We went to India to be with good friends, but we were also lucky to be able to be together for a special reason: our friend’s wedding.
While in India, we also inadvertently crashed another wedding celebration while we there. In my friend’s father’s village in Gujarat, there was another wedding taking place. This time it was the Puja Ganesh ceremony, a ceremony that takes place (sometimes several days) before the wedding. There were several hundred people at this ceremony and the food was also plentiful as seen below. The interesting part about this event, which I couldn’t photograph, were that there were hundreds of women sitting under this tent, at long tables facing each other, with a middle runway path for the servers to come through and give you food. The men had eaten before us, and I sat facing some women probably wondering what was so interesting about the food that I had to take a picture of it.
There were several types of beans and lentils, papadum, sweet potato bhaji, eggplant, and perhaps my favorite – a silver-wrapped cashew (kaju) sweet with fig filling. Yum!
Mehendi or Mendhi ceremony
Two days before the wedding ceremony, we went to the bride’s house where they were having the Mendhi ceremony. Mendhi was applied to members of the bridal party and family’s hands. On the bride, it was applied from fingertips to elbows and all over her feet and up to her calves. It took 5 hours to do the bride’s mendhi and she was very restless at the end, not being able to rest her arms or legs for fear of smudging the intricate designs. Can you blame her? Her husband’s name is “hidden” in the mendhi somewhere and it is his job to find it afterward.
I did the mendhi, too, and I loved having mendhi on my hands and the designs that they used. Not only do they apply lemon to it when it’s almost dry to darken the color, but heat plays a factor in how deeply it will stain your hands. My hands took to the mendhi quite well and I could see even a few light remnants of the design until a few days ago.
I had been to a Hindu wedding ceremony before where they explained all of the steps of the ceremony and blessings. This time around, there were no explanations and it seemed like an intimate affair between the bride, groom, their bridal party and another 500 people watching in the background and eating the food being brought around. The first Hindu wedding I had been to, I was shocked to see people getting up during the ceremony and EATING! But it’s normal and sometimes absolutely necessary since they can be very long.
Here’s a picture of the altar where they would get married later. If you’re going to be a guest at an Indian wedding, I recommend reading about the Hindu wedding traditions in case they are not explaining the rituals. S had some help from some of our friends there and I relaxed and watched.
Our friend, who normally is very beautiful, was stunningly beautiful as a bride. Don’t you agree? She answered the door in the hotel room, fully dressed, and I about had a heart attack at her transformation. I love how the massive amounts of details in her dress – from the head covering to her bindi, the numerous bangles to all of the mendhi on her hands and feet, her nose ring, her jewelry. She was gorgeous.
After the ceremony, then the real feasting began. In an area near to the sitting area, it seemed like a huge fair of food, with booths set up for each specific type.
The Indian Chinese food I mentioned in Desi Chinese, Ice Cream, Dabeli and Other Street Food was present, as well as Italian which is quite trendy (and expensive) in India. I steered clear since I was still ready to gorge myself on Indian food. There was a Jain booth with specially prepared foods, as well as my two favorite booths:
Fresh naan and rotis.
Fresh dosas being made on the spot. The dosa is perhaps my favorite new discovery and I loved eating them for breakfast.
Paan or pan is something eaten to freshen one’s breath and is commonly served at weddings. At the first wedding we went to, I was served a little packet of a fresh green leaf wrapped up and inside was a mixture of coconut, spices and candied/preserved fruit, closed with a toothpick and had a maraschino cherry stuck on top.
I had to spit it out.
See, I told you there might be something I didn’t like in India! It might have been those flavor combinations or that particular one, but I felt myself getting sick. Maybe next time. Aesthetically, I love looking at the pan stands and all the colors. Pan can also be bought dried and sometimes people mix it with tobacco or even coke (and not the soda). Oral cancer is unfortunately a problem in India and I can testify seeing as how much I saw men chewing and spitting it!
But aren’t the colors pretty?
Have you been to a Hindu wedding ceremony? Any experiences to share?