Your Indian Royal Wedding (Yes, Yours)
You, too, can have nuptials as sumptuous as the recent royal wedding of Jodhpur
In November last year, on the same week that the UK’s Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement, India was celebrating its own Royal Wedding. The ceremony - between Shivraj Singh, son of the former Maharaja of Jodhpur, and the Gayatri Kumar of Askot – was held in Rajasthan, the desert state famous for its hereditary pomp and palaces.
To say that the local press was all over it would be an understatement – much like British coverage of Will and Kate’s nuptials, the Indian media left no dinner menu, floral arrangement or gift of precious stone unturned. Among the 800 guests invited were, it is said, Western celebrities Sting, Mick Jagger, Bob Geldof, Liz Hurley and the Duchess of York, Bollywood deity Amitabh Bachchan, Indian novelist Shobhaa De and global banking moguls the Rothschilds. Oh, and families from the royal lines of Oman, Nepal, Bhutan, Patiala, Tripura and Kashmir.
Still, unlike the media carnival that will be Will and Kate’s wedding (and probably, marriage), journalists were advised to stay away from the actual Jodhpur ceremony. Photos were provided to the press after the event, however, and there are also video clips of certain parts of the wedding.
Much as William and Kate’s wedding will draw from all that is emblematic not only of British monarchy, but of the Church of England, the Rajasthani affair was a highly traditional and religious one. Three hundred of the 800 guests formed part of the baraat or wedding procession and, following cultural dictum, all in the procession were male. Before the nuptials, the groom performed the nikasi, where he symbolically rides a horse, while his bride experienced the haldi ritual where turmeric paste and water are ceremonially applied.
Despite the continued opulence of their weddings, much has changed for the noble families of Rajasthan. The lavish festivities of its Maharajahs have dazzled for centuries, and the 1939 wedding of the last Maharani of Jaipur, the beautiful Gayatri Devi, made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the most expensive to date. Today, however, royalty in India no longer officially exists, Indira Gandhi having abolished titles 40 years ago. The aristocratic families still retain much of their magnetism with the public, but have had to find new ways of making a living. Some of them have converted their fairy-tale properties into hotels where guests may have their own ‘royal’ weddings.
November’s Jodhpur wedding, in fact, was held at the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur. Built in the 19th century, it was once an abode of royalty, but is now a luxury hotel. And no less than Arvind Singh, the 76th Maharana of the house of Mewar (said to be the oldest dynasty in the world) has turned his palaces into hotels. Among these are the Shiv Niwas and Jagmandir Island palaces in Udaipur.
So you, too, could have your Royal Wedding, in a fairy-tale castle that stands on the sands of Rajasthan. A ‘royal wedding’ tourist package normally lasts three to five days, and can include camels, elephants and horses, petal-lined processions, guards in livery, dancers, fireworks, a mehndi (henna ceremony), the whole works. Your guests, who will also be staying at the palace-hotel of course, will be taken on tours of the surrounding palaces and other regal delights.
Of course, the costs can be princely as well. One of the more modest three-day packages, if you invite 100 guests, can you set you back by US$86,000, and an elaborate function can go up to US$300,000.
Still, you would feel like a king, or a queen, for some days.
Comparing the Jodhpur and Windsor weddings
|Number of guests||800||1900|
|Rock star guest||Sting (allegedly)||Elton John|
|Bride’s pre-wedding ritual||Haldi||Hen night|
|Groom’s pre-wedding ritual||Nikasi||Stag night|
|Guests’ ritual||Baraat (procession)||Invited guests sitting in pews; public line the streets|
|Vehicle||1930’s Rolls Royce, preceded by elephants and horses (for groom)||A Rolls Royce to church (for bride and her father); 1902 State Landau, i.e. horse-drawn carriage after ceremony (for bride and groom)|
|Venue||Rambagh Palace in Jaipur (built in 19th century, now a luxury hotel)||Westminster Abbey in London (first founded in 7th century)|
|Media coverage||Media semi-blackout||Media present, with 400 staffers from CNN alone, 550 from BBC|
|Song dedication||Traditional music by Indian musicians||Stevie Wonder’s ‘You and I’, covered by George Michael|
|Status of royalty||Defunct||Alive|
asia! IN A SNAP
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