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A South-Indian Hindu Wedding
and other adventures in India

Singapore | Home and Family | Wedding and Reception | Mamallapuram Temple

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We stopped in Singapore for a 12-hour layover and met some family friends.  The hightlight was visiting this very special Buddhist temple known by some as "the temple of a thousand Buddhas."

This shrine has 1000 Buddhas! 

  Can you see us here?

Home and Family

Visiting in the drawing room with family. The paintings on the wall were all done by Vinesh's talented Amma.
A comfortable dining room. Note the stainless steel dishes, and the laundry hanging to dry in the background.

The guestroom where we stayed.  The door in the center leads to the rest of the house.  The bedroom had a nice balcony looking out to the front of the house.  Note the cool marble floors that are essential to a hot climate.
Americans living in India!
Amma and I went shopping one day and bought a zoo of terra cotta animals. The paintings behind her are called Tanjore paintings. They are 3-d type paintings with texturing, gold leaf, and jeweled inlay. The ones in this photo were done by Amma.

Vinesh and his mother in the kitchen. She uses a countertop gas stove to make her masterpiece dishes.

Wedding and Reception

Vinesh with one of his many aunties, who came early to help with the wedding.
The aunties decorated all the silver lamps for the wedding. This is a picture of Vinesh's great aunt polishing a traditional silver oil lamp.  I  received one after the wedding that belonged to Vinesh's grandmother as is the tradition.  I now  light it in our home to continue the family tradition.
The Indian version of the wedding band came from the village the day before the wedding.  They sat right outside the front door and  made quite a racket late into the evening to let everyone know of the upcoming wedding.
In the late afternoon the wedding crew set transformed Vinesh's family's house into a wonderland.  They erected the red gate, banana trees, a festive cloth barrier around the whole house, and strings of white and orange jasmine everywhere.  Inside, they constructed a wooden platform and made a canopy of jasmine.   It smelled heavenly! This photo was taken after the wedding.
The afternoon before the wedding, I went to the home of some mehendi artists to get my hands and feet decorated.
Here is a close-up of them putting the henna paste on. It dries to a hard crust, then is scrapped off some hours later. Oil and mentholatum are applied to make the color come out overnight.
Tradition says that the brigher the henna comes out, the more the husband loves her. My husband must love me a whole lot!
Here is a close-up of my feet. It's a shame that this only lasts about 10 days.
The wedding began long before the sun comes up.  While Vinesh and I were getting ready, the ceremonies had already begun.  The musicians woke up the neighborhood and the birds soon joined in to make a very festive atmosphere.  Here, the married ladies of the family (and the priest) are doing puja to the plantain tree. Even after the trunk is cut down, the roots of this tree will spring up to form new trees. This tree represents the strength of family and is tied to the post of the wedding canopy.
Vinesh washed his parents' feet to show respect for them. He adorned their feet with milk, honey, sandalwood paste, gold coins, and the sacred flame, much like it is done in temples to the deities.   Indian children are taught at a young age to respect adults.  They are taught to touch their elders' feet as a sign of respect.  Then Amma and Appa tossed unbroken rice over his head to represent prosperity and wealth.
While I was being dressed upstairs,  Vinesh played part in a traditional drama.  He symbolically became angry at me and walked outside the gates. He was followed by his cousin Siddarth, who calmed him by washing his feet and adorning them with the sacred elements.  In this way, Vinesh released all his anger towards me and will never again walk away from me in anger. Siddarth's role is often played by a younger brother.  I was sorry to miss this part!
Siddarth then held an umbrella over Vinesh to show that he's going on a journey. Note that it is still so early the sun has not risen yet!

As the sun rose,  I was led downstairs to sit next to Vinesh under the marriage platform.  Some married women in the family passed the flame in front of us clockwise three times in a wide circle for blessing and protection.

Vinesh and I offered flowers and rice.
While the I held  a coconut in a tray of unbroken rice, Vinesh tied a saffron cord around my wrist to accept me as part of his family and to offer protection and support.
Neville (the one sitting on the stool) was acting as my older brother for the wedding since I don't have one.  He passed the coconut to me, then I passed it to Vinesh, and then the Vinesh passed it back to Neville (our future brother in law). Thus, Vinesh entered my family circle. Then Vinesh gave a ring to his new brother to show his loyalty.

At the most joyous part of the ceremony, the Vinesh secured the wedding pendant around my neck while family members sprinkled rice. The wedding pendant is secured on a saffron cord with three knots. Earlier in the ceremony, it was tied to a coconut and the guests were invited to pass their hands over it as a sign of their blessing and good wishes.  Then we exchanted garlands to show our mutual respect and adoration for each other.

 Vinesh lead me around the fire three times in procession with several unmarried ladies.  On the third time around, I placed my foot on a flat stone and Vinesh placed silver toe rings on my feet.  This tender act demonstrates the groom's great respect for his wife.  These toe rings remain on the feet for life and are reserved for married women.

A funny note about this picture:  the toe rings were a little small and someone had to get some pliers to make them fit!  Despite the humorous occasion, the photo turned out well!

sillygame.jpg (45179 bytes) Vinesh and I played a game of compromise. Normally done in a vessel with a small opening, a ring is tossed into the vessel of water. We both reached for it but soon learned that if we both try to grab it at the same time, neither us could pull it from the vessel.
Guests came to express their best wishes for our new life together. They gave money and silver and shook our hands. As we left the marriage canopy, older couples asked to bless our marriage.  We knelt down at their feet in respect.
This cord was obtained on an auspicious day before the wedding. It is traditionally worn for three months and then replaced with a gold chain.   I changed mine over after three days due to time restraints.  We sat in the family's shrine room and carefully changed the chain over without removing the thali from my neck.

I wear my wedding pendant all the time and will continue do so as long as Vinesh is by my side in this life. It is a symbol of his family and community and I am honored to wear it.

This is a close-up of my wedding pendant.  The central pendant is the one that was given on my wedding day.  It represents Vinesh's community.  Wedding pendants come in many shapes and varieties.  The two gold beads are given, one by the bride's family and one by the groom's, to show the coming together of a new family.  The thick gold chain is of a style that is immediately recognized as a wedding necklace, even if the rest it is tucked inside my clothing. The coral Ganesha and the gold mango are decorations that were put on later.  It is customary for the husband to buy charms for his wife's wedding necklace as symbols of important events in their lives.

 Three days after the wedding, we had a reception.  I think that everyone that Vinesh and his family had ever known were invited!  We lit the lamp at the beginning of the reception and then stood to receive guests.  We had to sit in these chairs like royalty and felt rather foolish about the whole thing.  The white flowers behind us were strings of real jasmine. They smelled heavenly!  Finally we posed for photos with every single guest.  By then end of the evening our smile muscles were aching!  Here is a nice photo of the whole family.

Mamallapuram Temple

Mamallapuram is a temple that was built in the 8th century. It was later nearly destroyed by Muslim invaders and then allowed to be overtaken by the sea (Bay of Bengal).  About 100 years ago some people decided to preserve it, so they dug it out of the encroaching sands and built a barrier between the temple and the sea. It is believed that there are several other temples still under the sea.  This temple is no longer used for worship but it is still a very peaceful, magical place to spend the day.
Visitors are allowed to wander freely through the narrow passageways of the temple.
This is a black crystal Siva Lingam that was partially destroyed by invaders.  It must have been magnificent when it was intact.


The niches in the walls were crowded with divine beings: some familiar, and some whose names are probably only known yet to themselves.

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The entire temple complex was surrounded by hundreds of Nandis, the faithful mount of Lord Shiva.  Many of them have faces that were smashed as part of the destruction once targeted towards this beautiful temple.

This is part of the temple tank, an artifical pond where people would bathe before entering the temple.

The complex around this site has carvings of all sizes.  Most of the small temples and shrines were carved from huge, solid stones and left there on the spot where they were carved.  The carvings of animals makes the complex seem almost alive.
This is what the temple is most famous for. This is called "The Penace of Arjun" but some people believe it could depict the creation of the world. This scene is carved on stone that is about 20 feet high.   From where I am standing the dirt road is level with the elephant. This scene continues for another 8 feet below the sight of the camera.
There are many places to explore and rest here.   This is a cave-like shelter carved out of the rock as it was there.  Above this structure, the hill continues to climb upward.  There are even smaller boulders on top.

This curiosity is called "butter rock."   It is said that when Krishna was a child, he smashed a pot of butter and one of the pieces fell here.  The people enjoying its shade are braver than I! Goats are all around, clinging to the hillsides with ease.
Another small shrine built out of a single boulder. This one is a little ways from the main temple complex.  Beyond the trees lies the Bay of Bengal.
Everywhere you find reminders of older temples and buildings now gone.
A quick walk from the sight above and I am wading in the Bay of Bengal before heading back home.

For my latest adventures in India, see my India 2000 Pilgrimage Journal.



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