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Published: February 15th 2009
Well what does any bride need to do before her wedding? Go to a beauty parlour for a complete pampering session of course! So we headed off into town today. After taking our breakfast in a sunny spot on the porch we caught the bus and were soon wandering the streets, stepping over the puddles and avoiding the local cows, in serach of lip liner and bindis. Shivali took me into a shop she knows well and we sorted through a box of lip liners comparing colours and then looked at a bewildering array of bindis. Shivali wanted to know which I thought suited her best but I only gave my opinion hesitantly, after all I'm no expert in the latest fashions! Our next stop was a clothes shop where we bought some cotton trousers for Shivali to wear under her lengha on the wedding night (well at least someone's preparing for the cold, I am regretting my dress more and more!) We finally walked along to the beauty parlour, arriving late for Shivali's appointment which fortunately didn't seem to matter at all. Being informed that I could have a long boring wait I decided to walk back into town and
explore the temples.
I half remembered my way to the old temple. I retraced my steps back up the road, step over a random pile of rubble and made it most of the way before I had to ask directions (this I did quite successfully by standing at the fork in the road and asking 'temple?' of the next person who walked past!) Pointed in the right direction I was quite impressed that I managed to reach the temple so easily.
As I reached the temple I got a few curious stares from some locals who were gathering in the garden of a nearby house. I left my shoes outside the temple and walked in. It was just as beautiful as I remembered.
Narbadeshwar Temple was built by Prasanni Devi, the Maharani of Sansar Chand Katoch in 1802 BC. Raja Sansar Chand Katoch made the town his third capital and is responsible for building the huge fort on the Tira. Built in an open yard 'Panchayatan style', the Narbadeshwar Temple is dedicated to Shiva and houses some of the finest frescoes from the famous Pahari School of painting. The frescoes cover the walls and ceilings of the temple, depicting scenes
from the great Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. I walked around the outside of the temple and visited each of the four smaller shrines within the temple walls, before going into the main building. I spent ages looking at the beautiful paintings and enjoying the peace and quiet of the area.
Eventually I set off back onto the main street. I stopped to greet a few scrawny little puppies alternitively sunbathing and resting in the shade. As I walked back through town I got a little annoyed at the attention I was getting - maybe it was just because wearing a camera around your neck is not a normal accessory for girls here, or maybe I just looked strange in general! I started to feel self conscious and quickly left the market area and walked back in the direction of the beauty parlour. I walked past the maidan, the old 'chowgan' training ground for the soldiers of the Narmades'vara Temple Rulers. I stopped to visit the Murli Manohar temple, which was built in 1785 BC by the Katoch ruler of the time in memory of his mother. When I arrived the priest seemed to be shutting up the temple. I
was content just to walk around the outside but as soon as he noticed me the priest came over and showed me into the temple. I sat in front of the statues of Radha and Krishna and spoke to the priest. He gave me a long lecture about the history of the temple in a confusing broken mix of Hindi and English. He told me the temple was built in 1738 (so now I have two different dates and am not sure which is accurate) he said the statues were over 90 years old and they both stand on only one leg... that was all I could make out from his confusing lecture. He then wanted to know where I was from, what I am doing here etc., the usual personal biography everyone asks for! He next decided he was going to read my palm. Deciding this was probably going to more interesting than sitting in the beauty parlour for any length of time I agreed. He accurately told me I was vegetarian... which may not be so clever as so many people in India are anyway! He also told me that I have a strong heart, the mind of
a Raja and I will live a long beautiful life. I was surprised there was no mention of a tall dark stranger, but maybe these are the Indian cliches! He also informed me that I would live to a great age, maybe 18! (I'm hoping he meant 80 otherwise I am already past my sell-by date!) He was also quite definite that i was going to get married at 25, or 26... or maybe 29. His predictions continued for some time as did his questions about England and my visit to India. The conversation was hilarious, mostly because we only understood about a tenth of what the other was saying. He kept asking if I had a friend back in England and it was some time before I realised he was referring to a boyfriend. I hastily tried to make it clear that I have lots of friends but most definitely only one boyfriend. My outraged expression over the implication I have lots of boyfriends immediately after I'd been happily saying 'oh yes I have lots of friends. Friends in England, friends in India....' had the man practically rolling on the floor of his temple. Ooops!
We talked a while
longer and he kindly let me take some photos of the temple interior and took my picture standing ny the statues as well. Then he gave me his address and phone number with the instructions that I am to phone him in two years (or three or six) so he can perform my marriage ceremony!
I finally excused myself and hurried to meet Shivali back at the beauty parlour, only to discover she was nowhere near ready! I sat down for a long wait while the beauticians bustled around taking care of the cutomers. One kindly brought me an apple to eat and informed me I might have to wait for some time. I watched the comings and goings of the local women, many of whom seemed to be coming in for some kind of face mask and then all sat around talking with white goop on their faces. One woman came in and spoke to me causing Shivali to laught. Apparently the woman had thought I was Indian and was telling me off because by crossing my legs I'd raised my salwar leg too high. When Shivali explained I was English the woman turned and smiled at me.... apparently
a foreign ankle isn't as offensive then! I met Shivali's aunt who'd come to join Shivali for a while and Shivali and I also got to spend a little time standing outside in the sun trying to warm up. Eventually we left to take the bus home. Shivali was very excited about seeing all her guests.
As soon as got home I was immediately lost in a whirlwind of aunts and cousins, grandmothers and neighbours and friends. I am having a hard time keeping everyone straight, especially since few people have been introduced to me by name. Shivali and Ankur have been introducing everyone as 'my aunt' and 'my cousin' - of course their relationships to these people are different so i am really none the wiser!
I have met Shivali's cousin Anu who is from Dubai. She is very kind and her baby is absolutely adorable. I also met Monika who speaks English as well and invited me to sit by the fire with her. Her daughter was running around with a bottle of nail varnish and was determined to give someone a manicure. I obliged her and she fussed over my hands with great concentration while splodging silver
nail varnish across the ends of my fingers. She then started playing with my scarf and managed to pull it off me completely by taking one end and turning in circles until she'd created a strange sort of saree!
We ate our dinner and then ended the evening sitting inside wrappe din shawls and blankets. Someone brought in a plastic pot as a makeshift drum and everyone started singing. One of the women brought in some henna paste and soon all the girls were painting their hands as well.
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