My Participation In A Marriage
My Participation In A Marriage10 mins 327 10 mins 327
The Baraat across Ganga
The letter was no “just an invitation” from my nanihaal but a pseudo-'Hukmnama' in the 'khandaani' family relationship equations of those times in the 20th century north India.
A person not to waste energies for the sake of compliance with customs, my father would be averse to attend the village marriage in his sasuraal side. So on family insistence, I was assigned to attend the marriage.
Well within time, I dutifully reached my nanihaal. Being an urban teenager undergoing Engineering College graduation in Aligarh and a sheer novice to the village culture, my only recourse was to look to my friendly 'Mama', to feed my anxiousness, I harboured, as to what was in store for me as a “barati” in the ensuing days.
“The ‘baraat’ will depart tomorrow. It involves travel to Kach Ghat across Ganga” it came from Mama after I settled there.
“and the activity process?” I asked him.
“well being a 'Barati' from the boy side, you can expect fun for 3 days but for any God forbidden weird turn in case the bride's people take offence to some trivial behaviour from the boy side. And take the bridegroom a hostage, then the baraatis may be in for a rude & rough treatment. ”
“Oh! then. . ” horror dawned on me.
“if that happens as a rare eventuality, we better be prepared to deal with it. One advisable being to carry a few our own provisions like bread etc. Along with us, lest we are made to starve!” he remarked casually.
I don't think, besides me, this possibility was any scare to anyone else of the likely 80 strong throng of the enthusiasm brimmed “Baraatees” awaiting departure to the bride's village across Ganga.
The marriage being a grand family event is an occasion to put a lavish display of the material standards, had been planned in all details; all arrangements made in advance.
The travel of baraat from the village till the destination was to have three segments. The first being the start from the residence of Dulha (the groom) to the nearest railway station. The second from this railway station to the railway station nearest to the bride's village and the final one from that railway station to the marriage venue in brides village.
The bullock-carts convoy
The means of transport to the town Railway Station were bullock carts. The Baraat was to ride on to the especially decorated carts in a caravan formation. All types of carts were requisitioned: 'RATH' the most sophisticated and lavishly decorated model for the "dulha" and later on the return journey for 'Dulha & Dulhan'. And then the 'RABBA', the 'BAIL GADI', the 'RAHLUA', the 'TAHLUA', the 'FIRAK', in order of the associated status. Each model is pulled by suitably selected bullocks for their skills and maturity. The assigned model to a 'Baratee' is as per his status among the Baraatees.
All the various marriage rituals performed in the day hours. Loaded with the euphoric baraatees the cart caravan duly departed for the town with a festive fervour, .
The train journey:
The local small town railway station was the first camping of the entourage. They flocked there by the dusk to wait for the train. Hilarious mood prevailed. Somebody in the baraat had the foresight of bringing his recently procured transistor radio perhaps driven by a good opportunity to exhibit his modern standard. Ironically, he did not have time to learn to operate it yet. I being a knowledgeable one among them, was entrusted to operate it and provide the entertainment to the crowd. Radio Ceylon well familiar to me, I willingly obliged. The crowd kept enthralled with the choicest popular Hindi film songs blaring out of the gadget.
Now the exalted mental state of the boy side during a marriage baraat proceeding to the girl side is that of an expedition on conquest, the rajwadas used to undertake in historic times. The egos run high and every baraati in his imagination is a self-proclaimed VIP. Naturally buying a train ticket for the baraatees was considered below dignity an act as it would have meant following a law meant for the ordinary. So without a ticket, the hilarious gang boarded the train at 1 o'clock after camping.
The train whistled and with people settled in no time, it was smooth till somebody caused a furor "the railway TT is approaching asking for tickets" somebody muttered. Deliberation as to 'how to tackle him' concluded on the boast by my 'the Mama' that i in my impressive English, was the one to prevail upon him. In a jiffy, the TT will be subdued & dare not bother us.
Now it was a question of prestige, not mine but that of the Mama whose boast I was to uphold come-what-may, howsoever
With some quick thinking, me along with two seemingly pragmatic accomplices among the baraatees, set out for the TT. We cornered him before he could to our compartments, away from the sight of my high spirited Mama and his gang. Here I could afford to be humble and if needed even apologetic. Showering regards onto the TT, we offered him cigarettes which he obligingly accepted. And then with a pal like a stance revealed to him the fact that the Baraat is travelling without ticket and appealed to him to be a good Samaritan and save the dignity of the Baraat. But the fact was, we were ready to settle with him anyway.
“well! I understand how it happens in a baraat mood, after all I myself join so many” I heard him to my utter relief as he went on to ask ”and where the baraat is destined to?”
We could now sense that he was a 'Bhojan Bhatt'(a gourmet). An upper class marriage feast is no little a temptation for such of this kind.
“Sir! at KatchchGhat and so we will get down there. And Sir!we will be honoured to have you too join us in the marriage party and bless the newlyweds” we offered.
The glee on his face was an assurance enough.
“Sir! We will gladly wait at the platform there to facilitate your joining us. Please be our guest”
The matter settled, I went back to the gang. Mama guessed the success without a word from me and lost no time to boast again to those around him” see! didn't I tell you his English will be enough to do it”
Henceforth the train reached duly in the morning at the destination and the baraat to got down without any further incidence.
Reception at 'JANAVASA :
Now the last leg again was to employ Bullock Carts almost similar to the first leg in style and types.
The convoy reconstituted in compliance with the due protocol, the journey resumed from the railway station to the 'JANAVASA' the receiving venue at the Brides Marriage Venue.
But it so happened that in the ever-growing euphoria building up, now that the destination approaching, some of us decided to have a race among the carts. The fellow controlling the bullocks of the cart, I was riding on happened to be the supremo of the race participants. Armed with a whip having three flexing leather prongs at the end of the whipstick, he called upon all his skills & dextrously using the whip, made the bullocks gallop to their hilt.
The hilarious race provided to the spirited us, the sought enough adrenaline rush. But none aware of the price in the offing.
As it happened that the race made us reach a good few hours before the VIP 'Dulha' rath arrived at the baraat reception venue.
The bride's reception party stood there in all preparation. But to our astonishment, we were extended no welcome whatsoever. In fact, we have barred even the entry to the venue.
Exhausted, thirsty and hungry as we were, it gave us, the self-proclaimed all-important 'Baratees' a huge shock!
However, there was no option but to enquire in all humility the reason for such cold a treat.
“Why! But there is no 'Dulha' insight?” came out the matter of factly stated, cold enough retort from an elderly one.
“But they are all on the way duly escorting the 'Dulha'. As it happened that some of our (bullocok cart name) happened to be faster” we explained, hopefully expecting some mercy on our dust-ridden, sun-beaten faces. All our “Baratee' ego gone down the drain by now.
“ Well! But as per the protocol your “credentials” being our 'guest baratees' cannot be validated unless the 'Dulha' is duly received first. ” was the firm and final verdict in reply to our pleadings.
So we gave in and looked around to fend for ourselves, waiting for the 'Dulha Rath'
The 'who you' attitude instantly vanished, the moment 'Dulha Rath' made its appearance at the entrance. Along with his entry, the stance of our hosts underwent the due change and we were received with the formal pleasantries, Each one of the 'Baraatee' was garlanded one by one.
Next the whole Baraat was served the drinks.
Now this drink serving was in a hitherto unknown and so unique a style to me at least, so a word on it here! There was a 'KUEEN' (a feminine gender of Hindi word 'KUAN' for a well), a shallow water hole in the ground within the premises. Sacks of 'KHAND' (an indigenously manufactured powder sugar form) were emptied into the 'KUEEN' and dissolved. The drinks aplenty served directly from the 'KUEEN' to the 'Baratees' and in containers ranging from 'kulhars '(earthen tumblers) to silver tumblers as per the standing of the guest amongst the 'baratees'.
The 'Baraat' freshened up and relaxed in the 'Janvasa', a spacious enough accommodation with reasonable comfort and adequate facilities along with services likes of a barber-cum-masseur arranged for.
The event next was a starter feast viz. 'Nashta' or supposedly a mini-meal by marriage standard. Everyone was made to sit cross legged in rows on the sheet covered floor in a hall. The youngsters in tandem from Bride side came to each one of us and handed over a rolled 'Pattal' (leaf plate) visibly followed by those carrying the delicacies, the laddoos.
However the default action to unfold their ”Pattal”and grab the 'Laddos' by the 'Baratees' was commanded “HALT” by a voice from the hosts.
“ Hold! You can't spread out the 'Pattal' unless the first thing first” yelled out a much in a way some authority issues a permit “One of you has to come up and recite the mandatory 'Shloka' before anybody unfolds these“
Much to the relief of one and all, there was a learned perhaps a 'Pandit' on our side to save the situation. He, with no time lost, recited the much needed 'Shloka'. The feast commenced now.
To substitute for any music for those dining, 'Barat' was entertained with the customary choicest vulgar 'Galees' by the 'Brides' related ladies in wait but invisible behind the curtains. However, the feast went smoothly.
The ceremony finale:
And so went all the rituals and various ceremonies as per the religious and social customs in the ensuing two days, till the morning the 'Baraat' was to depart.
These two days had seen much exchange between the 'Gooms' and the 'Brides' parties. So much so amicably that the feeling of your-side and ours-side had vanished. There was due bonhomie among the 'baratees' and 'host' now.
As usual for a marriage, the visit of a 'Baraat” culminates in ta 'Vidaee' ceremony'. This is a very emotionally charged moment in an Indian marriage. Here too, being no exception, a somber to melancholy mood descended on one and all standing as one crowd of people from both sides now.
But it was interspersed with a bit spirited ritual as some ladies, faces covered in long enough veils, sountered into the crowd and stamped the backs of selected gents with their turmeric-paste smeared palms with uncanny skill and speed.
Finally, the bride and the groom boarded their designated 'Rath', and the 'barat' convoy came into being once again onto the journey back.
We reached the Railway station and to board the train for home. But this time I was adamant to Mama and his cronies that 'None will step onto the Train before a Ticket for each one of the 'Baratee''.
Sitting amongst all, sober unlike the train journey last, realisation dawned on me that this 'Baraat' experience was an event I was going to reminisce for times to come.