In keeping with the spirit of this blog, which was inspired by several excellent gori-girl south Asian-guy intercultural relationships blogs, I thought I’d lift my mood by sharing some colourful photos of a marriage I recently attended in the subcontinent. This is a Hindu marriage, but as a caveat I’d add that Hindu marriages are very diverse – to the point that the bride and groom’s families sometimes perform their respective parts of the ritual according to distinctive family traditions. So not claiming that this is how ALL weddings go, but I hope it conveys the exciting visual experience.
For a bride-to-be, a wedding starts weeks before the ceremony, when the women of her family take over and decorate her home with various fruits and ritual objects. These are sent to the groom’s family as gifts. Today, these decorated objects are often availabe ready-made at local markets, but this has not prevented the social aspect of a wedding allowing female relatives to celebrate and spend time together (if it’s anything like my family you could probably throw in a bit of fighting and tears to the mix!).
The ceremony itself tends to be rather long by western standards. One of the pivotal moments occurs when the groom extends a white cloth to the bride’s forehead and sprinkles vermillion (sindoor) along the cloth before eventually marking her hairpart red. In dominant patriarchal Hindu ideology, this symbolises the defloration of the virgin bride, and from this point on, at least in this part of the subcontinent, it is customary for married women to apply sindoor every morning. I emphasise that this association of sindoor in the hair part with defloration is the dominant/patriarchal way of interpreting this practice – obviously the practice can and does have different meanings to both the women and men who are accustomed to it.