The Life Cycle
This is one of a series of small images that were carved (and then carefully outlined in this red color) on an exterior wall of a temple in the town of Almora. Sexuality is an important part of life, and part of Hindu culture has always affirmed this (as is plain in the Kama Sutra). Since Hindus consider the family to be the foundation of society, marital sexuality is an important element in the pursuit of dharma or religious duty. Yet Hindus have also affirmed kama ("desire," and espeically sexual desire) as a legitimate human goal, which is to be pursued and enjoyed in its own right., as this picture clearly shows..
|This is my landlord's daughter, Vasudha (picture taken in 1990). She had recently had her head completely shaved in the ceremony called mundan, which is the last of the Hindu life-cycle ceremonies connected with childbirth. For Hindus all bodily fluids are considered impure (which does not connote any moral lapse, but merely contamination). Since most Indian babies are born with hair, and since hair is believed to trap impurity, the infant's hair is seen as retaining the residual impurity from childbirth, which the mundan ceremony removes. Since this hair is connected with the birth of the child, it is also popularly believed to have a very strong bond with the infant even after being cut off, and some people believe that it can be used for black magic to harm the child. Thus, although my landlord and landlady said that they didn't put much stock in such ideas, the hair that was cut off was nevertheless gathered up and disposed of very carefully.|
|Of course, all young children get bigger. Here's the most recent picture of Vasudha (in Jan. 2003), shown here with her cousin Prashant. As you can see, she is becoming a gorgeous young woman. One of the great delights of doing fieldwork is to be able to know people almost all of their lives!|
|This is a barat, that procession of a groom's
(male) friends and
relatives that brings him up to the place where the wedding will be
celebrated. There is usually a brass band, and a great deal of frenzied
dancing in the streets--a very public celebration of their joy.
This was shot in Hardwar in 1998.
|Here's another shot from the same barat. All the important male relatives were wearing these pinkish-purple turbans, and because of his garland and his proximity to the car carrying the groom (behind) I've always assumed that it was his father.|
|This shows the decorations in the street leading to one of Haridwar's "wedding palaces," large halls that are often rented for weddings. Such rented spaces are necessary because congregational worship is an uncommon feature in traditional Hindu life, and thus one doesn't find the large structures (such as churches) that make this possible. The primary function of a Hindu temple is to serve as the home for its presiding deity, and temple worship is usually a matter of small groups of people coming and paying their homage to the deity. Furthermore, much of Hindu religious life is centered on the home, and thus such rented halls become necessary for large "functions." For most Hindus their marriage is the most important event in their lives, since the family is considered the bedrock of society, and this sort of decoration is only one way of indicating this.|
The Life Cycle, Page 2
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These pages are in progress.
Page maintained by James G. Lochtefeld.
Last modified 23 December 2003