All these gods to sort out is taxing work. What we need now is a little light relief. Even the craftsmen building the temples ten centuries ago felt the same way. They spent their days, their weeks, their years, carving incredibly beautiful statues of the gods out of one of the hardest rocks on the planet, and each of these columns is carved from a single block of stone.
It was long hours of hard tedious work, so it is hardly surprising that they allowed a little fantasy to enter into their carvings. It started with nothing more harmless than carving large voluptuous goddesses
But they could hardly make all their female gods that size, so they progressed to giving normal sized goddesses amazingly large, well shaped and remarkably perky breasts
Emboldened by their success they went even further. But they tried to be discreet about it. They carved the statue of the god and then added a little entertaining vignette at the bottom
But in the end they lost all sense of decorum and just went for it.
Sex doesn’t enter into Christianity, other than the instructions as to when it is a sin. Christians always seem embarrassed by sex. It is necessary if a couple want to have children, but entirely unnecessary if it is just for pleasure. Hindus on the other hand even have auspicious days for it, although I have yet to find out how many auspicious days there are in, say, a week and whether they still have sex on unauspicious days, and if they do is it bad sex? Those are all questions I would like to have answered, but I haven’t quite found the right person to ask! As a Christian I am of course too embarrassed.
I mentioned “auspicious days” to you in an earlier blog and promised to tell you more about them. Well, it seems that the Indians have auspicious days for just about everything. They decide what is an auspicious day by where the sun is in relation to the moon and where the stars are. But I can’t work out where the sun has to be for good sex, and where it has to be for good business. You have to admit, it would be very useful to know. I guess I could keep having sex and grading it, and then note where the sun is on the day I get a good grade assuming, that is, that I get a good grade. But that does rather limit it to daytime sex and then only when the sun is out. It all sounds a little much for a good Christian. But thank goodness I am not one.
So, once sex is out of the way we can move on to marriage. And there are of course auspicious days for getting married, and the Hindus pay great attention to this. It is very important to get married on an auspicious day because that will insure you will have a long and happy marriage. A charming idea if a little naive. January apparently is almost devoid of auspicious days for marriage, but February is choc a block with them. Every town we visit seems to have marriages going on everywhere.
A Hindu marriage is an excuse for a big two day party. It is a riot of colour and noise. It starts with a street procession and fireworks on the eve of the wedding. The entire wedding party slowly makes its way down the street with a band playing and everyone stopping periodically to dance. It ends at a wedding hall where an elaborate dinner is laid on followed by more dancing. They definitely know how to throw a good wedding party.
The next day the wedding is held in the hall followed by a meal. It is important to make the entire two days as elaborate as possible as everyone judges how much money a family has by the size of the wedding. And there is nothing more frightening than being judged by friends and family. To add to the family pressure much attention is paid to the amount of gold jewelry the bride and two mothers are wearing. Consequently the more wealthy families come laden down with bracelets bangles and beads all polished to glisten under the lights of the wedding hall, and catch the eye of the envious guests.
Ragu asks if we would like to attend a wedding.
Of course we would, but how? Ragu says “leave it me”.
Weddings are big business so each town has purpose built wedding halls that can be rented for the occasion. We drive from one hall to another looking for a suitable looking party. We find one that meets all Ragu’s criteria and he parks right in front. Leaving us in the car he wanders into the pre-wedding party. After a few minutes he emerges with a well dressed man, tall and balding and around 50 years old. He is the uncle of the groom and the one responsible for organizing everything. They seem to be having quite an animated discussion. Ragu points at us several times but doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Finally the man comes over to the car. I realise that we are being inspected. I wind the window down and give him my highest megawatt smile. Usually when I use that amount of power people drop to their knees in adoration. (comments not needed or appreciated, thank you) But he stays standing. He doesn’t return the smile and doesn’t say a word. He looks us both up and down and then returns to Ragu. It isn’t going well
Moments later Ragu returns, opens the car door and says “You’re invited”
We are stunned and tell Ragu he is amazing. He beams back at us. I don’t mention that it was my 100 megawatt smile that did it.
Ragu says that he is a little disappointed that it is not a better wedding. They are just middle class, he sniffs. And this from a man who sleeps in his car every night.
Ragu then drops a bomb. It is customary for all guests to take a gift, so we must take one. But it is now 10 o’clock at night and the wedding starts at 9.30 in the morning. Ragu has an answer for everything. He suggests we give them some American money in an envelope. How much money we ask rather nervously. We don’t want to seem cheap, nor do we want to empty our coffers for people we don’t know
Ragu assures us that they won’t know American money and they won’t try and change it. They will keep it as a special gift given to them by their American guests. We decide if that is the case then we will give them one note of each denomination we have as a keepsake
We are also worried about what to wear. We have nothing smart. But as it turns out, nor do any of the other guests. Actually the women are dressed to the nines. They have on their best silk saris, the bright jewel tone colors shimmering in the light. They have jasmine flowers in their hair and their best jewelry. They look and smell fabulous. The men do not. Many of them are wearing jeans, T shirts and flip flops. What is it about men? Why are they happy for their women to take so much pride in their appearance while they take so little?
The wedding hall is packed and the noise is unbelievable. Everyone is talking but they are drowned out by a band playing incredibly loud Indian music.
We notice some of the older guests have ear plugs. We wish we had them. As we look for seats, everyone turns to look at us. It is quite unnerving, but soon they are all smiling and bobbing their heads from side to side. Some even come to shake our hands. It makes us feel quite at ease, for a while anyway.
The groom is a tall dashingly handsome man who has clearly taken as much time with his appearance as his bride.
Most Indian women are small but he has found one of Amazonian proportions. She is taller than he and probably weighs in at a pretty similar weight. Neither of them looks happy and throughout the ceremony they never look at each other once. We have learned that it is an arranged marriage and suspect that their first meeting was 20 minutes before the ceremony
The ceremony takes place on a stage. The band plays louder and louder. It is a wonderful spectacle. The Fabulosity Meter is really appreciating it. There are two priests who look strangely out of place dressed as they are, wearing nothing but a small sheet held up by a sash. First they bless each set of parents, then the groom and bride.
Sadly most of the event is ruined for the guests by the five photographers hired by the family who all stand in front of the ceremony. Then they open those large white umbrella things. It is very annoying.
At the end of the ceremony, the music reaches an ear splitting crescendo, while the bride and groom give each other two amazingly beautiful spectacular garlands. They both look magnificent but miserable. (Ed: Or it could be stage fright!)
Once the ceremony is over the bride and groom receive all their guests. They line up one side of the stage and one by one cross the stage, hand the couple their gift, quickly have their photograph taken and move on. Ragu tells us we must join the queue. We had no idea we were supposed to do this. Everyone else has large beautifully wrapped gifts and we have an envelope. We are beyond embarrassed, but we take our place at the end of what has become a long queue. The uncle spots us and takes us by the hand and leads us to the front of the queue explaining to the other guests that we are visitors from America. That beyond embarrassment feeling has just tripled. We feel awful, but everyone just smiles and waves at us. We are lead across the stage to the unhappy couple.
It is immediately apparent that neither of them knows anything about us. He has an expression on his face that clearly translates to “WTF! Who are these people?”. We hand him the envelope. He makes a brave effort to smile, while she looks as if she would rather be anywhere but here. Meanwhile all five cameramen descend upon us.
We are forced to stand there for several minutes while photos are taken of us with the couple from every angle. Once the official photographers have finished the guests all push their way onstage to take more photos. We suddenly realise how Ragu got us invited. The uncle has scored a coup. We are the star attraction. This family can boast that they have American friends, and they have photos and American money to prove it
We may have been used, but in the best way, and it has been a great experience. The father of the groom comes across to meet us. He is absolutely charming. He very kindly invites us to join them at the wedding meal later that day.
But we can’t intrude any longer.
We leave them to enjoy their celebrations and their coup.