I wasn’t kidding when I said there were 3 days of activities. It’s an intense few days full of experiences, music, laughter, dancing, and of course – food.
The day starts with Ruchir (Groom) and Charlene (Bride) going through their ceremonial activities. This includes a Hindu priest initiating the proceedings for the formal ceremony later in the day. Following these rituals, a turmeric wash is placed on Ruchir’s face. All of the women of the family then carry a pot of water around the premises, each taking a turn holding the pot. Once they reach the beginning point, they use the water to wash his face of the turmeric. Charlene also having a turmeric wash as well follows this. I wish I could explain in detail how beautiful this all looked or the specifics of the events, but I just couldn’t keep up – it was all happening so fast. Similar to the previous night, attendees of the wedding watched at times, chatted, ate their breakfast and milled around in general. Apparently, the rituals are meant to be conducted in private but the bride and groom suggested they be in public for their guests to witness. It was stunning.
Ruchir has since added information for me :
"Basically the ceremony first prays to Ganesha - the lord of beginnings. Then the priest helps call upon the gods to initiate the proceeds for the ceremony later in the day. Lastly, the family helps wash both the children with turmeric (a revered material in Hindu tradition) to cleanse them and ready them for the ceremony. The pot process traditionally in villages used to be ladies going to get water to help wash. But now its been ritualised"
The next section of activities commenced with a small Holi festival. The Holi festival is generally conducted in the spring and is known as the festival of colours or the festival of “Sharing Love”. You can read more about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holi
I have always wanted to be in India for a Holi festival and this just wet my appetite.
It’s relatively simple – there are plates of powdered colours that get thrown in the air and at each other whilst music blares for hours. This is exactly what we did! Encouraged by drummers we danced, threw colours and laughed our way through a mini Holi festival for about an hour and a half. It was awesome – although it took almost 2 weeks for the purple to fully wash out of my hair.
Following the Holi festival we were given a cup of Bangh. It may or may not be banned in India (dependant on who you ask)– but you can still find it in many places – even stating “Government approved”. The reason why it may be banned you ask? It’s liquid Opium and it’s dangerously delicious. Mixed in milk and cinnamon they passed around small cups of Bangh for everyone to enjoy and partake in.
At sunset the formal proceedings began. A few more rituals and of course the drummers kick off. All men are allocated turbans and tied in the way of the region we are in. We all meet in the hotel lobby for a formal procession guiding the groom to the wedding ceremony. This can apparently at times take hours – the cousins and family members encouraging everyone to dance and stopping the groom from moving ahead any further. It takes us about 45 minutes and its brilliant. We are all dancing to the drums, the cousins and family members are throwing a big stink about moving forward and Ruchir is just quietly making his way down the flower lined path to the ceremony.
Once we arrive at the ceremony there are priests on the side of the tent and in the middle. The seats line the entire venue. You can choose to watch or chat, or again…eat. I’m watching from behind – fascinated at the on goings. Drums notifying us of her arrival then present Charlene. She is hovered by a flower wall above her head as she walks into the venue. Once she has arrived, both her and Ruchir are put onto the shoulders of friends and they are brought towards each other. They are both carrying garlands to throw over each other’s head – to symbolise the marriage proceedings.
Ruchir has added further information about this for me:
"The garland process was a way to welcome each other. However because historically the groom would come to the bride's place to take her with him after the wedding, the family members of the bride make it hard for the groom to enter. i.e. The create a wall and lift the bride so that the groom cannot put on the garland and enter the wedding ceremony"
Once this has been conducted – they sit and are again blessed by the priests for about an hour. They then walk around a small fire 7 times – each walk is to represent a different promise they make to their partner. However, when they are walking around the fire – their friends are encouraged to throw flowers at them – huge heads of marigolds – straight at their face. It’s funny, sacred and humble all at the same time.
It’s a bit chaotic. Nothing like a western wedding where you sit, listen, and all join in at the same time. There is no rhythm – again it just happens and the humanity and beauty of it as it unfolds is surreal.
The food begins again (of course) and the party continues. There is no end, we again head off for bed around midnight knowing that we have one more day of unknown activities to take on board.