wedding day

Kelvin Luffs Photography in India - Traditional Sikh Wedding (Part 2)

Welcome back to the second part of Kelvin Luffs Photography in India. In this post, I share my personal experience during my time in India, from shooting the Sangeet, to the traditional Wedding Day, to the continuation of my trip (I was in India for a total of 14 days).

So, having accepted the assignment in India, I thought to myself that the chance had arrived for me to visit the Taj Mahal, which happened to be a destination on my bucket list. In all my overseas assignments previously, I strive to come home to my family, and to get on with editing and other works, right after they were done. But in this case, I chose to stay on, and went on a solo trip to visit the Taj Mahal. It was also my first solo adventure without the missus.

In just about any country I have visited, I was very sure to encounter people living in the streets, or just living below the poverty line. India was no different. In fact while on my way out of New Delhi, my taxi drove past a really huge landfill (some locals call it 'Trash Mountain'), and people were actually going through the mountain of garbage for items they could resell just to make a living!

But what heartened me was that although the gap between the rich and poor is wide, some people still care for others. At one of the parties, I actually asked what would become of all the leftover food, and the response was, "We will share it with the poor."

Here is a picture of some of the underprivileged children enjoying hot food from the party.

Underprivileged kids given hot food to eat. (Image taken with iPhone 6+)

Now, let's head back to the parties. I did mention in Part 1 of this blog post that a traditional Sikh wedding is all about prayers and parties. Well, each party held their own significance - just like the one that I will talk about - the Sangeet.

  • Sangeet Ceremony

A little fact I found out about the Sangeet was that the ceremony is the mother of all pre-wedding parties. It is the epitome of a grand event which includes the festivity of songs and dance, decorations, lavish gourmet food and bringing together wonderful guests of all ethnicities; dressed up as if they were attending the prestigious International Indian Film Awards (IIFA). 

Just to exaggerate slightly, everyone at Sangeet was so sharply dressed that if anyone were to make an entrance into the party escorted by an envoy of bodyguards or photographers flashing away, I would think that they were some super star like Hrithik Roshan or Aishwarya Rai - stars worthy of my rushing over for a selfie! To be frank, I personally believe that the people who graced that night's Sangeet were really good looking.

Anyway, Sangeet is also a time where family members and guests put on choreographed performances for the bride and groom's enjoyment. Thinking back, it is no wonder the Sangeet is indeed THE most memorable part of the wedding and I dare say that this event would definitely leave a lasting impression on the guests who have attended. It sure did for me.

Do enjoy these photos.

Hope you are enjoying the above photos so far. Writing this blog post and posting pictures of the Sangeet makes me reminisce how much I had enjoyed myself even while documenting the whole ceremony.

To add, after the Sangeet Ceremony, the next day was to be the traditional Sikh wedding conducted at the Gurdwara. Let me tell you that in all the weddings that I have covered so far, this traditional wedding left me with the fondest of impressions. Why you might ask, well - 1st: I've never seen a groom make an entrance to a wedding venue on a horse. 2nd: The sheer number of people accompanying the groom all the way from his home to the wedding venue just blew my mind. 3rd: being a photographer from Singapore, heat and humidity is something that I cannot avoid so wearing a full suit to a shoot in Singapore is quite unheard of, so to cover this whole event during winter and in a full suit, was literally a first for me.

As a photographer, not only would I go where the job takes me, I do what it takes to get me THAT photo. (Photo credit to Mahesh. Taken from his Iphone 5)

  • Traditional Sikh Wedding (Anand Karaj)

On this very morning, guests and family members of the bride gathered early outside the Gurdwara to wait upon the arrival of the Barat (groom's family). At this juncture, the bride had already arrived at the Gurdwara and was ushered into a private waiting room until the main ceremony begins.

Please pardon me if my facts are not as accurate, but if my memory serves me right, upon the arrival of the groom, both families do come together for milni (meeting) before the ardaas (prayers) commences. This prayers are important because it signifies the start of a happy occasion and the milni serves as formal introduction to relatives of each family where garlands are playfully exchanged between family members of both the bride and groom.

The main event; Traditional Sikh wedding (anand karaj also known as 'Blissful Union') takes place in the gurdwara darbar. In here, family, relatives and friends from both sides pay their respects to the Guru Granth Sahib before taking a seat in the darbar.

I shall let my pictures do the talking from here, shall we? Below each picture is a little description.

Thanks for staying with me all this way! Very proud of you! I hope you have enjoyed my write-up and the mesmerising pictures. I'll cover more about the wedding reception as well as my solo journey from Chandigarh to Agra in the next two blogs post. 

In the meantime, have a great week ahead and stay tuned for Part 3 of Kelvin Luffs Photography in India!

Kelvin Luffs Photography in India - Traditional Sikh Wedding (Part 1)

Hi again! It's been quite a hiatus on my blog. But I have been very hard at work in the last 10 months at Kelvin Luffs Photography. For the very first time on my blog, I will include pictures taken from my mobile phone to depict the behind-the-scene situations I had encountered during the trip. This post will totally be different from the previous posts because it will include my own personal opinion, views and thoughts during and post-assignment.

So back in December 2015, I flew for the first time into India, New Delhi and my assignment was to shoot a traditional Sikh wedding in the city of Chandigarh, further north of New Delhi.

Prior to making this trip, I encountered people who were really negative about the county of India. They were questioning, why why why? Why India? Some comments I received were; India is dirty; India is unsafe; there's nothing in India; you are going to get sick the day you arrive, etc. When I accepted this assignment, I knew it was time to debunk any kinds of stereotypes that people have tried to impress upon me. As a professional photographer, it is my duty to go anywhere the job takes me. And I wanted to see and experience how the India was like.

  • Arrival to New Delhi and onwards journey to Chandigarh

After 5 hours 40 minutes in the air, I finally touched down at New Delhi's Indira Ghandi International Airport. Quite honestly, the staff at the airport were not very welcoming. It had taken 1.5 hours just to clear customs and I couldn't help but feel it was parallel to some of the negative feedbacks I had gotten earlier. Apparently many tourist were caught up with e-visas and visa-on-arrival issues. So lesson here - always have your visa done at the Indian Embassy in your own country before the flight into India to avoid such problems.

World's Number One airport? (Image taken with IPhone 6+)

The bride and groom were expecting guests on the same flight as I was and had arranged for taxis to drive us into Chandigarh. The estimated time from New Delhi to Chandigarh was about 4 hours 30 minutes (NOT), all in, we took a 7 plus hours drive to get from New Delhi to Chandigarh.

Having hit the 299km/h mark on my Suzuki Hayabusa on many occasions in the last 11 years of riding, the experience I got while in this taxi was one of the most harrowing I have ever experienced in my life.

Could you imagine a fully-loaded 7-seater vehicle roaring down what seems to be a highway at 160-180km/h with the driver seemingly having a blatant disregard for the safety of anyone, let alone the passengers in his vehicle? Then as the sky turned dark, the driver shockingly continued speeding down the unlit highway at 160km/h on the fastest moving lane, only to come to a sudden emergency stop - because a COW was crossing the highway! Whew, I have never felt more relieved in my life reaching my destination in one piece.

It's a common sight to have a vehicle fully loaded with passengers and their baggage placed atop the vehicles. (Image taken with iPhone 6+)

  • Chandigarh and Sector 17 Shopping

Unlike the actual day weddings I cover in Singapore which are usually done in a day or in exceptional cases, two days, a traditional Sikh wedding can take up to four days long! That's four full days of formalities and parties leading up to the traditional wedding day and wedding reception. 

As with all the photographic assignments, I do make it a habit to arrive early (1-2 hours earlier locally) and in this instance, I arrived three days ahead of the first scheduled event. This is to ensure that all my equipments are in working order, and for me to locate shops selling camera equipments in case any of my equipments were damaged en-route or stolen (which I have personally experienced back in 2013) needing replacement. Unfortunately there aren't any rental service in that part of India so buying would be the next best alternative should I need to.

In any part of my overseas assignments, I think the part I love most is getting to know people. Getting to know people surely has its perks - they share with you information which may take you to places to meet any needs you may have (for me, they are camera shops and tailors). Loving the jacket which was tailored to my liking and costing only SGD$70.

Please pardon my distorted and frowning face in the picture above. (Image taken with iPhone 6+)

  • Pre-Wedding Prayers & Party

Prayers before the actual wedding is actually rather common across most cultures. Whilst each differs in their own ways, the goal is the same - that is to give blessings to the wedding couple. Here in the next few photos, you'll be able to see Akhand Paath - the reading of the entire Guru Granth Sahib. You will also be able to see that the home (of the groom's parents) where the Akhand Paath was hosted had been cleared of furniture, and clean white sheets spread on the floor with fresh flowers placed beside the Guru Granth Sahib. 

At the conclusion of the prayers in the groom's house, it was time for the family members, relatives and guests to dance along with the couple to the Gurudwara (Temple) to collect water. So what happens here is that a special jug called the Gharoli is used to collect the water from the temple for the groom to bathe in later on.

Did I mention that a Sikh Wedding is all about prayers and... PARTIES? Yes, it was literally non-stop partying and boozing and here are some pictures from one of the many parties leading up to the wedding.

  • Haldi Ceremony & Mehendi Party

Some facts about the Haldi Ceremony which I learnt while I was covering the event - Haldi ceremony is basically an act of smearing turmeric paste onto the bride and groom's body and the significance to this ritual is really to ward off evil spirits that may affect the union of the groom and his bride.

Apart from warding off evil spirits, the paste serves as a cleanser for the body and soul and signifies the bride's preparation to be welcomed into adult married life.

This Haldi ceremony was definitely a mood lifter because it's when the bride can have some fun amidst all the tension and chaos of planning her wedding. Here, friends and family of the bride (including me) can take part in it and apply the haldi paste on the bride. 

Mehendi Party or better known as Mehendi Ki Raat is when the gorgeous bride-to-be adorns her hands and feet with different designs made out of henna. The entire ceremony is one that's filled with endless fun and laughter as every family member and close friends of the bride and the groom can have the mehendi done on themselves too.

Even I had the privilege of getting a small mehendi done on me by the groom himself. Haha.

I hope you are still following by now. It will be easier if I break this article up into a 4 parts for your easy reading. For now, do enjoy the above photos and stay tuned for Part 2 of Kelvin Luffs Photography in India!