One first things that appealed to me about pagan life in general is the way we are encouraged to seek out any and all aspects of other religions and faiths that we find interesting. This unrestricted exploration is a wonderful, amazing thing and I participate fully whenever I am invited to see another tradition first hand. I am particularly intrigued by the rich complexity of Hinduism, which is the oldest living religion in the world and the largest surviving form of polytheism.
My beautiful friend, Anjana, recently invited me to be a bridesmaid in her Hindu wedding. If you’ve never been to one, it is a bright, colorful, festive affair and always an unforgettable experience.
Anjana is Nepali, but my love affair with the Hindu experience began many years ago when I made a month-long trip to India. It was there that I was first shown how to tie a sari. Tying a sari is an art form, and one I never really mastered. Fortunately, there were other, more experienced bridesmaids there to help me!
Hindu wedding customs are often playful and uniquely charming. Many of them are specific to the region of the bride and groom. My favorite one from this wedding involved the groom’s shoes.
So, the groom has to remove his shoes before stepping into the ritual area for the wedding ceremony. Apparently, the custom is for the bridesmaids to steal his shoes, hide them and then make the groomsmen pay money to get them back, which is given the bride and groom as a blessing. This is a game that involves serious plotting and shrewd bargaining! There was a lengthy discussion about who would distract the groomsmen and where we would put the shoes once we had them (we decided on the trunk of one bridesmaid’s car).
“Where are the shoes? Aren’t we supposed to take them?”
“We took them ten minutes ago, silly. You have to be quick and sly!”
(I wasn’t “quick or sly” enough to get a picture of them, so these are the bride’s shoes.)
The red rice paste you often see in various Hindu customs is called tilaka. I love being annointed with tilaka. There is something very peaceful and calming about it.
Most Hindu wedding dresses are red, which is considered a lucky color for brides. Not the best exposure, but I love the warmth of the bridesmaid for her friend in this image, and the nervousness of the bride that any married lady knows!
So thanks to the ladies and the family of the lovely Anjana for giving me such an amazing experience I won’t soon forget.