Return to India, Part 17: We dine in the home of the groom's parents, then join in the Puja of Kalasha
The drive by large van from the K. Ganesh home, where we were hosted, to the house of the groom's parents took somewhere between half-an-hour and 45 minutes. The bride used the time to apply her makeup and finish her beauty routine. By the time we arrived, Sujitha looked... well, see for yourself... stunning and gracefully beautiful! Now it was time to enter the home of Manoj's parents - the household that she was about to become a member of.
Along with a host of relatives who had come up from Bangalore and an uncle who had come from Wasilla, Sujitha was greeted at the gate of Manoj's father and mother, Mahadev Bimanna and Jayshree Biradar with a blessing.
As lunch is being prepared, Sujitha sits with her cousins, Aishu Visnu and Brindha Padmanabhan, in the upstairs living room.
There is time to visit and socialize. Sujitha returns to the lower level and then poses in the doorway to the Biradar home with Manoj. Above the doorway is a representation of the deity Ganesha, Remover of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings. The doorway frame is decorated by the same forehead symbol that identifies members of the Lingayat faith.
Back inside, Sujitha visits with her close friend and former coworker in Bangalore, Ganesh Arumugham. In the aftermath of tragedy, Ganesh was her confident and comforter at work. Ganesh plans to marry in October. In the background, Sujitha's brother Ganesh talks with cousin Aishu.
As her father and brother-in-law to be pass by, Sujitha receives a hug from Aishu.
Sujitha and Soundarya - "Soundu" - had often spoke of the good times they would share together at the wedding of Suji and Manoj. Soundu is not here, but the unfinished tribute to her and Anil tattooed onto the bride's arm continually reminds us of her and in spirit brings her to us.
As requested, Suji puts her henna wedding art on display.
Not long after I took this photograph, Aishu and I were visiting and she asked me how I felt about India. I told her that I love India, and that I regreted that I had not come here earlier in life so that I could have came back more often, could have seen and learned more.
"But then we wouldn't have been part of your India," she responded. No, I argued, I could still have met them at my niece Khena's wedding - even after I had already gotten to know India and they would still have been part of my India. Since then, I have thought more about it. I think Aishu was right. If I had gotten to know India when I was younger, everything would have turned out differently. My relationship with the country would have been different. It would not have happened the same at all.
Aishu and her extended family are not only part of my India - THEY ARE my India.
I am glad now that I did not come earlier. I would not have wanted India any other way.
Soon, lunch was served.
As always seems to be the case in an Indian home, it was excellent. And don't let this fool you. The servings kept coming and coming. I ate in abundance.
After lunch, there was a bangle function for Sujitha.
Suji receives instruction of the way of the Lingayat when it comes to wearing bangles.
Sujitha and Aishu.*
After the bangle function, Sujitha and Bhanu spent time meeting in turn with and socializing with different women family members and friends of the Biradar's.
There is a sacred necklace and locket Sujitha will be expected to wear from now on, although most of the time it will hang on the inside of her clothing and will not be seen. The Brahmin also wear a necklace to serve the same basic purpose, but it is made of gold and is different in design and make. She shows her Lingayat-style necklace and locket to cousin Bharathi Kalyan and mother Bhanu.
The earliest, pre-temple shrines in Hindu culture date back thousands of years and are built on a design called Lynga, said to symbolize the male and female union, in both the physical and spiritual sense. The Lynga is contained within the silver locket. A Rudraksh seed also serves as a prayer bead.
In the late afternoon - early evening, Sujitha's father Ravi will perform a lead role in a Puja function called Kalasha. In the meantime, lunch has left just about everybody feeling sleepy so they nap on the floor. Sujitha uses her dad as a pillow.
Ravi, performing the Puja of the Kalasha, along with Chandu Bagale, maternal uncle to Manoj.
Again, my knowledge is too limited for me to attempt to go into any detail, but the coconut, mango leaves and water in the post are considered to be a symbol of abundance and the source of life, to contain the elixir of life. The Puja Kalasha is considered to be auspicious, a prayer ceremony to request all the things it represents to be plentiful in the couple's life.
Priest Mallayswami conducts the puja. A videographer with a strong light also documents the event. I should note that this videographer was very polite and friendly and eager to help me out. He did not speak English, so we could not speak directly, but if he was not shooting and he saw me shooting into what he deemed to be too dark of a space, he would turn on his light just for me.
I didn't always want the light - sometimes, I just wanted the glow of a lamp, or the softer light natural to the room, but he made such an effort to assist me that I could not help but appreciate it and so just accepted it. I have decided that the strong, hot, glaring video light has become a natural part of Indian weddings and is just one more element for me to work with, rather than to rail against.
Ravi holds the plate with burning lamps.
Ravi wears the type of hat worn by the men in this part of India.
Participants are blessed and purified in the smoke.
Manoj is blessed.
Sujitha was blessed in the same manner. I photographed it, but I like this shot a few seconds later better.
The couple prays.
Chandu Bagale feeds Ravi either sugar or something made of sugar.
Ravi returns the treat.
Sujitha stands with Manoj and the family about to become her own.
*April 28: There is special significance to the ring on Suji's little finger that I was unaware of when I posted this. She explains in comments.