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What a Niyamgiri Wedding Looks Like

Western Odisha’s bauxite-rich Niyamgiri mountains are the sole home of the state’s Dongria Kondh tribe, a community numbering a few thousand. The mountains, streams and forests are integrated into their lives and cultural traditions.

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Weddings are simple and intimate affairs, with communities coming together to share tasks. At this 2009 wedding, youth from the neighbouring villages are headed to the marriage ceremony to play the dhap, a popular local instrument.

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Unlike several communities, where the woman’s consent is taken for granted, Dongria Kondhs give highest priority to the willingness of a bride. The groom, Lodo Sikakka, has been accepted by his bride-to-be, Telidi.

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Here, Telidi is accompanied by female members, with brass pitchers on their heads to collect water from a perennial mountain spring. Rice is cooked with these waters and then offered by the bride to Dharani Penu (the Earth Goddess).

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

The young friends of the bride dance all the way to the Lakhpadar, the village of the groom, eagerly watched by other villagers.

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

The beats of the dhaps are integrated into the dance.

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Meanwhile, other villagers help to prepare the wedding feast – usually rice, lentils and meat cooked on firewood with minimal oil and spice, and then served on leaf plates.

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

This little girl is pleased by the day’s events.

Credit: Purusottam Thakur/PARI

Purusottam Thakur is a freelance journalist, photographer and documentary filmmaker, who reports from Chhattisgarh and Odisha. He also works for the Azim Premji Foundation.

This article was originally published by the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI).