September 01, 2008

Indian Weddings

Three of my Satyam colleagues invited me to their weddings. None were taking place in Hyderabad or Bangalore though, as they all hailed from different areas. Due to scheduling conflicts I was only able to attend one of the three weddings. The first one was in Murudeshwara, a city in Karnataka on the coast of the Arabian Sea that is famed for having the tallest statue of Shiva in the world. Another was in Thanjavur, an historic temple town in Tamil Nadu. The marriage that I was able to attend was in the district of Erode, also in Tamil Nadu.

No two Indian weddings are alike. They differ from state to state, from region to region, and from religion to religion. Whereas Western marriage ceremonies follow a relatively standardized formula, the rituals and ceremonies that take place in an Indian wedding vary dramatically in length, order, pomp and circumstance. In this particular wedding the reception was taking place on a Saturday evening, while the actual ceremony was scheduled for before dawn on Sunday.

After attending the wedding of a friend from Canada in Chennai, and then relaxing in Pondicherry for a few days, I caught a train to Erode. I arrived early in the morning and my coworker picked me up, put me up in a hotel, and introduced me to a few of his old friends. His friends subsequently proceeded to introduce me to the local brew. After lunch we fell into deep slumber and got ready just in time to make it to the reception. The bride and groom to be were sitting on a pedestal in the center of the marriage hall, and all the guests were coming over to congratulate them. There was not much song and dance.

Several other coworkers had also made the journey from Bangalore to attend the wedding, so once the ladies were finally prepared we rushed to catch the tail end of the early morning marriage. Afterwards, it was time to feast. With hundreds of guests, rows and rows of tables and chairs had been set up in a hall. Everyone was provided a banana leaf as their plate, and servers made the rounds placing different items onto the large leaves. No utensils were used, only hands and mouths. After I was finished eating I rolled up my plate and threw it away, leaving a very low ecological footprint with zero non-biodegradable waste generated. We bid farewell to Erode after a brief temple visit and took several buses back to Bangalore.