Local wedding, Rishikesh, INDIA

 ”The overseeing priest/guru chants mantras whilst the bride’s mother blesses the groom with rice and cleanses him with smoke. The guru then lifts flower garlands from a vase, which is being held on the bride’s sister’s head, and proceeds to bless the groom with the vase water and drape the garlands around his neck.”  “The groom settles on the platform with three gurus and they proceed to carry out a ritual of cleansing and mantras, which funnily enough nobody seems too interested in. The guests are busy in the dining area of the tent, piling food onto their plates and digging into what seems to be a grand feast. I walk around in awe, smiling as much as I can and acknowledging those who stare curiously. I once again feel from the others a mix of surprise, curiosity and appreciation, with some of the women gesturing towards my sari, lifting their hands up to their mouths to invite me to eat with them and smiling at me kneeling down to say hello to some kids. It smells like spices and sweat and flowers.”

Finally the bride arrives. She is magnificent. Her sari is a deep green, gold and red design, with jewels and patterns sparkling in the filtered sunlight. Intricate henna covers her hands and arms, she is covered in jewels and a big gold hoop pierces her nose. She advances, sullen-faced and formidable, surrounded by her family. A smile slips her lips as her sister leans in and whispers something to her, but she quickly regains her composure and advances towards the platform. I learn that in Hindu weddings, the bride often puts on a show of being sad so as not to offend her family, whom she will soon be leaving.” “The guests are all turned towards the platform as the bride and groom exchange flower garlands, posing for the photographers. They sit in the thrones and are showered in orange flower petals, thrown enthusiastically by the children” “Thinking back, the wedding decorations seemed almost kitsch, with all the clashing colours and flowers and decorated thrones, but having that much colour around suited the festive atmosphere so well. The last wedding I attended in Sydney seems so reserved and formal and sober in comparison to the joyful, at times over the top affair that we experienced today. And this was only a lower middle class wedding in a village… I cannot even imagine what weddings must be like in Mumbai, the Bollywood capital. It was honestly a wonderful experience and such a show of Indian hospitality that we were welcomed with open arms to a stranger’s wedding, because ‘the more, the merrier’. In any case I will always remember my first Indian wedding.”

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