July 18, 2022
When Kiru Srikanth was young, she couldn’t wait for her puberty ceremony. She remembers seeing other girls in her Sri Lankan Tamil community in Scarborough, Canada, getting dressed up and being the center of attention on their big day — and she wanted that, too. As part of the ceremony, “the girl sits on a fancy swing and gets pushed on. And I was like, I can’t wait to get the swing,” recounted Srikanth, now 32.
In many South Asian cultures, especially Tamil and Telugu Hindu communities, a girl’s first period is a big deal. Celebrations like Manjal Neerattu Vizha and Ritu Kala Samskaram, commonly called half sari ceremonies, signify a girl’s coming of age and are considered as important as weddings. The girl dresses up, almost like a bride, while relatives and friends give her blessings and gifts. In small towns in India, it’s common for families to put up huge billboards with their daughter’s picture announcing her half sari ceremony.
But, in recent years, the celebrations once intended to announce that the girl is ready for marriage, have morphed into extravagant events, with families in the South Asian diaspora spending thousands to celebrate what some argue is a regressive tradition.