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Gift Giving traditions from India

 Indian Wedding gifts :  At Indian weddings the bride receives from her husband or husband's family, a beauty box containing a glass bottle filled with attar/essential oils of rose and jasmine, certain spices, sandalwood paste, soorma/kajal/khol to darken the eyes, mukhwas/fennel breath fresheners, pure hair oils, incense sticks, henna and ayurvedic (products based on Indian herbal sciences) toiletries.

From a lover : One of the thee most popular gifts from a man to a woman is fresh jasmine buds stringed in a veni/flower arrangement, given on a full moon night. The woman wears the veni in her hair (on their date) and as the buds open they shine brightly under the moonlight and become more fragrant with human warmth creating a romantic and alive ambiance. Kama, the Indian god of love or cupid is depicted with five arrows, each of which is tipped with a jasmine bud. The five arrows are for the five senses which will be transcended or shattered when true love is born.

 Indian Baby Shower : The Indian baby shower is a celebration for the mother and her new baby and occurs on many occasions during pregnancy. From the moment of conception, the child is thought to be alive in the womb and susceptible to the influence from the world around him. The foods the mother eats, the works she does, the scents she smells, the words and sounds she hears are considered to have an effect on the child. The mother is pampered and relieved of her heavier duties, given good food and time off so she can pass on to the baby, health and desired qualities of temperament. Her childhood friends will visit her, offering food and gifts. Seven is an important number and the seventh month is celebrated and gifts given to the new mother, especially bangles, which signify an enclosed circle of protection, containing the creative power within her. The mother-to-be is offered nuts, sprouting grasses and beans for her health and stamina, rice for prosperity, sweets to sweeten the pain and massage oils to massage her back.

Gift Giving to the teacher : The traditional relationship between teacher (guru) and learner (shishya) is marked by an initiation ceremony (upanayana) which establishes a bond between the two as that of a second birth - the gateway to a new life. A ceremony is performed with rituals and traditional gifts of sweets, food and clothing are given to the teacher. The teacher is as respected as the parent.

Gift Giving at the birth of a child : Women, friends, kinfolk, neighbors join to sing of the birth and participate in the cradling ceremony. Gifts are brought - rattles, mobiles, soft toys, handmade clothing to welcome the new born. The neighborhood children come to peep on the baby, curious about their new 'brother' or 'sister'. The astrologer is consulted about the unique configuration of the cosmos which marked this birth. Musicians are invited to celebrate the arrival.

written by Kavita Mehta

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