In Nepali culture, special ceremonies called pujas are held to give a name to a newly born child, for the child’s first haircut, for a wedding, a person’s 84th birthday, and for the passing of a relative. Last year I was invited to attend a puja to memorialize the death of a beloved aunt of my adopted Nepali family, which was held on the one year anniversary of her passing. This year I witnessed the other end of the spectrum when I attended the Bibaha Puja (marriage ceremony) for my Bahini’s (little sister’s) nephew.
We left Pokhara as the sun was rising, destined for Bahini’s home village of Lekhnath, about an hour down the road. By the time we arrived at the home of the groom’s parents, festivities were in full swing. A traditional band of musicians squatted on the ground, horns bellowing and drums booming, as guests made their way to the backyard, where the groom was seated on a chair. He was dressed in the traditional white daura suruwal, a specially woven outfit made out of dhaka fabric, with a regular suit coat jacket on top. On his head he wore a topi, the national hat of Nepal, and around his neck hung an elaborately woven necklace of Dubo grass. This grass necklace, known as a Dubo ko Malla, symbolizes an everlasting relationship because Dubo grass will grow without roots.
Using a provided tray of colored powders and rice, each family member placed a tika on the forehead of the groom and then accepted a gift from the father of the groom. Meanwhile, women were running around, shoving plates of food in everyone’s hands. I wasn’t very hungry but I picked at the selroti fried rice rings and tooth-breakingly hard, overly sweet rice balls that are traditionally served at a wedding and was later glad I had. The plan had been for me to stay at the groom’s house all day with Bahini, but somehow I got swept up in the crowd and ended up on one of the buses that were bound for Chitwan, home of the bride and location of the wedding ceremony. Continue reading