An Indian Wedding (Not a Monsoon Wedding)!
September 7th, 2012
Recently, I travelled to Jaipur (Rajasthan) for the wedding of my first cousin, Anuradha, to her long-time boyfriend Prashant. We’ve grown up visiting each other, fighting, discussing Bollywood movies; she’s one of my closest cousins. This was my first time meeting Prashant, whom I found to be one of the nicest, most grounded gentlemen I’ve come across. I know that as crazy and bubbly as Anuradha is, he worships her for that very reason. I would like to thank Anuradha and Prashant for letting me share their wedding with you.
Anuradha, being the Bollywood fanatic that she is, sent these adorable save-the-dates, inspired by her favorite movie, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.
The wedding ceremony took place at the Meridien Jaipur. Indian weddings vary across religion and caste, and this was a traditional Hindu Marwari wedding divided into pre-wedding functions and various wedding day rituals. Here are some of them:
One of the most important pre-wedding rituals is the application of henna to the bride’s hands and feet. Henna signifies the the final stage of bridal status before the wedding. Once the henna dries and is removed, it is said the darkness of the resulting tattoo determines the groom’s love for his bride. It is common to hide the groom’s name within the design so that he can try to find it on the wedding night. The colours of the garments worn during this function are bright and fun. Tokens of appreciation like baskets of fruit, candy and silver coins were distributed to participating family members and the bride and groom.
Anuradha’s Mehendi ceremony took place the morning before the wedding, under a canopy of trees adorned with strings of marigold flowers and bunches of glass bangles. The theme was modeled after an Indian village fair (mela), with fortune-telling parrots, a shooting gallery, a potter, a bangle-maker and puppet (kathputli) shows. Rajasthani dancers and musicians serenaded the guests, while fresh fruit juices and local delicacies flowed from makeshift bamboo huts.
A music, dance and cocktail function that precedes the wedding ceremony, in which both parties’ family and friends participate to bid adieu to the happy couple. In Hindu culture, music is said to bring one closer to God. Modern day sangeets go all out, hiring top singers, dance troupes, classical musicians, celebrity emcees, choreographers and lighting concepts. Colours for this function are cool colors like blue, indigo, green and purple.
The Wedding Gardens
The hotel was swarming with wedding guests running to the salon and making sure their ghagras and sarees were steamed. The smell of mogras and incense cut through the cold Jaipur air. The wedding was to take place in the sprawling gardens behind the hotel, complete with a grand staircase. The wedding ceremony itself takes place in a specially designed place called the Mandap or the Altar, that comprises of a four pole canopy, with a designated spot in the centre for lighting a fire.
Finally, the sacred fire at the center of the Mandap is lit, which acts as a purifier and a solemn witness. The wedding knot is tied by attaching the groom’s scarf to the bride’s sari, to which we showered the couple with rose petals and rice grains. Sandalwood, herbs, rice, sugar, clarified butter, camphor and twigs are strewn into the fire. The pheras symbolize four things to target for in their lives: Dharma (to remain true to each other by leading a morally good life), Artha (to provide financially for each other), Kama (to offer physical and emotional comfort) and Moksha (to achieve liberation and enlightenment by developing spiritual strength).
After this, Anu and Prashant took the ceremonial seven steps to signify the beginning of their journey through life as a married couple. These seven steps represent the commitments and wedding vows and is the most important part of the wedding ceremony. The number seven refers to the earth, sun, moon and the four planets visible to the naked eye. Prashant then applied Sindoor (vermillion) to Anu’s forehead and tied the wedding necklace (Mangal Sutra) to signal the start of their marriage.
The bridesmaids – I am the second on the left!
At this point, the buffet of traditional Marwari and North Indian food was laid out. A couple of us snuck off to decorate Anu and Prashant’s wedding night suite with chocolates, fruit, flowers and cut-outs. When we returned, Anu was already hugging everyone goodbye. It was time for her departure (Bidai). This emotional ceremony marks the departure of the bride from her parents to her husband. We showered the couple with flowers as they got in to a car and bid them adieu.
Before this, here are just some of the many mini functions that took place:
–Korath and Baraat Nikasi: Anuradha’s family members officially invited Prashant and his family to the wedding. Then, Prashant was carried to the venue on a royally decorated horse, with family members dancing and scattering flowers alongside.
–Var puja: Being part of Anuradha’s side of the family, we welcomed the groom’s party at the entrance. It had been beautifully decorated with carnations, gerberas and lanterns. Prashant then crushed a clay vessel with his foot, signifying his strength and determination to keep his to-be bride happy.
–Var Mala: Anuradha and Prashant exchanged flower garlands, which signifies the union of two souls. A little game is usually played here, to see who can garland the other first. Anuradha won! At this point, the groom removes his shoes before entering the mandap area. Tradition has it that the bridesmaids have to try and steal these shoes and barter it to the groom at the end of the ceremony before the groom’s family can hide it. Our hunt for the shoes was pretty futile; intricate plans were made, but we were grateful that we had a little assistance from the groom’s wedding party. In exchange for the shoes, we received silver rings.
–Kanya Daan: There is no greater Daan (giving of a gift) than the giving away of a daughter’s (kanya) hand in marriage. Anu’s parents place their daughter’s hand over Prashant’s and officially give her away.