Beliefnet
May 24 -- A Hindu wedding unfolds like acts in a play--a slow, lavishprocession of ritual events, one of which has a role in it for a verygood-natured horse.

The barat is the tumultuous, slow parade of the groom and hisfamily to the home of the bride-to-be. According to one description,"Drums, conches, flutes sound the air! It is the morning of the weddingand the hour of the prince as he prepares to journey to the bridal home,dressed in his very best--silks, brocades, muslins. His family blesseshim with Tika--a long mark on his forehead--to signify the rays of thesun. Mounting his favored horse, the groom rides in a royal processionwith his entourage."

These days, many Hindu bridegrooms lack favored horses, and evenin India, the barat often is limited to a parade of dancing humanspreceded by musicians, with the horse deleted. But when Wendy Hulsing ofDickinson, N.D., and Sanjaya Gupta of Chesterfield decided to marry,they wanted a two-ceremony wedding, Christian and Hindu, with all thetrimmings, including a not-too-fiery steed for the prince-of-the-hour,who'd never ridden in his life.

"You know the Lone Ranger? He is my brother," the groom saidbefore the event on Saturday as a way of assuring that he'd be a naturalat riding.

Sanjaya, who met Wendy at St. Louis University School of Medicine,from which both just graduated, is the son of two doctors, apediatrician and a cardiologist. Doctors Santosh and Jitendra Guptasettled here in 1969 and built a multilevel cedar house in theChesterfield Lake subdivision. Their green lawn stretches down to theedge of the lake, beside which they erected a sacred canopy, all offlowers, for the Hindu wedding ceremony. Meanwhile, the Hulsings hired awedding organizer to help them make their out-of-state arrangements forthe Christian ceremony, an afternoon wedding at Ladue Chapel with adinner reception afterward at the St. Louis Club in Clayton.

The Guptas tried to think of everything: saris for Wendy's sistersin case they wanted to wear them for the Hindu ceremony, a properreceptacle for the sacred fire over which the marriage ceremony would beconducted, gifts and garlands to be exchanged between the two mergingfamilies. Santosh Gupta flew to India twice to pick out her gift to hernew daughter-in-law (a necklace of diamonds, pearls and sapphires setin gold) and to choose the wedding vestments.

The question of where to get a horse for the barat perplexedJitendra Gupta until he remembered that he'd met a woman who ownedhorses at the dance studio where he took ballroom dancing lessons. Hecalled her, Kristi Shaw of Eureka. Prudently, she asked just what wasinvolved for the horse. He showed her a video of the wedding of a cousinin India. In it, a horse draped in tassels and silk carried the groomwith musicians ahead and dancers encircling it. The horse displayed anunflappability that represented something of a cultural challenge forShaw, who assured the Guptas that she had a horse up to the event.

As Santosh Gupta put it, "Kristi promised me a dead horsewalking."

The morning of the rehearsal, Paula DiCampo, a chum of Kristi Shawand the owner of a 12-year-old mare named Zoey, showed up at theGuptas'. Shaw had gone out of town to a horse show after having lit afire of excitement in DiCampo to be part of a once-in-a-lifetimeexperience.

DiCampo led the mare down the emerald-green incline of the lawn toinspect the flowered altar at the lake. It had rained the night before,just enough to wet the surface of the dry ground. The horse skiddedtwice and left two bold, brown gashes in the green carpet. One of thegardeners put a hand over his heart as if he were having chest pains.

Lacking Indian musicians to lead the barat, the Guptas had riggedup a golf cart with Indian processional music, but technicaldifficulties prevented the horse from getting its first exposure to thenovel sounds at the rehearsal. And the groom couldn't take a practicetour because DiCampo had forgotten to bring a saddle. But there was onegood omen: Santosh Gupta hurried over to the horse with arose-and-silver bolt of silk in which the animal was supposed to bedraped for the procession. Without warning, she flung the materialoutward like a parasail, so that it floated above the horse and thensettled over the animal's shoulders in a spill of color. Zoey did notmove. She did not even blink.

"I think she'll be fine," DiCampo said brightly.

On the morning of the wedding, the wedding party and guestsassembled at the far end of the lake to crown and bless the prince ofthe hour and get him on board the favored horse. She'd been shampooeduntil she sparkled. She wore a black western saddle and breastplatedecorated with silver hearts. Her rose-and-gold sari was pinned over hershoulders, and her mane was braided with gold tassels.

DiCampo kept Zoey apart from the opening ceremonies. While SanjayaGupta's family members crowned him with a turban and marked him with themark of the sun on his forehead, DiCampo injected Zoey's neck withone-half .cc of ace promazine--horse valium. Paula had brought a littlestool to serve as a mounting block, and Zoey stood peacefully whileSanjaya Gupta mounted. Nor did Zoey seem bothered when the tunelessmusic with the didactic drumbeat started up from the golf cart, and thewedding party began to spin and clap and dance.

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