Asia » India » Rajasthan » Ranakpur - 9 March 2012
09.03.2012 - 10.03.2012 23 °C
Pintu’s family started to arrive yesterday and today, with aunts, uncles, cousins, husbands and wives journeying from all over Rajasthan and Gujarat.
All of them had to be welcomed and accommodated; the time and expense involved is massive.
Khuman’s eldest son Vinku, whose marriage I attended in 2007, was already here, together with his lovely wife, Sheetal, and three-year-old daughter Aashi. Khuman's younger son, Shibu, a French-speaking tour guide with whom I exchanged friendly banter in that language from time to time, was here too; I’m sad to be missing his marriage on 13 April as Pat and I will be celebrating our own 40th anniversary on Madeira at the time. Cousin Montu, married less than three weeks ago, had just arrived too.
Last night, I enjoyed drinks and dinner with them all in the gardens at Maharani Bagh. There was an uncommon chill breeze, so we sat around the fire-pit there until very late into the night, burning a tree-trunk that was already in the pit and a bundle of sticks brought to us by one of the staff.
Friday came too soon with the all-too-familiar knock on the door from Keval and my morning massage. Another fine, sunny day was spent whiling away the hours walking around the gardens, blogging and dozing. Alas, the Internet here ran at snail’s pace even in Khuman’s office, so had to be kept for essential work, and the telephone network wasn’t much better. There were plans to upgrade both, but communication meanwhile remained difficult – a distinct advantage for those seeking peace and quiet!
In the evening, I was an honoured guest at an official ‘bachelor party’ – somewhat different from a British ‘stag party’, I hasten to add. It started with Pintu receiving a sort of massage in the public privacy of his room at the Hotel Shilpi. While he sat in only a t-shirt and boxers, people came and went as Mangu, an attendant hired for the duration of the ceremonies, massaged his legs, arms and hands in a messy mixture of ghee (clarified butter) and turmeric powder, intended to bring a glow to his skin.
Then, in preparation for his first formal ceremony, Pintu dressed in white jodhpurs and a smart, black tunic-style coat. He was already wearing special studs in his ears. His cousin Shibu helped him to add specially-purchased buttons to his tunic and then some of the precious family jewels. Slipper-like shoes, which Pintu said were particularly uncomfortable, were added. He was almost ready.
Two pundits who traditionally marry every member of his family had recently arrived from Gundoj, where Khuman has his fort home. I’d met them at Vinku’s marriage five years’ ago and they recognised me, one grinning almost non-stop and the other displaying wide gaps in his protruding teeth with a big, friendly smile. They busily set about converting a corner of the room into a shrine to the god of good fortune, the Remover of Obstacles and Lord of Beginnings: the elephant-headed Ganesh.
The auspicious time for the ceremony had been set at 5.30p.m. but, to everyone’s consternation, the man who was to make Pintu’s special turban, complete with what he called a ‘tail’, had disappeared. The ceremony couldn’t start without the turban and it was already gone 5.15. The pundits consulted with each other and agreed it could be postponed for a while. As 5.30 came and went, as did 5.45 and six o’clock, the senior pundit became rather agitated and repeated mantras to Krishna, seemingly to apologise for the lateness.
Eventually, about an hour after the ceremony should have started, the turban man arrived and set about winding yard after yard of fabric in vivid pinks, yellows, reds and greens around his head, glancing over at Pintu from time to time to judge his height and the correct amount of ‘tail’ that needed to be left.
When he was satisfied with how it looked, he took the turban off and pushed it firmly onto Pintu’s head. After some last-minute tweaking to make sure the tail was just the right length and the addition of another of the family jewels, a garland of flowers was put around Pintu’s neck, a gold sword in a crimson scabbard placed in his hands, and the ceremonies began.
The ladies had started their own party in the hotel’s garden while all this had going on, frequently popping into Pintu's room to deliver jewellery, to offer advice about his costume and to commiserate on the lack of turban man. Now, Pintu and the pundits went out to be greeted by them in a ceremony that involved much traditional feeding of rice by the fingertips, accompanied by singing and music from a harmonium player and a drummer.
This was followed by another colourful ceremony, whose purpose I don’t recall but which involved anointing pots and wrapping something in gold cloth.
Then, we went indoors and a puja was held at the temporary shrine with Pintu and his parents.
Everyone else looked on curiously - in shifts as there was so little space in the stuffy bedroom.
The pundits spoke quite good English, or at least understood it, so we chatted afterwards about the significance of the ceremony and I received their blessing, complete with tilak and another lacha.
Later, everyone danced to loud music in the Shilpi Hotel’s little garden. There were graceful solo dances by the ladies, and hands-in-the-air dancing by the men (uncharacteristically, including me!) that rivalled anything you may have seen in Bollywood movies.
Thakur Khuman Singh Rathore (to give this larger-than-life character his full title) is seldom seen without a smile!
Look out Bollywood! Left to right: Shibu, Meetu, Dilip and Pradeep
PP Singh and Santosh
Prithvi Pal (known as PP) dances with Pintu's aunt Santosh
Waiting to join in
Left to right: Pintu (out of costume), Pradeep and Dilip waiting for some more noisy music
PP's son Chandra Bhan Singh Chundawat (known as Bham Sa) was always interested in what was happening
Tired but happy, I returned to Maharani Bagh a little before midnight for some much-needed sleep, in readiness for another day of celebrations tomorrow.