100 Days in India Project

White wedding horse in a stable in India

55/ 100 Wedding Horses

As a professional wedding photographer I have been to about 1000 weddings in the last 23 years or so. Each one of the weddings I covered was slightly different. Some were very large and some very small. Some had a quiet meal afterwards and some had a big party. Not one of them, however, has ever even approached the exuberance and vast size of the Indian wedding celebrations we saw almost daily.

One of the many wonderful cities we stayed in was Udaipur, a city of manmade lakes in Rajasthan. Unbeknown to us, our visit coincided with wedding season. Not only that, it transpired that our apartment was directly opposite the communal wedding grounds. People would hire the space – basically a very large and very dusty open air sports field – and spend the day decorating it before the festivities began very late that night. The key focus of the preparations seemed to involve obtaining the largest and loudest sound system possible but I’ll talk a little more about the noise in my next story, today I wanted to mention the wedding animals.

From what we were told, the bride and her entourage prepared themselves at one place, whilst the groom and his family and friends got ready somewhere else. Each party then travelled separately, parading all through the streets for several hours before meeting up at the location of the ceremony. To get from A to B you needed transportation and, this being India, a wedding car simply wouldn’t cut the mustard, or be able to squeeze through the narrow and haphazard streets. In Jaipur they used elephants (not very practical but they have undeniable impact) but in Udaipur it was always white horses.

As there are a lot of weddings happening simultaneously, there are a lot of white horses required to transport the happy couples. You could see these beautiful, sparklingly clean and well-groomed, creatures hanging about the town in various locations. Sometimes they’d be tied to a tree in a corner somewhere but mostly we saw them in specially painted buildings. They had to look in tip-top condition so they were probably some of the best kept animals in the whole area. I’d definitely rather be a wedding horse than a dog in India, although given my aversion to loud noise, on second thoughts I might prefer to be a goat. If I were a got at least I’d get a stylish shirt to wear.

Incidentally, although we did see a groom perched on the top of his elephant in Jaipur, we were in a taxi at the time and I couldn’t capture a photograph. The elephant pulled up alongside at traffic lights but was so close to our car that my photograph would’ve essentially only included a small portion of its leg.

Wedding groom sits on the back of a horse on his wedding day