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The Big Fat Indian Wedding – Will COVID re-define it forever?

With globalisation, family members are getting dispersed all over the world. On my wife’s side, one of her cousins has settled in the Philippines and on my side of the family, almost one cousin from every branch of the family tree has settled overseas. Net result, over the last two years, I have had the privilege of attending two overseas weddings (one in the Philippines – a Christian style) and another in the USA – fusion style) within the close family. Both these weddings were very meticulously planned, with the invites being restricted only to the close family and friends on both sides. The total guests list stretched max. to 100. This was in total contrast to Indian wedding celebrations which are more in the nature of some sort of thanks giving to the family, friends, business associates as well as the extended family which over the years has extended support during the growing up years. As a result, for any Indian wedding, the guests list starts with a minimum of  300 and in the interiors invariably extends to the entire village (also known as “gao jevan” in Maharashtra ). 

When it comes to the wedding rituals, ceremonies and celebrations, more or less follow similar patterns and can be largely divided into three parts consisting of Pre-wedding, Wedding day and Post wedding day rituals. However, India being a large country with cultural diversity, each state has its own unique flavour. For instance, during North Indian wedding rituals the muhurat is usually late into the night while Maharashtrians prefer in the morning time. Similarly in the case of  South Indian weddings, while there are over twelve different kinds of South Indian wedding traditions observed, some rituals like Nishchitartham, Lagnam, Kashi Yatra or Kanya daan are common across communities.  Other than the wedding ceremonies, all the states have various kinds of bridal and groom wear, food, music and ethnicities at different stages of a wedding. Here is a typical Maharashtrian wedding ritual:-

Pre-wedding rituals
Sakhar Puda (betrothal or engagement ceremony)
Simant Pujan ( welcoming of the bride’s family)
Kelvan ( inviting the prospective bride and groom over for lunch with a view to introduce them to the family)
Wedding day rituals
Gaurihar Puja
Mandap rituals
– Antarpat , Kanyadaan,Saptapadi,Karma Samapati
Post wedding rituals
Varat – (parting of the bride for the groom’s house)
Grihapravesh– ( bride’s welcome to the grooms household)

However, one thing common across all Indian weddings though is the fact that the entire family lands a few days in advance to chip in and take on various responsibilities. My observation over the years has been about the increasing influence of Bollywood leading to the celebrations beginning to converge. As a result, now-a-days the ceremonies at a typical Indian wedding kick off with a haldi followed by sangeet and then the actual wedding, followed by the reception as the grand finale.

Come Covid, with its mandatory restrictions, has given us an opportunity to revisit the manner in which we go about our wedding celebrations. I recently attended the wedding of a close relative (settled in the USA) from my wife’s side, in Bangalore. Originally when the wedding was planned more than a year back, it was to be held at a destination resort at the outskirts of Bangalore over a period of 2-3 days. However, due to covid, things had to be postponed to such an extent that they ended up getting married in the USA but decided to have the celebration in India. Due to Covid,  the guest list had to be restricted to 100 max. The families decided to make the most of the cosy setting, rolling out the red carpet by hosting the near and dear family and friends in a five star and having a wedding planner personalise the event. With the logistics out of the way, taken care of by the wedding planner, both sides had nothing to hold them down or stress about. Both the samdhi’s, rather than getting stressed out over who is taking care of the guests and logistics, let their hair down and enjoyed themselves, participating whole heartedly in the pre-wedding haldi event, sangeet and of course the baraat. Another good thing I realised due to the restricted number of guests, everyone got to interact more meaningfully with the bride as well as the groom’s family and friends getting to know more about each other. 

And then, last month, one  of my college friends’ daughter got married. The marriage was originally scheduled for last year May and had to be rescheduled due to covid. In the end he had to resize the guest list down to meet the covid norm of 100.  For every parent, the marriage of his son or daughter is a milestone event and parents dream and plan for this event a long way ahead, to make it a big fat and yet a perfect wedding. The planning starts right from selecting the guests list. My friend had to go through the stress of arriving at the cut off number as it came down to deciding on the final guest list. Yet, at the end after the wedding, he was all smiles and happy with the small and cosy format execution. 

Perhaps  Covid has taught us to celebrate and experience weddings the way they are meant to – cosy, intimate, stress free family and only close friends who are like family affairs. Time to reboot from the big fat weddings to lean and meaningful ones! Over to the Chopras, Johars, Barjatiyas, Shahs and Mehtas for your take on this…..Till then, Cheers!

Acknowledgements- My friend Sheetal Nagle and Ashish Parulekar for being a solid member of my blog support team.
P.STo read my Musings on Cricketing / Corporate Tales, Start up stories, Covid Times, Friends, Family and Marriages, Travel, Movie reviews go to the Home Page

Published by Salil Datar

Eager beaver , enthusiastic but amateur blogger !!

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