High drama as monkeys wed in India

Fri Jul 8, 2011 3:26pm EDT
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By Danish Siddiqui

TALWAS, India (Reuters Life!) - The tale, set in the forests of northwestern India, had all the ingredients of a perfect Bollywood love story: emotion, celebration, star-crossed lovers and a nail-biting climax.

The only difference was that the lovers were monkeys, taking part in India's first simian wedding -- with the whole unfolding drama a classic clash between age-old village belief and the demands of modern life skeptical of that way of thought.

Hindu belief includes worship of animals as avatars of the gods. Monkeys have an especially significant role in Hindu mythology where they are worshipped as avatars of Hanuman, the mighty ape that aided Rama in his fight against evil.

So when plans for the wedding of "Raju" and "Chinki" were laid in the small village of Talwas, deep in the forests of Rajasthan, villagers responded with excitement.

Raju, the "groom," was famous in Banetha village, about 55 km from Talwas, attracting crowds whenever he went outside. He was known for eating, sleeping and smoking cigarettes with his owner, Ramesh Saini, who treated him like a son.

"I want to enjoy the feelings of a son's marriage through Raju's wedding," said Rajesh, a 38-year-old married but childless auto rickshaw driver who nursed Raju back to health after finding him unconscious three years ago.

So he was overjoyed two months ago when he met Chinki's caretaker, a priest in a nearby village, who proposed that the two monkeys be married.

"We will welcome the bride in our house in Banetha after the wedding with all rituals," said an excited Ramesh while offering tea to Raju at a roadside tea shop.   Continued...

<p>Rajesh, a 38-year-old auto rickshaw driver, plays with his monkey Raju in his house at Banetha village, located in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, July 4, 2011. Indian forest department officials unsuccessfully tried to a stop a unique simian wedding citing it violated the 1972 Wildlife Protection Act. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui</p>