The day of my first Nepali wedding was also the day of my first Nepali funeral.
Why am I not surprised???
When I returned to the village after Pesach vacation I was delighted to hear that a wedding was to take place the following week at the village. Since I have arrived in Nepal I have wanted to attend a wedding ceremony. I was all the more excited because my village bahini (younger sister) was the young women getting married. I had stayed at her home for three days when the entire group visited Sundrawoti during orientation month.
The excitement was that much more pronounced because the entire village was preparing for the wedding many days in advance.and some of our activities were therefore canceled.
The day of the wedding I woke up early to possibly go help with the preparations however, help was not needed. The sun was shining bright and I was excited for what was going to unfold. But suddenly I heard some crying from the inside of Dan Bahadur Dai’s house (our land lord) and I understood that his mother, HajurAma was slipping into a coma, or the way the Nepali’s put it “going”. If you recall we visited HajurAma at the hospital upon our initial arrival at the village. Overtime we saw her slowly fade and we knew her end was near. Some of us also felt she might die the day of the wedding because somehow these things always happen simultaneously.
Only when I heard the groom arrive from afar with his entourage did I run to the wedding to get a glimpse of the action and to get away from the sad house. During the first part the groom’s family and friends were dancing before him while he was sitting under an umbrella. After a while the groom went up to the brides house for the official marriage ceremony. It began with the bride circling the groom several time, similarly to Jewish weddings!
The next several hours included many unique wedding rituals and Nepali dancing. The wedding guests covered the bride and groom in rice tika on their foreheads and sage leaves were put around their necks. I had a great time conversing with some of the villagers in other circumstances besides an official activity. Many had put new clothes on for the special occasion and some of the youth who left the village to work in Kathmandu came back for the wedding.
The following are the bride and groom during the ceremony:
At some point I left the wedding and took a nap. I woke up from my nap to a strange sound. A man was blowing on a sea shell that made the sound of a loud siren. The sound of death. I came out of my room to find out that HajurAma died. Her body was lying in the courtyard of our house covered with a blanket. It is the closest I have ever been to a body. I understood from Alisa, a fellow volunteer that HajurAma died right as the wedding ended as the bride went to live in her husband’s house.
Right after when HajurAma passed the men of the village ran to the jungal to cut down bamboo and wood. They quickly built a small stretcher and within an hour the funeral was to take place. Each person who was going to attend the funeral picked up a piece of wood and we all ran to the burning site, approximately a 20 minute walk not far from the river. As we arrived the men built a big wooden altar. As they were building the altar the sky’s opened a rain began pouring down. I felt how symbolic the rain was at the present situation.
When the men finished building the altar, the body was laid upon it and then covered with more wood. Later on, a small ceremony took place where Dan Bahadur Dai walked around the altar with fire in his hand and then lit the altar. We did not stay to see the rest of the funeral because we there was nothing much more to see and we were getting soaked. What was really odd was that many of the funeral participants were drunk after attending the wedding all day. It was also ironic that many of the wedding guests came especially from Kathmandu to attend the wedding and ended up attending a funeral as well.
Overall it was one of the more surreal days of my life. I am sure you understand why I have no pictures of the funeral.