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Groom in wedding finery

Wedding Ceremony

The following day was the wedding ceremony. The guests gathered in the evening to leave together for the venue. Before leaving, Eric was called over and a red and yellow turban was expertly wrapped around his head by a mustachioed man and his assistant. In fact all of the men had been given turbans. Rahul appeared in fine white clothes and wore a bejeweled white turban. Colorful garlands of intricately-woven flowers were draped around his neck. We climbed into the waiting line of cars and drove right out into the worst nighttime Bombay traffic. It took over 90 minutes to travel the 10km to the beach hotel where the wedding ceremony would be held. When we arrived, the guests assembled down the street from the hotel entrance. A brass band appeared and when everything was ready they began to play joyous, rhythmic music as we danced our way to the hotel entrance. People out for a Saturday-night stroll in Juhu were watching us: a group of finely dressed guests dancing to loud, clashing music. Beggars worked their way into the crowd, asking for money, before being driven away by security. Children dressed in rags watched wide-eyed in amazement at the splendor. It was a clash of two worlds, something that rarely happens at home.

Standing in the circle The bride

When we reached the hotel entrance Rahul, leading the way, was greeted by Tanya's parents and close family. He touched each of their feet and embraced them in the traditional respectful greeting. All of the guests were greeted before moving inside through the lobby to the hotel courtyard. The crowd gathered around a circle of flowers and colorful chalk markings on the ground where Rahul was waiting. A golden-fringes red parasol was held over him. Tanya, dressed in fine clothes and heavy gold jewelry, her face sad and her eyes downcast, was brought in to stand next to him. Family members came up to the couple to cast flowers, share food and give their blessings. Then the couple moved to a large outdoor stage backed by glittering drapes where an already long line of people had formed. They walked up to the stage in turns to congratulate the couple and to present a gift, then posed for a group picture before joining the crowd for dinner. There were so many that it took several hours to receive all of the guests. On the other side of the stage, behind the gilded curtains and over the fence, Juhu beach stretched off towards the dark Arabian Sea. There were rows of people bundled in blankets sleeping on the beach.

Wedding Pose Wedding ceremony

Because the reception was for a sacred marriage ceremony, only vegetarian food and no alcohol were served. Later, after we had eaten, we noticed that many of the guests had already left. Most of the invitees came only to pay their respects, eat, and leave. They were not expected to stay for the nocturnal wedding ritual. At around 1:00 am we moved inside, where the priests had been busy preparing a dais and a small hearth. Rahul's two Kashmiri priests were joined by Tanya's family priest to perform the ceremony. Close family and friends sat on the surrounding chairs and sofas, watching the ceremony and trying to stay awake by chatting and drinking tea. To our eyes the ceremony resembled the baptism we had seen earlier.

Around the fire seven times Throwing flowers on the wed couple

The head priest chanted and built a fire. He ladled ghee and threw food and flowers into it. Smoke filled the room, driving some of the guests outside to the cool night air. Rahul, Tanya and her father were sat with the chanting priests. At one point Tanya sat on her father's lap and was physically passed to Rahul. After more chanting, reciting and invocations the couple stood up and led each other seven times around the fire. This was the crux of the ceremony that seals the marriage. Afterwards Tanya and Rahul fed each other bites of food. Then a red sheet was draped over the couple, and, one by one the guests threw yellow flowers over the seated newlyweds. It was 5:00 am and the marriage was concluded.

The next evening Tanya's family hosted a reception for the newlyweds. The atmosphere was festive. Unlike the wedding ceremony, meat and alcohol were served. After dinner the music was turned up and everyone got up to dance.

Eric with a turban Anne with the 'Bollywod Boy'