\nA Lambani Gypsy family. A Village in Karnataka, India. May 8th 2011. An arranged marriage.\nThis is an account of a gypsy tribal wedding in a tiny village that had more character than all of the opulent weddings that I have attended in mega-cities like Bombay and Singapore.\nI hope that the photographs and the verbal account transmits at least a fraction of the fun I had in those 2 days.\nThis is a trip I nearly cancelled because of the difficult logistics of traveling to and from the village by myself. But finally I made it.\n\n\nHad I not gone, I would never have known what I would have missed, therefore it would be wrong to say that I would have regretted it \u2026 but now that I have seen what I nearly missed, I am grateful for the factors that led me to make the decision I made!\nThe ride to the village took an hour on well maintained rural roads that ran through fields of sugar cane and other crops.\nVillage shots :\n\n\u00a0\n\n\u00a0\n\u00a0\n\nA woman in her home that lies along the road to the my destination\nThe men gathered to while away the hot afternoon in the village square\n\n\nKT is a hamlet of about 25 households, about 50 km outside Belgaum. It is one among the 50 or so villages that are home to only Lambani tribal gypsies settled in Karnataka. Although settled now, they were once gypsies and that culture still remains.\nThis is a \u201creal\u201d Indian village. One where there is a single tap from which pots are filled and carried away by the girls. One where nature\u2019s calls are answered under the trees lining the neighbouring fields. One where cows and bullocks are important members of the family. Where chaarpaay beds are brought out at night and everyone sleeps under the stars. Where the women wear all their wealth in the form of gold on their bodies \u2013 all the time. Where life is still lived in harmony with the earth.\nI am privileged to know a Lambani gypsy tribal Babu and it is at his invitation that I attended his son\u2019s wedding, as a resident guest in his home in the village.\nBabu the groom\u2019s father and my host \u2013 wearing a cap that is an influence absorbed from the neighbouring state Maharashtra\nI arrived on the evening before wedding and lived in the family home of the groom. I slept on the floor on a bed sheet that I had brought along and was given a sack-pillow. Wire connections were arranged and a table-fan was set up near my sleeping space. Nothing missing in the arrangements.\nThe \u2018shagun\u2019 or the carriers of good omen:\nA red cloth with rice and mango leaves tied to a pole outside the threshold of the groom\u2019s home\nA pot that will be used in the ceremonies covered with a gypsy textile, placed above the entrance of the groom\u2019s home\nTHE WEDDING MANDAP (Stage / Canopy) :\n\n\nConstructed in the hamlet square outside Babu\u2019s green home\nThis mandap cost Rs. 8000 (about USD 200) for 24hour usage including set-up\n\nTHE MUSIC:\nLoud music is another essential \u2013 so two providers were hired. One that played CDs with the latest Bollywood remixes on large speakers, and another live band with very good trumpet players, good drum players, a large casiotone player, a singer and the amplifying equipment and speakers on a cart. The live band therefore was mobile and was taken along on all the little processions. \nBoth music providers arrived on the evening before the wedding. And the night was filled with loud music. Dancing continued until 11pm, with all the family members, relatives and the few dozen children of the village having the time of their lives!\n\nThe groom\u2019s mother dancing in celebration\nTHE FOOD\nAs in every wedding all over the world food plays a major role in the celebration:\n\nThe dead branches brought in for cooking the wedding lunch\nThe menu: Roti, finger-licking good Brinjal Curry, Rice, Chana, amazing Gravy, Raita and sweet Boondi\n\nPreparing the feast\n\n\n\nPRE-WEDDING RITUAL\nOn the morning of the wedding\u00a0 a special Lambani amulet weaving is tied to the groom\u2019s waist\nThe groom and his family then proceed to the village deity a short distance away from the hamlet, carrying offerings and dancing as they go.\nThe offerings for the deity carried by family members\n\nNote the large speakers of the mobile band following the dancers\n\nThe groom dancing with colorful powder splattered on everyone during the procession\n\n\nMost dancing in folk life in India is not a male-female event and has little to do with the romance angle that is associated with dancing in the West. Children, old women, men all participate with equal fervour, either solo and with each other, irrespective of age or sex.\n\n\n\nTwo young men in a spontaneously coordinated step \nPraying at the temple with auspicious articles like betel nut leaves, coconut and a lamp\nTHE WELCOME AND THE SAMMAAN (RESPECT) CEREMONY\nFollowing the custom of the tribe, the bride\u2019s family \u2013 usually from another village \u2013 arrives at the village of the groom for the wedding. The groom\u2019s family then receive them formally at the entrance of the hamlet.\nThe sister of the groom carries the ceremonial pot to welcome them.The pot is decorated with auspicious items such as betel nut leaves, coconuts and also contains the jewelry to be given to the bride by the groom\u2019s family.\n\n\nAnother pot from a twin wedding that took place on the same day in the hamlet:\n\nTextiles articles of interest \u2013 an indhoni and a cowry pouch*\n\nThen, male members from both the bride and the groom\u2019s side sit across each other in two rows with the ceremonial pot placed in between.\nThe \u2018sammaan\u2019 ceremony consists of several steps \u2013 each perfromed by one of the male members:\nA member from the groom\u2019s family stands up, walks across to the bride\u2019s side, to wipe the forehead of each of the seated members with a wet betelnut leaf \u2013 in the spirit of cleansing.\nThen another member from the groom\u2019s side goes across to wipe the foreheads of the seated members with a dry napkin.\nThis is followed by the application of auspicious white powder by one of the host members onto the foreheads of the guest members.\nRed powder is then applied. Red powder signifies good fortune.\nRaw rice mixed with turmeric is then sprinkled on the heads of the guests. Rice signifies fertility & prosperity and the turmeric signifies good health.\nAnd finally the hosts feed each of the guests sugar \u2013 which signifies sweetness in all dealings.\n\nOnce the groom\u2019s side\u00a0 completes these rituals for the bride\u2019s family, the process is repeated identically in the reverse direction.\n\nWhile this ritual takes place, the young bride waits \u2013 shy and in tears at the prospect of leaving her family. She arrives in simple clothes and remains in these throughout the wedding ceremony. Once all the religious rituals are complete she changes into bridal finery.\u00a0 \n\n\nThe guests\u00a0 friends and relatives from all over have arrived and await the main wedding rituals.\n\u00a0 \n\nThe Sarpanch and 2 other members of the Panchayat (Local self government)\n\n\nThe bride and close family members are now led into the house of the groom. A small puja or worship service follows. \nThe groom now ties a wedding chain around the girl\u2019s neck \u2013 the mangalsutra which is a visible display of her marital status. This custom has probably been borrowed from the land in which they have settled.\n\nTHE WEDDING RITUAL\n In a Hindu wedding ritual, the bride and the groom take seven rounds around a holy fire. In the Lambani custom, the holy fire is replaced by the sacred thread.\nThe sacred thread is created in the following manner :\nTwo planks a placed parallel to each other and married women sit around these planks.\n\nThe priest first creates a paste of turmeric and water and hands small lumps of the paste to the women in seated in a circle around the planks.\n\nHe then unrolls a white twine and walks around the planks as he hands over the thread to the women.\n\nThey hold the thread and knead the yellow turmeric into thread.\n\n\n\nThe priest takes 7+7 rounds with the twine signifying the pheras of a wedding,\u00a0 creating 2 ropes each containing 7 threads,\u00a0 one for the bride and one for the groom.\nThis is done amidst tribal singing that has a unique flavor\n\nOnce the thread is prepared, the bride and the groom are called in and they take 7 rounds around this thread.\ntaking the 7 pheras with the bride following the groom\n\nFinally the couple sit on one of the planks and the priest ties the thread to the groom first and then to the bride. The yellow marital cord on another couple that was married 3 days prior to this wedding:\n\nThe groom now carries the bride\u2019s veil on his shoulder signifying their wedded role.\n\nWith this the ceremony is complete.\nThe mother-in-laws now pamper their new \u2018kids-in-laws\u2019 with the token preening gesture that is popular with Indian mothers i.e. pouring coconut oil into their ears and rubbing some into their hair.\n\nThe newly married couple now get dressed for the reception and arrive on the \u2018stage\u2019 for the garlanding ceremony.\n\nThe reception includes the custom of gift-giving \u201caccounts\u201d \u2026. a written account is maintained of the gift given to the couple by each family. Guests first queue up to wish the bride and the groom, and then queue up again at the accountant\u2019s desk who notes down the gift along with the name of the family giving the gift! This account is used in future reciprocal events to ensure parity.\nClose family members are then given a parting gift of a wrist-tie that includes a betel-nut leaf and a piece fo turmeric root :\n\n\nThe bride\u2019s family now brings in the \u2018assets\u2019 that have been negotiated at the time of arranging the marriage. In this case the inventory fell short of the negotiated list and a lively skirmish followed. It was soon settled with promises of balance delivery\u2026.\n\nAnd then they lived happily ever after !\n***\nWill add some notes based on the conversations I had with some elders that provides a deeper understanding of the Lambani customs.\n***\nThe cultural signatures or this group are almost identical to the signatures of Rabaris found in Kutch Gujarat and I strongly suspect that they share common origins. But more about that aspect in a separate article\u2026\nThe sad news is that the signature gypsy costume \u2013\u00a0 the mirror work head scarf and the hair-plait silver is seen only among the older generation. None of the younger girls use these articles. What is more disturbing is not the lack of use, but the failure to transmit the skills to make these articles to the new generation\u00a0 \u2013 and it will only take a single instance of not passing on a \u2018meme\u2019\u00a0 between 2 generations to render this culture extinct! In the next twenty years, many of the articles of this culture may not be seen anymore!\nArt portraits of Gypsy Lambani women are exhibited on jainamishra.com\njm\nMay 2011\n* click here to see similar antique\u00a0 indhonis and cowrie pouches on wovensouls.com\n\nThe post Invitation to a Lambani Gypsy Tribal Wedding appeared first on The Art Blog by WOVENSOULS.COM.