(Rajesh plays with his monkey Raju, the "groom" in India's first monkey wedding, in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, July 4, 2011/Danish Siddiqui)

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 sceptical 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. 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.

(A forest department official carries Chinki, the "bride" in the monkey wedding, after it was found tied to a tree outside Talwas village, located in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, July 6, 2011/Danish Siddiqui)