A Day of Ceremonies and The Garba (ગરબા) Dance - My Return to India: Day Six

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Entry #6

Last night I stayed at a home in the village. When the lights went out it was REALLY dark. I forgot my flashlight back in the city. So much for the midnight bathroom run. It seems like I am waking up earlier and earlier as the days progress. This morning I was up by 4:30 AM. I showered with cold water until the home owner knocked on the door and showed me the correct temperature knobs. Soon after, I tripped through the door frame and hit the floor. Ouch! I didn't want to disturb others in the home so I dressed in the dark hoping that I had put on my pants straight and tied my bow tie correctly. Oh yeah, I am wearing a bow tie today!

By the time I left the home the sun was just starting to rise. Walking in the shadows, I couldn't see my camera or camera settings in front of my nose but nonetheless I started shooting anyways. As an act of defiance I decided not to use my iPhone light or my camera auto light to see.

The further I walked, the lighter it became outside. As a result, I adjusted my camera's white balance to take advantage of the warm color temperature. It was cool outside but the air was dry. At least the dust on the dirt roads hadn't been disturbed yet by too much activity. I smelled food cooking in the distance and saw people coming out of their homes. The woman below was brushing her teeth and waved hello to me.

Generally, wildlife is not something I seek to photograph but when I saw the monkeys in the trees it made me think about my father. He loves monkeys and used to own one after I left Florida for college. I fumbled for my phone and called him to describe the primates. He was amused.

Finally the sun was out and the deeper contrast in my photos was evident. Soon after, I realized that while speaking to my father I have taken a detour. On my way back to the ceremony location I could not figure out whether to go right or left at the fork in the road. I decided on left and eventually saw a familiar haystack in the distance.

The first ceremony was in a small room in the home. I switched lenses so that I could capture the room in its entirety and not disturb the prayers. This was the Ganesh Sthapan. Lord Ganesha is always the first deity to be propitiated at any significant event. His blessings are invoked before the preparations begin for the wedding so that no obstacles present themselves and all goes well. (source: DharmeshPatel)

The puja was attended by close family members and friends.

During the Mandva Mahurat blessings are sought for the ground on which the wedding canopy is installed. The pujari puts tikka on the foreheads of five men in the family. The men receive a stick with red thread wrapped around it.


After the puja a vegetarian meal without onions and garlic is served.

Next, the beautification rituals for the bride began. This is called the Pithi. A yellow paste made of chickpea flour, tumeric, rose water, and other ingredients is applied to the bride's skin. The paste is supposed to even out the skin tone as well as make it glow. Many of Amruta's family and friends enjoyed rubbing the mixture on her and making her laugh.

During the Griha Shanti the parents are the primary figures. On behalf of the parents the priests asked the deities for peace and harmony during the wedding.

Amruta (the bride) entered to take a shripal (coconut) to her parents who were seated on patlas (low stools) in front of the sacred fire.

She handed the coconut to her parents who then handed it over to the priest for sacrifice.

The coconut was placed in the flames to promote peace and harmony between the planets.

I left the ceremony to eat lunch a few blocks away and encountered these men at the gates of the community center. Instead of going straight to the serving line I stayed with them for a while and then proceeded to the kitchen to see the food being prepared. You could tell that everyone relaxed after I talked with them for a while.

Spending time with the kitchen crew was a trip and they were amused by my bow tie. The food was magnificent. I sat with Shishir and his family for the meal. I want to sincerely thank him for all the explanations and rich culture lessons.

I took a short nap after lunch and was so happy when I woke up. My allergy issues had subsided and I could breathe freely. At the ceremony location a dance was being taught for the evening's festivities. It was hilarious to watch all of the people who came from the US try to learn. Summer, from Richmond, picked up the dance right away and looked like a pro.

Darkness soon fell upon us again and it was time for the Garba. I headed back to the community center in the village to check out the lighting and it was perfect. During the Garba everyone forms a circle and does a traditional dance to music. Some of the men join in a dandia raas which is dancing with sticks.

Amruta and Samir lead the way. I loved this canded of her looking back at him.

Some people came out on their rooftops or watched the dance from their windows.



Shawna said...

Absoluetely beautiful! What an awesome experience for you!

Gunjan said...

Amazing pictures!

Anonymous said...

It is pleasure taking this pictorial journey and reading the diary entries. Wonderful moments captured. Thanks for allowing us to take the journey with you. Phenomenal... wouldn't expect anything less. Be blessed.


SBrownART said...


Michele B.

Simi said...

just gorgeous Ross... well seen and shot again still loving the way you see things!