Published: May 18th 2012May 2nd 2012
There’s the time in every man’s life when the days of ultimate freedom start counting down. This time had arrived for my friend Deva, living in North India near Rishikesh with his family and working in Goa for the season.A typical Indian but yet controversial life…. 6 month living at a place of no meat, alcohol or smoking and 6 month the total contrary at Indians top tourist spots. Everything possible…
Once again I made the mistake of interpretation but not asking ALL the details, the fact that he lives near Rishikesh, having me invited to his wedding, asking when I arrive in Rishikesh, having heard me confirming I would come to his wedding IN Rishikesh…of course doesn’t mean the wedding was actually in Rishikesh nor that he’d tell me in beforehand where it was held, step by step, little by little is the motto coming into fact. I took it as a kind of “paper chase” (Schnitzeljagd), Goal: Reach Deva’s Wedding. The first piece of information I got.
- If you come to Rishikesh, my wedding is on April 25th. You are invited.
The next piece of information I received 2 days before the wedding:
- You are in Rishikesh, so you want come to my wedding ? Cool, we are staying in the mountains, come to Karnaprayag, approx 170km from Rishikesh .
My second task, so checking out of the hotel, getting an older model of a 180cc Bajaj Pulsar, the “pride of Indian motorbike technology”, stringed my stylish leather bag to the bike and off I was, flying at 30 km/h through the narrow mountain roads, a great ride indeed as in the mountains there’s not too much traffic. Less nice is the fact, that 170km seem to be rather not far but still takes about 5hrs of constant driving….once again (I stopped counting)...things aren’t as believed in first view, one day I may get used to that fact ;)
I arrived in Karnaprayag on 24th
in the late afternoon and was happy. I may have reached the final destination, a lovely little town two rivers meet, in fact this is the meaning of “prayag”, the story goes back in ancient Indian history I don’t want to get in detail now. Anyways, it was, guess what, of course NOT the place the wedding was supposed to be the next day. Deva told
me the two of us would stay in town and go early next Morning to the village further 25km with bike and then, surprise, 6km hiking up through the mountains to the village “Maiduni” where no firm road leads to.
Having all puzzle details about the destination (a day later I learned the wedding was not on 25th
but the preparations started that day….luckily I had sufficient time) I realized I was about to experience somewhat unique most people will never have the chance to witness. Being part of an Indian wedding is nice and the one or the other may have attended one, but actually being invited to a wedding in a remote mountain village, which all its supplies get delivered by donkeys and horses and hardly has a population of 100, is supposedly the closest to get to experience real India, its culture and people.
Once started our hike, I realized 6km can be a loooong way, especially with luggage…of course no donkey in sight. As always, once you need a donkey there’s no one around, if you at least needed and a couple of times to often in life it seems you are surrounded by
It occurred unimaginable to me how people could live up there, once being at a certain age the “path” is really not manageable anymore, adding weather conditions like rain, falling down rocks and swelling of the at that time nice little river to an unpredictable powerful black torrent in Monsoon time taking everything with it. I know Deva to be full of jokes, in fact one of the guys working 10-12hrs in the season in Goa, sleeping in the Chill Out area of the bar….never any bad mood or word…I imagined this may be one of those funny jokes and reaching the top he would laugh his ass off. But no, after approx. 1hr we finally reached the village Maiduni (it’s even at google maps, check it and you get an idea how remote it is) and one of my questions got answered right away. Maiduni and the area around is surrounded by step mountains but terraces for growing wheat in the dry and rice during the wet Monsoon season have been created. The people working these fields by manual handwork, having big wooden buckets on their bags for putting the crops in weren’t, let’s say “Youngsters”
anymore, mostly people assuming 50-60 and a little above. They walk up and down these terraces daily which is a good workout especially as there wasn’t any gym in sight.
Stepping up the village an amazing atmosphere of total peace and nature surrounded me, small hand built stone houses and paths around the village, women, men and children in old ripped clothing from the work on the fields with smiles from one ear to the other welcoming us, crops laying out in the small yards for drying, inhaling the fresh clean air, a one in a million view on the golden terraces around the village and slightly snow covered mountains in the far.
Being warmly welcomed and dragged for tea and food by Deva’s whole family and a couple of villagers around it dawned to me some of those people have never seen any foreigner and must be super curious to meet me. I hoped not to steal the entire show, eventually a man’s life was supposed to take a major turn (= Deva’s Wedding)…a most serious matter…checking the house bar I tend to understand why there’s almost no alcohol available in the state of Uttarakhand….every single bottle
must have been brought up to Maiduni for the wedding, in short. There was quite a substantial supply, wedding could get started !!
Describing the 3 day wedding process in my own words may seem to be sluggish but I will try to put it in some short notes. Bottom line is, it’s quite struggling for groom and bride (and me being the V.I.P. guest and present at all steps) Day 1:
Both, groom and bride stay in their respective homes with the family members arriving step by step throughout the day. For the groom (for the bride I assume it may be the same) in the first procedure the groom and his mother sit down, surrounded by the women of the village holding up a white big shawl above them, the priest hands several herbs and stuff, talking, the women singing repeating verses, then the groom is washed with water and a yellow color, then the women cue up and exchange bracelets with the groom for good luck, duration ca. 1hr. The men stand around and watch…or not…while in the yard a hired cook is preparing the first Food in oversized pots and woks above the
open fire, first rounds of Rum are poured out among the men, women actually don’t drink at all ( I think even generally in India). Next is a “pooja” = prayer in a small separate room hold by another priest (I don’t know why there was a second one), the prayer’s attend by the groom, parents, his brother…and OF COURSE…me J The priest again has a lot of herbs and other stuff, colors, rice etc. and a built little shrine and is singing, talking constantly, handing the things out to everyone, they are thrown in the shrine…many many times…and again…and again for another hour.
Evening program: Men drinking, dancing. Women don’t drink, dancing….maybe there was another prayer but I’m not sure… Day 2:
Starting 9am with a common breakfast after not too much of sleep, several musicians, mainly drum players, have gathered in the yard in front of the house, a guy with 2 horses arrives. Deva puts on his wedding suit, in fact the first time I saw him in long trousers and his wedding hat. Around 10am a group of 50, mostly men, leaving the village hiking down the hill to go to the village/house
of the pride about 40km away, Deva is riding on a horse out of the village.
After arriving at the prides house where a similar scenery is built up, drum music playing, another 100 people waiting for the ceremony to begin. At first, Deva sits in front of them all on a built podium with two royal chairs, a 3rd
priest is holding a similar ceremony than the day before around 30 minutes. Then the big moment, the pride arrives, I had the honor to be one of the guys spraying snow powder once they exchange their flower garlands I believed made them to be married…but no, not married yet.
While Food is provided for the guests, groom, pride, the mother of the pride and the father or the groom and “some other people” ….and of course Mr. V.I.P…go to a separate room, prayers again and then the 7 times walk around the fire of groom and pride (by the way, her name is Sushma and I learned from the wedding signs that Deva’s “official name” was Sirdhtaj, but I won’t tell anyone) and the exchange of rings. When getting out of this room, remembering the fire walk
from Indian movies and knowing our tradition of exchanging rings, meaning being married after all, I Congratulated the bridal couple…not even then anyone told me that it wasn’t over yet…nooot married yet.Next was a prayer in the presence of the cow where the father of the pride performed several rites.
Official part was over by now and we left to get to Maiduni again. This is the crucial point in the prides life, at least in traditional India where pride and groom may know each other but of course didn’t live together before. Marriage isn’t arranged by the parents anymore, but parents still have to give the green light. Thus, the pride has lived all her life with her family and only by now she will be introduced to the men’s family she is supposed to live with for the future. In Deva’s case, he’s going to go to work in the Kashmir region in summer and for the season from Octover in Goa again, not much time for a family life as we know it, honeymoon is not a word of Indian vocabulary either.
Evening program: Night hike to Maiduni, dancing, eating drinking Day 3:
One more prayer in presence of the cow, this time the grooms father’s doing the rites, afterwards the chains given pride and groom on Day 1 are cut which means FINALLY MARRIED after a 2 ½ day marathon.
After having spent 3 days in Maiduni I was kind of sad to leave this special place with his awesome and warmhearted joyful habitants. Especially Deva’s mother didn’t really want to let me go, I’m sure at this point she regretted not having a pretty daughter in my age hahaha…so I had to make the promise to visit again if I’m in the region, a promise which I only loved to give and mean it, once again reciting the national slogan “Sap Kutch Milega – Everthing is possible !”
It has been a great and awesome experience and in fact, even though the description of the wedding process may have been less professional, I’m only able to put it down at all because Deva made me to stay the whole time close to his side, taking me to the prayers and rites only the closest family members usually attend and even excluding family members from prayers (as the small rooms
provide only place for a couple of people) which they didn’t mind at all but were rather happy about the interest and endurance power of a foreigner. Even though I haven’t understand the meaning of each prayer, bottom line is, it takes a bit more time to get a wedding done once 1000+ gods need to give their ok. So again, the second part of the national slogan is once again coming into play “Everything is possible…it just takes time
…another 6km down the mountain…childsplay by now…
There are more photos below