Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Hindu wedding ceremonies are a blast to photograph. They are a visual feast of color and activity that can be a bit overwhelming the first time you experience it. I still remember my first Indian Hindu wedding almost 15 years ago. There were garlands of flowers, candles, coconuts, exotic statues, and offerings of fruit. People were feeding the bride and groom sticky rice, pouring milk over their hands, throwing handful of rice at them and tieing them together with strings. I wasn't sure what everything meant but I sure loved photographing it!
One thing that helped me to master Indian weddings was my experience as a Fulbright scholar in Pakistan back in 1998. For those of you who are a little rusty on your world history, Pakistan was part of India until 1947 and still shares many cultural similarities. For example, while photographing weddings in Pakistan, I learned that things can get pretty crowded and you can't be shy about (gently) pushing your way to the front of the action to get photos. The same is true at Indian weddings: what might seem rude in another context is perfectly acceptable, even welcomed (people want you to get your photos!) A wide angle lens is also helpful as you may find that once you are in front, the bride and groom are just a few feet away -- you're really in the thick of it!
While in Pakistan I also learned to love Indian music while watching "V TV" -- basically Indian MTV (wildly popular in Pakistan at the time). I remembering learning to my surprise that generations of Indian movie musicals had been voiced my the same elderly singer (Lata Mangeshkar), and I also became of fan of Bhangra music. I especially loved Daler Mehndi, a roly poly Sikh man with a infectious smile and rhythms that make you want to jump up and dance. I even learned the words of the popular movie song at the time "Dil to Pagal Hai" (as the only "angraiz" at many parties, singing a few lines of this was an instant hit!)
Below are a few photos from some of my favorite Indian weddings photographed here in the Baltimore/Washington, DC area.
Sri Siva Vishnu Temple near Washington, DC.
Application of mehndi or henna paste before a wedding.
Gauri gets a bindi dot before his wedding ceremony.
Guests often throw rose petals at the couple at the end of a Hindu ceremony.
Parents of the couple.
Offerings of fruit at the wedding are said to symbolize surrender and self-sacrifice.
The flame represents the light within us, i.e. the soul.
Nisha and Paul.
Here the groom Gauri pretends to show Keerti the twins stars of Arundati and Vashishtha, which rotate around one another and represent ideal marriage.
After the Saptapadi (seven steps) the bridegroom places his hand on the bride's head and promises that she is now his wife and that he will protect her from harm.
In the "kanyadan" at the beginning of the ceremony, the bride and groom's feet are washed to purify them for their new life together.
In the "hastmelap" portion of the wedding, bride and groom signify their understanding and consent to the marital expectation by showering each other with rice.
The bride and groom take seven steps around the sacred fire, while reciting the seven marriage vows.
After the ceremony -- the dancing!