Wonderful Maharashtra Wedding Week


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January 27th 2019
Published: January 28th 2019
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We could not have known five years ago when we were in Pune visiting Apoorva and her family that we were actually going to be able to accept the invitation to the wedding of sister in law Gauri when this would take place. When we got our visa for India in Amman, Jordan, and had booked our flight to Delhi we did not even know Gauri was actually going to get married. But as soon as we announced that we were going to come to India, Apoorva immediately asked (or told) us to organise our travelling around the wedding date of Gauri and Ashish. Of course we instantly accepted the invitation and organised our travelling, because attending an Indian wedding was something we had always wished for and now we were invited into the close circle of family to partake in all the functions from A to Z for the full 6 days (!)

After we said goodbye to our friends Mariska and Riemke with whom we spent three wonderful weeks with a lot of fun, good food and enough drinks we headed to the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram where we would spend six days of detoxing, meditating and practising yoga. It was a special and very pleasant, instructive and relaxed experience to stay in this ashram. We had to overcome some mental as well as physical barriers, as at first it was quite hard to participate in intensive 2-hour yoga classes twice a day combined with sitting in the cross-legged sitting pose on the floor for all meetings during the day and evening (including during meals). But after the first few days we surrendered completely and could enjoy all of it. Judith has learned a lot these days and got much further with all poses and Merijn went very well in the beginners’ class and started with the basics.

The food was according to a sattvic diet, which is a regimen that places emphasis on seasonal foods, fruits, dairy products, nuts, seeds, oils, ripe vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and non-meat based proteins, meaning no garlic, no chilli, no onion, no egg and no meat (!) at all and it was served only twice a day. We got used to the flow of the day: waking up early, only having some tea before the morning yoga class and only afterwards have a late and very healthy brunch. The food was spectacularly tasty. The Kerala cuisine is wonderful and delicious, it has a huge variety and we did not miss any of the ingredients that ‘were left out’.

Staying in the ashram felt a bit like staying in some kind of youth hostel or monastery, with a lot of rules and a lot of emphasis on the spiritual aspects by the gurus and swamis. There was a lot of chanting (singing) to honor all kinds of Hindu gods and we found it difficult to suppress the feeling we were in a sect, though a very friendly and quite modern one that is. So all in all, it was really great and it was a pity that we had to leave.

Then from Trivandrum we flew to Pune and it felt like coming home again. We had selected a hotel close to FC road in a lively area with some great (pure-veg) restaurants where we had dosas for breakfast and chaat like dahi puri, dahi wada and spdp in the afternoon. Although again this is all vegetarian food, it is just really finger licking tasty and we could not get enough of it.

Attending all the wedding functions was very special and it was beautiful to be able to participate up close and personal. We attended all meetings spread out over six days, most of which are usually only for the most intimate and close family. Because all the aunties and uncles embraced us and welcomed us so much it felt like we were part of their family.

Where in the Netherlands marriage is primarily a bond between two individuals, here in India marriage is more of a bonding of two families. Where in the Netherlands we first meet and fall in love, and maybe try and fail a few times in relationships before we find the right person, here Gauri and Ashish met through a serious online wedding platform, with the help of Gauri’s sister-in-law and her mother making a shortlist of suitable men on the basis of important criteria. The first date was just the two of them and was besides the profile matching a complete blind date. The second date, they told us, was a bit more fun and informal and soon Gauri and Ashish decided they could marry. Then the families / parents got involved and could go into further negotiations. As an Indian young man confided to us: "we marry complete strangers." What is beautiful to see with all the couples we have met is that love does come afterwards and in most of the marriages all the homework done in advance pays off. We loved to see that Gauri and Ashish are a good strong couple and we see a loving and successful marriage in the offing.

The whole wedding week is all about uniting the families and making the gods, planets and ancestors well-disposed for a successful marriage. This is done by daily 'pujas' (offerings). For the bride. For the groom. For both. Every family also has its own god, so those need other invocations. These traditional ceremonies seemed like a lot of work and maybe a little repetitive as well to us. Most elements of the ceremony like a purifying fire, 5 kinds of fruit, a coconut, betel nuts, red and orange powder, flowers and a lot of ghee were returning items during every ceremony. It clearly is a serious and very religious affair. You have to make a lot of effort to enthuse the gods, planets and ancestors. In any case, the horoscopes of the bride and groom were checked for compatibility and a successful match was found. If no good compatibility, then many Indian parents would not agree to continue the wedding negotiations and the chance of marriage between the individuals is close to zero…

Where in the Netherlands we generally organise some kind of party with all the guests dancing, here there was a dance evening where both sides of the family performed some serious symbolic dances and some just fun and very cheerful Bollywood performances that we watched as an audience. The dancing was well choreographed and rehearsed. Also there was a morning at the bride's house where we all danced on Bollywood music with aunties, uncles, grandmothers and friends which felt very festive.

Furthermore, where in the Netherlands there is usually not enough time dedicated to eating and dinner is often rushed, here -besides the ceremonial part- it was very much all about food! At each function at any time of day there was a special meal, most of the food is only prepared at weddings, and also has symbolic significance for an even more successful marriage. It was extremely funny for us that everybody was continuously asking us if we had food, if we had enough and even if we had had at least a second round of food… like all of them thought we were maybe to shy or starving or we did not like it… while we really loved all the food and just could not eat more after again another round :-)

The whole wedding week with all the ceremonies was quite a bit more religious than we had thought it would be, but despite the fact that it was so religious we really liked that so much attention is paid to giving these two young people a strong basis for a good marriage. At one symbolic ceremony the bride (and then all of us) was smeared with yellow turmeric that stands for purification. At another ceremony the duppatas (scarves) of Gauri and Ashish were tied together and they had to walk around the fire for 7 rounds while they made 7 oaths and they tied a piece of thread around each other's wrists (kind of literally 'tie the knot') for togetherness.

Everybody dressed up for all the occasions and both the wedding couple as the guests changed outfits multiple times a day. Everybody looked so beautiful and it was all so colourful. For us it was very special to have all different outfits, including flowers in Judith’s hair, a tikka (blessing dot) on our foreheads and jewelry including a nose ring for Judith and a pink turban for Merijn. Judith even got to wear a proper sari which made it an even more unforgettable experience!


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