This weekend I had the honor of attending my first Indian wedding. Specifically, it was a South Indian wedding (different parts of India have different customs and traditions when it comes to wedding celebrations). It was honestly one of the coolest experiences I have had during my time here.
So, a little background about South Indian weddings that are different from other Indian weddings is that their wedding happens early in the morning at temple. They also don’t have those 7-day wedding processions like other Indian weddings, but more or less have 3 days of pre-wedding reception of both the bride and groom’s family. They do not celebrate together, rather they celebrate within their own families.
Weird story of how I came to come here, I literally was talking to all my classmates about how all I need to do in India is attend one wedding and my experience here would be set. Luckily, the day I started my project, a girl was leaving the lab the day I arrived and she invited me to her farewell dinner. I went and her mom invited me to her wedding lol and that’s the story of how I was able to attend her wedding. I, of course, attended with her friends whom I was working with so I was not a random girl just showing up to her wedding. Surprisingly, I participated in the wedding and gave her blessings and was a part of all of her wedding pictures too. I can’t really explain how these things happen to me, but they do!
Anyways, the wedding starts around 7 in the morning and the bride is adorned with what almost seems like pounds of gold and dressed in a vibrant colored saree. I was also able to wear a silk saree I bought in Bengaluru. Let me tell you, sarees are no joke. You have to prepare the night before to wear it, and then it takes another person to help you wrap it around you and pin it. Being a chaotic mess with no sense of thinking, I did the unthinkable and stuffed my saree in my bag which made a countless number of wrinkles. The friends that attended with me assisted me with putting on my saree, and were shocked and told me that a silk saree is to be treated like a baby. Luckily, they knew how to fix it and I stood there watching them try to undo my mess.
So, after an hour of all of us getting ready, we went to temple to watch the wedding. The temple was primarily based on the god Shiva, and his two sons, Ganesha (remover of obstacles) and Subramanya (god of war). I did puja (the act of worship) in the temple with my friends and received sandalwood and flowers. You usually put the sandalwood in the middle of your forehead and neck and people often put the flower on top of their head or girls in their hair. We watched the parents of the bride wash the feet of the groom and then the priest performs the ceremony.
First, everything has a meaning during the marriage rituals. The meaning is so deep and sacred that I still don’t understand after all the explanations, but there is so much beauty and life in each of their movement. The groom ties a “mangalsutra” (necklace) around his bride, gifts her a saree (symbolizing responsibility and providing for them) and they walk in a circle around the fire. I wish I could explain in more detail, but I’d get lost in the explanation. Although weddings are done differently here, the beauty and life behind has the same meaning. It was a beautiful ceremony followed by “sadhya” (feast of 25 dishes) where several curries are placed on a banana leaf and you eat a little bit of every curry. There is actually a certain way of eating which curries in a certain order, but I just ate everything. It was so good. Oh my gosh. Like the bombest. They had this dessert called payasam which is like sweet milk and flattened rice.
Unfortunately, I had to be back at school so I was only able to stay for part of the wedding and headed back for a 6-hour train ride back to my campus. I am grateful to have had such a great experience with a group of people who made me feel like family. The bride was ravishing and she was glowing the entire day with nothing but a smile on her face. Now it’s time for me to finish my project so hopefully, I can go on another adventure soon!