Indian Wedding – An Unexpected Delight

While we were in Hampi, our hotel filled up all of a sudden. We were the only guests in the place and then all of a sudden every room was full. People were accidentally walking into our room, because they thought they had the whole hotel. The staff explained that it was the wedding party for a marriage taking place the next day.

The Padma Guesthouse overlooks the main temple in Hampi, the Virupaksha Temple. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been in use since the 7th century, and apparently hosts weddings!

The next morning the whole gang appeared in beautiful sarees and their best shirts and headed down to the temple. Several young women surrounded Vero and the kids and insisted our whole family join them! We had already planned to visit the temple that day, so this was icing on the cake.

Advertisement

Our wonderful guide / interpreter for the day was a lovely young Indian woman named Gowri. She showed us around the temple, explained things to us, and had the Little Guy blessed by an elephant!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Wedding

The wedding took place in the main temple building, with the happy (terrified looking) couple under a canopy of flowers. The guests were sitting on the floor with the women mainly on the left and the men mainly on the right. None of them could really see much, because there was a photographer and videographer standing in the front.

I caught a glimpse!
If you crane your neck, you can see a little.

Five musicians played trumpets, drums, shakers (very loudly) in the near background, so I strongly doubt anyone could hear very well either.

The ceremony was a beautiful sequence of rituals and traditions that were totally incomprehensible to us. I asked some other guests about some of the rituals and they said “Nah, they don’t mean anything. They’re just traditions.”

They’ve got to come from somewhere though. You don’t tie people’s hands together around a coconut and pour in water, then milk, then something else, for nothing. Handfuls of rice on each other’s heads, wedding rings in a bowl of milk, then fished out, then back in. Toe painting, chanting, singing, flowers, coloured powders, amazing!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After about a half an hour of incomprehensible (to us) steps, we threw rice at the happy couple and they were married!

Congratulations!
Congratulations!

Once the wedding was finished, Gowri and the family insisted we join them for lunch. We were happy to agree, and sat down on a blanket spread on the floor in another temple building.

Wedding Lunch
Waiting for the feast.

While we were waiting for the food to be ready I asked Gowri “Are you related to the bride or the groom?”
“The groom is my brother” she replied.
“What!? You spend your brother’s wedding shepherding around some foreigners you just met?”
“Oh no, it’s okay, I have been to many weddings.” she said with a laugh.

Lunch was delicious, with different members of the family walking down the lines of guests dishing different things. The kids especially loved the sweet laddu.
After lunch we took some more pictures and then headed back to our hotel for a rest. Just watching that wedding was exhausting.
Another amazing experience in incredible India.

Elephant Blessings

The temple has a resident elephant named Lakshmi who will bless for a fee. You give her (paper) money and she bonks you on the head with her trunk. If you give her coins, she takes them and that’s it, sucker.

We had already met her one morning as she was taking her morning bath.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Kathakali – Fascinating, but bring earplugs.

One of the cultural attractions in Fort Kochi is the Kathakali Cultural Dance demonstration. It takes place nightly at the Kerala Kathakali Centre located not far from the Santa Cruz Basilica. The show starts at 6 PM, but if you arrive at 5 you can watch the actors putting on their makeup. This is one of the most interesting parts of the whole event.

Building cheek fins.
This process took half an hour, with surprising results.

The two actors did most of their own makeup except for the one playing the hero. He had some help to glue on his paper cheek fins ( terminology?). The mustachioed fellow above patiently built up a frame of rice glue and cut concentric pieces of paper to attach to the hero’s cheeks. Check out the result.

More colour!
Once the cheek fins were finished, more and more colour on the face.

While the two actors were getting ready, the narrator / cymbal player was preparing the room. He lit the ghee lamps and put flowers in the various deity figurines. He also made designs on the floor using little metal pans and white sand from the fire extinguisher buckets. That was pretty neat.

Fire extinguisher designs.
He had elephants, flowers, little feet, all kinds of stuff.

After about an hour of makeup, there’s a small demonstration of Kathakali acting techniques. It’s at this point that the drumming starts.

Advertisement

There are two drummers at the side of the stage, and I am certain that their instruments are meant for a much larger space. The theatre in the Kerala Kathakali Centre is quite small and so the sound is deafening.

Put in your eaplugs!
There’s no talking in Kathakali, it’s all facial expressions.

Following the demo, the actors retire to put on their costumes, and the narrator joins the drummers in a drumming improv. If we were to go again, we would sit this part out completely. It’s painfully loud and at least fifteen minutes long. There’s no way around it, it was too much, too loud, too long for us.

The actual show is just four scenes, but the makeup combined with the costumes is spectacular. The two actors perform only a small demonstration of a typical play, the whole of which can last up to 9 hours!!

Scary makeup
The story: Hero meets woman; woman is secretly a demon.

It’s a fascinating look into the cultural art form, and really interesting how much dialog they can convey without saying anything. The kids liked it (except for when the hero killed the demon, the screaming scared the Little Fella). There was another demonstration (music, I think) following the Kathakali, but it was past our bedtime.