India- Exotic Land of Ceremonies

India’s explosion of colors was a striking backdrop for an experience of intense touring, joyful celebrations and wedding ceremonies. Around every corner, we were met with a majestic and decorated elephant or camel. Other times, it might be a band of monkeys climbing along a palatial building rooftop. Down the Amber Fort, we encountered a duo of snake charming brothers. It was a splendid combination of humans and animals celebrating life. Down major roadways, cows slowly strolled among the cars, tuk tuks and motorbikes. After a few days of this, it seemed normal. The peacock, India’s national bird, flirtatiously stalking across our resort grounds, was also a powerful impression of Indian pride and character.

As exciting as it was to ride our own elephant up the hill of the Amber Fort, it was more entertaining to watch our cousin ride one in his wedding’s Baraat ceremony. The elephant arrived decked out with this glorious draping to transport the groom to his bride in a most magical, dramatic and energizing of processions.

The Baraat involved a band or two and food and drink circulating among the crowd of us who danced our way down the hill. It is said that some grooms ride a mare and an even contemporary approach to this is to use a car. Fortunately for us, our cousin-groom rode atop this beautiful elephant.

When we reached the meeting point of both families, approximately 45 minutes later, the bride’s procession was just as moving and spine-tingling. Garlands were draped on the bride and groom.  The groom is given the marigold garland (like a lei) as are some of the family members. The marigold garland, reminiscent of a Hawaiian lei, (which is also presented at times of welcome), is a symbol associated with the vibrancy of the sun. The marigold is also referred to as the “herb of the sun” representing passion and creativity. In terms of the wedding celebration, the marigold is used as a love charm and a sign of a new beginning. It is also considered a sign of purity in Hindu festivals and worship ceremonies. When it’s presented as a welcome gesture at homes or hotels, it is used as a sign of respect and honor. I felt this symbol of honor when I saw the marigold leis bestowed upon the families joining together in the wedding ceremony as the Baraat procession was completing and entering into another ceremony. ( The international symbolisms of the marigold will be in another individual blog.)

photos by Gina Kingsley

adapted from the book, A Magic Carpet Ride, by Gina Michalopulos Kingsley. Amazon link:

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