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.