I have just come back from photographing a rural wedding in Madhya Pradesh. It was such an incredible experience that will stay with me forever. It was fascinating enough living with a rural Indian family for three days and is the kind of insight to Indian life that most visitors can only dream of. But the wedding itself was just like nothing I have ever witnessed before. There were so many stages, with various intimate religious ceremonies, that just when I thought it was over a new ceremony would start. In fact it lasted all through the night; finally ending at 11am the next day with the extremely emotional departure of the bride to join her husband’s family, with a truck following their car with all her belongings inside.
As appears to be the norm in rural India, it was an arranged marriage, and she seems to have married into a respectable family (of the same Brahman caste) living just a few miles away. The groom looked handsome and kind, and at 20 years of age is just 3 years older than her. So as arranged marriages go I think she has probably been very fortunate. But it was heartbreaking for her to leave her family (all 30 members of it living in two adjoined houses) to effectively belong to a new family, that of her husband. I observed how close the women were so she was leaving behind dear sisters, aunts, cousins plus young nieces and nephews that she will have helped to bring up. It was so upsetting for everyone to see how distraught she was to go that even the men of the groom’s family were crying and hugging each other.
Of all the aspects of the very long chain of events constituting the wedding; the sight of this beautiful young bride being carried to her husband’s car, sobbing and wailing, will stay with me the most.