Published: October 2nd 2010September 26th 2010
I must admit that I did not want to leave McLeod. Now I’m glad I did as I would have missed out on meeting the most genuine family on earth.
So I got on the bus to Jammu being the only tourist going there. Most would have probably stayed behind considering the resent protests in Srinagar, but Jammu was safe.
I should tell you why I went to Jammu. After I introduced myself to my roommate, Bindu, we were talking about which place I should visit next. Many other Indians told me: ‘I should not waste any time anywhere else in India and head straight to Kerala, 'the place for gods’. (That's how Indians call it apparently). But Bindu said: ‘You should come to Jammu and visit us. She also mentioned that there would be a wedding in their family. Kerala or Indian wedding??? How could I turn down the wedding invitation? Later on her husband (who also did Vipassana), Sanjit, made me promise to visit them.
So on 17th September I arrived in Jammu where Bindu came to pick me up from the bus station. I met the entire family on the first day - everyone gave
me such a warm welcome.
The wedding ceremonies had already started so in the evening after a delicious Indian meal we went next door to the bride’s home to dance and sing. I think all the weddings in India are different and not all are as lengthy, but I’m not 100% sure. This wedding was 12 days long. Every day there were various ceremonies that the bride and groom had to go through separately until the 10th day when they were finally wife and husband. All the ceremonies till day 10 are held in the bride or groom's family house. I arrived on the 8th day.
The 9th day is henna-making day - probably one of the most famous ceremonies during Indian weddings. I remember scenes of it from Bollywood movies with very sad background love songs. In most Bollywood movies the bride does not want to marry the groom as she is madly in love with someone else, but has to in order to make her family happy. In real life most arranged marriages are accepted by bride and groom. Still there are problems, but not as dramatic as described in bollywood movies. In this case, it was
a love/arranged marriage.
The 10th and 11th day are very long and very tiring for bride and groom. Bride and groom don’t get to sleep for more than 24hours. More rituals and ceremonies are performed from morning till night. I can’t remember all of them and the purpose of them. But everyone made a great effort explaining what was happening. I also took part in some of the rituals and was putting mud on the bride’s face, I fed her with some sweets and in return she offered me to all the bachelors that were there (at which stage I almost choked on the sweet) and I also did the blessing with a leaf above a cloth. There was a buffet style lunch and after that most guests went back home to rest and then get dressed for the wedding ceremony where bride and groom get half-wed. Bindu had great fun dressing me up in a Sari and I loved seeing all the beautiful women in their Saris, hence the photo shoot that followed once we finished and then again when we arrived at the wedding hall. In the hall first the groom arrived and then the bride. I was
very hooked by everything that was happening and filmed almost every second of the wedding. The ceremonies which include exchanging garments and gifts between the groom’s and bride’s mother last for around 4 hours when everyone returns home. In the hall bride and groom exchange garments as well through which they are half-wed. Bride and groom went through more rituals while most family members had a sleep before they got up for the final ceremony in the bride’s home. So the closest family attends the ceremony at 5am in the morning on the 11th day. Bride and groom still hadn't even had 5min to sleep. Once the couple walked 7 circles around the fire then they were finally husband and wife - this ritual means that they will be married for 7 lives. And then came the sad moment. The bride at this stage leaves her home and moves in with her husband. Everyone started crying, even I did, as the bride said good-bye to everybody. What I found so shocking was that while this was happening and the bride was sobbing her cousins were helping putting all her items into the car outside. Literally everything she owns. I found
this moment fascinating as she lived with her family for 25 years and now she will be moving in with her husband’s family. In India the entire family lives together in one house - from grand-son to grand-father. Very sad moment. The bride and groom continued with more rituals at the groom’s home till the afternoon, when they finally got to sleep for a bit. I didn’t attend these and went instead to bed.
Then on the 12th day was the reception ceremony, where the newly-wed couple invite everyone to congratulate them and have more food. This is actually the evening when bride and groom enjoy their own wedding themselves.
The whole wedding had so many meaningful rituals and ceremonies. My blog would turn into a noval if I would describe everything I experienced and how thrilled I was about all the events at the wedding.
Besides the wedding I had many other incredible experiences and good times with the Khajuria family. I enjoyed every moment of it. I would sit with Sanjit and discuss Western and Indian culture, we went shopping for wedding saris, I went to Sanjit’s workplace, DD news, and I also accompanied Bindu to her
Mehndi for the bride
a very lenghty procedure
University and managed to attend a Seminar on the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. We went to the shoe factory run by Sanjit’s brother and had delicious sweets. Finally, in the end we even managed to visit Jammu itself. Till the last day I got more introduced to the Indian life-style and culture than Jammu. It’s a pretty enough town, but nothing could ever beat the time I had in Jammu with the loveliest people ever. I always got invited by everyone for dinner and the most important invitation is for next year January, another wedding.
I’ve grown so fond of everyone and I truly have made friends for a life-time. It was such a sad moment to leave them that I even had to cry. It felt like I was leaving home (London and Germany) again to go travelling.
There are more photos below