Wedding Guests Getting Their Mehendi Done
With slight pressure a string of thick brown henna paste escapes from the tip of the mehendi artist’s cone shaped tube. He flicks his wrist forward and retracts it slowly, leaving a trail of swirls behind. Over the span of ten minutes the bigger picture has formed from his calculated crafting as a floral pattern blossoms all over the wedding guest’s hand, waiting to dry and fade to a darker shade.
Dance Performances at the Sangeet (Pre-Wedding Party)
A five course vegetarian fusion meal was served at the pre-wedding dinner party, with dishes such as ‘Feta Quennels Sundried Tomato Makhni, Water Chestnut and Kalonji Kulcha’ being served. Theatre runs in the blood of the bride and she put together a series of entertaining dances, funny anecdotes and sincere speeches for her very own wedding party. Here her high school friends from UWC Hong Kong have come together to put together a very sexy and energetic Bollywood number (of course)!
A Rainbow Shower of Neon Lights at the Sangeet (Pre-Wedding Party)
Every flick of the wrist and thrust of the hip is electrified and sharpened under a rainbow shower of neon lights, as her university friends from Rose Bruford College in London put together an incredible dance performance.
The Groom Getting Into the Groove at the Sangeet (Pre-Wedding Party)
The groom is not to be left out of all the dancing goodness, and gets into the groove on stage amidst celebratory cheers and festive lights.
Ganesha, the Elephant God of Intellect and Remover of Obstacles
Considering the vastness of the Hindu pantheon, Ganesha holds a lot of weight being one of the most popular gods within it. Easily recognisable with his elephant head, he represents the intellect and is the remover of obstacles. All Hindu ceremonies begin with the Ganesha puja (prayer) seeking his blessings.
No Shoes Allowed Within the Main Altar Area
Footwear is to be removed before entering the main altar area where the wedding ceremony is taking place, as a sign of respect to the divinity to whom prayers are being dedicated to.
Guests From All Over the World
Guests from all over the world and of different nationalities have come to attend the wedding, and are spread out all over the garden and ceremony grounds. They observe the religious rituals either close up, or from large display screens which the bride had specially requested for, usually only set up for large religious festivals.
Splendid Colours Complete With a Winning Smile
The bride is dressed in a happy coloured saree with splendid gold embroidery. A garland of jasmine hangs around her neck and she is adorned in an assortment of gold and precious jewellery. She flashes a winning smile for all the cameras eager to capture a memory of the colourful festivities.
The Father of the Bride Participating in the Wedding Ceremony
The father of the bride is dressed for the religious wedding ceremony where he gives away the hand of his daughter to the groom, who is considered as the form of the great Lord Vishnu (the Preserver) in India. Their daughter is the greatest gift the bride’s parents can offer, and offering Vishnu a gift is the biggest honour for them.
The Portrait of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Watching Over the Wedding Ceremony
The portrait of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar watches over the entire wedding ceremony. He is the spiritual leader and founder of the Art of Living Foundation where the ceremony was being held, and was named as the fifth most powerful leader in India by Forbes Magazine.
The Bride Dressed in Wedding Finery
The bride dressed in all her wedding finery, gamely smiling for the flood of cameras directed her way while the religious wedding ceremony goes on.
The Vedic Priest Conducting the Wedding Rituals
The groom is dressed in white and adorned with gold and flowers while the Vedic priest, who is an expert in the Vedas (the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and Hindu scriptures) on the right leads them through the wedding ceremony which lasts for hours.
Guests Seated Within the Ceremonial Hall
The wedding guests are all dressed in gorgeous coloured sarees and kurtas; black and white is to be avoided. Only the closest friends and family members are invited to the actual wedding ceremony itself, which still amounted to about 400 guests. These are the lucky ones who have managed to secure a seat within the ceremonial hall, where they can watch the rituals unfold right before their eyes.
Breakfast is Served
The wedding ceremony began at 07:30. Coffee and tea was freely available, and the guests were well taken care of with breakfast being served buffet style while the ceremony went on for the next few hours. I walked with an empty plate down the aisle and emerged pleasantly surprised with dollops of sweet, salty and spicy.
The Vishalakshi Maptap – Focal Point of the Ashram
The Vishalakshi Mantap, named after Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s mother, is the focal point of the ashram where everyone comes together to attend various courses and to participate in satsangs (religious gatherings). The architecture, which was conceived by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and built by over 7000 workers and volunteers, comprises of a glass dome that sits atop Asia’s tallest kalash (pot). The Purna-Kalasha (entire pot arrangement itself) is considered a symbol of abundance and the “source of life”.
An Indian Lady at the Ashram
An Indian lady gazes away from the meditation hall, looking to be deep in thought.
The Future Vedic Priests of the Agama Pathshala Gurukul
Students of the Agama Pathshala Gurukul dressed in white exit the meditation hall. They come from all over India and train for five years at the ashram to become vedic priests, with the ancient Agama scriptures as their foundation.
Sevaks (Volunteers) Serving Lunch at the Ashram
Many types of seva (volunteer service) opportunities are available at the ashram including kitchen related work. Wedding guests have been seated behind long rows of tables at Annapurna, the relatively new dining hall and kitchen at the ashram, while these men walk down scooping a variety of dishes out of metal buckets and depositing them onto the banana leaf plates.
Vegetarian Food Served on Banana Leaf Plates
The food served is Sattvik (food that induces a calm mind), and are all vegetarian dishes and sauces which have been sourced from the ashram’s own gardens. The lunch organiser instructs us to wash our banana leaves with water, and I diligently obey by drenching my plate and wiping it clean with tissue paper, much to the amusement of my Indian neighbours. They explain that what she meant was just to sprinkle some water onto the leaf in preparation, while I was in the process of colouring my tissue papers a fresh muddy brown.
A Grand Affair at the Bangalore Palace
Tables have been spread out all over the spacious grounds of the Bangalore Palace and guests are free to sit wherever they please. Both location and guests are dressed to the nines and rows of food stalls serve up hot dishes and snacks of exotic flavours, while a neverending queue snaked away from the ice cream stall. The grand festivities and sheer number of guests evoked a royal atmosphere, and for a moment I could imagine myself participating in a medieval carnival at the Palace.
The Smell of Food and the Sound of Music Fills the Air
Wedding guests merrily flit from stall to stall sampling various delicious wares, while festive music from a mix of modern and traditional instruments fill the air.
Queueing For a Picture with the Newlyweds
The newlyweds stand on the elaborate stage for hours with their immediate family members, as guests get in line for a picture and to present their gifts.