Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wilpathu National Park - Sri Lanka

Recently we were in Sri Lanka for their District Conference. On the Friday before the conference, we joined the three senior couples who are serving in that wonderful country in making a visit to the Wilpathu National Park. This park is located north of Colombo. It took us about four hours to drive there. Because of our schedule, we were there during the middle of the day, which is not the best time for observing wildlife. Nonetheless, we were able to see a number of animals and birds. We hope you enjoy the pictures almost as much as we enjoyed seeing the creatures in real life:

Home along the road into the Park

The open air vehicles in which we spent about 3.5 hours in the Park

One of the shallow lakes

Water lilies
Can you see the wild deer in the shadows?

What about now?

Monkey enjoying the afternoon shade

Wild buffalo

Elephant eating lake grass

Wild elephant

Wild elephant

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hindu Wedding

Early (4:00 am) one morning last week, Sister Berrett and I departed from the mission home to travel to Patcher, a village in the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu. We were off to attend the wedding of the niece of our driver, Sampath. The bride was raised in the home of Sampath and his wife, even though her parents are living, so she is like their daughter. The wedding was to begin at 6:00 am. Most Hindu weddings occur early in the morning. In fact, we recently were told that the historical tradition was that weddings occurred at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. Only within the past 10 or 15 years has the custom shifted to 6:00 am.

When we arrived in Patcher at about 6:15 in the morning, the festivities already were underway. We were greeted by a large banner, identifying the bride and groom and welcoming us to the event.

Welcoming sign announcing the wedding
The wedding hall was filled with people. Later we were advised that almost all of the residents of the native village of the bride and groom were in attendance.

A portion of those attending the wedding
When we arrived, the groom was being "prepared" for the wedding. We did not understand all of the ritual, but noticed that shortly thereafter, the same rituals were repeated for the bride.

After the groom was prepared, he left the hall and the bride entered.

The bride entering the marriage hall
The bride sat on a small stool in the same place where the groom had been seated. Incense was burned. She was encircled in string, with four small water pots forming a square around her. Even though we did not understand what was happening, we sensed that the bride was very comfortable with her preparation and with the wedding.

Prepared to meet the groom

When the bride's preparations were completed, the groom was escorted by his family back to the marriage hall. The procession was accompanied by traditional Hindu music, played fairly loud.

The groom and his family return to greet the bride
Bride and groom then were seated on the dais or stage in front of the guests. Two Hindu priests or holy men officiated in the ceremonies. Words were spoken - which we could not hear and could not have understood even if we could have heard them. The ceremony included the groom placing a traditional marriage necklace on the bride.

Exchanging vows
After the exchange of vow, there is a ritual meal. Here the bride and groom share coconut milk.

"Blessing" of coconut milk
After the bride and groom's meal, the guests were invited to breakfast. Breakfast was "veg" as opposed to "non-veg". Meals were served on long, concrete tables. You can see below that instead of plates, food is served on a banana leaf. All food is consumed with the right hand. Breakfast was two kinds of sweets, a chapati (like a pancake), idly (a patty made from rice flour and other grains), sambar (a spicy lentil based stew served over the idly), one or two kinds of curry, some spicy rice, and a banana.

Some of the wedding guests enjoying breakfast
All of the guests at a table were served at the same time. The caterer crew unrolled the paper table cloth, then in rapid order laid down banana leaves, passed out water so each guest could splash a little water to clean the leaf, and distributed the food by scooping it from large pots onto each banana leaf. Every person at the table was served in about five minutes.

Interestingly, men and women do not sit together for meals. Please notice in the picture below the wonderful colors of the women's saris.

Women and children enjoying breakfast
At the wedding, we made some new friends. This young man shows typical large Indian eyes. We think the children are so beautiful.

Sister Berrett spent some time speaking with this couple, while I was off taking pictures.

We end with a picture of one of the friends or family of the bride. Notice the beautiful sari, and the gold ornaments in her hair. First, see the gold chain from her earrings to her hair, and then notice the gold pieces down her braided hair, ending in the gold ties at the end.

I think we were the only non-Indians in attendance. We were warmly welcomed and found the people very friendly. We enjoyed a most interesting morning.