A Dream Wedding in Udaipur

Today, rummaging through my hard drive, I found the photos of my trip to India and quickly gave in to the desire to plunge into images of the marriage of my friend. In a flash, everything explodes in my face from the dance, the perfumes, the colors, the laughter and the waves of emotions that caught us during the days of the ceremony.

At this time of the year all of northern India is filled with colors, not only because of the large number of festivals that are celebrated, but also because of exotic wedding destinations. It is the time of the wedding and each wedding has, in most cases, a duration of three days. I say in most cases because they can also last 7 or 30 days! I believe that the 30 day events are almost not celebrated.

When someone marries in India, the whole neighborhood knows it. The awnings of colors that suddenly appear in the streets say it. I remember first the joy of receiving months in advance the announcement made by my former roommate who was about to marry the one he spoke to me so much with flashes in the eyes and the excitement in the voice. The invitations are usually large, very baroque and it includes the schedule of the celebrations. If there are 100 guests, 101 cards are printed, because one is for the god of luck and happiness.

A Dream Wedding in Udaipur

Wedding Preparations

I was welcomed like kings, nursed by my dear friend and family, pampered by uncles, aunts, and cousins. When I arrived in Udaipur, the adorable mother of my friend had rummaged through the closets of the house to pull out outfits that she had then spread on the bed so that I choose my finery for the first part of the wedding ceremony.

Since I had not planned to bring an outfit for the wedding, I spent a few hours in the afternoon shopping in one of the malls. I had then tramped in a small shop waiting to find the happy owner. I spent hours admiring the fabrics, the fine work of goldsmith, trying the delicate fabrics to choose the one I would wear during the celebration. After a long time in the mall I almost forgot where I was.

The old town of the city is around Lake Pichola. The lake has two small islands, that of Jagniwas and that of Jagmandir. The first is completely occupied by a palace built by Maharaja Jagat Singh II in 1754. It is now a luxury hotel. The second island also has a palace, but a little older, as it was built by Maharaja Karan Singh in 1620.

Near the bridge there are some Ghats where a musician try to win over travelers with some typical instrument of Rajasthan. Valentine's Day is a popular day for weddings in India and in entire Udaipur I can see reception rooms decorated with flowers and colorful and glittery fabrics.

A Dream Wedding in Udaipur

Sangeet Ceremony

A few days later, still under the enchantment of this tale from the Arabian Nights, I dressed in my first outfit and seized the essence of the feast that is already established in the minds. The cousins ​​arrived one by one and I was peacefully relaxing in the garden. The sangit is celebrated before the wedding.

This celebration is typical of women, in which they sing, dance and eat. The relatives and friends of the bride's family participate in it. The dhol is traditionally played, a traditional instrument, and it is the moment of henna decoration of the hands and arms. It is assumed that the closer the bride is to the guest, the more complex the drawing is.

In the street, a group of blue-clad musicians sang a new tune, while a dance in a circle was improvised. Some clapped, some hummed and some laughed, taking us all into a whirlwind where all followed the rhythm cheerfully. The men seemed busy in a corner of the garden. Some were simmering to drink a drop of whisky.

Then we sat around a priest, and the first blessings began in small groups. The meal was quietly taken in a serene atmosphere, obviously waiting for the sun to set to start the festivities. A fire was then lit, and the first performances began. The aunts embarked on a touching choreography, while the younger sister showed us her talents as a dancer.

The future bride marveled us by his ease, as the music was chained and here we are on stage in turn, drawing applause and cheers from the family. My friend had charged me with a mission for his big day to learn the choreography of a Bollywood movie Dabang in front of an audience supposedly restricted to the family!

After a few quick rehearsals, the time was no longer moving, because I already had to wiggle in front of a delirious audience. Finally, the last salvo of dancers announced the end of the show and suddenly from the children to great grandmothers, stood up and began to let loose to the sound of Bollywood music, releasing such energy that we let ourselves go on the beats until late at night.

Carried away by crazy rhythms, I return to my room. The future husband retired, and the real marriage would take place the next day. The music endure until more than midnight.

A Dream Wedding in Udaipur

Wedding Day

The sound of drums awaken me early in the morning announcing to the whole neighborhood that the family is celebrating. We worked all morning in a cloud of perfumes, powder, and flamboyant fabrics. The excitement reigned and contaminated the whole household. I was draped in fabulous kurta pyjama and was finally ready to go in the back of a pickup that would transport me to the place of the official ceremony.

Some members of the family were already present, in a sumptuous decor worthy of the garden of eden. Statues of Buddha and Shiva were erected here and there were beds of flowers. Small pools bordered the sofas. The vegetation abounded around us, conferring a feeling of being one with nature.

The bride, adorned with gilding and a fiery red sari, finally arrived at the side of her mother on the huge red carpet that led to the festivities. The emotion was palpable.

Suddenly, the audience stood in suspense. I heard the clamor rising from the street. In orange turbans, the men approached enveloping the magnificent groom. The ceremony could finally begin. Separated by a transparent veil, the future spouses faced each other, surrounded by their closest relatives, while most of the guests enjoyed the abundant dishes from the international buffet. Some enjoy the banquet and the music, after taking boring pictures with the family.

Actually it looks more like a fair. The food stalls surround the room, beautifully decorated with colorful fabrics and luminous ornaments. In a first line snacks are served with pakoras of onion and fried vegetables, samosas, fried chickpeas with spices, and some small sweets. Later there is the serve yourself counter with big steaming casseroles opening each time a guest approaches.

There are curries of vegetables, chicken and paneer, dal, dishes in sauce and a variety of rice, essential to accompany the rest of the meal. There is also naan and paratha. The tandoor ovens are on one side of the room and the unmistakable sound of the hands hitting the mass does not stop sounding throughout the evening. Fresh bread is always ready.

The drinks are passed on trays served by attentive waiters who cannot let the guests' go dry. Alcohol is not served, as is often the case in most family gatherings. I try all the wonderful sweet and savory dishes of the buffet, and I wanted to taste everything! To make your mouth water I could tell you I had delicious butter naan with donuts of very spicy vegetables, and curries with peanut and lentils. To end I have goat milk ice creams with almonds and spices, fried swirls of sugar that melt in my mouth with a taste of honey.

I was bewitched by the colors, the incense, the rituals that unfolded before my eyes. The priest continued his incantations for a very long time. The couple, with a complicit look, exchanged flower garlands and passed them around the neck according to the tradition. Then they go around the sacred fire seven times to celebrate the new union.

In a real relief and indescribable joy, the few guests gathered around this ultimate moment and then threw flowers on the newlyweds. The photos flashed in all directions. It seems that time stops when the families of both greet each other and exchange flowers, in a gesture that shows that a marriage is not only between two people, but also between two families.

But attention falls shortly after. Paradoxically, the bride and groom are not the absolute protagonists of the wedding, and while they are getting married, it is enough to look back and see how some people keep eating! A large number of the guests does not leave where the food is served. The cooks continue filling food that the waiters empty on the plates of the diners. The tandoor continues to bake naan and empty drink glasses ask to be refilled.

When I arrived in the street, my car had just taken off, with another one taking on board my friend and her wife, leaving everyone around in tears. Somewhat overwhelmed, I ended the evening, realizing that my gifts will never have been opened. Tomorrow I leave for Chittorgarh to discover the story of Rani Padmavati and the jauhar customs.

A Dream Wedding in Udaipur
Kalyan Panja