Israeli Photographer's Amazing Indian Wedding Pics Will Leave You Spellbound

19/08/2015 1:30 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Sephi Bergerson

In 2007 Israeli photographer Sephi Bergerson had no idea that he would be shooting weddings across India, let alone write a book on his experiences. “A friend of mine in Delhi wanted me to shoot her sister’s wedding in Kerala,” he said in an interview with HuffPost India. “I refused saying that I do not shoot weddings. A few days later when I met with someone from the publishing industry, I was asked about my next assignment, and I said 'weddings' as a joke.”

The rest, as Sephi says, is history. He took up the project, and started with a traditional wedding in Tamil Nadu before heading to Kerala. The next seven years saw him travel across various parts of India – from Ladakh to Kanyakumari to cover traditional Indian weddings.

Looking back, Sephi claims that he finds simple family affairs the most interesting to photograph. “The small weddings are as close as possible to what ‘it used to be’ before the digital age and all the money that came to India with it,” he says. “But it was interesting to attend weddings not on my commercial map: Ladhaki Buddhist, a Kodava wedding in Coorg, and a mass wedding of the Dawoodi Bhora in Mumbai.”

The last, he claims was the most challenging to shoot as he didn’t have permission to photograph, and had to sneak into the masjid. Even though he was caught, he eventually got away and even received the blessings of His Holiness Svedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, heir of the late spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bhora community. Since then Sephi has been invited into many ‘sacred places and intimate moments’ otherwise inaccessible to outsiders.

“I was lucky enough to witness traditions buried so deep in the subconscious of India that even people from here are not necessarily aware of.”

Sephi’s book ‘Behind The Indian Veil’ releases later this month, and can be ordered here.

  • Sephi Bergerson
    The sacred fire, or agni, symbolises the divine presence as a witness of the ceremony. Commitments made in the presence of agni are made in the presence of God. New Delhi, 2009
  • Sephi Bergerson
    Gaye holud tattva -Is a set of presents for the Bengali bride from the groom’s side. One of the most important gifts is a large 'rohu' (fish) with sindoor (vermilion) & nose ring, accompanied by five little fish to symbolise fertility.
  • Sephi Bergerson
    A funny moment at a Gujarati wedding. The mother in law says "watch out and be respectful." Gujarati weddings have a ceremony called Ponkvu or Ponkhana where the groom is welcomed by his mother-in-law, who first performs an aarti and then playfully pulls the groom’s nose. This is a way for the bride’s family to remind the groom that he has come to their doors to marry their daughter and he has to learn to be humble and grateful. Anand, Gujarat 2013
  • Sephi Bergerson
    The post-wedding ceremonies involve welcoming the bride to her new home. The first step is considered auspicious. The bride first enters the house after kicking a rice filled pot and stepping in a basin of red vermilion water.
  • Sephi Bergerson
    Ladakhi women wear an attractive headgear called Perak, made of black lamb skin studded with semi-precious turquoise stones, covering the head like a cobra’s hood and tapering to a thin tail reaching down the back. For ceremonial purposes, colourful robes in silk and brocade are worn. The village people come to celebrate and witness the union by adorning the couple and their immediate relatives with the sacred scarf, the Kathak as a symbolic gesture saying “We are witnesses to your marriage”.
  • Sephi Bergerson
    A bridegroom places a toe ring on the bride’s foot, at a wedding in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The silver toe ring is a sign of marriage in south India. It is not made of gold, which is considered the metal of gods and is traditionally not worn below the waist.
  • Sephi Bergerson
    This photo shows a snan before a Bengali wedding. The snan literally means bathing. In this case, it stands for the bathing rituals that the Bengali bride and groom must individually follow on the day of the wedding. A few married women apply turmeric and oil on the hair and body of the bride/groom. After bathing, the bride and groom must wear the new set of clothes that have been presented to them by their in-laws. The worn clothes are later given away to a napti (barber). This Bengali wedding was actually in Delhi and turned out to be one of the most interesting I have covered, despite being very simple, or maybe because it was.
  • Sephi Bergerson
    A Sikh father and his Christian daughter on their way to her wedding in Udaipur, Rajasthan. The bride was born and raised a Christian by her Sikh father and Christian mother, in the North Eastern state of Mizoram. Rajasthan, 2009
  • Sephi Bergerson
    A Telugu groom, his toenails painted in colourful nail polish, wears the traditional Khadau, the wooden sandals, used for auspicious occasions, before his wedding in Visakhapatnam. Andhra Pradesh, 2009
  • Sephi Bergerson
    A happy bride during her Mehendi ceremony in Jaipur. The Mehndi event is a colorful celebration and the guests often dress in bright colours, sing traditional wedding songs, and dance to popular music. The bride and all of her close family members get the palms of their hands and feet decorated by a professional henna artist. The henna is believed to enhance the bride’s beauty. This ceremony usually takes place a day before the wedding. Jaipur, 2010
  • Sephi Bergerson
    A happy moment after a wedding in Udaipur.
  • Sephi Bergerson
    A Muslim bride signs the Nikahnama in the presence of the Maulvi (priest) and her close family members and relatives. The bride and groom sign the Nikahnama separately and then the couple are pronounced married. Delhi, 2008
  • Sephi Bergerson
    Intricate mehendi and high-fashion designer jewellery bangles (choora) decorate the bride's hands. Udaipur, 2011
  • Sephi Bergerson
    A Nihang Sikh groom on his horse before his wedding in Punjab. The Nihang are an armed Sikh order, also referred to as Akali Nihangs. Traditionally known for their bravery and ruthlessness in the battlefield, the Nihang once formed the guerrilla squads of the armed forces of Ranjit Sukkarchak. Early Sikh military history was dominated by the Nihang, known for their victories where they were heavily outnumbered. Punjab, 2004
  • Sephi Bergerson
    The groom, accompanied by his sister, is seated on a decorated elephant. Udaipur, 2010.
  • Sephi Bergerson
    The old Kashmiri Pandits reinforced their racial and social identity by refusing to marry outside their community. At a traditional arranged marriage of a Kashmiri Pundit couple, the boy and girl would see each other first time only during the Lagan (the actual wedding ceremony) and exchange glances through a mirror. This old tradition is kept even today even with more liberal families where the couple had a chance to meet prior to the wedding.
  • Sephi Bergerson
    A cloth veil, placed between the bride and groom during their wedding in Delhi, is removed at the auspicious moment to symbolise their new life as a couple.
  • Sephi Bergerson
    The musical evening before a Kashmiri Pundit wedding is known as Bach Nagma Jashan. A male dancer known as bachcha (child) accompanies the professional musicians invited for the event. He wears a multi-colored, long-flowing frock, and has painted cheeks to look like a woman. The bachcha takes turn dancing with everyone, including those who are uninterested in dancing. They dance to the same ritualistic song through the night.
  • Sephi Bergerson
    This photo features a dance party that's taking place during a destination wedding in Jaipur. Many Indian couples living abroad choose to come back to India for their wedding. Organising a destination wedding in India is not only a good opportunity to come back home, but also proves to be cheaper than a wedding in the west. This way, all the relatives and friends who still live in India, can also attend the wedding. Rajasthan, 2010
  • Sephi Bergerson
    In India, turmeric is known as haldi, and is considered very holy. Its yellow colour is believed to be auspicious, according to Hindu tradition. The Haldi ceremony is one of the most significant traditions of Hindu marriages. The application of turmeric is meant to beautify the bride and groom, and give a glow to the skin. The ceremony is usually performed one day before the wedding as turmeric powder is mixed with milk or almond oil along with sandal wood powder and applied to bride and bridegroom. Jaipur, 2014

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