Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Adopting your spouse's religion

(When we went to India for our honeymoon, Madhavan's Thatha "grandfather" performed his own Tamil Iyengar pooja to bless our marriage - Satyanarayana Vrata )

Question from one of my Madh Mama readers:

"Did you adopt your husbands religious beliefs after you two got married? Just curious.. My mom says a woman should always adopt her husband's beliefs and I wondered if you felt the same being a younger generation."

My Answer:

I did adopt my husband's religious beliefs when we got engaged. I wanted to get to know his culture, and a large part of his culture and family life is going to Hindu temples, and taking part in the religious holidays. Even when one enters a house, a "mangakumkum" is performed to remove bad omens; and when one exits a house, a "vettal pakku" is performed for a safe journey and prosperous life. So in a sense, I HAD to adopt his religion. I was open to it, and flexible with it. A foreigner can only survive in India if they do as the Indians do - "जैसा देश वैसा भेश(jaisa desh waisa bhes)". I feel like I would have missed out on a lot of Hindu culture & customs if I had refused to participate in his religion.

(On my first trip to India in 2006, I participated in all the Hindu poojas when we went to temples with his family. This was a very spiritually enriching and inspiring experience for me)

However, that being said, I'm not a religious person. I would consider myself a spiritual person, believing in a higher power that transcends any one particular religion. My grandmother was Catholic, but my father chose not to raise me in the religion. My grandmother took me to the Catholic church regularly, and taught me how to say prayers, except I was never baptised in the church. When I was growing up, my parents' exposed me to many different religions during our travels, and the majority of my mother's employees were Buddhist, so we attended many Buddhist functions. I would say I am most comfortable in both the Catholic church and a Buddhist temple. Buddhism is a branch of Hinduism. However, I would not call myself either Catholic or Buddhist, I would just call my religious beliefs spiritual.

My husband is slightly more religious than I am, but not by much. Last year, I had to force him to celebrate Diwali, for our daughter. He participates more in his religion in India, as there are more temples there, and more of a daily presence of religion. He considers himself a Hindu - a Tamil Brahmin Iyengar. We celebrate Christmas every year, and I decorate the house with my grandmother's religious items. My inlaws also love celebrating Christmas, and they come all the way from Jamaica to visit us every year during that time because they love the Christmas holiday (and my MIL is seriously Hindu...doing poojas every morning).

(San Giorgio Maggiore Church in Venice, Italy 2013)

After my grandmother passed away, and we attended her traditional Catholic funeral, which was held in a very modern Catholic church (the priest's other job was a genetics professor at UBC!) My husband was one of the pallbearers for her casket. I started to miss the Catholic faith and even contemplated returning back to the church. I asked my husband if he would be ok with us attending church on Sundays, and he said he would be fine with it, and that he would also come with us as a family. We haven't ended up going (due to new parent tiredness and laziness), but I was happy that he was open to it. When we visited Venice, we also visited many churches there which were historical sites, and in each one I said a prayer to the Virgin Mary. Whenever we travel, I like to go to any of the religious sites in that country and make an offering to the gods.

As far as our daughter, we will raise her in both faiths. We want her to respect all religions and be exposed to everything. We plan on celebrating Christmas and Diwali. We will go to the Hindu temple, and the Catholic church - whenever we feel the need to go (which is not that often, for us). I think we will probably end up doing more Hindu things, because my MIL is more religious, and my parents are not. 

I asked my MIL this question and her answer was "Yes, a wife HAS to adopt her husband's religion". I would also say yes, but if your spouse is flexible, then you can also keep your own beliefs too.

This topic of religion is quite a big one when it comes to intercultural marriage, but to be honest, it is the first time it ever occured to me. In our relationship, things just fell into place naturally and there was no clashing regarding religion. Flexibility and openness is a big part of intercultural marriage.

What about you, my beloved readers? Has it been easy/hard to adopt your spouse's religion?


1 comment

  1. Please do not say that Buddhism is a branch of Hinduism! It is an entirely separate religion with an entirely separate belief system- don't be misled by the use of some common words, which, taken in either a Hindu or Buddhist context, have different meanings! I am mentioning this because it is very disrespectful to Buddhists. Buddhists are considered Hindus only for the purpose of Indian law (as are Jains) but even this policy is offensive. I have encountered Hindus who like to consider Gotama Buddha as an avatar of Krsna but this wholly disregards the reality of the emergence of the religions and is an attempt (conscious or otherwise) to whitewash the concept of Buddhism by placing it in a conservative Hindu context. This is propaganda, having no reasonable foundation upon which it could be based.

    My righteous rants aside, I otherwise like your blog very much and can appreciate a lot of the stories/advice which you have written. Keep up the good work!


Respectful comments only, please! (That means you, anonymous.)

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