Our third day of wedding festivities in India, the ceremony begins with flower petals and trumpet blasts.
A white horse awaits the groom, who is dressed in a gold turban with an accent of folded golden fabric on one side. Pratik wears a long burgundy jacket called an achkan with white pants. Before the ceremony, he and his entourage make an offering to Hanuman, the monkey god who serves and is devoted to Sita and Ram. They are part of the trinity of gods and goddesses, and often as a groom is about to be married, he makes an offering to make note that he is about to marry. This is symbolic of Pratik leaving his bachelor days.
When the groom rides in with his family, it begins the wedding. In the Indian tradition, a white filly is symbolic of pureness, practicality and love. To herald his entry, drummers and trumpeters announce his arrival. I learned the Indian trumpet is called a shehnai. Guests toss flower petals as the groom and his family arrives. He dismounts. We all walked up to the third floor of the ceremony.
The wedding hall is decorated with festive, multicolored fabric on the wall. With excitement in the air from the groom’s entrance, we turn to greet the bride. Siddha enters, carried in a canopy of flowers by male family members as trumpets herald her. Dressed in a pink and yellow saree, she wears a garland of pink and white flowers woven into her hair. Wearing gold bangles from Pratik with green bangles intersperse, she begins her journey to be his wife.
As she arrives at the dais in the front, the wedding couple begin a ceremony of exchanging garlands as a symbol of the bride accepting the groom. Laughing, Siddha pulls her head back in a playful manner. Smiling, Pratik finally succeeds in getting the garland on her. All are laughing and cheering while all of this is happening.
The wedding party, along with the Hindu priest and the bride’s parents, Sunil and Shalmali, move to the place for the puja dedicated for an agnihotra, a holy fire ceremony that has been shown to purify the atmosphere. As part of the puja, Ganesh is honored to remove obstacles for the wedding.
Seven circles around the fire
As the ceremony continues, I learn that the bride and groom circle the fire seven times. Each round gives a specific blessing. The main significance of the saptapadi is establishing friendship, which is the basis of a Hindu marriage. The seven promises are lifelong commitment, partnership, love, companionship, kindness, honesty, patience and intent to ride out any storm that may come.
We, as guests, are observing and mingling. I wear a blue silk saree for this ceremony. It is the custom for guests to wear more traditional sarees from the bride’s region of origin. I learned this the day of the wedding. At the clinic, Neetu helped me wrap the saree around me, pinning it into place.
During the fire circle ceremony, smoke set off an alarm, and the fire had to be covered so the alarm stopped blaring.
A podium was set up for guests to take pictures. Many of the same people have been attending each day. Quite a few sought me out to have a selfie or a picture taken by a family member. I smiled as I took my mask off. Many only spoke Hindi. I know a few words in Hindi but not enough to carry a conversation as yet.
A close to a magical and colorful day
After the ceremony, one of the new wives of the first cousins, Shreye, escorts me to make healthy choices at the buffet. The winning combination, I have learned through my travels to India, is rice, dal that is not too spicy, cooked vegetables, and chapati. If I do that, I do not become ill.
Sharing food together, I meet more family members and we exchange stories from the past few days. I greet them with my few Hindi words. I share photos of my grandson and my new puppy, Sage. Who doesn’t love to hear about my favorite little guy and a sweet puppy!
As the festivities wind down, more people come to congratulate the bride and groom. Yet, there is an urgency as well. The clock is ticking as the hotel checkout time has passed. Many guests are in a hurry to leave, collect their bags and catch transportation to the airport or the train station. Confusion ensues when some bags end up on the wrong cart.
I gathered my belongings. It has been a wonderful, magical and colorful day. I was tired and ready to go back to the clinic. There was much to do as I have now been invited to yet another wedding reception in Ali Barg, Pratik’s village. That’s the topic for my next blog!
A footnote on the power of connection in the local language
My book, Cleanse Your Body, Reveal Your Soul, is available in India via Amazon.in but only in English. It was during the days of festivities at this wedding, as I mingled with the family and guests, that I realized that having it translated would increase the likelihood of it selling better in India.
What I have to share is important for all who desire to have self-care at the physical, mental and emotional level as well as a balanced approach to one’s life so I want as many people as possible to learn what is possible with the tools of Ayurveda. I decided that day to follow up on a possible connection with a publisher in Delhi. Stay tuned to this space for the release date, or sign up for my mailing list here so you’ll be the first to know when it’s published!