When Ghoomar meets Bollywood

The first goodbye was to the heat of Mumbai. Entering Jaipur in the wee hours of morning can be transforming. I instantly began imagining another life, one where you never sweat like a commoner on the street; you only stride like a Maharaja. As guests from the groom’s side of a traditional Rajput wedding, we were in for nothing less royal mind you. Only, we were challenged to match swords with a community we knew little about, since our friend, the groom, is a typical Bombay boy – a non-Rajput, and most importantly a non-animal rider! About that, a little later. First, the royal welcome to the pink city.

Jaipur, the capital city of the Rajput kings since 1727 is caught in a time warp. The city is bustling with modern cars and new businesses, but the walls have history written all over them. All in a uniform rust red shade; the buildings look too decorative for actual habitation or use. For Jaipuris it must be like living in a museum. As if to make up for the monotony of the single colored buildings the rest of the city is bursting with brights.

If you are dressed in grey or beige, you may as well be in England. Jaipur is for sunshine yellows, spring greens and royal reds, pinks and purples. So with the brightest shimmers from my wardrobe packed in, I passed through the Hawa Mahal market feeling comfortably at home.

But you are still a tourist if you ask the taxi driver the FAQ- Why is it called the pink city when it really is red? Pre-empting the quiz, he smiles and points out to LMB.A great way to duck a tricky argument. LMB, or Laxmi Mishtan Bhandar can shut any one up. Overflowing with traditional Rajasthani and north Indian sweets this one time halwai ki dulaan is now a restaurant-store and more. The fragrance of Paneer Ghevar is enchanting. Pink or red? Who cares when mufti-colored pethas swimming in sugar syrup are waiting to be slurped?

If you come to Jaipur with one bag, you surely will leave with a couple more marked LMB. Hands and stomachs full, we travel the short distance from market to Mahal speechless.

Hari Mahal Heritage Palace is dressed like a bride. Flower garlands adorn every balcony and hug every pillar and wall. Even as we stop to take in the view, garlands come to greet us. We after all, are the Dulhawallas (from groom’s side)! It is our first Rajput wedding experience and we were warned of the host’s elegance and extravagance in advance.

This is a community with style. Women wear the traditional poshak – a skirt, short kurti and dupatta covering most of the face. But through the ghoonghat they welcome you in flawless English and the discovery begins there.

After the initial pleasantries the party begins. First the haldi – a ceremony where the bride and groom are treated to a turmeric facial of sorts – albeit separately. While the women apply the milk-turmeric-sandalwood concoction with crossed hands onto the grooms face, musicians hit the traditional folk notes. A little boy with a turban half his body weight dances as if it is his own big moment. The harmonium croons with kesaria sawaria padharo mhare des – a song so rustic and heartfelt, it gives another meaning to the word – welcome!

The evening lit the place up like it was cut in crystal. As baratis (people attending the wedding), we were to dance in the procession leading the groom to the ceremonial venue. And here came our moment of reckoning. We expected a horse ride for the groom as in most Indian weddings, but waiting to be mounted was an Elephant. Leading the procession were horses and camels. All complete with embroidered and embedded seating and dressed up tamers.

As our anxious friend climbed onto his elevated ride, the drums thundered. And it was here onwards that the spirit of Mumbai took over. You can take a Mumbaikar out of Mumbai, but you can’t take Bollywood out of him. After a few rounds of traditional folk music the band switched to B-tunes on popular demand.

At first we were curious how our rooted hosts would react. But then the real transformation began. Men standing tall in breeches and holding swords jerked to the beats. The ladies in their ghooghats showed what grooving is all about. All along we had been conscious of the cultural gap and were minding our ways, but Bollywood proved to be a great equalizer. The wedding went well and fireworks lit the sky up all night. But the real show was on the dance floor where like this great city, history and hysteria became one.

Author: prachi wagh

Compulsive writer, dreamer and chronicler of amazing things in everyday life.


  1. I’d like to visit Rajasthan and see a traditional wedding and see the various traditions for mu upcoming book.

    Your article is very interesting and the photos are good too.

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