Hindus Find New Faiths in Marriage

November 24, 2008

Author: Jeff Diamant

Source: The Star-Ledger


The perfect man for Aparna Kachalia, who was born to Hindu parents from Bombay, will be one who loves the 20-year-old Edison resident and treats her well.

If he happens to be Hindu, great. If not, no problem.

"A lot of people in my generation are more open to marrying outside the religion," said Kachalia, a Dartmouth sophomore. "It depends on how open your family is ... My mom says that as long as he loves you and takes care of you, that's all that matters."

Not long ago, that sentiment was rare in the immigrant Indian-American community. But daughters and sons of Indian immigrants who have grown up in this country are increasingly likely to marry outside the faith, according to interviews with Hindus in New Jersey.

In fact, a Pew Forum survey conducted last year that indicated 90 percent of American Hindus marry within their religion raised eyebrows in local Hindu communities, where the rate is generally thought to be 65 percent to 70 percent -- still high, but a noticeable drop from the perceived rate a decade or two ago.

In New Jersey, where the population of Asian Indians has risen nearly eightfold since 1980, to 250,000 from 30,000, according to census data, signs of this trend are easily visible in cities and towns like Edison, Iselin and Parsippany, which have large Indian-American populations. Interfaith couples are commonly spotted at restaurants like Bombay Talk on Oak Tree Road in Iselin, a street liberally dotted with Indian businesses.