Saturday, July 17, 2010

2010 Winnipeg 3 (The Wedding 7/17/2010)

Saturday, July 17, 2010
An early breakfast and dressed in our first outfit for the day. Took the elevator and were joined by a man in an unbelievably sumptuous outfit with strings of pearls hiding his face and he was carrying a sword! He was accompanied by a dozen Indian family members in colorful garb. This guy turned to Kent and asked, "So, how’s your day going?" in accentless English. He turned out to be the groom and we were attending his wedding!

The groom climbed into a limousine, which then went around the block. His family gathered at the corner, so that they could follow the limo in for the Var Ghoda, the arrival of the groom, at 9:15 AM.
The bride's family welcomed the groom's family, and the bride's mother anointed him. Of course, we did not know exactly know what was going on, so I did not look for the bride's parents. Plus, there were so many people crowding around, and several photographers and videographers standing in prime spots!
I met Jayanti and Hansa when I was traveling in India in November 1983. I was traveling alone, and they invited me to share a taxi to explore a city. They were taking their 5-year old son, Jaymal, on a tour of their ancestral homeland. They had left a 2-year daughter, Vanessa, at home in Canada. Neither Jayanti or Hansa had ever lived in India, as they were born and raised in East Africa. We got along so well, we ended up traveling for a week or so together. We have kept in touch all these years, and it took the occasion of Vanessa’s wedding to get me to Winnipeg! We are so honored to have been invited and so excited to be here!

We all followed the drummer into the hotel and to the Grand Ballroom.
The groom, Ashesh, was subjected to more rituals while surrounded by a crowd at the back of the ballroom:
Then he processed to the mandap (marriage platform) at the front, and underwent more rituals and blessings to prepare him for the wedding. When the members of the two families exchanged garlands, their names were announced, and that is how I learned which one was Jayanti!
The groom's brother was on hand to make sure his outfit was in order. By now the strands of pearls hiding his face were drawn aside.
After tossing handfuls of rose petals into the offering bowl on instruction of the priest, Pundit Venkat Machiraju, Ashesh was told to stand for the Antar Pat, where a sheet is held up to prevent him from seeing the bride when she arrives.
The priest held a microphone, and graciously repeated almost everything in English after reciting it in Hindi. This marriage ceremony was performed in the Vedic tradition.
Kanya Aagaman - the bride, Vanessa, arrived escorted by her uncles (and aunties):
The bride and groom exchanged flower garlands - Jaiamala Arpana. The bride's parents then gave their daughter to the groom by placing her hands in his.
Next the Chheda - Chhedhi, where the end of the groom's shawl was knotted to the bride's sari. As if that wasn't enough, they were then looped together with the Varamala, the sacred thread - a garland made from 24 long threads. Together, the bride and groom performed Vivaha Homa, a fire ritual. Then the groom led the bride around the fire four times. With some rearranging of threads and the knot, the bride then led the groom around the fire three times. The Shilorohon, Stepping the Stones, had them stepping with their right feet on seven stepping stones.
At this point, instead of sitting on the right side of the groom, the bride now sits on the left side of her husband. The groom gives his wife the Mangalsutra, a traditional necklace, and anoints the part in her hair with Sindoor (a red powder). For Akand Saubhgyavati, the married women from the bride's family whisper blessings in the bride's ear. Then for Vadhu Satkar, the groom's family places a necklace around the bride's neck to symbolize her acceptance into the family. After more blessings, the bride's family bid her Vidai - Farewell. But only symbolically, as the bride and groom remained sitting for photographs, while the rest of us enjoyed a buffet lunch.

After lunch, we went to our room to change into our second outfit of the day, and drove to the Assiniboine Park Zoo. No discounts here, but it only cost $4.60 Canadian each for admission.

There were white Bison. (After this trip, we are sure to call these animals by their proper name of bison instead of buffalo!)
Noticed little prairie dogs living free on the grounds of the zoo. They are actually Richardson's Ground Squirrels.
The statue of Winnie the Bear and Lt. Harry Colebourn stands near the main entrance. Winnie was named for Winnipeg, the hometown of Dr./Lt. Colebourn, although he never lived here. He ended up in the London Zoo, where A. A. Milne's son Christopher Robin saw him and named his own teddy bear after him; the inspiration for the Winnie-the-Pooh.
We returned to the hotel for a nap before dressing in our third outfit for the day for the wedding reception at 6:00 PM. All day long we had seen strange characters walking around the hotel. We learned there was an animé convention in town. 

Cocktails from the open bar and Indian hors d’oeuvres. We were pulled in for several photos with the family. Later we went to sit for dinner, back in the ballroom which was filled with tables. Must have been 300 guests.
The head table was for the bride and groom and their respective parents.  
Speeches were made, then we had a buffet dinner of more delicious Indian food. Thank-you speeches from the bride’s family, and the bride and groom themselves.
Time for dancing, and we were pulled into that, too! 
Vanessa had on another gorgeous dress.
Early to bed, as we have a long day tomorrow.
Next: 4. Winnipeg to Bismarck.

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