THE MEHNDI AND PITHI CEREMONIES
According to Jitendra, his mother had been planning the wedding for over a year. This didn't appear to us to be an exaggerated statement. We had only been in Kanpur for a few days and there was one event after another. In the time between events, we had to shop for clothes for the upcoming event. The bride and groom celebrate many of the activities leading up to the wedding separately with their family and friends. Of course, with Lucie's family not being in a position to plan celebrations, Jitendra's mom had been planning activities for both sides of the family. Lucie's events were scaled down, but they all had to be planned and celebrated nonetheless in order to keep with tradition.
Two days before the wedding we had the mehndi ceremony, basically the bride, her female friends and family members have henna painted on their hands and feet. A henna artist had been hired to come to the hotel and decorate all of us, it was a wonderful activity for Antonia and I, mainly because we were forced to sit for 3 hours for the henna to dry, which meant lying in the air-conditioned hotel room watching TV, this was the most rest we had gotten since arriving in Kanpur. Before any henna was applied on Lucie, we held a small Pithi Ceremony for her, where a paste of chickpea flour and turmeric was applied to her body, to cleanse and purify before the wedding day. As part of the ceremony Lucie adorned a white stole with her turmeric-pasted hand print. The stole would be brought to Jitendra and he would wear it until the wedding day as a reminder of his bride-to-be. PUJA - EVE OF WEDDING DAY
A day before the wedding, Jitendra's parents had a small ceremony at their home. Even Jitendra did not attend, so I have little information as to what was actually happening. It seemed that married couples played an important role in the ceremony, both Jitendra's parents and his brother and sister-in-law went through a ritual involving pounding grain, mixing pastes and receiving gifts. It seemed like a celebration of the other couples in Jitendra's life, those who married before him. The married women present (such as myself and Antonia) had our feet painted pink, a ceremony that would be performed the next day on Lucie. Yann and James received their tailored pyjama kurtas as gifts. DANCE PRACTICE
Jitendra's cousins made it clear to us on multiple occasions that we would be part of the Barat (the groom's wedding procession). It seemed that one of the main responsibilities of being part of such a procession, was to impress the bride's family with dance moves. From almost the first moment we arrived in Kanpur, James and Yann began intensive training in the art of Indian dancing. In the evening before the wedding, practice was especially exhausting, much to the enjoyment of everyone present. Most of Jitendra's relatives had by now mastered a pretty good imitation of Yann's "dance face". DRESSING JITENDRA - MORNING OF THE WEDDING
We were at Jitendra's parents place fairly early on the morning of June 30th. The date of July 1st had been chosen for the wedding, and so the actual wedding wouldn't be starting until midnight. This day belonged to Jitendra, and we began a long series of rituals to prepare him to meet Lucie. Almost all of his close family members took part in a ceremony that involved among other things, dressing and feeding him. His brother-in-law had the task of dressing him, his young female cousins also had various roles throughout the ceremony, including suspending a cloth full of grains over his head. His aunt painted on his eye liner and placed the turban on his head, the priest fed him sweets, his feet were painted pink, and finally his mother marked the tilak on his forehead. GROOM DEMANDS MONEY FROM FEMALE RELATIVES
The post puja (prayer) celebrations began with the female guests lining up to feed Jitendra sweets. Each woman takes a turn feeding Jitendra a sweet morsel and he must then return the favour. But before the exchange of sweets takes place Jitendra demands payment, and depending on the relative, he demanded a different amount. After payment and feeding the donor places a tilak mark on Jitendra's forehead. Both Antonia and I took part in the activity, and this one was relatively easy to understand, so everything went well ... except for Antonia trying to use the dessert to mark Jitendra's forehead. DANCING - OUTSIDE THE FAMILY HOME
Once all the women had taken their turn feeding and paying Jitendra, the band began and we danced. Jitendra's father was an absolutely wild dancer, and his children implored him constantly to calm down in order to protect his weak heart (he would hear nothing of it). Note that the photo below illustrates Yann's "dance face" which Jitendra's relatives could all mimic with perfect precision. TEMPLE VISIT
For a break from dancing we crossed the street to the local temple where offerings were made and prayers recited. In the brief time we were at the temple, 2 other grooms arrived with their wedding parties (wedding dates are set according to auspicious days in the Hindu calendar) DANCING - AT THE TEMPLE
Once the offerings were made inside the temple, the dancing began again outside the temple. We had to compete with the two other brass bands playing for the two other wedding parties. THE WELL RITUAL
Near the temple we assembled around a water pump, (the closest thing to a well nearby). Jitendra's married female relatives circled the well repeatedly, as did Jitendra. Jitendra's mother sat on the edge of the "well" as it was circumambulated. The next part of the ritual involved Jitendra's mother threatening to throw herself into the well since her son is leaving her. Jitendra then had to promise that he would always love and take care of her. Happiness and celebration ensue! JITENDRA'S SEND OFF
With the pre-wedding rituals now over, it was time to escort Jitendra to the wedding vehicle. He would not be allowed out until his arrival at the wedding hall many hours later. In fact, he would not be allowed to leave the vehicle until Lucie's brother formally invited him out. But before getting in the car ... more dancing!
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