the most auspicious occasion….

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colorfulThe Hindu priest welcomed the crowd into the room and said, “Welcome to this most auspicious occasion”. Looking around the audience in attendance, one could not help but notice all the beautiful colored Sari’s and other traditional garments, along with the large bright smiles worn on everyone’s faces.  I leaned over to my son and asked “What does ‘Auspicious’ mean?” I had an idea, but since he’s a walking talking dictionary of large words, I figured he’d have the best answer for me. Leaning toward me he replied, “Favorable…like this is a favorable occasion”. Sitting back up straight I replied, “Hmm, cool word”. The boy shrugged his shoulders and added, “If you say so…”

*****

aaw1Just before we processed into the Grand Ballroom of the hotel, on small tables located outside the main doors, were baskets which held programs describing the ceremony, along with brightly colored bangles for our arms and stick onBindi’s for our foreheads. In the spirit of the Hindu wedding and utilizing the “When in Rome” attitude, we all took some bangles to ornate our arms and a Bindi to place on our foreheads, before we sat down and awaited the arrival of the bride.aaw2

Atop a small stage at the front and center of the room, sat Adam, the groom, next to his parents, Tom and Sue. The bride’s parents and the Hindu priest sat opposite of them. Playing in the background was  instrumental Indian music which created a relaxed atmosphere and would become more important as the ceremony played on.

When Ananya arrived, her attendants dropped rose petals before her, as she made her way to the stage. Once there, Adam greeted her with a large garland of flowers of her own before she took a seat next to him as the ceremony began. First prayers (Puja) were offered to Lord Ganesh, the Gauri Mata, and the Four Vedas to bless the occasion and make the marriage ceremony free of obstacles. Also, the prayers solicit the blessings of elders and forefathers and pray for this to be an auspicious day for the marriage  ceremony. Following the prayers, the Bride’s father offers the groom yogurt and honey  (Kanyadaan) as an expression of welcome and respect. In one of the most interesting aspects of the ceremony, in my opinion was known as the Gath Bandhan, or the tying of the knot. Scarves worn by the bride and groom are tied together by both sets of parents, to offer blessings for unity, prosperity, and happiness.

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Clearly some things are more important than trying to understand a 2-hour ceremony.

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The Saptapadi or Seven steps and vows

“I wonder if this is where the expression “Tying the knot comes from?” I said to the boy. He looked at me, shrugged and then went back to peering over his cousins’ shoulders. As the Hindu priest moved the ceremony along he spoke in a mixture of English and Sanskrit which flowed perfectly with the background music, but nonetheless made what he was saying bit difficult to understand. In addition, there was an undercurrent of  people murmuring while others meandered in and out of the ballroom. Curious I followed them out into the immediate hallway, where a nice spread of bite size sandwiches, fruit slices and nonalcoholic were located. Helping myself to some fruit slices, I found my sister in law Mary Beth  and approached her saying “Isn’t it interesting there are more Indians out here munching and talking than inside watching the ceremony?” “According to one of the gentlemen we’re getting the abridged version” She began,  “In India the actual ceremony can last upwards to six hours; hence having a little sustenance out here for the family members. Then he added that’s why men and women think long and hard before making the commitment to marry because no one wants to go through that long ceremony again”.

“Mom you missed the best part…” the doll admonished me upon my return. “Really?” I asked. “Yes, Adam and Ananya said some vows to one another and then it was a race to see who could sit down the fastest.” Looking oddly at her I replied, “What? I mean I’m sure you misinterpreted…” “No mom, they said whoever sits down first earns the firm say in the marriage and Ananya kinda dove into the seat first”. Looking up at the stage as the ceremony continued, I said to the doll, “Well no one has ever accused that woman of being stupid”.  As the ceremony headed into the home stretch, one of the most impressive of all the prayers said to the many gods that day was when Adam and Ann took part in the Saptapdi.  Here they took seven steps together while reciting seven vows to one another:

With the first step, we  will provide  for and support each other.
With the second step, we will develop mental, physical & spiritual  strength.
With the third step, we will share the worldly  possessions.
With the fourth step, we will acquire knowledge, happiness and  peace.
With the fifth step, we  will raise strong and virtuous children.
With the sixth step, we  will enjoy  the fruits of all seasons.
With the seventh step, we will always remain friends and cherish each  other.

Then Adam put a pinch of Vermillion powder in part of Ananya’s hair signifying her married status and the crowd went wild! Well maybe not, but we were happy the ceremony had come to a close. Later at the reception, Ananya’s father made a very important statement saying, “I’m glad we had the ability to celebrate both Adam’s Catholic faith and our Hindu faith. With those many gods praying for them, how can this marriage go wrong?

Indeed.

*****

Some of the photos presented here came from Sue Maloney’s camera.

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