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« Bogged down on the final post of my Return to India series, I turn to birch trees | Main | Return to India, Part 19: The wedding band, in the visual style of Sgt. Pepper's (10 image slide show) »

Return to India, Part 20: The groom rides a white horse to the temple, there is dancing in the street; Sujitha and Manoj are wed

I will begin here, with Manoj astraddle the white horse, his bride, brothers and other family behind him, even though the wedding had commenced earlier. The day's ceremonies had begun with a symbolic making of the marital bed, a portrait of Lakshmi at the head, bride and groom dolls and an abundance of food, fertility and prosperity laid out over the bedspread. This was followed by a blessing ceremony, after which the bride and groom changed into their wedding clothes and gathered outside.*

The groom then mounted the white mare. The bride stepped up behind him with his brothers, sisters and other family members on both sides of her. At my side, the blue tail end barely in the fame, was a kind of motorized, rolling, double electric organ set; in front of this, the wedding band from last night's post and, all about, well wishers and wedding guests.

The custom extends back into antiquity, when grooms would carry swords as they rode their white mares and sometimes, in some places, still do.

The procession would sometimes take the groom and his family to the home of the bride, sometimes to the wedding place. Destinations can vary.

The destination today will be a Ganesha temple not far away and then back again. The music is struck by the band and the rolling organ and then Manoj follows them to the road, as his bride follows behind.

And here is the band, and there is the rolling organ, the groom seen through the window behind. The music is loud, strong, energetic.... FUN... the members of the band tilt and jerk ever so slightly this way and that way, in a manner that strikes chords of "reverence," "cool" and "soul" all at once.

And here is the view from inside the rolling organ. Even now, way up here in Wasilla, Alaska, when I look at this picture I can hear and feel the music all around me; I feel the heat of the sun, roasting the air. I remember the glare of that sun upon my head and the burn of it against my skin.

















The band, leading the way up the road.

The band leads the way to the temple.












The bride and groom make their alms...

They kneel before the altar...

They look upon and hold their offerings out to the idol of Ganesha, symbol of the Hindu diety Ganesha.











The couple turns to leave the temple and return to the wedding hall.

The bride, in the midst of the groom's family, as she follows his horse back towards the wedding hall.

The procession suddenly stops - but the music continues. I had attended two previous Hindu weddings, both down south in Bangalore. There had been no dancing of any kind - not during the wedding, not during the reception and feast that preceded and followed the ceremonies.

But now, two young women begin to dance...

Then men begin to dance.

Such beauty, here beneath the hot, harsh, sun! I felt blessed, just to be able to witness such a moment.

The men danced with men, and the women danced with women. Those from Southern India joined right in (right). All laughed and had fun.

Now, joyously, both families mix together, they walk to the large opening into the hallway to the open-air wedding hall.

The bride and groom enter.

Soon, the bride and groom are on the wedding platform. The priest leads them through a number of blessings and rituals.

Finally, the priest hands two necklaces to the groom.

After placing the necklace made of thin, black beads around Sujitha's neck, Manoj follows with the gold.

Manoj and Sujitha are now formally wed in Hindu tradition, as practiced by the Lingayat. For any westerners who might think of Hinduism as a monolitic religion, it is not - no more than is Christianity with its multitude of different sects, each of which shares a certain basic belief in Christ but with countless variations and interpretations of it.

So too is it in Hinduism.

After draping each other with garlands, the bride and groom stand between their parents as rice flies. There are more events to happen - the washing of the feet of bride and groom by Sujitha's Uncle Murthy and Aunt Vasanthi, the placing of rings upon the toes of the bride by her mother, the giving of gifts, the posing for pictures...*

Even as the more than 1000 guests continue to file through the reception line, bearing gifts and offering congratulations and best wishes before moving into the dining room to eat, I join Murthy and Vasanthi in a cab. Ravi and Buddy give us their goodbyes...

And off we went, to see ancient new places in India, to the north and west. Before returning to London in a week, Sujitha and Manoj would stay in the Biradar home in Pune, and would make a series of visits to a number of temples.

Originally, it had been my plan to follow them through it all, but then Murthy bought me a couple of airplane tickets, reserved multiple touring cabs and hotel rooms for us all and invited me to follow him and Vasanthi on their tour of northwestern India. Suji said I must go, that Jaipur, The Pink City of Rajasthan was wonderful, a place she would like to go. I must not miss such an opportunity, she said.

So I did - and The Pink City was wonderful, as was Udaipur and Ahmadebad, where I got to wander through a quiet and serene compound that Mahatma Ghandi had made home.


At the beginning of this series, I stated my three purposes in coming to India on this, my third trip:

To attend Sujitha and Manoj's wedding, to learn more about India and to attempt to come to terms with the self-inflicted death of Soundarya by visiting the place where she had left this life, the crematorium where her physical matter had returned to the basic state of ash and dust, and to the sacred waters into which her dust and ash had followed that of her husband Anil's.

This journey with Murthy and Vasanthi would accomplish the second goal as stated above - to a degree. India is so vast and varied in landscape, history, culture and tradition that it would take a lifetime of study and travel to even begin to grasp it - if even to begin to grasp India is possible.

I never intended to draw this Return to India series out anywhere near this long, but it was just a slow process for me to work my way through the photos to this point. Essentially, what I have done here is to make an initial, rough, edit as I have crept along and I have involved readers in the process. Except to drop in on a few images here and there for spot checks, I myself had not looked at my different takes until just before I posted them here.

I have not yet looked at the takes I made while traveling with Murthy and Vasanthi. I will save that material for later times, to be dropped in a piece here, a piece there, as I must turn the attention of this blog back to Alaska very soon.

For now, this leaves only the journey in search of coming t terms and peace in the wake of death of the beloveds. Sujitha and I took this journey together, before we left Bangalore for Pune. So I will make one more post to relate something of this journey, followed by a quick post-script.


*I plan to made two slide shows as addendums to this post. One will be a more complete view of the wedding, to include images of the preliminaries to what I have posted today, as described in the narrative above, along with a bit of the followup. The second slide show will just be a score or two of portraits and faces of some of the many people who came to the wedding.

Before I make these slide shows, I will create the final post and post script and set them to appear tomorrow, the final post about 24 hours from now, the post script either the next day or late tomorrow night. If time will allow, I will then make the slideshow addendums and drop them in between this post and the final before I go to bed tonight. If time doesn't allow, I will drop them in tomorrow - but I want to get them in tonight.




Series index:

India series, part 1: With a little help from the Indian Air Force, I begin my India series without actually beginning it
Return to India, Part 2: Pain beneath the fan, a sprawling tree, monkey on a string; those I would soon join on a train ride; the garland
Return to India, Part 3: My Facebook friend, Ramz, her mischievous brother, her nationally recognized achiever mom, her dad at the wheel
India series, Part 4: When you overtake an elephant on the highway, be sure to pass on the right; birthday remembrance; In Wasilla, pass "oversize" on the left
Return to India, Part 5: I wander the cold, empty, streets of Bangalore
Return to India, Part 6: A cow, blessed and safe; Suji takes me to lunch, then goes out with Bhanu to do some wedding shopping
Return to India, Part 7-A: A three-snack outing as mother and daughter shop for Suji's wedding
Return to India, Part 7-B: On the painted holiday of the final full moon of winter, Sujitha and Kruthika go back to get a necklace
A spacer only - the Buddha and the glamour poster ad
Return to India, Part 8: henna, to highlight her beauty and deepen the love between bride and groom; a moment on the way to the train
Return to India, Part 9: A prayer and a blessing for Suji; we head for the train; three calls to Manu
Time for another spacer - the green man who showed up at the railroad station
Return to India, Part 10: The train to Pune, part 2: Sujitha by the window as a thin thread of her India flows by
Return to India, Part 11: On the train, part 3: Ganesh Ravi - Photographer: how we discovered his hidden talent
Return to India, Part 12: On the train, part 4: After dark
Return to India, Part 13: train ride, part 5: we click and clatter into Pune, take a perilous walk and step into a world beyond imagination
Return to India, Part 14: The groom his wedding suit; me in mine
Return to India, Part 15: A function to mark the final night Sujitha would spend with her family before the wedding
Return to India, Part 16: Inside the Biradar house: portrait of an elder woman - portrait of a young girl
Return to India, Part 17: We dine in the home of the groom's parents, then join in the Puja of Kalasha
Return to India, Part 18: Slideshow: Sujitha and Manoj at the wedding hall - Engagement and Haldi Night
Return to India, Part 19: The wedding band, in the visual style of Sgt. Pepper's (10 image slide show)
Return to India, Part 20: The groom rides a white horse to the temple, there is dancing in the street; Sujitha and Manoj are wed
Return to India, Part 21 - Benediction: Sujitha takes me to the sacred waters; fish dine - a crow flies

Reader Comments (10)

such beautiful people

May 1, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertwain12

Your photos are beautiful. Thanks Bill!

May 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

What an exciting journey you have taken us on. Thank you!

May 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMrs Gunka

How beautiful. You have taken me to a different world. Thank you.

May 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

I got married all over again! I don't know why I felt my heart beating so fast again... I always was so worried about the marriage and preparations and when I read your blog, I could just smile and listen to my own heart beats! felt the moments again!

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuji

Lovely event and lovely story and pictures

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGanesh

Thanks, for posting the wedding. Really beautiful and colorful pictures. Suji was a beautiful bride and had a lovely ceremony. A lot of detail was involved, and you all did a wonderful job; capturing the moment. I've learned a lot. Thanks for sharing.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjuicyfruityy

Sujitha and Manoj-
Thank you for sharing your families and all your wedding preparations and events , through Bill's camera eye, with all of us!
I feel honored to have been allowed to attend- after the fact or no. I learned some new things and was struck by many which have sent me off to read about things I never knew existed.
I wish you a good and full life together.
Thank you Bill!
I will never make it to India but with you and your family there I have gotten a small but extraordinary glimpse - thank you!

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlaska Pi

Thank you first to Suji for sharing your wonderful wedding with all of us, and thank you Bill for recording it for those of us that will most likely never travel to India. I am astounded at the pageantry and the festivities that surrounded this wedding, so fun to feel like I was "there" while sitting here a few blocks from Bill in Wasilla! What an adventure and what a warm and wonderful family that you have Suji. I am truly astounded by the travel and preparations for this event, from the henna tatoos to the long, long train trip, in what looked to be very warm weather. Thanks again for allowing Bill to allow us, the readers, to share your matrimonial journey. It is so interesting to compare this wedding with other weddings that Bill has photographed here in Alaska where the brides wore traditional clothing from their Alaskan culture. Bill, you have such an eye for capturing that which is culturally unique and for that I am so grateful as we don't all have the opportunities and the talents to capture life's moments in the true spectrum of individual cultures.

May 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAKPetMom

thanks for making this so accessible to your readers that we thought we were in india.....so very different from our own home and weddings

May 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRuth Deming

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