One day, Prasad, who is working as an office superintendent at Southern Railways received a call from tribal activist Thanraj Radhai inviting him to take wedding photos of an Adivasi wedding at Valparai. “It was my long-time dream and was so thrilled when I got the call from Thanraj anna. Unlike in cities, the entire village comes together and turns any function into a grand celebration. They invite all families in the tribal settlement and everyone takes up responsibilities. Valparai has 18 settlements and I documented the wedding of the Kadar tribe,” says Prasad.
He spent three days with the tribals and tells us that living close to nature with the protectors of the forests, the Adivasis, was a different experience. “The bride and groom belonged to two different settlements and the wedding was held at the bride’s place at the Adivasi village called Udumbanparai. The marriage was held on March 24 and on the previous day, there was nallangu for the bride and the bridegroom. The pandhal for the marriage was done using bamboos and they took 20 days to complete it. The whole village came together as a family and participated in every arrangement of the marriage. I was told that there were only two deviations in the marriage from the traditional method that was followed for generations by the tribal people. The bridegroom’s father wanted an Iyer for the wedding and I heard that for the first time, an Iyer was called for the wedding. Usually, on the previous night of the wedding, traditional Adivasi dances were performed but at this wedding, people danced to cinema songs. The nichaiyathartham (engagement) was held in a room with just a torchlight and a small solar bulb. It was difficult to use even a bounce flash since the roofing of the houses was decorated with coloured sheets. The mandapam’s roofing also had coloured sarees and therefore, using a bounce flash was also not amenable. But I had to do something and adjust the degree of the top portion of the flash and at times try the bounce flash,” he says.
Prasad recalls that when he left the village around 20 people came to bid farewell. Permission from the forest guards is required to enter the village as it’s inside the forest. “Only if you know someone in the village or if somebody from the village picks you up, you can enter the village or else the forest department may charge as per the rules laid down in the forest act. Some people at the wedding even questioned my presence. But when they came to know about what I was doing, they were happy. I wanted to do more wedding shoots this year for downtrodden people who cannot afford to hire a photographer,” sums up Prasad.