The weddings

 There is nothing more special than being able to experience a country from within, living with its people, following their traditions, living the everyday life. It was in this, my third time in India, even more than in any of my two previous trips, that I have been able to experience India from the intimacy of an Indian home. Destiny had it that we were lucky to cross our paths with Manish, who together with his whole family and friends pretty much adopted us and made us part of their family during the month that we spent together with them. 

One wedding after another

I believe that attending an Indian wedding is an experience that must be lived at least once in a lifetime. I always wanted to attend to one. I got very close on my previous trips but never made it. This time, Manish took us to three in the first week we spent together and it was certainly worth the wait, even when it was an exhausting experience overall. The wedding is one of the most important events in the lives of the Indian people. They don't last one night but several consecutive days. They include rituals, processions, dancing, ceremonies, partying and overall food, lots of food for hundreds and even thousands of people that attend to them. Perhaps, one of the worst things that could've happened to me on this trip was to have my camera at Nikon's hospital by the time we had the first wedding, the most incredible and traditional of all, thus I was left with the very limited camera of my iPod, which is better than nothing but still a piece crap. It was quite a frustration, not being able to properly document the wonderful event that we experienced. Here are some images from my iPod.

The groom being bathed in turmeric

Both bride and groom are away from each other, each one in his/her own village. The bride is kept inside a room wearing her saree for the 3 days before the wedding. Only women from her village can come and see her. She cannot leave her home cannot cross a river. The groom, on the other hand, will march on a horse towards her house on the day of the wedding. He will be escorted by his friends and relatives dancing and singing. A band will play drums and trumpets very loudly and at the front of the whole procession, there will be a truck loaded with massive speakers that play music loud enough to wake up the whole neighborhood. They take their time, stopping every 10 meters for dancing, offerings, and salutations. It will take him several hours to get to her future wife's house. When he gets there, she will be taken from her room to the front. She can't see, so she will be conducted by her brothers. The groom waits at the door surrounded by the whole troupe of friends and relatives, the climate is that of total euphoria. When they meet, she is still hiding behind her veil and can't see, the exchange garlands of flowers. Once they are together, a long ceremony conducted by two Brahmans begins. The fire is the witness. For several hours, the Brahmans will recite prayers and will feed the fire throwing offerings to it. Relatives and guests will sit around to follow it. 

They will go on and on until very late into the night. The now wife, exquisitely dressed (and still concealed) in a dazzling saree will receive several offerings and gifts from the visitors

 Once the ceremony is finished, tradition dictates that the relatives and female friends of the wife will "steal" the shoes of the husband and they will hide it. He will have to negotiate their return. They, the girls, will demand an exorbitant amount of money which he will have to haggle hard to get them back at a reasonable price and thus being able to take his wife back home. It is a process that even though is pretty much an act, it is taken very seriously by both families. They actually get angry during the process, they get disgusted and they show an utter lack of satisfaction if the negotiation doesn't go well. The situation takes quite a dramatic turn at some point. It all basically symbolizes the pain that involves the departure of the young girl from her home. In India, especially in traditional villages, when women get married, they must move to the husband's house with the husband's family. The wife must never show any happiness during the whole wedding. Doing it would imply that she is happy to leave her family behind. She must show pain, drama, tears. At this point, the whole wedding becomes so dramatic that it looks like suffering and happiness would be seen very badly. Once the negotiation is finished and already well past dawn time, the wife and husband will be taken to the husband's house. The wife is once again locked in a room and concealed behind her saree. She can be visited by her new neighbours, few people at a time. The series of ceremonies and rituals will continue for days until it's fully over. It is truly exhausting, people end extremely tired but happy in the end. Getting married is a crucial event for Indians. 

These are some of the images of the other weddings we attended to (less traditional though) but now with my camera. 

The groom on the procesIt is time for visits once again and this time we have received my mom. As I already mentioned before with the visit of my dad, our parents are to a great degree responsible of who we are,sion carriage

In an Indian wedding, it is unacceptable for a woman to be a dancer and entertainer, that's why they hire transvestites for this task.

Relatives, friends and neighbors dancing all night long during the procession.

The band playing out loud during the procession

Procession. Female side. (Jaipur)

Open air party with food to fee a legion of attendants

After a whole week of weddings in India, one needs a full month of resting. The truth is that you end up exhausted. The uninterrupted sequence of events that are involved in a wedding here barely leave any free time to rest. You can't stop for a minute, from the preparations until the final day when the newly weds are home and life goes back to normal. The experience however, it is totally worth it. It is an event that deserves to be lived and it is as unique as India is.