Day two was actually straight after day one – but due to travelling and intermittent Wifi, this post has been languishing in my notebook for a while.
Day two started for us with a ceremony for the groom, attended by his family and friends, to ask Ganesh to bless the marriage.
Hursh, the groom, sat on a dais with his family and the priest and they performed a set of rituals involving pouring petalled water onto flowers on a tray, spooning yogurt onto a statue of Ganesh and then cleaning it off, while the priest chanted and tapped a metal spoon on a tray.
There were only 3 photographers at this event, so I assume the bride must have been holding a similar ceremony, with the other 5 or 6 photographers in attendance. Even so, each one had an assistant to move the lights and hand over different lenses, so it was still a lot of people running around in front of the action.
Next came a gift giving ceremony, where the groom’s mother’s brothers handed out gifts to the groom’s extended family. There was a viewing table set up beforehand where we could all go and peruse the gifts – rather like eyeing up the raffle prizes before you decide whether or not to buy a ticket –
The final ceremony of the morning was the turmeric smearing. Everyone in the groom’s party lined up to smear turmeric paste on him. Some just daintily dabbed a little on his face, while others lifted up his shirt and rubbed it all over his body or plastered his hair with it. I tried to imagine a similar ritual in England where the groom was ceremoniously coated in Worcestershire sauce and took it all in good part, laughing heartily throughout – but I’m afraid my imagination failed me.
The most exciting part of the ceremony for me was having my sari professionally tied and pleated – I had been a little concerned that if I did it myself I might unravel at a vital point in the proceedings and create an embarrassing incident.
Two sari ladies were on hand and we all had appointments to be professionally draped, pinned and tied.
They gave us a variety of different styles – and I ended up with the Indian-old-lady-flab style, which I feel I carried off with aplomb –
The men all had turbans tied by a local chap who was so overcome at tying so many western men into traditional Gujarati turbans, that he asked for a photo –
Sam, as Best Man, had a particularly magnificent turban –
I now know that a turban can be tied in approximately two minutes … as long as you know what you’re doing, of course –
And they should – of course – only be worn by men …
The groom set off for the wedding in a golden coach. He was clutching a decorated coconut, which made it rather difficult for him to negotiate the steep steps, but he clambered aboard along with his family and the Best Man, and we followed along much more mundanely in a fleet of taxis.
We all gathered a few hundred metres from the wedding venue along with a troop of drummers, and then danced along the road, to be met by the bride’s family – also dancing – who invited us in.
The bride and groom, both looking resplendent, exchanged garlands and were showered with rose petals – no hay fever in India, it would appear.
Then they sat on a pillared and garlanded dais for the wedding ceremony.
The ceremony itself lasted over 3 hours and was all in Gujarati, so it was rather difficult to follow – and also difficult to see due to the full contingent of 8 photographers and their assistants all standing between the wedding party and the guests.
But it transpired that nobody is expected to sit and watch it all – people sit and chat to their friends, or go off and have dinner – as the food was available all evening.
Finally the bride and groom got up to leave and the bride became hysterical. She was crying so much that she had to be supported by her father and sister, who were also crying. The Western guests were shocked, but Indian guests assured us that it’s traditional to sob heartbrokenly and she wasn’t really being dragged off against her will.
And then it was the end – no real finale, just the tears and then they disappeared in a car, before reappearing for dinner ten minutes later – even the bride and groom have to wait until all the guests have been served before they’re allowed to eat.