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One Memorable Day

Every person or community has it's memorable days, not to mention forgettable days. I've had several of both types. But for me, a particularly memorable day is the one when Yash and I got married after waiting to do so for some seven years.

We met sometime in 1986 and by 1987 we were seriously in love and knew (or thought, maybe?) each other was 'the one'. But we didn't get down to 'tying the knot' (which they do, quite literally, in Hindu weddings) until 1994. There were several reasons for this. Firstly, we needed time to think. Marrying out of religion and community...was it really for us? Yash had no interest as such in moving west, but he wasn't against it either. It is just that he would have definitely preferred a job in his own line rather than in a restaurant where he wasn't qualified at all. There were enough qualified people in his field in my country, and foreigners were not required to fill any vacancies which arose. His job in India was also a problem, as he worked in a different state to his own, and the language and culture was different. He wanted to settle down nearer his native place. He returned to India in 1988. He achieved his goal in 1994, when he got a job as a professor in the neighbouring city where his parents lived. I wound up my life in Ireland and came to India to be with him.

We got married - for the first time - on the 11th December 1994. This marriage was solemnised according to Hindu rites. We underwent two subsequent marriage ceremonies - one 'court marriage' or as they say in the west, registry office marriage, and the marriage according to Roman Catholic rite, for which I had to get a special 'Dispensation from Impediment of Disparity of Cult', from no less a person than the Archbishop of Dublin.

Our Hindu marriage was interesting, but it was quite different from most Hindu marriages. Hindu marriages are usually solemnised by Brahmin (hereditary) priests. Our marriage was solemnised by a Hindu gentleman named Mr. Singh. Any Hindu will tell you, no Brahmin ever uses the name 'Singh'. Belonging to a caste other than Brahmin, he went to a voluntary organisation a few years earlier and studied the Hindu scriptures. Then, as a member of that same voluntary organisation, he made himself available to perform the religious ceremonies as a social service.

Most Hindu marriages begin when the 'Baraat' arrives. 'Baraat' means procession, and refers to the procession of the bridegroom and his party to the house of the bride. Well, in this case, the bride was already in the groom's house, so where was the need? Most Hindu marriages are solemnised at night so that they can take place when the stars are considered to be nicely aligned. But Mr. Singh's Samaj (organisation) have no interest in astrology. So the marriage was solemnised at ten o'clock in the morning, a Sunday morning. It was attended by neighbours and close friends and relatives who live in the same city.

My mother-in-law had purchased my wedding clothes. I wore a red marble chiffon sari covered with silver 'muqqash' embroidery. It looks like tiny silver stars which sparkle when they catch the light. With brides in the same caste (community) of Yash, I notice they tend to wear a less expensive sari for the ceremony and a more costly, heavy one for the reception. I wondered why. I think I understand now. The reason is because (in Yash's community at least!) the wedding sari is usually gifted to the husband's sister. So the bride gets to keep the more expensive and better quality sari than the one that was given away. I also wore six silver toe rings (picchwe), anklets (payals - ankle chains) and glass bangles and gold bangles. The glass bangles are a must for women in Yash's community, as indeed in most north Indian communities, and are worn in a variety of beautiful colours. I still wear them every day, not just because I am obliged to but because I enjoy wearing them.

Although Yash and I knew each other very well, we both felt a little shy taking this huge step in life together. Yash wore a plain, cream coloured kurta pajama, a traditional north Indian dress for men. He also had to wear a large coloured scarf, the end of which was tied to my sari. The marriage was solemnised in front of a fire, which was not the bonfire I'd imagined, but a small fire in a metal box, which made me cough quite a few times. Yash and I walked around the fire seven times (saat pheras). I was very happy and smiled a lot. I've since seen many Indian brides walk those seven rounds weeping bitterly - but not me! I was probably the happiest bride I've ever seen. It did not bother me too much that my own family members were not present, as I was hoping they would be when I got the Catholic solemnisation done. A neighbouring couple who were very close to my father-in-law took the role of my parents on that day. I met them about two minutes before the ceremony began!

The Hindu marriage ceremony is one of the oldest in the world and has some notable features. Apart from 'tying the knot' mentioned earlier, and the seven rounds of the fire, there is something called the 'seven steps'. However, the significance of these were lost on me. I do not know Sanskrit, and neither does Yash. I think it is high time I looked up the meaning of all these ceremonies within a ceremony. Another highlight is the 'jayamala' which is the exchange of garlands, which usually takes place at the beginning of the ceremony. We did the jayamala before the video team arrived to record the ceremony and they wanted us to do it again. Yash became angry and said that once was enough. He said that repeating the jayamala would diminish the significance. He informed the cameraman that he was recording a wedding, not filming a drama. The opening sequence of the film features an angry Yash putting the video cameraman in his place. What a pity we've misplaced that recording. I very much want to digitalise it and post pictures on my blog!

Another notable feature of Hindu marriage is applying sindoor on the bride. Red powder is applied in the bride's hair parting once the couple have passed the stage of becoming husband and wife. Yash applied the sindoor to me using his ring which was dipped in the powder. But I've been putting it on myself ever since! But for me, the applying of sindoor was the most beautiful, most touching and romantic aspect of this ancient ceremony.

We hadn't eaten anything all day. The ceremony was over at around 2 pm and the house was filled with relatives and neighbours. The marriage was actually solemnised in the drawing room of our house. After the ceremony, sweets were distributed to all the guests. And that was it! Everyone went home and we had lunch, the family and visiting relatives.

My father-in-law subsequently sent a card to all friends and relatives informing of the marriage and inviting them to a reception which was held - at home - two weeks later. That was also a nice occasion.

You can certainly say that our marriage was a long drawn out affair. If you consider the fact that ceremony and reception were held on two different days and that there were two subsequent ceremonies, you can say that I have been a bride on four occasions.

But I'll never forget that one memorable day when we started our life together.


This is my weekly post for the Loose Bloggers Consortium (LBC). a group of bloggers from diverse areas of the world who post weekly on Fridays and the same topic. If you have time, please visit the other members too and see their different takes on the same subject. They are, in alphabetical order, Ashok Conrad me gaelikaa, grannymar, Helen, Judy , Magpie.11, Maria & Ramanaji. Marianna is currently taking a break.

Comments

  1. Gaelikaa,
    What a wedding !Glad you have fond memories of that day.You have adjusted so very much in that family!
    Nice post.

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  2. I love to hear about the different customs and ceremonies for other cultures. Your Hindu wedding sounds so colourful and full of ritual. I would love you to share some pictures.

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  3. We're invited to a tradition Hindu wedding in July. I'm so excited!!!

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  4. Such a good post. I'm like Grannymar, I would love to see picures if you have them. I loved the wedding memory. Do you still have your wedding sari? What happened to the rings on your toes?

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  5. What a wonderful insight into a Hindu wedding. Thanks for sharing. When you said you smiled whereas other brides you've seen have cried it reminded me of this line from the film Bent it like Beckham: 'Look sad, don't smile, Indian brides never smile, you'll ruin the bloody video'

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  6. Thank you for sharing that. i really did enjoy reading about your Hindu wedding.
    You must have been serious about him...... getting married four times!

    Nuts in May

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  7. Wow, what a great story to tell future generations. You have lived such a rich life!

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  8. I was so hoping this was the memorable moment that you would choose. I loved reading about the ceremony and now I want to hear more so I hope you will tell us about the second ceremony as well.

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  9. Thank you for sharing this part of you. It's so fascinating. Whats the meaning of the sindoor?

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  10. Lovely post Gael. thankyou xxx

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  11. A very nice post indeed! :)
    Thought I'd just tell you whatever l'il I know about 'Seven Steps' or 'Saptapadi'.
    " Saptapadi " or the " Seven Steps " which the couple takes together is considered the most important part of the Hindu wedding where the couple takes the sacred vows.The manner in which these seven steps are taken differ. In some South Indian marriages, these seven steps are taken towards the Southern direction with the groom holding the little finger of the bride and then going round the sacred fire. In certain other marriages, the groom holds the hand of the bride and leads her around the fire seven times. Every step is taken invoking the Gods to shower their blessings on the couple.

    Though I don't quiet know the Sanskrit 'mantras' associated with each step, the Vows taken with each step are as below:
    With the first step , the couple invoke the Gods blessings for abundance of food in their household.

    With the second step , the couple prays to the Gods to give them both mental and physical strength and a healthy life free from ailments.

    The third step is for the fulfilment of spiritual obligation for the couple and for the successful performance of their spiritual duties.

    The fourth step is for the attainment of happiness in all walks of life.

    The fifth step is to pray for the welfare of all living entities in the entire Universe.

    The sixth step is for bountiful seasons all over the world.

    The seventh step is taken invoking the prayer and sacrifice for universal peace.

    On taking these seven steps together, the couple agrees to be companions forever and pray that they never have any conflicts(which is neither possible nor practical) so as to break this companionship. Having sought each other out to be life partners, they agree to lead a harmonious life taking into consideration not only each other's likes and dislikes, but also keeping in mind the good of the entire family. They pray for their unity, prosperity and happiness.

    Hope this helps. :)

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  12. I should imagine that Mr. Singh represented the Arya Samaj. Urmeela and I too got married under the Arya Samaj rites which are the pure unadulterated vedic rites of ancient India. Urmeela was from Methodist stock, and those days, both of us were atheists! The Arya Samaj priest started us off on a path of forty years of an amazing marriage by translating the Sanskrit Shlokas into English for the benefit of both of us and the witnesses present. I am not surprised that for you that is the day to remember.

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  13. What an absolutely delightful post. It was moving to read about the factors you both had to weigh up before deciding to make that commitment to each other and then fascinating to read your descriptions of the ceremonies.

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  14. What beautiful memories! I love Yash's statement, recording a wedding, not a drama!

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  15. What an interesting and inspiring post. Thank you for the insight into the ceremonies of another culture. Beautifully written, I completely understand how important this day must have been to you.
    xo
    Zuzana

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  16. Charming! I think those were the most beautiful four days of your life (apart from those you gave birth to your children!). I've seen a Pakistani wedding and there the bride cried too...
    Anyway this story was really romantic! And the glass bangles? I love them too!!!

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  17. What an amazing day! Ever since I found you on the blogosphere, I was intrigued by your life story. Now I can read a new chapter. Thank you for sharing it with us. I thourghly admire both of your courage and cultural openness. May you have many happy years of good marriage ahead.

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  18. I remember seeing a wedding parade at night with bright lights, decorations & horses or elephants (I forget). I think it was just the future groom on his way to the bride's house.

    Our tour guide had an arranged marriage & only met his future wife once, in the company of family. The story he told about the wedding & after was hilarious. It is a very successful marriage by the way.

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  19. We get invited to Indian weddings periodically here in the US now. They seem quite elaborate, but we only get a partial glimpse. Thanks for giving the long version.

    My wife and I had a very busy few days leading into the wedding, with the result that it seems like a dream and there isn't much remembered clearly.

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  20. I've been honored being a guest at several Hindu weddings, and yours was just as interesting. And it makes a lovely story. Recently our friends in Connecticut gave us the invitation to their daughter's wedding, a "traditional" Hindu one in which explanations were printed to explain each ceremony for the mostly Western guests. I was so taken with it, I'm planning to post it in Wintersong as soon as I can get all the photographs assembled that will enhance it. The only thing I miss from this lovely post is a photograph of the two of you together that memorable day. Perhaps sometime in the future? Btw, for my own "untraditional" non-denominational wedding to a Hindu, I wore a pink Banares saree embroidered with silver threads.

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  21. Wow...what I would give to have been at that wedding!Sounds wonderful, beautiful and, well, magical...

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  22. There's not a lot to say it sounds lovely.
    What about music? was there any? I cannot imagine a wedding without music, tho I have been to them.

    I'm sitiing here imagining the colour of it all.

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  23. That was a very interesting read. Might I reccomend a book called "2 States- The story of my marriage" by Chetan Bhagat. It is a very good read :)

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  24. Yours definately was a different wedding than most north indians have ..but wedding is always a cherishable day ..!!

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  25. Thanks for sharing your wedding day with us. The traditions and events sound beautiful. I sure hope you do find that video and that eventually you are able to extract some photos from it. I'll bet they're beautiful. :)

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  26. Me and my wife too will never forget the day we started our new lives together!

    Garden Lizard

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  27. Interesting and fascinating. I think every couple is a little shy on their wedding day; perhaps it is a little overwhelming when people are watching. I know I was terribly nervous!!

    CJ xx

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  28. How wonderful! I enjoyed reading this. Congrats on POTW at Hilary's!

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  29. Fabulous post .. most interesting customs ... congrats on TPOW from Hilary!

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  30. I really enjoyed this. The rituals and ceremonies are wonderful. I can imagine all the color and sparkle.

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  31. An enchanting story. I have recently discovered a tv channel that shows Hindu weddings and so I was easily able to imagine the colours of yours. How I would have loved to see a picture of you both.

    Thank you to Hilary for finding you for her Post of the Week slot.

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  32. I am fascianted! So glad Hilary sent me over! Congrats on your POTW mention!

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  33. What a brave and adventurous woman you are, Maria!

    I'm sure those are just 2 of the many reasons that Yash chose you.

    Thank you for deepening our understanding of the Indian marriage custom.

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  34. What a pretty picture you've painted! So very interesting too, you're a lucky lady to have had all those weddings!

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  35. What a wonderful post, I love learning about different customs and you've given a fine description!

    Congrats on the POTW from Hillary!

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  36. Thanks for sharing this story. It's interesting to learn the customs of other cultures. Congrats on another POTW!

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  37. I can't believe I'm only now getting to your wonderful, wonderful post. I am fascinated by such ceremonies and I almost got to go to one, but due to sad circumstances, was unable to.

    Maybe one day.

    xx

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