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Girls & Women

A Single Mom Broke This Sexist Wedding Tradition – and It Will Give You All the Feels

A heart-warming photograph of an Indian mother giving away her daughter in marriage is being praised for showing how families can overcome gender stereotypes in traditional ceremonies. 

It shows single-mother Rajeshwari with her daughter Sandhya sitting on her lap, as part of the ritual called kanyadaanam, which usually involves the bride’s father giving her away. 

The ritual typically dictates that a single mother can’t marry off her daughter by herself, because of the role that traditionally must be played by a man, according to Indian news site News Minute

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As a result, according to the report, single mothers generally play little or no part in the wedding ceremony for their children. Instead, a close male relative performs the ceremony. 

But Rajeshwari and Sandhya decided to stand up to tradition at the Chennai ceremony, to make sure that it represented their own family. 

“I got married very early, at the age of 21, and moved to Australia with my husband, who was 12 years older than me,” Rajeshwari, who comes from a conservative Tamil Brahmin family, told the News Minute

“Although my father was pretty conservative, he was also a forward-thinking man,” she said. 

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Rajeshwari studied IT and found a job in the IT industry, while also raising her two children. But after 17 years of marriage, Rajeshwari and her husband decided to separate. 

“Since he wasn’t a major part of my children’s lives, it was not very difficult for them to adjust,” she continued. “My family, in that regard, although very concerned, was very supportive.”

“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,” she said.

The photograph, shot by photographer Varun Suresh at the Chennai ceremony last year, went viral on Friday. 

“Having spent most of her time in Australia has given my mother a different perspective to challenge the traditional society and its norms back home in India,” said Sandhya. “We took the best out of its rich culture without being bound by customs that are discriminatory.” 

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Rajeshwari told the news site that she had thought it would be difficult to find someone who would agree to carry out the ceremony, as it broke with tradition. But she found Raghavan, who “was very understanding and agreed to conduct my daughter’s wedding,” she said. 

Raghavan, who reportedly lives in the US, told the News Minute: “She was indeed a major part of her children’s lives. She was their mother, father, and friend. It would be more meaningful to oblige her wishes. There was nothing more satisfying that day than to watch her sense of fulfilment.” 

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