\u2018Luck by Chaanus\u2019* was on our side Mr. V.bhai \u2013 my self appointed guide for the day \u2013 declared observing that we had just witnessed two pre-wedding rituals an hour apart from each other. (Luck-by-chance \u2013 one of the cutest Indlish phrases has many phonetic variations each following the phonetic pattern of the native language of the speaker \u2013 it means just plain & simple luck or serendipity. Also known as probability or God)\nWe had made our way through a village and stopped at two \u2018wedding homes\u2019 (\u2018lagan nu ghar\u2019 \u2013 which has no equivalent phrase in English because there is no cultural equivalent) one after the other about 2 hours apart. And we were fortunate to have witnessed the main ceremony of the day in both the homes. Had we taken the counter-route and changed the sequence of visitation, we would have missed the ceremony in both the homes. \u2018Luck by Chaanus\u2019 was definitely our side.\nI was in Kutch, Gujarat. This was my third trip \u2013 timed to coincide with dates that were considered auspicious for wedding ceremonies by a particular sub-tribe of a large gypsy tribe in the region.\nAnd so we set off early to visit villages in search of a wedding.\nMr. V a handsome senior citizen and great grandfather was himself a Rabari gypsy having herded goats. sheep and camels across 3 states for decades. He did not know a soul in the villages we were visiting. But Indian villages are very hospitable even to strangers and here we had Mr. V \u2013 a tribesman leading us into their world.\nAt the entrance of every village was a tree with a large cement slab on which old men congregated, sat and spent lazy afternoons on as they discsussed important matters such as the new beedi shop and the cow that had recently given birth.\n\nMr. V shook hands every single man on the slab \u2013 not in the Western way \u2013 but by holding both hands lightly. He\u2019d give a summary of his identity \u2013 his village, his tribe and his name and all the distant connections with this village \u2013 e.g. his brother\u2019s wife\u2019s cousin\u2019s father-in-law\u2019s sister was from this village \u2013 were mentioned to forge the bonding. Everyone was now comfortable with everyone else and I was a mere woman so I did not seem like a threat to anyone and so did not merit much of a mention. If anyone was curious about me and asked who I was, I was explained as someone who was visiting from Mumbai. And when I spoke their language \u2013 I was asked which village in Gujarat I hailed from. The few words and smiles we exchanged created a bridge that led me into their lives.\nA bunch of playful boys hung out near the tree and the resting slab under the watchful gaze of the elders.\nA little 4 yr old curious boy Deepak initiated a conversation with us and was appointed the guide for teh village tour. He walked us to the first wedding home about 400 meters into the village.\n[pictures and videos below are taken from both the wedding homes]\nAcross the compound wall made of stone, a little crowd could be seen and women could be heard singing. I waited for Mr. V to go inside and repeat the process of introductions. He was invited to sit with the hosts and join the wedding by the men who had never seen him before that day. Again, no one cared about my guarded quiet unobtrusive presence even though I was obviously an alien there. Slowly with every passing minute I began to feel the indifference change into acceptance \u2013 and when they invited me to sit with the elders and offered me water I was delighted. And then my grinning and chatting and clicking started!\nI am happiest among these beautiful tribal people. And relish every moment of their lives that they graciously share with me.\nAn account of my experiences :\nThe yard is divided into several distinct areas.\n\n\n\n\n\nThe shade of the tree provides the natural spot for seating while the preparations take place.\nThe men sit around chatting and discussing matters over shared beedis. Supari & sweet anise mouth fresheners are passed around at regular intervals.\n\n\nOld women mind the little children across on a chaarpaayi \u2013 or rope-n-bamboo cot.\nTwo corners are allocated for cooking and the area near the entrance is occupied by singing women.\n\nCOOKING THE FEAST\nWomen have gathered around to cook the feast. At one end of the yard rice and dessert (Sewai) are being cooked in large pots and in another Puris are being rolled and fried. Drywood is being used as fuel \u2013 a great eco-friendly choice!\n\nSINGING\nOlder women who no longer have to bear the harder jobs \u2013 gather together in a circle to sing wedding songs.\n\n\nTURBAN CEREMONY\nThis is the most important ritual of the day and has immense social significance. The turban is a symbol of self respect, dignity and pride. Disrespecting or lowering the dignity of this article of dress is equivalent to doing that to the owner of that turban.\nThe bride\u2019s father, on the eve of the wedding ceremony takes the turban off his own head and places it on the groom\u2019s \u2013 signifying that the honor of the bride\u2019s family is now in the hands of the groom and his family. By placing his own turban on that of the groom, he is also stating symbolically that the groom is now in a higher position in the social ladder than the bride\u2019s father.\nAnd so the men gathered around, including the mother\u2019s brother and the father of the bride, prepare the turban by twisting a cloth that is 21 hands long. (1 hand = the distance between the elbow and the finger tips)\n\n\n\n\nAfter twisting, this is then wrapped around to create an independent turban.\n\n\nOnce the last step of fixing the turban ends is taken care of, the turban is ready and we all wait for the right signal for the ceremony to begin.\nThe groom is first led into the home by the mother & grandmother of the bride. But first there is an elaborate welcome ceremony at the entrance. The head of the groom is covered by a sash held by two little assistants while his\u00a0 to-be-mother showers him with sindoor/roli for good fortune, turmeric powder for good health and rice grains for fertility. She then shakes off any evil eye cast upon him with currency notes and paan leaves in the \u2018nazar utaaro\u2019 ritual.\n\n\n\n\nThe video below (taken with a phone in one hand and a heavy camera in another) is shaky but conveys the atmosphere of the welcome ceremony at the second home.\n\nThe groom or the \u201claada\u201d steps into the inner room and waits for the arrival of the bride\u2019s father or maternal uncle.\n\nThe father of the bride is now ready to lay down his honor wrapped up in his turban at the mercy of the groom\n\nHe enters, approaches the groom, says to him that his honor now rests with the groom, takes off his turban and places it on the head of the groom.\nThe groom is too young to understand the implications of this ritual and smiles in glee at having received an article of clothing \u2013 which is all it means to him \u2013 but the\u00a0 look on the face of the father tells me that the social significance of this act is not lost on him.\n\n\n\nThe ritual is over and the Laada steps out with his new turban.\n\nIt is now time to eat.\nI had a plane to catch later so we could not stay for the lunch feast.\nIt didn\u2019t matter \u2013 because my soul was brimming with the fulfilment of\u00a0 the experience of yet another tribal wedding!\nMore article on the Kutch listed here.\njm\nAugust 2012\nThe post A Rabari Gypsy Tribal Wedding Ritual appeared first on The Art Blog by WOVENSOULS.COM.