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Photographer's Note

The gods of Nepal do not represent a forgotten era of the past. The deities here are living, and participate in the ordinary existence of everyday life as much as we mere mortals do. Nowhere is this exemplified more charmingly than in the uniquely Nepalese custom of Bel-Marriage (Ihi ceremony). Traditionally the Newars (the predominant ethnic group of the valley), marry off their pre-pubescent girls to a fruit of the Bel tree which symbolizes Lord Vishnu himself. The marriage ceremony is elaborate, accompanied by a feast.

By this custom, if a Newari's future mortal husband should die, she is not considered a widow because she is still married to Vishnu. The Newar "widow" therefore undergoes none of the often disagreeable sanctions imposed on widows.

Hence is solved the enchanting mystery behind those smartly dressed adolescent girls, thronging the streets of Kathmandu, who in spite of not being married in the 'earthly' sense, nevertheless adorn their foreheads with thick swabs of vermilion associated in India solely with a married status.

Here such a ceremony taking place in Kathmandu Durbar Square.

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Additional Photos by JM Hullot (vincz) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2604 W: 77 N: 5252] (19113)
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