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Prerna and Bhrigu's Wedding

INDIA | Monday, 21 January 2008 | Views [4651] | Comments [3]

Mr and Mrs Singh.

Mr and Mrs Singh.

Again we apologise. It has been a little while since our last missive so we'll try to catch up on the first few weeks of the year. Following our slightly disastrous stay in Kovalam we were very pleased to recover control of our digestive tracts and board a plane for Delhi, and Prerna and Bhrigu's wedding. We had got used to the warmth of the Keralan tropics so it was a bit of a shock to be greeted by a wall of cold, foggy air as we stepped off the plane. Apparently the flip flops were going to be surplus to requirements from now on.

The following morning we were up at the crack of dawn to make our way to the Chinese embassy. Far from the horrors of Pahar Ganj and previous stays in Delhi we were staying, along with the other overseas guests, in a nice hotel attached to the India Habitat Centre, which is similar to the Southbank Centre or the Barbican in London. The early morning drive through New Delhi showed a different side to the city and for the first time it betrayed some sense of what it might have been like before partition and the influx of displaced people from the Punjab. Apparently the city pretty much doubled its population in the six months following partition and much of the old was built over. Things went smoothly at the embassy although the man behind the counter was so brusque that Sam didn't even manage to get a quick "Ni hao" in before we were dismissed. The rest of the day was spent upgrading shoes and meeting Prerna and Bhrigu's friends for dinner. Sam and I distinguished ourselves by being about the only ones without a PhD, post doctorate or professorship!

Anand, a friend of Prerna and Bhrigu's has been enlisted to take some people on an anthropological tour of some of the Mughal sites of Delhi. He is undertaking a PhD on the politicisation of Islamic tourist sites in Delhi, so was well qualified to give us the facts. We visited three mosques. First up was the Q'tub Minar, a ruined mosque and medresse complex with a tall, stone tower built in 1199. Much of the cloistered area was constructed from pillars looted from Hindu temples during the intial Mughal invasion. The faces of the deities had been chiselled off to render them iconoclastic. Next up was a deserted mosque, well off the beaten track in a residential area of Delhi. The neighbourhood locals were surprised to see us to say the least! This mosque marked the extent of the old city and had been inactive for some 200 years. During this period it had, at times, been a busy bazaar and cattle market but now housed little more than a few kids playing hoop and stick and some old duffers playing cards on the steps. The final stop was the large Jama Masjid in old Delhi, where Friday prayers were just finishing. This is the main active mosque and a climb up the minaret gave us great views of the city, although the traffic jam at the top of the narrow spiral stairs lead to a slightly unnerving scene of 30 people crammed into an area the size of a double bed, clambering over each other and testing out the strength of the slightly wobbly railings that separated us from a 50m drop. Having safely descended we went to a famous Mughal kitchen in old Delhi and ate very rich goat curry apparently cooked by direct descendants of the kitchen staff of the last Mughal Emperor. Very tasty.

The first day of celebrations kicked off with Prerna's sangeet. This is one of the traditional pre-wedding celebrations where the friends and family of the bride gather for a day of dancing, drinking and feasting. Traditional songs about the bride were performed by musicians. The party was held outdoors with the delicious food for 400 people laid out in a very colourful marquee. At the end of the day Prerna had henna applied to her hands and feet. Sam had a small picture of the elephant headed deity, Ganesh, drawn on her wrist.

Having been inspired by the anthropology tour we headed to Safdarjung's tomb and Lodhi gardens in New Delhi the following morning. Unfortunately someone had helped themselves to my credit card details (again) so I spent much of the time talking to a computer in Swindon. The second act in the celebrations was an afternoon of music and chaat (indian snacks) laid on by Bhrigu's family. This was great fun, with the guests seated on cushions in a large hall while the band played very upbeat music and the family danced. Sam and I didn't have the moves to match so we majored on the tasty snacks and left the dancing to those with more talent. Bhrigu's mum used to be a professional dancer and did a great job of leading the festivities. Prerna made a brief appearance in a very smart sari with the her henna looking very dark, the sign of a good relationship with the mother in law according to our hosts. In the evening we went to a house party in New Delhi. It was hosted by friends in a lovely appartment, with enough food and booze to keep everyone happy for the whole night.

With a slightly sore head we made our way to Neemrana, an old Rajput fort palace perched on a rocky hill in eastern Rajasthan. The fort was amazing. The oldest parts dated back to the fourteen hundreds and various new additions had been made over the intervening years. We all checked into our rooms and explored the fort. It was all very Arabian Nights.

The main wedding day saw the whole palace garlanded and strewn with brightly coloured petals. The guests from the bride's side all assembled to await the arrival of Bhrigu and his entourage. The plan to enter the fort on the traditional white horse was scuppered as the climb was too steep, and the back up of a Rajasthani camel fell through due to it being mating season and the chosen steed being both randy and rather grumpy. Bhrigu arrived in style, wearing a very smart gold silk suit and turban and was met by Prerna's family. From there they proceeded up to a courtyard for the exchange of garlands, traditionally the first time the bride and groom see each other. In this case they have been together for ten years, but the effect was still very impressive with them stood on a platform with the guests around them. Prerna emerged in her bright pink punjabi finery, looking absolutely incredible. After the garland exchange the party relocated to an amphitheatre, where the stage was set for the priest to carry out the main ceremony. The families jostled for position either side of the fire in front of which Prerna and Bhrigu were seated. The ceremony lasted around 90 minutes and concluded with them walking round the fire seven times and praying to the sun. The final ceremony of the day was the handing over of the bride to the new husband's family and saw them seated on a swing with the female members of Prerna's family behind them singing a traditional farewell song. Prerna then threw rice over her head, which the women caught in their saris. The final farewells were an emotional scene and although this wedding is not a traditional arranged marriage we got a real insight into quite what a momentous occasion it must be for the bride. After the wedding an Indian bride is usually expected to go and live with the husband's family and have much less contact with her own. It was an amazing day and if Sam and I both felt tired by the end of it I can only guess how exhausted Prerna and Bhrigu must have been!

Tags: Party time



Did you manage to take any photos?

  Duncan Robertson Jan 21, 2008 9:46 PM


Yes, lots of photos but all on film again. Sorry!

  tim_and_sam Jan 22, 2008 12:04 AM


Am loving the camel.... white steed vs grumpy, randy, spitting, smelly camel... hmmm.

  Katie P Feb 25, 2008 12:51 AM

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