Indian Wedding - Photography - M1key - Michal Huniewicz

Indian Wedding Photography - M1key - Michal Huniewicz

Indian Wedding by Michal Huniewicz

A Kshatriya software developer, 28, graduate, height 183cm, invites enquiries from parents of well educated, fair and attractive daughters. Reply with photo and horoscope.

This is what Indian matrimonial advertisements often look like. Note the caste is specified and fair (pale) skin preferred, which should make sense to you if you know about India or at least had a while to read the descriptions in my Highlights from India gallery. The future wife is not even addressed directly - her parents are.

During my trip to India I saw a couple of weddings and, as expected, they don't resemble Western ones much. This high-ISO gallery will give you an idea of what it looks like, and tell you a bit about the institution of marriage in India, various traditions associated with it, and so on. I didn't describe the customs in great detail because I didn't find them so interesting.

In search of good Indian music, continued... Hidayat Inayat Khan, the composer. The music has rather little to do with weddings. Fun fact: I was his driver once (true story).

Thanks: Asha (captions), Pooja (captions), Shiv Shanker (captions), Vaishakh (captions).
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19.
Uploaded on: 2013-02-17.

Guard

Guard
Indian weddings and ceremonies don't necessarily take place in temples, as I initially expected. The first one I went to was in this rather expensive hotel, the 5-star Ashok Hotel in New Delhi, where guards opened the doors for us and saluted. A more orthodox family might have chosen for the wedding to be in a choultry instead [1], or a farmhouse.
While there is usually a priest present, the marriage still has to be registered separately with secular authorities.
ISO 560, 50mm, f/1.4, 1/125s.

Dancing in the streets

Dancing in the streets
Traditional Indian weddings consist of various pre-wedding ceremonies, wedding day ceremonies, and the Vidaai (when the bride is sent to the groom's household). All the pictures in this gallery are from the D-Day, the actual wedding day. In the picture, you can see a groom procession, as he and his family and guests are going to the actual marriage site (hotel, hall, etc.). The procession is called Baraat. [2] This is a Northern Indian and Pakistani custom. The groom is sometimes riding a horse and carrying a sword, and usually doesn't dance, but I saw one dancing quite frantically, and did not notice a single sword.
ISO 200, 11mm, f/4.5, 1/40s.

Groom

Groom
Ah, there he is. Not looking particularly amused, the groom arrives at the meeting point, where the elders of both families meet, but no bride in sight yet.
ISO 1600, 18mm, f/3.5, 1/50s.

Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes
Boys operating a super-noisy engine providing electricity for the portable chandeliers you can see in the picture.
Marriage might be the most important event in a Hindu family. [4, p. 86] Contrary to Western culture, in India marriage is more of a union of two families, driven usually by more pragmatic reasons than love.
Can you see the naked statue in the poster in the background? His name is Bahubali; according to Jainism he was the first human in this half-time cycle to attain liberation (nirvana) [7], when he realised the transience of temporal affairs, and renounced the world. [8] The Digambara monks of Jainism (it's a major Jain sect) wear no clothes either, but that only applies to men - women have to be reborn as men to achieve liberation (and they are not allowed naked in the public). Another Jain sect, Svetambara, disagrees. [9]
Here's a video of naked Digamber monks.
ISO 900, 18mm, f/3.5, 1/125s.

Lamp boy

Lamp boy
Each chandelier is carried by a young kid like this one.
ISO 500, 40mm, f/4.5, 1/125s.

Amrutha

Amrutha
In India, weddings are big show-offs. People try to invite as many people as they can afford, and token white people are always welcome. Generally, even though technically dowry is prohibited by law, it is a common practice (just theoretically voluntary), and it's still more expensive to be the parent of a girl than a boy. One of the books on India that I read mentioned a father spending 5 times his annual salary on his daughter's wedding! [10] Annually, $40,000,000,000 is spent on weddings in India (but including associated beauty costs). [19]
In the picture, a girl named Amrutha flirting with the lens. As you can see, Indians love gold. When India began to import gold and silver in the 16th century, only the latter was turned into currency. [18, ch. 4]
ISO 2000, 50mm, f/1.4, 1/125s.

Divya & Asha

Divya & Asha
From what I was told, if there is more than one daughter, they have to get married in the order they were born, so the older sister is under pressure not to become a bottleneck for the younger one's (ones') marriage(s). The same goes for sons, but they have a separate queue, so to speak, as boys usually get married being a few years older than girls.
ISO 3200, 50mm, f/1.8, 1/125s.

Ayushi

Ayushi
A girl named Ayushi observing the couple.
It is usually the man who proposes, but women proposing (many men's worst nightmare) are not unheard of. [3]
ISO 640, 105mm, f/5.3, 1/40s.

Smile now

Smile now
Here's the young couple at the altar. From what I've seen, those couples don't usually look very happy - the whole ritual often lasts for days and they have to keep smiling for the cameras, which must be very exhausting.
The wedding you can see here is of a Vaishya couple - from the Merchant caste, which is usually wealthy, but considered low (it's the third caste out of four).
ISO 1400, 36mm, f/4.2, 1/40s.

First comes marriage, then comes love

First comes marriage, then comes love
Anshu (27, left) and Saurabh (28, right). Their wedding was arranged, which is usually the case in India. [4, p. 86] To be precise, 90-95% of marriages in India are arranged (and 60% of all the marriages in the world!). [5] What that means is that a sophisticated match-making process is involved, nowadays using modern means such as the Internet (but not always, I was told it could be a bunch of old people asking around), in order to find the desired partner. The process can take months or even years for the most picky people. Then comes marriage, then comes love.
It does not mean the marriage is forced, and Indian singles apparently have no problem trusting relatives to find them a match. [5] They believe that since they get a carefully selected partner from a similar background, comparable intelligence, and so on, the relationship will last and lead to true love.
Horoscopes and auspicious days play a large role (especially for orthodox Brahmin families [4, p. 88]). So it's not quite the Western "try before you buy" approach, but might be quite similar to various online match-making services.
The so called love-marriages are becoming more popular, especially among Westernised Indians who have their own source of income and can afford to be more independent from their parents (just like their own source of income - from weaving - helps Muslim women I met in the West Bank gain some independence from the husband).
ISO 800, 38mm, f/4.2, 1/40s.

Family photos

Family photos
See? Not so cheerful.
Once a groom/bride candidate is found, a meeting is arranged and it's apparently okay for either of the young people to say no, and ask for another one, although I wonder how many times this can happen - I'm sure each time you say no, you are under more pressure to say yes next time.
The practice is not restricted to Hindus; it applies to Indian Jans, Sikhs, Muslims, and Christians.
What brides often do and what I found quite disturbing, is the practice of skin bleaching - they want to be paler for the wedding. And so there are bleaching clinics all across India, and there is a bleaching cream called Fair & Lovely. The advertisements featured depressed, dark-complexioned women, who then found new, better jobs and boyfriends after lightening their skin [17]. I personally had a beautiful Indian girl complaining to me about her dark skin, and had to assure her she was perfect (she was); hopefully the message will spread.
The bride in the picture had her skin artificially lightened for the wedding too, as I managed to find out.
ISO 1600, 34mm, f/4.2, 1/80s.

Pooja means worship

Pooja means worship
Pooja means worship, and it's not difficult to see why, especially when she's flaunting her femininity as in this picture.
Many Indian men, especially in rural areas, prefer their future wives to be virgins. But, to quote Robin Williams, "everyone who's ever been with a virgin will be like... (frowns with mixed emotions)". But in urban and more progressive areas people supposedly don't care as much.
If you like the dress she's wearing, and would like to get a similar one, it's called lehenga.
ISO 450, 50mm, f/1.4, 1/125s.

Yellow balloon

Yellow balloon
More than one third of all child brides live in India. [12] This practice has been made illegal, but still prevails, and the rural state of Rajasthan, where I went, has particularly high rates. It affects girls as well as boys, and is often performed without consent of the children involved.
In medieval times even infant marriage was permitted, for political reasons (forging alliances). [13] Child marriage can be seen as a way of preserving the caste system, as it prevents people from marrying outside caste; and as making sure the child does not marry someone of a different faith. Before child marriage became common for boys, for the higher castes the ideal union was between a man of over 20 and a girl one-third his age, before her first menstruation. [18, ch. 2] In the 19th century, Ram Mohan Roy, a Hindu brahmin, outraged orthodox Hindus when he wrote against child marriage. [6, ch. 6]
These days, child marriage affects mostly poor people who see it as a way of making the child's future better. Child marriage also ensures there is no pre-marital sex. Statistically, early married girls have a higher mortality rate, and so do infants born when their mother is under 18.
There have been laws introduced (The Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 and The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of 2006) and programmes dedicated to delaying young marriages across the nation.
Child marriage is another thing that Indians and European gypsies (who are originally from India) have in common. I have briefly described them in my Transylvania gallery.
I received a flower from one of those girls.
ISO 450, 50mm, f/1.4, 1/125s.

Adjustment

Adjustment
Once the bride moves from her parents' home to her husband's home, she must adjust to the senior woman's rules (usually that's the beloved mother-in-law, may she live forever), and apparently anything can become an issue, such as using garlic for cooking (considered tasty by some but polluting by others).
Unless she doesn't move in, as it is now more and more often the case.
ISO 400, 50mm, f/1.4, 1/125s.

Consummation

Consummation
In Hindu marriages, consummation traditionally takes place on the night of the reception, unless the newlyweds are too tired to perform.
ISO 1600, 50mm, f/3.5, 1/30s.

Pooja & Ayushi

Pooja & Ayushi
Can gay people marry? No. Homosexual intercourse between consenting adults has only recently (2009) been decriminalised throughout India, by the Delhi High Court. [14] There are now gay pride parades in some Indian cities, and there are gay characters in Bollywood films. [15] See the first Bollywood gay kiss.
India is also a country where a social element of a third gender exists. The hijras are physiological males who have a feminine gender identity (sometimes they are eunuchs). Some Indians believe that whatever hijras say comes true, so they don't want to mess with them. They often demand money in public places using obscene gestures, profane language, and sexual advances; they are invited (or come uninvited) to various religious ceremonies where they play instruments and dance in sexually suggestive way. They bring good luck and fertility. [16] Unfortunately, I haven't encountered any.
But they did come after the wedding you can see in this picture - directly to the bride's house. Want to watch a nice clip on hijras including one dancing? (Now try to get that song out of your head!)
ISO 400, 50mm, f/1.4, 1/125s.

Nirbhaya & Pooja

Nirbhaya & Pooja
Finally, what about divorce? Obtaining a divorce in India is difficult but not impossible, although the procedure tends to be rather lengthy and complicated, with different laws governing different religious groups. [11]
People after a divorce, as well as widows and widowers (and people after 30), cannot be too picky if they want to get married again. Their matrimonial value goes down as if they had brought bad luck.

How do you like Indian weddings? You do? If you're not Indian, you can still marry an Indian person, provided their family is modern enough to accept you. If you're not Indian, and want to get married to a non-Indian person in India with a proper Indian wedding, you can - it can all be arranged. Finally, if you'd like a fake Indian wedding for the sake of it, that can also be organised - I met a chap from a company that will organise your own Indian wedding, together with musicians and guests. It was even hinted to me that a gay wedding shouldn't be a problem - after all, you're the paying customer!
ISO 500, 50mm, f/1.4, 1/125s.