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home > journal index > india diary oct/nov 2003

3 weddings and a snowstorm: oct/nov 2003

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15/10/03 Himalayan paintings in Naggar
To clear our dust-infested lungs after the Kullu Dussehra festival we stay for a few days in Naggar, one of the nicest villages in the Kullu Valley, I think. We have a wander through the Roerich gallery at the edge of the village. Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich was a Russian artist, explorer and philosopher, who after several expeditions (including through the Himalayas and parts of South Asia) settled with his family in Naggar. His somewhat home-brewed philosophy consisting of a mish-mash of different religions and schools of thought, found a following in the United States, from where he received payments from his admirers to finance his upkeep. He was a prolific painter, having produced several thousand paintings, some of which are displayed in the Roerich Gallery in Naggar. Also on display is his well maintained 1930s Dodge car, which makes us wonder, how the hell it was possible 60 years ago to get it up here and then go for a little Sunday drive. Gurudev Nikolai Roerich, as he is called in India, died in December 1947.
17/10/03 corn and millet harvest
cutting or harvesting kodra millet in the Manali orchardsThe orchards look fairly barren now, most of the corn, beans and millet had been harvested within the past couple of weeks. Some people are still on the fields though, cutting the last of the corn plants, ploughing their little parcels of land, picking some kidney beans, or rajmah, from the fields and cutting "kodra" (millet). The seeds of kodra millet are used in winter to make special chapattis which almost look like chocolate pancakes. The millet straw is - obviously - used for the forever ravenous cows.
25/10/03 Diwali fireworks with a mind of their own
the least dangerous option for firework at Diwali: a giant sparklerDiwali is a kind of Hindu equivalent to Christmas and New Year combined. The festival of lights, as it is also called, celebrates the return of Rama and his wife Sita after 14 years of exile in a forest (see Ramayana in brief [link]). Hundreds of oil lamps, tea lights and candles are placed outside houses, mountains of Indian sweetmeats are sold in the market, presents are given and fireworks lit. We always wonder what the casualty rate is in India over Diwali since Indian fireworks are somewhat erratic to say the least. Some of them don't go off after lighting, only to explode a few minutes later when nobody is expecting it. Some rockets seem to swerve off at 90 degrees to chase some hapless human beings instead of elegantly shooting up into the sky. Some huge bomb like cylinders with images of fancy multi-coloured firework displays on their wrappers die either quietly with a peaceful and pitiful "poof" or just explode on the ground with a loud "bang". The most reliable are probably the giant "sparkling sticks" (woody note: these are commonly known in the English speaking world as "sparklers").
1/11/03 wedding dances
energetic dancing at a wedding party in Dawara village It's wedding season in North India. Where-ever you go you see decorated courtyards and hear trumpets and drums. Most Indian weddings are major events, many lasting for 3 days. The first day the bride and groom spend separately in their respective family homes for prayers and several religious rituals with the pandit (priest). The second day the "baraat" (kind of a stag party, the groom with his relatives and friends) spend the day at the bride's house. The third day the wedding party takes place at the boy's family home. We arrive in the village of Dawara (appr 30 km south of Manali) for the third day of Surender's and Veena's marriage celebration just in time to see the last religious ceremonies performed on a grassy area near the 2 temples there. After that it is time for chai, food and dancing. The band with its drums, flute and karnali trumpets sits in the middle of the courtyard. The dancers move - very energetically - in a circle around the musicians. Everybody can join in, so I do and destroy Surender's and several other people's feet in the process. Well, I won't win any Natti-local-dance competitions, but it certainly is great fun!
16/11/03 first snow in Manali
the first snow in Manali this winterWe had our first snow this year already at the end of September in Kibber village in the Spiti Valley - but that was at an altitude above 4000 metres. Now middle of November it is snowing in Manali at an altitude of just 2000 metres. And we haven't even installed our bukari oven yet. It is really beautiful but I feel so hideously cold that my brain (and everything else) seems to have ceased functioning. I do feel sorry though for the Rajasthanis, staying in their make-shift tents at the edge of New Manali town, most of whom are seasonal labourers and usually all leave before the proper winter starts.
21/11/03 wedding in the neighbourhood
bride and bride groom wearing their money necklaces during the wedding procession through the villageThe son of our neighbours Budh Ram and Kesari is getting married. This time it is a love marriage and officially a one-day-event. In the morning bride, groom and parents are being decorated with money necklaces by relatives. I follow the wedding procession through the village, where streets and paths are lined with women offering the couple and their relatives flowers, ladoo-sweets and rice. As always here it is a colourful event. Also typical for Manali is the copious consumption of sharaab (locally brewed alcohol), whisky and beer during the rest of the day till the evening. A good fun day for us, big hangovers for loads of others the next day - as described in the blog.
25/11/03 temple carvings in Shuru village
a wood carver at work, at the new Shavani Mata temple in Shuru villageCrystal blue sky; a good day for a walk to Shuru village, about three km south of Manali. In most of the villages around here you see new temples, mostly less than 5 years old, and Shuru village is no exception. One lonely old worn wood carved beam lying on the floor near the temple is proof that there once stood an old temple on this spot. Now the new Shavani Mata Mandir (temple) is almost finished. Mr Budh Ram Thakur, the treasurer of the temple, tells me that construction work started about 2 years ago. It is built in the traditional style of alternating layers of stone blocks and big wooden beams. The temple front, as well as the pillars which run around the verandah, are made of wood with a lot of carvings on them, either flower patterns or religious figures. Interesting to watch some carvers at work. Certainly a lot of effort and money goes into building these temples, though it seems a shame to me that all the old ones - which are/were mostly smaller and simpler - disappear.
28/11/03 wedding at the bride’s home
We attend the third wedding party within a month. The arranged marriage of Shanta, the sister of our friend Ravi, is again a three-day-event, in which we are invited for the second day's celebrations which take place at the bride's family home in Balsari village. The "baraat" (a kind of stag party, the groom with some of his relatives and friends) had arrived early in the morning, long before we were even thinking of getting out of bed. Bride and groom spend most of the day going through complex religious marriage rituals with the pandit (priest), which are utterly incomprehensible to me, but still interesting to watch as do many other wedding guests. In the evening it is time for the "baraat" to leave; as is the tradition, Ravi's "job" as a brother is to carry the bride out of the premises of the family house, symbolically giving his sister away as a gift. Part of the tradition is to return a few minutes (sometimes also hours) later, the bride crying. But after that the groom with his entourage finally sets off, this time Shanta is being carried by a cousin, all the way down the hill to where the cars and vans are parked, from where the wedding party drives to the groom's family home. Again an interesting day for us. It is the last wedding we are invited to during this year's wedding season, which officially ends on the 15th of December.
Kirsten dec 2003 << previous   next>>
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