Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Wedding in the Blue City

    I just had a mad-wonderful three days in Jodhpur, in the heart of Rajasthan beside the Great Thar Desert.  Jodhpur is called the Blue City because for hundreds of years, the homes have been washed in Indigo to keep them cool and bug-free.  The city sits at the foot of a hill on which a giant 17th century fort sits, looking over everything in majestic glory. 

  A nice feature of Jodphur is that the streets of the Old City are so narrow and winding, that cars cannot get through.  Thus, a pedestrian has only the cows, motorcycles, and bikes to contend with

    Or, for a real blast, one can ride in a tuk-tuk and be the queen of the road.  You see, on India streets, the biggest thing wins, and everyone else must get out of its way.  There is no waiting and allowing pedestrians to pass first.  It has taken me a while to learn how to walk through the congested bazaars and not feel nearly run down by motorcycles and tuk-tuks racing through.  But I am getting the swing of it.  And after a day of walking about, hopping in one of these and racing through the streets myself is a blast. 

    As I tuk-tuk through the streets, there are so many sights, sounds, and smells all around me, I feel like I am on some exotic Disneyland ride.  Mr Toad's Wild India Ride.  I cannot describe the sheer volume of it all - there is nothing in America to compare it to.  A friend said, as we laughed at the absurd bedlam of our shared tuk-tuk ride, "India sure is lively!"  People say that when you leave India and go anywhere else, it seems like you have cotton covering your eyes, ears, and nose. Your sense experiences are that much duller, anywhere else in the world! 

   Let me now tell of this wedding!   I arrived in Jodhpur on a night train, which worked out great. I was a little anxious about leaving Delhi at 10 pm by myself, and the train station was a filthy old station in a run down neighborhood, used only for trains to Rajasthan.   Even the train looked dirty and rickety.  But once on board, things looked up.  I was given a small clean bed, complete with sheets. blanket and pillow in an AC cabin, and slept all the way .  I slept great.  When I arrived, the younger of the two brothers who run Hem Guest House, which I had picked based on Tripadvisor reviews, picked me up on his motorcycle and took me to the House.  He told me I am very lucky, I get to come to his cousin's big wedding party tonight. Really...
  At the House, I was given chai and toast on the rooftop, looking up at the beautiful fort and down at the lovely blue town as it was waking up.  The House had five rooms for guests, and we all ate breakfast together in the fresh morning light.  Sure enough, we were all invited to attend the wedding that evening.
   I spent the day wandering around the old city.  I found my way into a gorgeous white marble hindu temple, and sat while a group of elderly sari-clad women sang their puja.  I marveled at the artwork in the temple.  Painted reliefs, marble carvings, and brightly adorned alters from what looked like multiple centuries all mish-moshed together.  The profound sense of antiquity in India is amazing!   There is so much history here, and modern life is just happening right on top of ancient things.  The temples are like living layer cakes, with crumbling ruins at the bottoms and kitchy modern posters on the top and everything in between. 
        At sunset we gathered and were tuk-tukked off to the wedding.  The wedding was held in empty lot, where rolls of carpet were laid out covering an area the size of a large soccer field.  White curtain "walls"  were strung all the way around, and bright lights were erected, lighting the whole thing like a Bollywood set. Tables with tradtional Rajasthani foods lined the perimeter.  Hundreds of people filed through a rainbow-lit curtained tunnel to enter.  Everyone was dressed in their finest traditional clothes.  I took pictures like crazy.  After guests feasted on all the dishes, the tandoori-roasted chapatis slathered with ghee a real winner, the bride arrived.  She was dressed in traditional wedding garb, a red sari so heavily ornamented with jewels that she could hardly walk in it.  She was escorted to a corner to be photographed, and wait for the groom.
  Finally the shout "the groom is arrived!" went out, and a small band of turbaned musicians marched in, blowing what looked and sounded like dissonent bagpipes and banging on drums.  The groom rode in on a white horse bedecked in flowers.  He was stopped at the entrance and made to bargain with the bride's female relatives.  Some rupees were procured and in he rode.  Bride and groom met in the middle, and climbed up upon a flower covered pedestal above the throng.  A fireworks display ensued above the party.  The bride and groom placed giant flower garlands around each others' necks, and stood smiling and holding hands.  Then, the pedestal on which they stood began to revolve.  It was a turntable.  Around and around the bride and groom were slowly turned while the crowd cheered and a canon beside them shot endless pink flower petals into the air and everywhere.  More fireworks, more flower petals flying, more cheering.  Wow, what a spectacle.  I was speechless and teary-eyed in amazement.  By 11pm us foreign guests were wedding'ed out, so we missed the more traditional Hindu part of the ceremony, which apparently took until 4am.  Oh, what a night!



joc said...

Love the images! Thanks for keeping us posted. Love you! ;D

kadag said...

sounds like fun

rebekah said...

Beautiful, thank you for sharing!!