Whatsoever you do to the least of My people, that you do unto Me.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hindu Wedding

Dear Friends and Family,

I come to you after one of the best long weekends I have ever had. Last weekend I began an epic journey which taught me a lot about the countryside of Guyana and about life.

Last Friday around eleven o'clock I took a taxi over to my student Darshini's house. Once I arrived I met her family and we took a taxi to the bus park. At the bus park we had to catch a bus going all the way to Berbice.  

Map of Guyana






If you look on the map I was somewhere between New Amsterdam and Corriverton - closer to Corriverton. (Look at the north east boarder with Suriname) The area where we went was called Black Bush and we had to take two different buses which in total cost about 10 US dollars. Black Bush is an area with basically trees and rice fields. The area is very rural and even when we got off the bus we had about a 1/4 mile walk down a VERY uneven dirt road to their house.


Crossing the Berbice River!



Some "bush" I got on camera while in the very packed bus!!!


When we arrived on Friday afternoon I was very happy to be finished traveling. I was looking around from Naameshawari my student and I didn't see her. Soon enough she came down the stairs but her hands were all full of cups. She quickly went and put the cups down and came to give me a huge hug. I had missed her very dearly while she has been gone away.

Getting to her house really made me appreciate the Guyanese hospitality because as soon as I was there they gave me ice cold water and a big bowl of potato curry. I have always loved curry and was excited for my first dish. Little did I know that  I would be eating curry for almost every meal until I reached back to GT.

First Meal of Curry


After I finished eating Naameshawari was over cleaning garlic. I decided to go over and sit and help her. It was really difficult for me to understand that accent of the people around me. They say that even people who grow up in Georgetown (GT) have a hard time understand people here in the bush. I swear I must have cleaned about 5 whole bulbs of garlic and it was not me alone cleaning. After I finished cleaning they all kept telling me that I could go bathe and relax. I went and bathed, Guyanese bathe much more often than Americans - most people take at least two showers a day! When I had finished with that I put my jeans on and got ready for the swarm of mosquitos. I couldn't believe how terrible they were!

Just a small amount of garlic that we used throughout the weekend!! 
During the afternoon I met Shanta, Naamashwari's sister, Shanta was the bride to be and I tell you she was a very beautiful young lady. Shanta is 18 years old and he now husband is 25 years old. Shanta seemed so interested in me and what I was doing here in Guyana and I felt a little bit guilty because she was the one getting married and I was curious about everything with her and her now husband. She shared with me that she had met him six times previously and he had come to her family asking for her hand in marriage, just like an arranged marriage basically. She said that she was nervous but excited. I could sense a little bit of fear in her eyes, but at the same time her excitement seemed genuine.

(If I say something that isn't true about Hinduism or their weddings, I apologize, I am speaking of my experience and the information that they gave me when I asked)

This Hindu wedding was four days long and it began that night. The bride has to be rubbed in dye seven times before the wedding and they pounded the dye and then began rubbing her in the dye. That night they had the beginning of their prayer service. The Pandit, similar to a priest, came and they had to place the flags in the ground. At major Hindu prayer services/events they have flags that are put up and then aren't taken down unless they come down naturally. The prayer service that night took place out on the road where they lite a fire. I really am not going to write much about the prayer service because I didn't understand - but at the end I was fed Mah Tai an AMAZING fried pastry. It was one of the best that I had ever had. They passed out enough Mah Tai and Parasat (Another indian sweet food) and we all sat around. After that Naameshwari came and gave me some more potato curry before I went to bed. We sat around and talked and then went to bed.

The sleeping situation was a little bit intense. We had one bed about a little bit smaller than a full size bed and well it was me, Naameshwari and her little six year old brother. We ended up having to sleep in some pretty awkward angles so that we weren't touch the net yet we weren't sleeping in a complete ball. Let me just say that I woke up quite a few times during the night. The end of night came early because I began to hear music playing around 5am. When I got up around 6:15 everyone was up and moving around the place. Cooking had already begun. I went and "bathed" again. After that I was given tea for breakfast. When people in Guyana say that they drink tea it does mean something hot but not necessarily just black tea. It could be coffee or hot milk... etc. Anyway, after that I went upstairs and just relaxed. People began getting ready for the next prayer service which is called a Jhandi.

(What is a Jhandi?::   Jhandi is a spiritual devotion done by Hindus and is very popular in Guyana and Trinidad though it's practiced by some communities in India also but not very popular there.
It is generally performed by a Pundit and there are singing of devotional songs and blessings asked for the one who initiates the ceremony.....and oh, yea. delicious puri and halwa (prasad) must be served after.)

 Anyway, I thought that the prayer services would be very interactive but really the only people who were involved were the mother, the bride and a few other girls who were watching closely. A lot of the people in the background were just watching and or continuing to cook. The one part that did involve other people was a small blessing with smoke. Different people would walk around with a pan full of different items and circle it around the person they were blessing. (Pictures below)

After the Jhandi I went upstairs to take a nap because I was exhausted since I didn't sleep much the night before. When I woke up I went downstairs and they were cutting up katahar (Katahar/Jackfruit - Click Me!). This was to be used in curry the next day. I was going to help but they all stopped me because I guess  it stains your fingers and they didn't want me to walk around with stained fingers. I keep offering but after a while I just sat there. Later on they began to make puri for the next day. Puri is a flat Indian bread that they were going to serve with sweet rice. (they also serve it will many other things)  I was standing around watching but after a few minutes they gave me a rolling pin and told me to "bail". I was made fun of a little bit out of kindness and then congratulated when I finally got one the right size and shape. After a few I stopped "bailing" the puri and started to flatten them with my hand so it was easier for the rollers to begin "bailing". I stayed with this job for probably an hour and half! My hands were exhausted when we finally finished.

That evening there was a large party at the house! Loud music, plenty of food, drinks and lots of fun was had! There was a ton of dancing and tons of noise. I didn't feel so well around 9pm and I went and laid down. I must have been exhausted from the heat and travel because I passed out until around 11:30 pm. The music was SO LOUD and I was completely asleep. After I went back down and the party was still going strong like I had missed nothing! I don't remember exactly when I went to bed but it was a late night.

The next morning I woke up around 6 to a lot of noise and went to bathe around 6:15. When I bathed I was made fun of for "waking up so late". I laughed because back home people (my crazy uncles who wake up at dawn) used to make fun of me for sleeping in, but I have never been made fun of for sleeping in until 6am!

The day of the wedding was craziness - people getting ready - music playing and lots of energy. The wedding was suppose to begin at 10:00 am and the people who were to get the bride ready weren't even there until 10:30. The wedding probably began a little bit before noon and was finished around one thirty. The wedding was not interactive with the crowd at all and like the day before it was like the wedding was going on in one place and everyone else was either spectating or doing their own thing. If you look below the pictures where the bride is in yellow is the actual wedding ceremony.

After the wedding the passed out SEVEN CURRY!! This was probably my favorite part of the whole wedding. Seven curry are seven different vegetable curries served at the end of a religious hindu ceremony called a jhandi. They are traditionally pumpkin, bagee (spinach), catahar, potato/ channa (chick peas), balange (eggplant) and edoe, dahl and mango.  It is also tradionally served on a water lily leaf and eaten with your fingers.

After the wedding there was a lot of dancing. During the wedding the bride was wearing a traditional Indian Shari and after the wedding she goes up and changes into a traditional wedding dress. When she is finished dressing she comes down and the whole grooms family plus the bride leave to go to the grooms house. The brides family stays at the house and parties all night even though she is gone.

This is exactly what we did, we hung out - partied and had fun. That night I went upstairs at one point to find Naameshawari and Darshini. They were laying on their bed talking on the phone. I laid down with them and we ended up chatting for a really long time. We had some really deep discussions about what it means to be different colors in skin and how sometimes even if you love someone you can't marry them because they aren't the same race. It was a beautiful thing to hear their deep concerns but also sad to think about the fact that they feel there are so many racial boundaries in this world. It made me really appreciate the small things in life - the conversations that help you to remember to feel alive.

When I went downstairs everyone was continuing to dance but I really was exhausted. There were many young children around and I found that young children are the perfect excuse to not having to dance. I picked up one little infant and her dad said how she doesn't normally like strangers so I was very happy when she sat with me for so long. I feel like offering to cook and playing with children is the best way to integrate yourself into the culture. I love small children.! :)

Monday morning the brides family has to go and collect back the bride from the grooms family. The bride comes back home and is returned to her husband the coming sunday when they will begin their life together. We got ready that morning to go and collect the bride. We had to collect her before 12 pm or the grooms family had the right to keep her until the next day.

I want to say that the trip to go and collect the bride was one of the most epic adventures ever. We had to all cram into cars like a bunch of sardines in a car. Then when we were driving they were playing Indian music so loud I don't think that I was even able to hear myself think. Once we had driven for a good 45 minutes one of the guys pulls over and asks the guy behind us if anyone knows where we are going. No one knows exactly the place we are going - but somehow we got into a store that knows where we are going and we end up being only about three miles away. By the time we get to the place everyone has somehow come together and I deem it a semi miracle.

When we got their they gave us stuff to drink and before we left we were fed more CURRY. Guyanese are always so hospitable and well, I was glad to have some more food and drink. This time we had mutton (lamb) curry. This was the first time I have ever had it - it tasted pretty good even though I was skeptical. After I had finished eating I saw that there was a bowl of stuff sitting on the table that looked pretty good. I asked one of the girls that I knew what it was and she said just taste it. She took a big spoonful and put some in my mouth. As I was chewing it I thought to myself: "Hmm... this does taste pretty good". When I asked her what it was she told me it was the guts of the lamb. I almost immediately started to vomit and it took every ounce of self control that I had to control my reaction. I walked away while coughing and was able to swallow the food I once thought was good. It shows you just how much your mind has control over your gag reflex.

After we collected the bride we made the long drive back to the house. The rest of the day was filled with more eating and hanging out. I was glad to just spend the day relaxing. I even had some food that wasn't all curry which was a nice change. Don't worry, there was still some curry involved, just not all curry.

Tuesday morning I woke up early and bathed. We helped to clean up and then we just hung out until lunch was done being cooked. They made duck curry for lunch. Normally I don't see the whole process but this time I was able to see the beginning, the live duck, and eat the end - a nice curry. I wasn't so sure how I felt about all of this because I had grown quite attached to the cute ducks but in the end at least it made a tasty lunch.

While I had some free time that morning I was lying on the bed upstairs talking with the bride. She showed me the little diary that she had and told me that I was free to read it. In one of her entries she was writing about how she wished more than anything that she could be close with God and that God would be close with her. She had such a deep desire for God and for the goodness of her family that it was very moving. For me this was a very eye opening experience because so often we write off other religions as if they don't have any truth or goodness. I had earlier also watched the brides mom sit and pray for the bride. It was such a beautiful thing. The desire for truth and beauty was so obvious it was hard for me to believe that God didn't hear their prayers just because they were Hindu.

I was talking to one of my friends about this experience and I was sharing with him how beautiful the world would be if all conversion of religion was focus around love rather than being right or wrong. The bride, her mother and all involved with this wedding wanted love to prevail through their lives. If only we could all focus on what our true desires are when it comes to religious motivations I feel there would be so many less arguments. We forget that ultimately we are searching for Love above all else. 

Leaving was sad but at the same time I was once again ready to get back to Georgetown. When I got back the rest of the week was spent greeting my new roommate Meg. She came into Georgetown early Wednesday morning and Audrey and I went to the airport to pick her up. She moved into our house friday night and things have been going smoothly since. I had to work during the day on Saturday but on Saturday afternoon I took her around town some and it was good to show her different things around town.

Unfortunately the last few days have been in and out of the hospital. On Saturday night I ended up breaking out in hives that basically have been coming and going. I have spent quite a number of hours at Mercy hospital. I don't need to give too many details but I do ask for your prayers. Pray that we are able to figure out what exactly I am allergic to and that it isn't something more serious. I have been sleeping a lot which is exactly what the doctors say that I need. This is my one trip out of the house to get back into the swing of things. I just keep staying positive and hope that these new meds will work! I hope next week to give you an update on the end of one year. Can you believe that I have already been in Guyana for a YEAR?!!

Know of my prayers for you.
Much Love,

Ashley Ann






My Henna

The Bride and her youngest brother

Naameshawari and Me!

Prayer Service Friday Night

Passing out Mai Thai and Parasat after the prayer service on Friday

Mai Thai!! :) AMAZING

Putting on my Shari for the Jhandi on Saturday morning!

Shari on!
Jhandi - Mother and Daughter praying with Pandit

This plate had a small fire and they would walk around and bless different people there, this was a small girl giving Darshini, my student, a blessing after the Jhandi 

My First serving of Seven Curry!

Sweet Rice - Rice, condensed milk, raisins and sugar!!

Making Puri

Look Mom! I can make Puri Now!

Frying the Puri over a large fire!

The garlic I was trying to break open did NOT want to cooperate!

Naameshawari, her Aunt, and Darshini

The bride dancing on Saturday night

The house where everything took place - from a distance!

My hair for the wedding!

Naameshawari getting ready for the wedding!

Naameshawari and her sister the bride, Shanta

Me and My Shari for the wedding

Cute Child at the wedding

Me and Naameshawari at the Wedding

Darshini's brother Latchman

Wedding!

Wedding Ceremony!


Beautiful Shari Design

Beautiful Bride

Brides smallest brother

Gotta love children!

Bride after wedding - leaving for the Grooms house!

Happy Couple!

Me and Naameshawari Again

Me and Darshini 

Picking up the bride at the grooms house Monday morning!

Bride returning to us!

Dancing at the Grooms house - There was always a lot of dancing!

Suriname!! I saw it - If you see the tree's in the distance - thats suriname!

6 comments:

  1. Amazing amazing amazing! Such a cool experience :) The pictures were great

    Hope you are feeling better!
    Love

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  2. As being an Indian, who is always curious to know about the descendants of Indian indentured labourers, I am very proud of these people who have still preserved the Hindu Culture. I saw all the photos, read all the articles and liked them very much. despite being isolated from India for centuries , they look more Hindustani than the Hindus of India.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm really impressed of this wedding ever since I witness one hindu wedding toronto. Their rituals are amazing especially the preservation of their cultures especially to those who are in foreign countries who are committed in their hindu religion and chose to have this kind of wedding.

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  4. I read above "Hindu Wedding" topic blog which have many beneficial information. Shaadi Choice offers thousands of the relevant Hindu religion profiles of the grooms and brides.

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