In marriage it is never white for the bride.: Becoming Minnesotan

Kusum Saxena, c.1995.
  • Name - Kusum Saxena
  • Age at interview - 61
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 09.30.1994
  • Sari and bodice worn by Neena Gada on her wedding day, April 1967.
    Woman's had with henna design, Minnesota History Center, 2004.

    Essential Question

    Life in the Old Country: What makes a country a person’s homeland?

    Traditions & Values: What makes up “culture”?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    There are many different traditions that are part of an Indian wedding. Many weddings are very elaborate and expensive. Families will spend as much money as they can afford to provide a party for friends and relatives. The women wear saris, a traditional garment consisting of a single length of cotton or silk, most often with one end wrapped around the waist to form a skirt, the other draped over the shoulder or head. The bride wears a special sari, usually cream-colored, yellow, or red. Before the wedding the other women in her family paint beautiful designs on her arms and hands using a dye called henna (this art is known as mehndi) and decorate her with jewelry.

    To learn more about Asian Indian history and culture, visit our Asian Indian Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Kusum Saxena 1
    2:42 Minutes | 2.59Mb


    Narrator: Kusum Saxena (KS)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    PS:  What was your wedding like?

    KS:  It was a traditional wedding. We went through the usual stuff, all the ceremonies.  It was a one-day wedding, not three-day wedding. None of the families could afford that.

    PS:  Did you have your hands painted red with henna?

    KS:  Mmm-hmm.

    PS:  Heavy gown?

    KS:  I had a red sari. 

    PS:  What is the meaning of the red sari?

    KS:  We don’t wear white. White is considered for widows.  I'm talking about females.  When somebody was widowed, then traditionally they used to wear white. Now things have changed because of economics, because people are working outside. But my grandmother, who was widowed at a very young age, my mother’s mother, I always saw her in white - the silvery white hair and white. She was a very elegant looking woman. So in marriages it is never white for the bride. It's either pale yellow, creamish, and red is considered a very auspicious color.  So that's why we wear red.  We wouldn’t wear green or blue. They are more social colors, not religious colors. Yellow and red are considered kind of festive and religious.

    PS:  Are they associated with happiness, or good futures, or prosperity?

    KS:  Well, yellow is for devotion, and red is for power. Green is considered for fertility, greenery, freshness. Blue stands for peace. I’m trying to associate why only red and yellow. Whenever we do the offering, it is red flowers and yellow flowers.  Well, flowers could be white too, but we don’t offer purple flowers. The turmeric which we offer to Gods in religious things, rice, turmeric, red mercuric oxide powder. Why red, I don't know. It's just the way it is.  I should look into that to find out exactly why it is like that.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Adjective:  Of good omen; indicating future success; lucky.


    Noun:  Feelings of strong dedication.


    Noun:  The management of the money and resources of a community or system.


    Noun:  The ability to have children.


    Noun:  A dye created from a flowering plant that is used to color skin, hair, fingernails, leather and wool.


    Noun:  The state of being welll-off or affluent; having more than enough of what you need to survive (food, shelter, clothing, etc).


    Noun:  A contribution given at a religious service.


    Noun:  The traditional dress of women in the Indian Subcontinent; an outer garment consisting of a single length of cotton or silk, most often with one end wrapped around the waist to form a skirt, the other draped over the shoulder or head.


    Adjective:  Relating to a part of culture that is passed from person to person or generation to generation.


    Noun:  A woman whose husband has died.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 580