Posts Tagged ‘procession’

The Gurupurb

December 22nd, 2009

I forget where we were headed to one day when we got stuck in traffic which was worse than normal (for Bangalore). Traffic was backed up a good few hundred meters and it didn’t seem like we were going to be headed anywhere in a hurry. The reason for the delay appeared to be some procession at the intersection in the distance. I grabbed my camera, climbed out of the car heedless of the driver’s protests, and made a dash for it.

Turns out there was a several-thousand-person strong Sikh procession in celebration of the anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. The actual date this year was to be the 2nd of November, 2009. But it is not uncommon for celebrations (or Gurupurbs) to be held in the two or three weeks prior to that date.

Standing there, alone, at an intersection and with the chaos of random traffic and stray motorbikes that miss you by mere inches, chanting people, suspicious policemen, whiffs of smoke fumes and the scent of food – it felt like my first real taste of India.

So far, everywhere I went, I had been for all intents and purposes led by the hand. We were spoilt by our hosts: everything had been provided for us – food, shelter, transportation and a pretty full program. Everything we experienced felt like, and for the most part was, part of an intricate, well-organised and well-executed Plan. There was very little room for error in this Plan.

This was not part of the Plan. This was unbridled. It wasn’t muffled behind glass windows, nor seen from the comfort of a hotel terrace, or car seat. I was no longer looking out at India. I was in the middle of the action. And this was pure chaos. It felt like anything could happen. It was a revelation.

As I watched, I chatted away with the family on the motorbike next to me, and tried to get some decent shots of the Gurupurb without getting run over by stray motorbikes or further arousing the suspicions of the 3 policemen who materialised beside me when they saw my camera.

I got treated to a mildly suspicious interrogation by the senior policeman. He seemed to be worried that I might be a journalist of some sort. I assured him I was in Bangalore for a wedding, and when I told him whose wedding it was, he appeared to relax a tad. Amazingly enough, everybody in Bangalore seemed to know this wedding was on. Unfortunately, he was only pacified for a few minutes and soon enough he was again interrogating me. That meant that I wasn’t as free with my movements as I’d otherwise have liked – and had to take the shots I could from where I stood. I felt I should stay put where I was and make small talk with him so as not to get myself carted off to the nearest police station.

I was eventually saved from his questions by two things. The first was that one of my friends joined me to take a look at the procession as well. The second was one of the Sikh revellers. I stopped to ask him some questions about the procession as he seemed to be an authority figure.

He was, like most Bangaloreans, exceedingly friendly, and adopted us immediately, telling us a little about Sikhism, about Guru Nanak and the Gurupurbs in general, about the prayers and the Panj Piare (or Five Beloved Ones). He even went off to collect reading material for us and some of the food that was being distributed.

Below you can see the long line of people making their way down the highway, with vehicles waiting patiently for them to clear. Interestingly, none of those waiting seemed upset, or annoyed at the delay. All waited patiently. Well, except for some people on motorbikes. At one point there seemed to be a small break in the procession, and suddenly tens of bikes were in the fray, zipping left and right in a mad dash for the other side.

The Procession (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f3.5, ISO 200, 1/640sec)

Revelers (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f3.5, ISO 200, 1/500sec)

This water truck came along at one point in the procession, pipes behind it spraying water on the street. It was followed by tens of barefoot people with makeshift brooms, who proceeded to sweep the street ahead of five sword-bearing figures in bright yellow robes – representing the original Panj Piare.

The Water Truck (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 38mm, f4.2, ISO 200, 1/160sec)

This man was one of those who came immediately after the truck. The poor guy had the unenviable task of trying to sweep while dodging bikers.

Dodging Motorbikes (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 105mm, f5.6, ISO 200, 1/1250sec)

The men were followed by the women, protected by men cordoning them off with bright yellow ropes.

The Sweeps (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 40mm, f4.2, ISO 200, 1/320sec)

Sweeping (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f5.6, ISO 200, 1/100sec)

Oddly enough, I was unable to take a picture of all five sword-bearers. I have no idea why that is. Each picture I took had one of those on the fringes hidden from sight by a passerby. A little frustrating it was.

Framed Pani Piare (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 62mm, f4.8, ISO 200, 1/250sec)

Pani Piare Partial (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 56mm, f4.8, ISO 200, 1/250sec)

Food and blessings were distributed from garlanded trucks:

Food, Blessings and Garlands (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 65mm, f5, ISO 200, 1/400sec)

Even schools were participating:

The School Banner (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 55mm, f4.8, ISO 200, 1/160sec)

More pictures coming soon!

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A South-Indian Wedding

December 8th, 2009

Entrance to Bangalore Palace (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f5.6, ISO200, 1/800sec)

Quite a few of you have been waiting for the Bangalore Wedding pictures.

So here they are!

As one of my fellow guests said: “Our eyes were full of colour”. I think the pictures speak for themselves so I’ll be keeping comments to a minimum.

I may just give some context - shamelessly lifted from a card we were given at one of the events which explained the festivities, rituals and their significance in brief.

The wedding ceremony starts with the bride being escorted in a procession to the Mantapam (the decorated stage on which the ceremony is to take place). Friends and family take part. The procession is led by bridesmaids carrying brass pots filled with rice and coconut on the left and bridesmen carrying ceremonial umbrellas on the right. I understand that generally, they are dressed in all manner of colours, but this time was different – the bridesmaids were in beautiful green saris, and the men in white silk robes. For the most part, that is. If I’m not mistaken there was one bridemaid alone who hadn’t been issued with her green sari – and wore a beautiful white one instead. The men also had one stand-out: Me. On my arrival, one of the bride’s uncles pulled me aside and handed me a ceremonial umbrella. When I objected, pointing out the red kurtha I wore, he said: “nevermind that, we want you here”. I couldn’t begin to express how touched I was by that gesture – at being asked to participate in, and not simply attend, my friend’s wedding.

Once the bride is settled on the Mantapam, and the groom arrives, he too is escorted along with his friends and family to the Mantapam in a procession led by the same bridesmaids and men. That complete, we were all led onto the Mantapam as well, and sat to the right of the stage to watch the ceremony. The wedding hall was massive, with seating perhaps for thousands in front of the stage, but I felt that it was a cosy ceremony in which there was just us, we few on the Mantapam.

Evidently, I took no pictures of the processions and the initial part of the ceremony as my camera wasn’t with me, and I couldn’t anyway. Ali – am so grateful to him – the fine gent to whom I’d handed the camera for safekeeping – came up to the stage and handed me the camera early on. Thanks to him, I got the chance to take these pictures you see here. And from a different angle to that of the photographers clustered stage front.

I was struck by how similar some of the rituals and concepts evident in this beautiful South Indian wedding are to those in other cultures. For instance – the raining of Akshatha (rice) on the happy couple – common to Christian and Muslim weddings. Also, the three rounds the couple effected around the holy fire during the wedding ceremony proper, which echoes the three rounds around the altar in some Christian (notably Orthodox and Greek Catholic) wedding ceremonies (called the Dance of Isaiah). I understand that this is a ritual that predates Christianity. The various explanations given for the three rounds in each culture and religion may vary, but the symbolism remains the same – the newlyweds taking their firsts steps together as one.

Anyway. Enough talk. Picture time!

Above, the entrance to Bangalore Palace on the morning of the wedding. Below, one of the line of drummers who greeted us at the entrance to the palace.

Drummer Man (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 95mm, f5.6, ISO200, 1/160sec)

Welcome Drummers (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 90mm, f5.6, ISO200, 1/200sec)

This lady’s long hair was bedecked in jasmine. A lovely sight.

Dressed up in Jasmine (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 60mm, f5.6, ISO1000, 1/30sec)

One of the trumpeteers who preceded the bride.

The Trumpetter Cometh (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f4, ISO1000, 1/160sec)

The lovely bride, looking regal.

The Regal Bride (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f5.6, ISO1000, 1/160sec)

The Blessing (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f5.6, ISO1000, 1/250sec)

Here, the bride and groom after holy water was poured on their hands during the Dhare. The Dhare is the prayer ritual which follows the wedding ceremony proper. Prayers are offered to Agni, the Lord of Fire, who dispels darkness and leads the way to the light of wisdom and knowledge.

Holy Water (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 85mm, f5.3, ISO1000, 1/250sec)

Offering to Agni 1 (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 100mm, f5.6, ISO1000, 1/250sec)

Offering to Agni 2 (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f5.6, ISO1000, 1/250sec)

Colour and Smiles (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f5.6, ISO1000, 1/250sec)

Offering to Agni 3 (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 60mm, f4.8, ISO1000, 1/250sec)

Offering to Agni 4 (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 100mm, f5.6, ISO1000, 1/250sec)

Garlanding the Brother of the Bride (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 105mm, f5.6, ISO1000, 1/250sec)

This is one of a series of saffron mounds, seen between the groom and bride. These were crushed by the bride during the ceremony.

Saffron Cone (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f5.6, ISO1000, 1/250sec)

The Groom (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f5.6, ISO1000, 1/320sec)

An ecstatic bride and groom during the one of the rounds of the saptapadi (the seven rounds around the holy fire).

A Round Around The Fire (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f5.6, ISO1000, 1/320sec)

I loved that although the wedding was such a detail-rich series of rituals and symbolism, steeped in the traditions of a millenia-rich culture, there so much room for joy in it:

Heaping up the Offerings (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f5.6, ISO1000, 1/250sec)

I can easily say it was the most beautiful and moving weddings I have yet attended.

In closing, here’s another picture from the Bangalore Palace grounds. Now, this isn’t strictly speaking wedding related – but the cannon was just sitting there outside the Palace gates, looking all cannon-y. Couldn’t resist. Hehe.

The Cannon (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 55mm, f5.6, ISO200, 1/500sec)

More pictures coming soon! Including pictures of my favourite wedding-related event – the giving away ceremony!

P.S. Any errors in the descriptions of the ceremony and rituals are mine own alone. Please do feel free to clarify if you like.

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