The drive to the wedding in Sukkar Chak took about 10 hours, although we were only 5 hours from Chandigarh where we departed. Along the way, we picked up other friends and stopped at different family homes to say hello, with a hot cup of chai and jalebi waiting for us at every door. With the endless milky masala tea and extra long drive, my first impressions of Punjab were the most classic: incredible hospitality in a very rural state. Punjab is all fields of buffalo and mustard seed, spotted with dusty towns.
On the first full day of our trip, at 6:30 am, we woke to the sounds of the village: tractors, buffalo, honking. Again, chai somehow appeared in our room and we drank sleepily on the floor. The lineup for the bathroom lasted until about 8:30 am (there was only one (squatting style) toilet and one shower for the 25+ people who were staying at the house). Eventually, we changed into colourful wedding outfit #1 (I was told to bring four at least) and went downstairs. Today it was the mehendi and water procession festivities. We were ushered to the pink tent erected in the field next door for a massive buffet lunch and more bhangra dancing.
The best friends of the groom who invited us to join the celebrations in Punjab.
After lunch was the water procession and the tumeric bath. The procession began in the field with the water carried in decorated jugs on the heads of the women, who led the village through the mustard oil plants, down the main road to the gurdwara (where the water was blessed) and then home again. The women sang as drummers harmonized along with them. This was my absolute favourite ceremony of the weekend. The late afternoon sun, the hum of the voices and beat of the drum intoxicated the paraders.
I was warmly welcomed to join in the festivities and dance at every opportunity.
The third day was the actual wedding, a ceremony made up of multiple ceremonies. At 7 am, we woke with a start: a brassy, loud, not very talented marching band of seven men with dusty costumes and old instruments played downstairs at the gate, as is tradition in many Indian weddings.
We were told to get dressed quickly because it was time to send the groom off – the bharat. Quickly we dressed in our most Punjabi suits and headed downstairs. The chalky marching band led us out onto the street where a white horse in colourful carnival gear waited to carry the groom to the gurdwara.
We all paraded down the street – probably our fifth time doing so in the three days – and the groom performed a series of rituals inside and outside the gurdwara, including slicing a branch with his red sword and jumping on a few small clay pots that his aunties quickly collected as they shrieked in a tone that sounded both like delight and prayer. The singing and drumming never stopped throughout this whole time. Jaimal and I watched and were watched with equal fascination. The newlyweds were Ravisassi, a sect of Sikhism that has recently branched off into its own religion that incorporates some very different rituals than more orthodox Sikhism.
Soon after, we drove to the bride’s village just a kilometer away where a giant red and yellow tent had been erected in the field. Now we did what you do best at Punjabi weddings: we ate. Plates and plates and plates of samosas, pakoras, other fried Indian goodies whose names I do not know, cake, fruit, lassi, pop, milkshakes, and coffee kept arriving at our table, until someone decided we had to start the dance party.
The pots and ladles required to cook for 100s of guests on a never-ending schedule.
With another long drive ahead of us, we managed to sneak away from the dance floor. We congratulated the pair, took photos, and hugged the families. The six of us headed off, packed like sardines in our fancy Punjabi wedding gear, exhausted and full and happy.
Living in India, I saw a lot of sights (and smelled a lot of smells) that will stay with me forever. Now back in Canada, I’m often asked, “So, how was India?” I can only shake my head in retrospective awe. India is impossible to summarize. I believe this is why there are so many travel memoirs written about the country; you need at least 300 pages to even begin to explain. But when people ask if anything stands out, I immediately have an answer: my first Punjabi wedding.
Indian weddings are generally explosions of glitter and pink and ladoos
You’ve probably heard about the colour and pop of Indian weddings. In contrast to the white dresses and formality of western nuptials, Indian weddings are generally explosions of glitter and pink and ladoos. Punjabi weddings certainly hold true to this form and, some may say, go even further. My fiancé Jaimal being half Punjabi himself, I have had to study these traditions in preparation for our own wedding celebration!
In February, Jaimal and I were invited to a wedding in rural Punjab by a new friend of ours Jassi. Her bud Baldev was getting married in the village where he grew up and, in true Indian fashion, everybody was invited. The photo essay above details the three days of the 10 day event (!) that we attended in the small village of Sukkar Chak, 12 km from the border of Pakistan. While each hour of our visit produced a story unique and worth telling, these photos summarize the wondrous experience. Click on the images for snippets of what we were part of that weekend.