Tag Archives: Janthi

Monsoon Wedding V- Groom’s Celebrations

After the Swayambar, it is time for the wedding ceremonies to shift from the bride’s side to the groom’s side. This shift starts with the “pita biee” (in Newari) or Bidaai– saying goodbye to the bride. This is quite an emotional ceremony (especially when everyone is exhausted because they had two hours sleep after a nearly all night wedding program), because traditionally this is the last time the bride is at her house as a regular member of the household and not as a wife visiting from another home.

R still manages to be beautiful despite her undoubted exhaustion. I guess it makes it easier to look sad and serious.

The bride and groom are ritually fed (Sagun) before their journey (which is usually not so long since many people in the Kathmandu Valley marry others in KTM, but R had to travel 4 hours away by car to Chitwan!)

Near the end of the Bidaai the bride is led by her family to the groom's awaiting entourage. Tears flow freely. Here R is hugging her brother good bye, while her tearful mother leads her to the car's open door.

Tucking her into the car

I jumped in the car with the bride and groom and was given the job of protecting the bride’s new wedding jewelry in a little case from “bandits” we might encounter on the winding road between Kathmandu and Chitwan. S laughed it off, saying that Kathmandu-ites don’t know what life outside the valley is like, but I made sure to keep the wedding bling close at hand along the route.

A little more than halfway through our journey the wedding entourage stopped for refreshments. Even though the monsoon rains had started right before the wedding began (bringing a bit of relief from the sweltering heat of the pre-monsoon summer), Chitwan is known for its heat (hence my shorter dress, rather than longer sari–poor mzungu).

P and I are to the far left. R and S are in the middle, surrounded by other friends

Once we arrived in Chitwan the janthi (return of the janthi!) started to gather at S’s old elementary school on the outskirts of town. Those of us who participated in the original janthi were joined by legions of S’s relatives, neighbors and family friends who couldn’t make the trip to KTM. As the janthi time approached we swelled to quite the crowd.

S triumphantly returned to his home city atop a regal horse, while R was loaded into the flower draped basket from which S originally departed the city, and was carried along the janthi procession. The marching band (with the long round horns) led the way.

R peeks out from her veiled basket at the janthi procession

R and S in the janthi crowd

S assured us that Chitwan was much cooler since the rain had come than it had been before (during his own wedding prep time), but it was still unbearably hot and humid. As part of a massive, dancing, pulsing crowd, our sweaty bodies squeezed together in the celebratory chaos, the temperature was suffocating– but it didn’t stop the revelry. Some of S’s uncles bought cold beers to pass along the janthi procession to refresh the crowd while the city seemed to stop and watch the entertainment of our entourage.

Crazy dancing... yep, the pale one is me

Wedding processions-- a spectator sport

One of the most interesting aspects of the procession was the ingenuity of the lighting. Since there wasn’t proper street lighting, the procession was lit by electric tube lights strung together and held atop people’s heads in wooden boxes, and powered by a wagon drawn generator.

I was told that the procession wasn’t so far… only a kilometer or two, but if that was the case, it was one of the longest kilometers of my life. The entourage processed slowly. Every time one of us tried to break to the front of the janthi for a breath of fresh air one of S’s uncles would tell us to walk slower, dance more, so that the janthi had more time to celebrate and clog the streets before arriving at S’s family home.

As we approached, S’s mother (seeing the wedding procession for the first time) meet the janthi party outside the front door holding a lantern and a metal platter with welcoming prasad. R’s basket was placed on the ground and S’s mother waved the platter in front of R in a gesture of welcoming, helped R out of the basket, and gestured for her to go inside. It was all pretty remarkable. It struck me how nerve wracking the experience could be. R had the advantage of knowing S’s immediate family quite well, and she had friends (us!) along for the ride, but everything else was new– new city (she had never been to Chitwan before), a sea of new faces, new relatives, new family traditions. Not to mention she was probably utterly (utterly!) exhausted by this point. I couldn’t help but think, wow, how brave.

Anmaune-- welcoming the new bride to the groom's home. I blocked out R's face for privacy reasons, but if you could see her eyes you would know how tired she looked

We were such good friends, that we abandoned the couple for the next 12 hours. The group of us (from the picture above) headed to Chitwan National Park to go on an early morning elephant safari and see some wild rhinos.

Views from the top of an elephant... two wild rhinos

While we were gone on safari, the wedding rituals for the new couple continued with early morning pujas at the temple. Remember… it’s ungodly hot, but as per tradition, the new bride has to wear the groom’s family’s clothing (that they purchased for her), and new brides are supposed to be kept covered–meaning long sleeves and shawls. Poor R was boiling.

At his family temple, S again ritually applies sindoor to R's scalp, this time in S's family's style... one end of the white cloth is touching a god, the other end touching R's forehead. S sprinkled sindoor powder from the god, across the white cloth up to R's forehead. S's mom, pointing at the cloth, explains the procedure.

At last, the groom’s reception. Being the chivalrous guy that he is, S spoke up to his family about R wearing the heavy long sleeved wedding sari in the heat. The family compromised, R could wear her family’s lighter weight sari if she wore a shawl with it.

Friends

and Family. The groom's family gifts matching saris to all the women in the janthi-- so all the family members have the same look. Even though I was part of the janthi, I cheated, and S bought me a sari of my choosing (the green one).

After three days in Chitwan, it was time to leave. R had to settle into her new “home” (although, in name only since she lives in the US) and get to know her new extended relatives. P, myself and the others journeyed back on the four hour long winding road up into the hills and into the KTM valley.

Only one major wedding ritual left… Mukh Herne.

Monsoon Wedding Part III- It’s Janthi Time…

Prior to the “actual” wedding (Swayambar), P and I were hanging out with the bride’s family and watching the bride’s family’s preparations. But S’s family had lots of prep happening back in his home as well. One reason we didn’t get to visit with him during the prep stage was because S’s family is from a city outside of the KTM valley– a four hour hair-pin-turn-winding car trip up and out of the valley and down to the “terai” or the flat plains that border India.

Pujas and Prepping in Chitwan

S's relatives make the wedding garland out of grass

S's family prepare to send S, his father (sitting right of S) and a few family representatives to Kathmandu to bring the new wife home.

The entire family did not accompany S to his wedding in Kathmandu. Only his father, and a few family representatives– an uncle, some aunties, some cousins– were sent with the groom. That meant that his mother didn’t have a chance to attend S’s actual wedding. She had to stay home and prepare the house for the arrival of the new bride. The groom’s procession known as the “janthi” left Chitwan early in the morning.

S is carried through the street (like a king!) to the edge of town to start the procession. From what I understand this "carrying through the streets" isn't a common thing, but I think R and S were inspired by Bollywood movies :)

After S’s already long journey from the stifling hot and sticky terai, P and I met back up with S a few blocks away from R’s house in KTM. The janthi (groom’s procession) congregated under a tent (with snacks and drinks, of course) before heading out in a noisy, chaotic, traffic clogging parade to the bride’s house. I was teased because I kept hopping back and forth between the groom’s side and the bride’s side (someone said, “who are you representing… pick one and stick with it”) but I was having too much fun.

A more traditional marching band that came all the way from Chitwan to KTM for the janthi. These types of bands are not as common in the valley, and so the janthi wound up having two bands-- the more traditional (from Chitwan with the long horns) and then a more modern (from KTM which played Bollywood songs rather than Nepali folk songs)

S's aunty puts a finishing touch (tikka) on S before the janthi set out on it's final leg before arriving on the bride's doorstep!

In the picture above S is wearing the traditional male wedding outfit. The fabric that he is wearing (dhaka fabric) is handwoven and very specific to Nepal. He is also sporting a Nepali topi (hat) that men are suppose to wear for special/formal occasions as well as for official photographs (such as a national id photo). After an aunty applied the finishing touches, S was loaded into the flower draped groom’s car to anchor the janthi procession.

These next few pictures are some of my favorite from the janthi procession. The camera lighting was great…

S's dad assesses the janthi

I happily join the janthi as we crowd out the busy KTM street...

The groom's car

Eventually I jumped in and joined the groom, playing the roll of "sister" as we ride together through the chaos for the last few feet to R's doorstep

The janthi has arrived!

I guess one way to feel like a rock star in Nepal is to be a groom arriving janthi style!

The janthi arrived and was welcomed by the bride’s family and friends. The bride, however, was tucked away inside the house with her grandmother, aunties and cousins. She wasn’t allowed to see the groom until the start of the “actual” wedding– the Swayambar. The date and time of the swayambar is set by an astrologer based on the bride and groom’s star charts. The most auspicious timing for R and S was 2 o’clock in the morning! It is at that time that the groom puts the sindoor on the part in the bride’s hair and the couple is officially considered married.

So after dinner, those who were not willing to wait until the wee hours of the morning for the rest of the ceremony departed for home. P and I were among those who hankered down to wait for 2am to arrive.

R's grandmother keeps her company upstairs until 2am. She's still in a red sari, waiting to change into her more elaborate red wedding sari