Back To The Roots: A Wedding Photo Documentary Part 2

An intimate documentary style wedding photography, which not only has the wedding photos but also tells the story of the wedding, like a writer would. Click here for Part 1.


Dodhi Mongol is a ritual for which the bride has to wake up very early and eat a special kind of food made by mixing puffed rice with curd and sugar etc. The elder ladies role in the ritual is to bless the bride one by one. Elder men are not involved. Because, why disturb their sleep?

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Our bride ate the stuff and went back to sleep, only to wake up very very late

Back To The Roots A Wedding Documentary

The next ritual on the wedding day is the visit from Shankharu. He is a man who sells the customary red and white bangles worn by married Bengali woman as sign of matrimony. Traditionally the Shankharu comes at your home does a bit of ritual around the event and puts the bangles on the bride’s hand. In case of our bride, she also wore the Bihari signs bichua and payal on her feet.

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Any moment now the Groom’s family should arrive with the ‘Gaye halud Tatto.’ At the groom’s house this morning they make the turmeric paste mixed with mustard oil which is applied to the groom and same paste is then sent to the girl’s family to be applied on the bride. Unless the Groom family reach with the turmeric, the bride cannot take a bath or get dressed for the evening and that’s where things got really worrying for this wedding. It had been raining incessantly since the morning of 5th of July, the Groom’s family had driven from far and then got stuck in rain. Finally they were all tired and so got really late in reaching our home. Everybody this side was extremely anxious and were getting impatient waiting at the door.

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Along with the turmeric paste, the assortment of gifts is sent which carries gift for every important family member of the bride. The assortment also contains most exotic sweets, fruits and confectioneries, and a big raw fish. The more prosperous the family, the bigger the fish. In our case, the Groom’s family was vegetarian, there is no way they will send a fish, but they were sweet enough to send fish shaped sweets. How did they even find a sweet shop to make or sell those fish is a wonder.

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After the gaye halud the bride starts getting ready for the big moment in the evening. The bride’s 70+ year old aunt is a forever single woman, a teacher a social activist and an artist. All occasion in this family is incomplete without Monima’s, as she is known among her niece and nephews,  alpona (traditional decorative designs painted on the floor). Swagata didn’t want any body from the modern beauty parlours for her bridal make up. That was done by her Didibhai (elder sister), who was used to put make up on her kid sister since the days of her fancy dress competition. Monima, did the tilak chandan (facial decorations).

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Sisters Wedding Photo Documentary-64 (800x530)

A late gaye halud from Groom’s side meant late gaye halud for the bride, and then everything got delayed. The groom family had arrived at the marriage hall. Bride has still not started from here. On the other side some confusion have erupted over handing over of more gift items brought my Groom’s family. Frantic calls coming from the hall, nothing is being communicated amidst the yelling except a sense of panic.

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The bride however did manage to reach the venue, before the baraat by overtaking his car on the way. The kid’s had planned to light fireworks when the baraat arrive but there are strict rule in Jalpaiguri against firecrackers which impressed the elders but saddened the kids. The entire family of the bride waits at the gate to see the Groom. The bride’s mother would be playing the main role of welcoming him. In her daughter’s wedding this five mins role is the only one she would be playing as bride’s mothers are not allowed to see the wedding.

family waits for the groom

And finally in this story, the bridegroom makes an appearance. The baraat has arrived all the way from Singhia, Bihar.

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He is welcomed by the mother of the bride with a glass of water and some sweets.

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After brief resting period, the groom goes on the wedding mandap. This is where the bride’s father would give her away to the groom.

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The bride’s brothers carry her to the mandap on a wooden seat. She hides her face with a beetle leaves.

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They go around the groom seven times and then stop infront of him for the bride to slowly remove the beetle leaves.

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Sisters Wedding Photo Documentary-79 (800x530)

Traditionally this is the moment when the bride and groom would see each other for the first time. Its called Shbhuo Drishti. These days when every other couple is doing a love marriage this has become a moment when everybody around the couple tease them and insist they look deeply at each other in all sort of romantic ways and a big laughter ensues.

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After Shubho Drishti they exchange garlands and the groom sits at the mandap for the rituals. All rituals in a Hindu wedding is performed either by the bride’s father or the bridegroom and his father. The girl has no role. The man marries the woman, the father marries her off. She just sits there as the ‘paraya dhan’ (others property) till the ceremony is completed by when she becomes the husband’s property.

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A Hindu wedding is not a contract between two self-thinking adult individuals. It is a disturbing exchange of a woman’s body from the father to the husband. The only thing she has to do is to take deeply patriarchal vows which duty bounds her to consider her husband as her God and never question him.

The couple’s hands are literally bound together with his hand below because he is taking her hand.

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Of course for this family these are just rituals. This is a marriage between equals, just that they value traditions.

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The last and the most important part is the saptapadi or the 7 steps. The panditji asked somebody to make 7 circles with rice powder. Bijay mama quickly jumps in. He loved to create art, dance, sing. A kind gentle talented person who loved people but was utterly lonely. He loved our family so much that he specially came from Delhi to attend this wedding. This was the last time the couple saw him, as he suddenly died a few years later alone in his apartment. Swagata’s real mama couldn’t be a part of this wedding. He too died few years later.

Bijay mama making the 7 circles for the Saptapadi

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Sisters Wedding Photo Documentary-94 (530x800)

Saptapadi is followed by the sindur daan. Sindur or vermilion is the red mark on Hindu married women as sign of her matrimony, today after taking her hand he takes the 7 steps with her and finally gives her the sindur that she must honour for all her life. Different families have different rules regarding sindur daan. The rule here was that sindur is to be given behind a cloth hiding her from public view.

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A pinch of this red powder is considered her most prized possession. The shades of red varies from region to region though. Sometimes its pink sometime orange.

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End of Part 2. To be continued.

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