She came out, her head
down, face averted. She was dressed in a brilliant red sari with a
matching gilded veil. In her hair, she wore white flowers. Her hands
were covered in intricate patterns of henna and from her wrists dangled
red and gold bangles. Hanging from her ears and around her neck, was the
traditional Nepali gold jewelry, a gift from her future husband. As Tika
waits in front of the chairs, she approaches from behind with a bronze
carafe filled with water and circles him three times, pouring the water
slowly, creating a trail around him.
Then she reaches up
to give him a tikka with both her hands.
There was a
Brahmin in the simple white clothing of priesthood, continually chanting
and while symbolic gestures of
offerings were made. At one point, a tray was brought out and blessed. A
white sheet was taken and draped in front of Tika, only his cupped hands
peeking out from underneath. Into those waiting hands, various puja
offerings were blessed and placed, til overflowing. If any should fall,
it would be inauspicious. Over him, red rice was thrown.
were rotis, bananas, rice, coconut, prasad, sweets, flowers and money.
Tika's neck was placed a garland of grass festooned with shiny foil
baubles. It is a very traditonal garland worn by the bridegroom and made
by the bride.
exchanged rings and more blessings. The next ritual
consisted of him
holding an opened umbrella. The priest and other male friends showered him with
the red rice yet again. Finally it was time to chow
down. Friends and family of the bride are served earlier in the day
before the groom's entourage arrives. Now it was our turn to eat. The
bride and groom do not eat together. We headed over to
the main tent and friends of her family served
an excellent meal
buffet style. There was pulao (rice fried in ghee with fruit and
nuts) mutton curry, two kinds of
vegetable curry and
delicious chutneys and ochars
For dessert, sweet curd (yoghurt) and
After the meal, they
take a seat at the two chairs and a large copper vessel is placed before
them. The priests continues a steady litany of chants off to one side.
Throughout all this,
she appears miserable.
I ask if this is
normal, and they all agree. Brides are supposed to be sad, upset and
scared. Many are so shy, they bury their heads in their laps throughout
the entire ceremony. They are leaving the only family they have ever
known and becoming a part of a new family. Severing all ties to her
family. she must now work for the welfare of her new family. Who knows
what awaits them.
I am saddened to learn,
that still in this day and age, many brides are taken only to care for
elder parents. Often, when parents becomes to weak to work, she will
arrange a marriage for her son to bring a servant into the home,
sometime against his wishes. Many more traditional families loathe love
marriages, as they are called because a girl married for love maybe more
independant and neglectful of her familial duty. She is considered
headstrong and acting against the wishes of community, selfish...
endless ritual of
blessings by all the family and
guests begin. First, flowers are placed on their head and a tikka is
applied to their foreheads, first the groom and then the bride ...
Their feet are
placed on the rim of the copper vessel, over ritual leaf mats.
The person giving a
blessing pours water over both of their feet, their right hand ready to
catch the water as it flows over their feet. The well-wisher sips the
water and then throws it over his own head. This symbolized humbleness
and a very important sign of respect for the new couple. In Hindu and
Buddhist culture, the head is the most ritually pure part of the body,
and the feet the least. A well-wisher is showing that the droppings from
their feet are more pure than the person's own head on this most
important day. Then, a small envelope filled with rupees is given to
each of them. Depending on the
size of the crowd, this can last for hours.
After the blessings are
given, her parents gather close. Her mother holds the bronze vessel
filled with water. They place their hands into the center. First her
father, then her, and then her husband. Slowly, her mother pours the
water over her father's hands which dribbles into her own and then
finally into Tika's hands before falling to the copper vessel
This is the symbolic
moment when she, from her mother's womb and her father's home is given
to her new husband.
As the rituals wore on,
people grew bored and milled about. Men gathered under canopies and
played cards, especially the highly popular game called marriage but
entirely unrelated to the festivities and placed enthusiasically
anywhere, at any given time. There were the musicians who played off to
one side, in the shed reserved for cattle. People milled about and some,
enboldened by the local raksi, broke out into dance.
seems to lift her melancholy. Her face is resigned to her fate, her
karma, her bhagye...she now belongs to him.
She disappears inside
her home to change from the sari given to her by her parents into a new
sari from her husband, further driving home the point. Meanwhile, the
priest seats himself at the sacred fire and continues his Sanskitic
Ever so often, he
tosses some rice into the fire and taps a banana tree root smeared with
ghee, into the fire. It burns appreciatively...
Culture | 1