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kate & raj: days 2 & 3: the wedding ceremony and sangeet (dance party)

A Vedic Wedding Ceremony is a wondrous and ambitious undertaking.

First the bride is meticulously wrapped into luxurious cloth, adorned with jewellery, veiled and crowned. Then she is seated onto a small wooden board called a piri, supported (actually carried) by her male ‘loved ones’. These unflinching male supporters, each grasping a corner of the piri, circle the bride around the bridegroom no less than 7 times while the bride keeps her face covered with 2 betel leaves. Upon completion of the 7th revolution, Shubho Drishti takes place wherein the bride drops the betel leaves from her face and reveals herself to her groom. Next they launch into an extremely involved series of rituals including Jaimala (the exchange of garlands), Kanya Pratigrahan (where both fathers place their child’s hand into the hand of their marriage partner), Agnadhana (the starting of the sacred fire), Jaya Homa (the making of offerings for prosperity), Abhyatan Homa (the making of more offerings for protection from the deities), Panigrahan Vidi (the taking of oaths) and Saptapadi (the taking of seven steps together). There are many more. Too many to elaborate upon here, but you get the idea. It is a lengthy and mystifying process.

The smell of burning ghee and sandalwood hangs heavy in the air, the crackling of the fire punctuates the sparse sounds of a sitar, a pakhwaj (drum) and the bansuri (Indian flute), at times escalating with the priest’s low pitch mantra. The crowd becomes hypnotized, entranced by the ordeal—caught up in the undulation, the repetition, the language, the colour. The history steeped within these ancient traditions.

And then, finally, the groom smudges some red powder (Sindoor) into his brides hairline, right at the part, and it’s official. The room wakes up to an uproar of music, married women in the room break out in high pitch ululations and everyone throws flower petals toward the newly-wed couple.

And the night is done.

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The evening following the wedding there is another event with a much less solemn vibe, the Sangeet.

Because Kate & Raj are Kate & Raj, they decided to have as many of their guests as they could muster–most of them comprising the 50 or so friends who flew to Kolkata to celebrate with them–learn a highly choreographed Bollywood dance piece to kick off the dance party. Then, just to up the ante, they secretly rehearsed a duet to perform just before the group dance. Of course, both numbers are a hit, the crowd erupts in laughter and applause, and mayhem ensues.

Please give some special attention to the final shot of everybody on the bus on the way to the after-party. Smiles everyone!!

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