A couple of Fridays ago, The Jolly Runner and I were very honoured to be invited to a colleague's wedding in Juhu, Mumbai.
Not only was this a visually beautiful occasion - but with the many rituals and traditions associated with an Indian wedding, it was also fascinating.
Indian nuptials usually go on for several days and involve - at a minimum - several hundred guests. The biggest weddings have several thousand guests (and we complained about having to entertain a 100 people at ours!) and from what I can tell from driving past the many wedding venues in Mumbai - can involve a limitless budget. The ceremonies and receptions require huge amounts of space (a cricket pitch will just about suffice), furniture, lighting, food, music and drum bands, flowers, fireworks and special platforms for the bride and groom. When I think about the headache of organising a rather sober English wedding, I can not imagine what Indian families must go through to get theirs sorted out. All I can say is I bet there must be some very profitable wedding planning businesses in this city!
Without a doubt, Indian brides are some of the most beautiful in the world. The richly embroidered red lehenga cholis (bridal dress), the detailed makeup, the intricate mehndi (henna tattooing on feet and hands) and the heavy gold and diamond head, neck and arm jewellery is like nothing any westerner has ever seen. We were able to meet the bride in her wedding finery before the ceremony and it left us speechless and totally in awe:
|The bride reflecting. Note the amazing embroidery work on her lehenga and headpiece|
|Above and below: traditional Mehndi (henna tattoos) on hands and feet.|
|Mehndi ceremonies can take place a the bride's home before the wedding - sort of like a hen do!|
The wedding ceremony itself is very detailed and will differ according to state and family traditions. The wedding we attended followed mostly Punjabi traditions. The most important element is probably the Saptapadi, which is the taking of seven circuits around the Holy Fire whilst exchanging vows with every step - the fire being witness to the vows being made by the bride and groom. If they take the seven steps together they are sure to remain lifelong friends. How nice is that!
Jai Mala is another step in the ceremony where the bride and groom place garlands over each other's heads. This indicates the desire and acceptance to be united in matrimony.
There were many more parts to the lengthy wedding ceremony which proceeded whilst the rest of us were digging into the lovely buffet and chatting amongst ourselves in the background. At the end of the ceremony, everyone went up for group photographs with the bride and groom and this is when we handed over our presents.
|Jai Mala - placing garlands over each other's heads|
|The bride and groom with relatives|
As guests we were treated with great kindness by the parents of both the bride and groom and made to feel very comfortable - truly an honour to witness the joining together of two very beautiful people. May you have many happy years together Neha and Dishank!
|The beautiful couple|
Some other photos:
|The wedding dais prior to the ceremony.|
|A glimpse of the outdoor set up. Dressed tables and chairs and lights in the trees....stunning!|
|Greeting the newlyweds after the ceremony|
|One of the many food stations at the venue. Delicious!|