My Marriage

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Once upon a time there lived a princess Aparna whose name is synonymous with Goddess Parvati. She was born on the banks of the river Shipra in the holy city of Ujjain, well known for its traditions of spirituality, learning and culture. It is also one of the venues of the Kumbh Mela held every 12 years. One of the twelve (dwadish) jyotirlingas, ‘Mahakaleshwar’ is located in this city. It is also the ancient land of King Vikramaditya. Far away in the city of Mumbai was born a prince whose name is Sanjeev. Mumbai is named after the Goddess Mumbadevi, an incarnation of the Mother Goddess Shakti. The temple dedicated to her is located in Kalbadevi. Mumba Devi is the Goddess of the salt collectors and Koli fisherfolk. She is the source of peace, of succour, of moksha. They grew up different parts of the country but Divine Cosmic forces got us together in Mumbai. What you will see is an e tour of the ceremony that has bound us for life. This picture shows Aparna & Sanjeev dressed for the wedding.

Entrance to the marriage hall. The essential rites in marriage are Swagat Milni (welcoming the Bridegroom’s wedding party), Varamala (welcoming the bridegroom and bride), Madhuparka (harmonious relations), Kanyadaan (giving away the bride), Havana Yajna (offering to the fire), Paanni Grahan (vows taken), Shilarohan Vidhi (stepping on the stone), Ganth Bandhan (tying of the Knot), Parikrama (encircling the Sacred Fire), Saptapadi (Seven Steps), Exchanging of Seats, Hridaya Sparsh (touching of Heart), Sindoordaan (offering of Vermilion powder), Sweetening of Life, Aashriwad (blessings), Honoring the Priest, Shanti Paath (hymns of Peace).

What you see is the Vedi Mandap. It was decorated beautifully with flowers by Ashok bhai from Bhuleshwar market. Flowers make the place beautiful. Our dear friend Ravi and Sanjeev spent hours in the market before they discovered this very humorous and creative flower vendor.

While I was getting the mehendi done a dear friend Chhaya asked Sanjeev how he could marry without proposing to me. Sanjeev agreed to propose and squatted like a dehati (village folk). I insisted that he bends, goes down on his knees and proposed to me. He willingly unwillingly went on his knees and asked ''Aparna, mujhse vivaha karogi'' (Aparna will you marry me). I replied ''Sochar bataungi''. (Let me think about it).

The mehendi was applied by Binita. You see my hands with intricate mehendi work. The right hand shows swastik, kalash on the forearm and the dulhan on the palm. The left hand depicts shehenai dholl and Sanjeev’s picture "not to miss the moustache".

A beaming Aparna and Sanjeev before we left for the marriage ceremony. Aparna’s saree was bought from Nallis while Sanjeev’s kurta set was from Benzer.

An essential feature of most North Indian marriages is the Chudha ceremony. The chudha are a set of red and off white bangles. We bought them from Gandhi Market Mumbai. They are made in Kolkatta. After buying them Mother got the bangles ready for Aparna to wear by soaking them in milk and lots of love. According to tradition the girl’s Mama (mother’s brother) get the daughter to wear the bangles. Chudha suhaag ka pratik hota hai. When a girl wears a chudha people know she is married.

Another picture of happy Aparna and Sanjeev. Aparna has the chudha on and the mehendi complete. Sanjeev applied gel to keep his moustache steady and continued to give it "Tav" while I was getting the mehendi done.

Ring ceremony. Aparna is putting the wedding ring on Sanjeev’s finger. Two years ago, she hopped into this shop in Zurich (Switzerland) dreamily thinking that some day Dulharaja (bridegroom) would enter her life and take her away on a white horse. And guess what! she got the size right.

Gana ceremony. In this ceremony boys and girls Mamas (mothers’s brother) ties the thread on the boys and girls hand such that it has multilple knots. When the couple go home they have to untie each other’s knot. Aparna did a great job in untying Sanjeev’s knots but Sanjeev did not the nails or the patience to untie Aparna’s knots. The picture shows Sanjeev’s bhabhi Sweety tieing multiple knots.

After the ring ceremony was the Varmala ceremony. Here the bride and bridegroom put the varmala (flowers ka garland) round each other’s neck (exchange garlands). This expresses their consent to marriage – witnessed by all the guests present, who as mark of respect and courtesy would be standing. When it was Aparna’s turn to put the varmala Sanjeev made it as difficult for her as he could by becoming taller than the 6 feet that he already is. When it came to Sanjeev’s turn Aparna ducked down to dodge him. What you see is Aparna putting the varmala around Sanjeev.

What you see is Sanjeev putting the varmala around Aparna.

Sanjeev wore a Rajasthani bandhej safa (colorful headgear). Whenever any important ceremony is performed the head needs to be covered hence Sanjeev wore the safa. The picture shows Panditji tying the safa on the head of Shri R N Das, father of dear friend Gogi. Once Uncle had tied the safa, Panditji very carefully removed it from Uncle’s head and transferred it on Sanjeev’s head.

Here is Aparna putting Tilak on Sanjeev’s forhead that signifies the bride welcoming the groom. The tilak is put in the center of the eyebrows to keep the head cool. This is also the point of memory and learning.

Aparna and Sanjeev praying to Ishwar (God) that they live together for seven lives, have a happy married life.

Madhuparka (Harmonious Relations) ceremony. Madhuparka is a mixture of honey and yoghurt. Honey symbolizes the sweetness in life and yoghurt the strength. Aparna offers this to Sanjeev who eats the mixture three times. The couple promise each other sweetness, love and strength in their married life. The picture shows Aparna giving Sanjeev the Madhuparka.

Kanyadaan (Giving Away of the Bride). Aparna''s parents give their daughter to Sanjeev by placing her right hand into his. Aparna''s father declares to those assembled that with Aparna''s own free will, and his consent, he happily gives his daughters hand in marriage. Sanjeev graciously respond by accepting Aparna as his wife and vowing to ensure their married life is blissful. Aparna and Sanjeev with their hands joined.

Here are the various requirements for the vivaha ceremony. There is a havankund, coconut, kalash, flowers, ghee, samagrahi, wood to light the fire and sweets. What is the kalasha? A brass, mud or copper pot is filled with water. Mango leaves are placed in the mouth of the pot and a coconut placed over it. A red or white thread is tied around its neck or sometimes all around it in an intricate diamond shaped pattern. Such a pot is known as a kalasha. A kalasha is placed with due rituals on all-important occasions like house warming, wedding etc.

Havana Yajna (Offering to the Fire). Vedic hymns are chanted invoking God’s blessings, guidance and wisdom. Prayers to Lord Ganesha are the first to be offered, as he is the remover of all obstacles. Aparna and Sanjeev together light the holy fire and everyone in the hall offers a mixture of herbs and grains (Saamagri) to the fire. Panditji recites the verses in Sanskrit and the participitants, under instructions from Panditji offer their obeisance to Parmatma, the Almighty. The fire symbolizes the sacred; it also represents strength and purity, leading us from darkness to light. Saamagri is offered to purify and sanctify the atmosphere.

Ganth Bandhan (Tying of the Knot). A knot is tied between the two dupattaas (two scarves) on the shoulders of the couple. The knot is a symbol of an unbreakable bond between the couple. Sanjeev’s sister Cheena tied the knot. While Sanjeev’s stolle made it easy for him Aparna’s saree was draped in a manner that made tying with the stolle difficult. Panditji and sister Cheena shown some ingenuity and managed to tie the two of us together.

Parikrama (Encircling the Sacred Fire) – Rice is considered to signify prosperity. Aparna’s brother was invited to the mandap, was asked to put some puffed rice in her hands, giving her family’s blessings for prosperity. She pours rice into Sanjev’s hands. He offers it to the sacred fire. The couple then walk around the fire four times, symbolizing 1. Dharma or righteousness. 2. Artha or physical well-being and prosperity. 3. Kaama or fulfillment of noble sentiments and desires. 4. Moksha or achievement of self-realization.

Sanjeev and Aparna start taking four pheras or circumbulation round Agni, the holy fire. At the beginning of each of the four pheras the following vows were taken. First Mangal Phera, Aparna said ‘O, God of Fire! As I leave my Father’s house, hear my prayer, I implore Thee to unite me firmly with my Husband’s family’. Second Mangal Phera, Aparna said ‘O, God of Fire! I beseech Thee again. Grant my husband a long and fulfilling life. And I pray that Thou grant the continuation of our family tree’. Third Mangal Phera, Aparna said ‘O, God of Fire! Thou who grows in size and becomes steady by our devout oblations, grant that our mutual love also increases and continues to remain steady. Fourth Mangal Phera, Sanjeev said ‘O, Beloved of Mine! As you ascend on this stone, may you be steady and strong life the foundation it represents. And may our lives be just as firm, and you be the remover of all evils’.

Saptapadi (Seven Steps) - Aparna and Sanjeev to take seven together. These symbolize the steps towards the attainment of clean & nourishing food, good health, wealth & prosperity, knowledge & happiness, strong & virtuous children, divine blessings & longevity of life, understanding/loyalty/companionship & close union. To read what is said before taking each of the seven steps

Another picture of Aparna and Sanjeev after completion of the seven steps

Sindoordaan (Offering of vermilion powder) - After the marriage ceremony is over the boy has to apply Sindoor (vermillion) on the girls Mang (center parting on the head). We say Mang mein sindoor bharna, signifies that the girl is married. The picture shows Sanjeev applying sindoor on Aparna’s mang.

Sanjeev is putting the Mangalsutra (necklace with black beeds) around Aparna’s neck.

Aashirvaad (Blessings) - Panditji asks the gathering to stand up and shower the newly married couple with flower petals. The newly married couple then touch the feet of the elder members of their families, as a mark of respect and humility and to receive their blessings.

Panditji ne Aparna and Sanjeev ka seer jodh diya (head joined). You see us gazing up above in the sky, sparkling beautiful eyes looking into the bright future. The function ends with Shanti Paath (Hymns of Peace). Panditji recited hymns bestowing happiness and peace on the gathering and invites the guests to come and give their best wishes and congratulations to the couple. Guests throw flowers on the couple.

Sanjeev and Aparna take the blessings of Sanjeev’s mother, Dr Usha Nayar.

The picture shows Das Uncle (the oldest person present) blessing Aparna and Sanjeev. In the blue shirt is his son and dear friend Gogi.

A delighted and beaming mother and daughter. Aparna with Sanjeev’s mother.

Aparna and Sanjeev with Pandit Suresh Sharma who performed the wedding according to Arya Samaji rites. There is a story about the Pandit. We had originally called Pandit Anshuman. A few days before the wedding he left for Gujarat and did not return till 2pm on the marriage day. I tried contacting him that day but none picked up the landline or cell phone. I panicked and asked dear friend Gogi to help us find a replacement. He found a worthy replacement in Pandit Suresh. Not only did he conduct the ceremony very well but he also explained the significance of each mantra. Being much younger, cheerful and with child like mischief in his eyes Panditji made our vivaha ceremony a truly memorable one. What you see is blissful trio of Panditji, Aparna and Sanjeev.

Aparna and Sanjeev with good friends Ravi and Sonu. It was their help, support, love that made the marriage event possible and a memorable one.

Aparna and Sanjeev with Sanjeev’s family ie mother, brother, bhabhi and nephew.

Aparna, Sanjeev, Mother with friends Chhaya, Arun and son Shubhit Sehgal.

After the marriage ceremony Aparna and Sanjeev seen in a very happy and joyful mood, dreaming together about an exciting, long, eventful married life with lots of zing thrown in. We seek your blessings. Tathastu!

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