Matrimonial Marathons

Jodhpur seems to have gone slightly mental recently, an event which can be attributed to one thing – wedding season has well and truly arrived!

Happy to be a part of the big day! Big smiles from a pretty face

If my time in India has taught me one thing, something I’ve reiterated many times in my previous blog posts, it’s that Indians love to celebrate and are extremely good at it. Turns out, Indians love celebrations so much that they put all their weddings at one time of the year to create one huge party season. As crazy as this might sound, the season, dubbed here by moi as ‘the matrimonial marathon’ (and marathon it is, you need stamina for this one)  also makes complete sense. You get all your gift/gold buying, bangle purchasing, saree making and manic outfit planning out of the way for the year in a few months and have the rest of the calendar to try and recuperate the funds you spent trying to keep up. The season seems like guaranteed business for the events industry  (an absolute godsend for the most popular venues) and people can travel back to their family homes to catch up on all the latest family gossip. What’s not to like? Okay, so it is pretty expensive (think how much effort you put into your wedding purchases in the UK, then imagine the wedding might go on for 10 days, have over 1000 guests and a new one starts immediately after for about 4 months straight). The constant excessive eating in itself is a bit of a feat, but I am now going to four different wedding celebrations four days in a row and I’m super excited. This is one of the big perks of staying somewhere rather than just being a tourist, you get to experience the craziness/awesomeness of joining in local life thanks to the kindness of the people around you. As a result, I get to dress up, wear lots of makeup, sparkly jewellery and generally act like a big kid in a sweet shop. Time to get your glad rags on ladies! Plus it all acts as ‘wedding practice’ for the big event I’m still looking forward to the most – my friends wedding extravaganza in Kolkata in January!

A Muslim Wedding Procession through Jodhpur complete with very cute riding assistant…

For example, one thing I have learnt for the January event is I am now aware that everything must match, preferably be bright, jewellery should be insanely sparkly and gold is always best. This is at least the case in Jodhpur. The women here all look super gorgeous and even the grandmothers make an effort, out-twinkling, dancing and singing their younger counterparts. I have also made a theory as to why the jewellery must be uber-blinding bling and why there has to be lots of it, boiling down to two reasons:

1) So that when you dance (mainly using your hands) your dancing is accompanied by the gentle clinking of metal and it draws attention to your hands and feet moving

2) So that if, like many of the Rajput women, your face is covered with a veil for most of the evening, you can still see your super amazing earrings through the cloth.

Colourful attire is also an essential part of any self-respecting Rajasthani Wedding, as these women waiting for the men to return prove!

It probably also has something to do with generally proving you’re successful or something (blahblahblah) but I like to think that being Sassy is the only consideration whilst these women get their groove on. I went with Manju bangle shopping and you would be surprised by the amount of thought that goes into buying something as minor as bangles!  Manju and I must have literally pushed our way to the front of counters of god-knows-how-many tiny shops packed with people to get our hands on the most desirable items. I’m glad to say we both managed to come away with what we wanted after a headache inducing shopping trip. Everything from the size of the bangle (yes they come in a variety of sizes) to the colour and sparkle factor must be just right.  The tailors here are also swamped with requests for sarees, Rajput dresses and salwar kameez, so we spent half the evening running around trying to find someone to stitch ribbon onto Manju’s new dupatta, matching-in-colour and sparkly of course.

Last night was also my first Sangeet. Neetha and I went together which was nice. Wedding celebrations here span over a series of days rather than hours, so there are lots of different functions to attend. A Sangeet is basically an evening of dancing for everyone before the wedding itself where people also perform special pieces for the bride and groom – a bit like a showcase. It’s great fun though, as it means that every one has their chance to get up and dance, even if they’re shy and wouldn’t really do otherwise. I took a few videos to give you an idea of the style of dancing, apparently some of it is specifically Marwari in style (?) I’m sure someone will let me know! My favourite is the woman at the end who dances with her pashmina – love it!

The music is typical from what I can tell of Rajasthani weddings, whilst the people wafting money over the dancers heads are blessing it before putting it together in a collective pot. I’ve not yet quite figured out where this then goes… bride and groom? Musicians? To a temple? Maybe I’ll ask Manju. Anyway, I had a go at dancing myself which was very exciting, even if I did just literally copy the actions of everyone around me. I’ve come to love small children at these events, as they are perfectly happy to show you what to do, taking pride in teaching you how to dance! Bhanu is similarly a very good Hindi teacher, I think because they make no assumptions as to what you should or should not know and they don’t really have the capacity to be patronising, only enthusiastic teachers!

I’ll keep you updated on my wedding adventures as they progress. Maybe I’ll be an expert Bollywood dancer by the end of it, who knows… a more realistic outcome may be that I simply become an expert at eating all the scrummy free food. Fine by me! 😉

Over and out x

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