A weekend of customs and rituals. Part 1: Hindu wedding.

A Hindu wedding as glimpsed through a horde photographers and other relatives.

A Hindu wedding as glimpsed through a horde photographers and other relatives.

Sunday saw me at a Hindu wedding as a niece of one of the teachers was getting married.  Having been to an after-wedding party before where the reason for my presence was even more tenuous, I suppose I felt a little less out of place.  And it was indeed a worthwhile and interesting experience!!

The actual wedding ceremony was not until 12.30 but guests arrived well beforehand to greet and ogle the bride and catch up with relatives and friends.  After a little circulating, I was chaperoned outside to the food hall where I joined the throng of pushing and shoving women and children and the odd man in the crowd.  We were all aiming for an iron gate, which remained firmly locked.  I did wonder where all the men were and on asking a fellow teacher, got a very vague answer: ‘Well, they’re somewhere.’   Now, that did not come as a surprise!  As I was not expecting the men to have left a party in full swing before the main event had taken place, nor have dropped from the earth, this was rather stating the obvious.  Whilst women were vying for prime positions to begin the assault on the food hall once the gate opened, men were milling about, to-ing and fro-ing and wandering unimpeded through an open side door, none of them in a hurry to join the ever-growing horde of women.  When eventually the gate was unbarred, a stampede of biblical proportions ensued… Not an inch around me unoccupied by female flesh, I was pushed and cajoled to make my way up the stairs and this time my white face did not have the effect of Moses on the Red Sea; we were in battle, every man – or woman to be more precise – for himself.  The concept of queueing in an orderly fashion?  A relic only the British take seriously…

Waiting patiently for the doors to open...

Waiting patiently for the doors to open…

And when I finally made it through the door, all became clear.  Men had already taken their seats and it was just the women who had been left standing outside at the gate and only those at the front of the queue or those with the biggest elbows were guaranteed a place at the feast; the unlucky ones needed to wait for the next sitting and would then miss out on a seat to watch the marriage ceremony…   But I was lucky and found myself a seat for the first round.

banana leaf feast

However, I was unprepared for what was to follow.  I am by no means a slow eater, but no way could I keep up with the swift dishing out of rice and various curries.  Before my fellow teacher had been able to explain the delicacies on the banana leaf before me and too slow to move my papadum out of harm’s way, a huge dollop of rice landed in front of me followed by a ladle full of one or other curry.  I started eating, savouring every mouthful, but this was WRONG.  The only way to keep up was to stuff food in your mouth as quickly as possible, gulping it down without chewing, ready for the next splodge to arrive which culminated with a liquidy Payasam – or rice pudding – in two varieties eaten by hand by mixing it with squashed bananas – a child’s dream to be playing with food…  And when finished eating, there was no washing up: any leftovers were wrapped up in the banana leaf and swiftly rolled up with the paper table cloth to make room for another set of banana leaves for the next guests…  The whole feast over in the blink of an eye: starter, main and pudding included!

Maybe in the days  before photographers, it would have been possible to witness the ceremony...

Maybe in the days before photographers, it would have been possible to witness the ceremony…

Duly fed, we entered the hall to witness the wedding ceremony.  Being the one white face in the room, and therefore a special guest, entitled me to a seat on the stage, in the perfect spot for taking photographs.  I so have to learn to accept such invitations, but no, I turned it down, not relishing the thought of upstaging the bride nor sitting next to all the female elders of the bride’s family, thinking I would be able to take perfectly acceptable photographs over the heads of all those gathered.  Although it is possible my camera’s zoom lens would have coped with the distance, I had not counted on the multitude of other photographers snapping away to make lasting mementoes of the event.  Through a throng of arms and legs, I glimpsed the entrance of the groom being led around the wedding platform a few times before showing his respect to all the elders by touching their feet.  Bodies of relatives obscured the exchange of presents between the families and the bride receiving her wedding sari and making a similar journey around the platform.  But  just at the crucial moment of the groom placing the all important necklace over his bride’s head, the photographers dispersed to give the rest of the assembled on-lookers a brief peek and I took my one and only fairly acceptable  shot of the proceedings…

I must learn to take the opportunities granted and if that includes making the most of being the only white person in the room, then I should take it with both hands, so next time I shall not turn down any prime spots for taking photographs…  Why should I?  The Indians shamelessly exploit my white face when it suits them…

3 thoughts on “A weekend of customs and rituals. Part 1: Hindu wedding.

    1. lievelee Post author

      It was definitely interesting. Although I was not surprised that the men got priority at the table, I was expecting to have at least time to eat the food, especially considering the time it takes to prepare Indian food.


      1. Doreen Frusher

        It sounded like a free for all crush but what an experience! Your time is going so fast it’s almost unbelievable.


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