Another Hindu Wedding

Gina writes:

Last night we went to the wedding of our friend Soumya, a former employee of SOVA. We had been to the wedding of Soumya's sister almost a year ago and a Muslim wedding (the brother of a SOVA friend), but this was the first wedding where we knew the bride.

We were all decked out in our finest Indian formals.

We were some of the first people to arrive, so we got to talk to Soumya for a few minutes. She was properly dressed in her many, many symbolic pieces of jewelry and clothing.

She seemed to be feeling a mix of excitement and apprehension. That's understandable, since it was an arranged marriage and she hadn't really spent time with the groom since being introduced to him a few short months ago. Apart from that, Soumya is typical of many of the girls I've met here: she's educated and intelligent and super-sweet, but also so innocent and naiive. The conservative culture means that there is very little chance that the girls have ever been alone with a boy, held one's hand, or been kissed. It was shocking to me to realize that my sweet, innocent friend would be a wife in a few hours.

Dinner was served at about 8 p.m., before the ceremonies started. It was a delicious buffet, but there were no chairs in the outdoor tent. It was a little awkward, eating with my hands standing in a sari, but I managed!

Eventually, we heard some loud music and followed the crowd to see what the excitement was about. The bharat had arrived at the hall! A bharat is a group of friends and family of the groom, ushering him to the ceremony with music, dancing, crazy-bright lights, and fireworks. We had seen this procession on our way to the wedding, so we realized that the group had been dancing and celebrating in the street of Koraput for 3 hours! The groom traditionally arrived riding a white horse, but now usually rides in a white car while his friends and family have fun dancing to the wedding site.

He stepped out of the car and was immediately placed on a small platform, so that his feet could be washed and he could be carried into the wedding hall.

Then the ceremonies began. The number of people in the hall was suspiciously less than the number of people at and run culprits?

It was about 10:30 p.m. and this ritualized portion of the ceremony, with the priest chanting and walking the various relatives through symbolic offerings to the gods, generally lasts for hours. Fortunately, it's not an expectation that you stay until the end.

While we watching, I was struck by a sad realization. No one was really paying any attention to the activity on stage. Most people in the audience area by us were talking, including Soumya's father! At one point, the groom was even on his phone. I don't want to offend anyone by saying this, but it seemed like this part of the marriage ceremony was more about getting through a list of traditional chants and rituals, and less about involving friends and family as witnesses to a new union.

We took a few pictures and answered the endless questions of wherearefrom, howdoyoufeelaboutkoraput, and whatisyourgoodname for about an hour, then left. Another interesting cultural experience, made a little more personal by involving one of our Indian friends.