Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wedding festivities in Jodhpur

When we arrived to the Hem Guesthouse in Jodhpur, the owners (brothers) invited us to their cousin's wedding.  They were heading out for the third night of the celebration- a night of food and dancing.  We were feeling travel weary from our trip from Jaipur so we declined and instead accepted their invitation for the following night.  We were told that the wedding was a four day event- culminating in the grand finale, which is what we attended.  The wives of the guesthouse owners graciously dolled Mav, another guest, and myself up in their beautiful saris.  The dressing room was a whirlwind of fabric, safety pins and concentration as the ensemble came together- the final touch being a bindi.  The men were given clothing as well.  Nate was wearing the shirt that Rishi (one of the owners) had worn at his wedding and Daniel was in a stunning, jeweled long jacket.

Once we arrived, we followed Rishi down an alleyway.  On the far side of the alley, we spotted the groom sitting upon a majestic white horse.  

We found an empty spot to squeeze into next to the drummers and watched all the activity.  The drummers were building excitement- and also a bit of fear in us as one of them was overly enthusiastic - which was clearly why there was space next to them before we arrived.  One of the elders eventually told the drummers to move out of the isle's center so that the crowd could safely move past him.  Once the alley was cleared, we all filed back out the way we had came in.  At that point I felt comfortable pulling out my camera and snapping this pic of the drummers.

Once out of the alley, the males and females were seperated, except for Mav and I who were told to come with the men.  While this felt a bit odd at first, I quickly forgot and enjoyed the procession.  Several hundred of us walked with the drums and lanterns through the streets for several blocks along with the groom.  

Every few minutes, the men would circle for some ecstatic dancing next to the drums and then the line would begin to move again until the next dance session began.  

During once of these stops, Rishi waved Nate and I over to the groom for a photo.  

After a few more minutes, we arrived at the ceremony location.  At this time, the women and men rejoined and we all entered together.  

I hadn't been sure if there would be food served- infact, I had assumed that there wouldn't be because there were an estimated 2,000 people in attendance!  But as we walked in, it was clear that there was an entire room full of amazing Indian food ready to be served.  It was a bit of a physical contact sport to get food- and when I surfaced at the end of the line having accomplished getting only a few things, I saw that Nate's plate was empty.  But he was soon off for a second attempt and by the time I started to figure out how to eat my food, while standing, eating with only my hands while not staining the borrowed sari- Nate reappeared with a full plate.  We are learning that sometimes it's best to not fight against India and instead, just wait for the right time to make a move.  

As we ate, I took at the immense beauty that surrounded us.  Saris of every color and pattern flowed about the room.  The women were all immaculately dressed with their finest clothing and jewelry.  The men wore mostly western clothing (business shirts and slacks) but many wore the traditional turban as well.  Actually, we realized that Nate and Daniel were the only ones wearing traditional mens' Indian clothing!  But they looked great...

Here's a gentleman who wanted his photo taken- wearing what most of the men there were wearing.

After an amazing dinner and chai- the bride and groom made their entrance.  We had learned that they had met only the day before and I couldn't help but wonder if that was the cause of her ever-present sneer.

They were then escorted by their entourage to take their seats on stage for photos and their marriage vows.  

The party would last until 2am and we were told the vows wouldn't happen until close the end- so around 10, we joined our new friends and headed back to the guesthouse so that they could catch their evening train.  I honestly felt like the princess who turned into a pumpkin as I folded up the long sari to return to its rightful owner.  

It was a beautiful evening... And I am so thankful for the immense generosity of our guesthouse and the bride and groom's families who allowed us to celebrate the marriage along with them.