The second day of wedding festivities in India started with a haldi ceremony and ended with an evening celebration
I arrived for the second day of wedding festivities in India mid-morning by taxi, dressed in a long yellow kurta with green billowy pants. Walking through the hotel and the event center behind it, I saw a sectioned-off area with bright yellow canopies. Both the bride’s and groom’s families and friends wore bright yellow or orange traditional attire.
At the center was a golden cupola with two separate rings for the bride and groom. The day is one of the warmest since my arrival to India. Everyone is seeking shade.
I began at the breakfast buffet, where the mother of the bride, Shalmali, instructed me on what foods would be kindest to my digestion. I choose poha, a flattened rice that is parboiled so it can be consumed with little to no cooking. Puri bhaji is available but it is deep-fried and often spicy, so I stick with poha.
Trumpet blasts and drumbeats announced the arrival of the bride and groom. A burst of red, yellow, blue and orange colors was shot into the air as they made their way to the cupola.
Women from both families gather to conduct a puja, followed by the application of haldi paste. The rest of the family and all the guests are invited to join in, and the laughter fills the air.
In a haldi ceremony, a turmeric paste is applied on the bride and the groom. Yet, I soon learned that the paste is applied to all who greet the bride and groom. A leaf is applied to both sides of my face, arms and feet. The paste had a cooling effect on me. Given the heat of the day, it felt good.
With the mask on, I am unaware of how much it is staining my face until much later in the day. Yet my skin felt very soft once I washed the paste off.
Turmeric, the ingredient in haldi paste, is a long tradition in India and one of the most-used ingredients in the kitchen. It is revered in India for its many healing properties. A natural antiseptic, turmeric exfoliates the skin. It also has a mild antidepressant effect.
Yellow takes center stage in a haldi ceremony. The color is seen as auspicious for the bride and groom because it brings peace, purity and a happy beginning. It is thought to bring protection.
Haldi is added to almost all the recipes that are prepared daily in India. The natural antiseptic quality is because it is loaded with curcumin and other vital nutrients. Haldi is also used in ayurveda for its healing properties. (For more on this, see this article, “Hindu Marriage Rituals,” in Times Now News.)
Into the evening: Chai, champagne, gold and sequins
After the haldi ceremony, the bride’s family hosted a luncheon. While waiting for it to begin, I visited with the bride’s first cousins, Gaurang, Abhir and Gayatri. They told me they all had been married in the past year, two of them in the same month as the bride. I appreciated the joy I saw in the faces of these newlyweds.
They brief me on the ceremonial significance of the luncheon as I sipped a chai. They would prove to be vital support for me during the days of the wedding festivities in many small, yet meaningful ways. The bride’s family was serving lunch to the groom’s extended family as a way of welcoming them into their lives. As we chatted about the next part of the day, I learned that evening reception attire was meant to be full of bling, like what we might wear at a more formal occasion in the States.
I still needed to find a space to change into my green silk saree with gold borders. I was excited to wear it, but I knew I would need help to get it on. Finally, a room was made available, expedited by the first cousins. With the kindness of a new sister-in- law and aunt of the bride, I emerged twenty minutes later wrapped in my saree. I couldn’t believe how comfortable it was. I felt incredibly elegant in it. I have always admired the beauty and elegance of sarees. It complements the female figure, regardless of size.
As I waited out in the first floor area for the evening to begin, the father of Pritti, the aunt of the bride, stood out in the hall as well. His room was designated for hair and makeup for the bridal party. He still needed to get into the room to change as well. I laughed at the irony and challenge of getting into a private space to change our clothes. Throughout the festivities, he often shared the religious/ceremonial significance of each day. It helped to mark the special moments I was experiencing.
As I took the elevator with the cousins, I felt excited. It was fun to see everyone dressed in evening wear. The evening was cooler than the previous night. I had packed a white alpaca shawl for this very moment.
An elegant evening
The evening festivities were in an area the size of a football field in another part of the outdoor event section of the hotel. The space was decorated with colorful tents, adding to a festive feel. A vegetarian buffet featured Chinese and Italian food, as well as appetizers and two dessert bars. No alcohol was served, only sodas, water and tea.
Up on the dais with the wedding party, the bride wore a champagne-sequined long dress. Her mom was stunning in a deep wine-colored saree adorned with sequins. Most of the men wore a typical Western suit or Indian formal attire.
The wedding party were greeting the many people from the community who have been part of the extended network. Then formal portraits were taken for each new connection.
As I have mentioned in my previous blog, the reason I was invited to the wedding was through my connection with Dr. Sunil Joshi, director of the ayurvedic clinic in Nagpur, to which I have come many times through the years for the ayurvedic cleanse that is featured in my book, “Cleanse Your Body, Reveal Your Soul.” Joshi is the father of the bride.
Joshi and members of the clinic staff were in attendance with their families. I got to meet the husbands, wives and children of staff members. I have grown fond of so many of them over the years during my visits to Nagpur. A photographer took a formal portrait of the family, capturing their pride and joy.
As the evening rolled along, I migrated to the buffet, doing the best I could to find foods that were not too spicy or deep fried. These foods are not best for my dosha combination of pitta/kapha. The Chinese noodle dish did have some spice, but I managed to eat it. Rice and dal with mixed vegetables finished out my plate. [I touch on doshas in my book, but I also offer a dosha quiz, which you can take here.]
I sat with Gayatr, first cousin of the bride, and her new family. She shared about the new demands of being a wife in the family. She had to learn how they cooked their food and how things were done in the husband’s new home. In India, it is the tradition to live with or near the family of the husband, and Gayatri chose to do this.
Times are changing due to the nature of work being away from the birth home. Another first cousin, Abhir, tells me he works in another city so his new wife will join him after this wedding. They had just been married eight days earlier.
The evening continued late into the night, but I was able to catch a ride back to the clinic by 10 p.m. I found that I was ever so tired. Greetings and mingling with so many people all day can be wearing. Still one more day to go. This would be for the actual wedding.