I went to India for the first time over the Christmas holiday. It was amazing. Maybe it was because I went for a friend’s wedding and was surrounded by a fantastic group of people (plus I got to see two wonderful people say "I do" or at least I think that’s what they said since the actual wedding ceremony was in Hindi). There was something about the vibrancy, organized chaos, intensity, food, people. Sadly, I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to enjoy the city of Mumbai so I definitely will be back. The wedding really was the main focus of my visit although we managed to do a bit of sightseeing. The friend who got married had lived in Zambia a few years ago so there were a few of us that represented her "Zambian days." She was kind enough to prepare a “Survival Kit” for those of us who were attending an Indian wedding for the first time. It included information about the traditional ceremonies and what to expect at each one (this was very helpful). I’ll give you a brief rundown:
Sangeet ceremony is a wedding tradition observed in India that involves singing, dancing and music. The sangeet with the mehndi ceremony, which is the ritual of applying henna (mehndi) to the bride in preparation for the wedding itself were combined at this wedding.
Wedding ceremony is the main ceremony, the priest, groom, bride and bride's parents sit beneath a mandap, a canopy similar to a Jewish chuppah. The ceremony starts off with the kanya daan, in which the bride's parents give her away. Then the couple joins hands and circles around a small, enclosed fire (the agni) in a ritual called the phera. Then the couple will take the saptapadi, or seven steps, as they vow to support each other and live happily together. Finally, the groom will apply a red powder to the center of the bride's forehead and tie a necklace around her neck, symbolizing she's now a married woman.
Reception ceremony is celebrated after the main wedding. It is the first public appearance of the newlywed couple after their marriage and is sort of a grand party. This is a celebration time for both the families as they rejoice over their new accord. Reception parties are laid with sumptuous food to treat the guests.
We had a grand time enjoying and being part of all of these events and embraced every minute including wearing our traditional Indian attire! Oh, and one of my favorite parts?! The chai masala tea. I mean I loved chai tea before but this?! Sigh. So, so good.
I was also able to squeeze in some time in Thailand which was equally pretty great. For the past several years I have traveled for New Year’s with my friend Heather to random places across the world. This year we met in Thailand and I got to meet her and her husband's new baby girl (she is the adorable baby in all of the pictures). We spent some time enjoying the beaches near Krabi…this was before everyone got food poisoning (except me since luckily I don't eat seafood, thank goodness)! But after everyone recovered we flew from Krabi to Bangkok. I wish I also had more time in Bangkok. While, yes, the pollution was terrible everything else was wonderful. The city was vibrant and loud and the shopping was fantastic. So many places I want to go back to and also to visit for the first time? How does one fit all this traveling into such a short lifetime?
I hope all my friends and family had a wonderful holiday and am wishing you all a happy, happy 2017!