performed at Indian weddings in which the father gives away the bride.
The viral wedding photo shows the bride, Sandhya, sitting on her mother’s lap, and it prompted a conversation about breaking away from rigid norms.
According to The News Minute, Rajeshwari and her former husband moved from India to Australia back in the '90s. After establishing her career in the IT industry, Rajeshwari's marriage fell apart, leaving her to raise their two children alone while also managing a full-time job. "Since [my ex-husband] wasn't a major part of my children's lives, it was not very difficult for them to adjust," Rajeshwari explained to the news outlet. "My family, in that regard, although very concerned, was very supportive."
Last year, when Sandyha decided to marry her Australian beau, Sam, in a traditional Hindu ceremony in Chennai, Rajeshwari was thrilled yet concerned about how to handle the giving away ritual. Had she followed tradition, she would have had to stand in the background and allow a married couple from the family give her daughter away.
"I very much wanted to be a part of my daughter's wedding and so I decided to be the one who had to give her away in marriage," Rajeshwari said. And it only made sense, as she was a "mother, father and friend" to her children.
As you can tell by the pictures, this joyous occasion was the ultimate love fest. Even the photographer, Varun Suresh gushed about it on his blog: "This wedding definitely got the better of me. The sheer extent of happiness that was shared and celebrated was humbling. I can easily say, even if this wedding lasted another week I would have shot through every second of it without breaking Facebook with my complaints. Thank you for letting me be a part of your joy , Sandhya, Sam and Raji."
Suresh told A Plus that most Indian weddings he has shot "put the ritualistic aspect of the ceremonies above everything else, even above convenience or happiness, so it is safe to say it is a rarity to see a mother perform this particular ritual." For this reason, Suresh says he and his co-photographer were completely caught off guard when the special moment happened.
"But then again this wedding was full of surprises as to how much at ease every single person was, from the couple, to the parents, to the priest ( special mention to this man, without him the wedding wouldn't have been half as fun or revolutionary as it has become)," Suresh told A Plus.
Whether it's a cultural ritual or social standard, sometimes it's worth taking the unbeaten path if it leads to something positive. The world is constantly changing and some rules will have to change along with it — it's the only way to keep moving forward as well as giving others the space to be seen and heard. At a time when many people are beginning to examine and question societal standards, this beautiful story is a great example of broadening our perspectives.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include comments from Varun Suresh.
Cover image via Varun Suresh / VarunSuresh.com