With the wedding of her granddaughter set to be held in a few weeks’ time, 75-year-old Savitri Patnaik recalls how during her young days, parents used to find the match for their children and the marriage was formalised strictly as per rituals. “It was truly fascinating to watch or go through all the traditional rituals. But with these youngsters mostly interested in the filmy style ‘naach-gaana’ and parties, the authentic rituals seem to be losing their authenticity nowadays,” she rues.
Unlike Savitri, her granddaughter and bride-to-be, Juhi Patnaik feels that the traditional rituals last through the days and can become boring. She says, “If weddings are meant to be an important part of our lives, then why can’t they be exciting and glamourous?”
Over the years, marriages have not lost their essence and sanctity of being an integral part of the still conservative Indian society but they certainly have turned out to be the most revolutionised institution undergoing some changes in the face of economic changes and the Internet revolution that has exposed people, particularly, the youth to a more cosmopolitan trend of imbibing traditions from all over the country and the world. As a result, the way people perceive marriage, organise ceremonies and take vows are changing in tandem with the times.
With the wedding season in full swing, My City Links takes a look at the slowly evolving, though not necessarily changing traditions whether it is the rituals, attire, venue décor or all of that which culminate into a vibrant wedding.
Rituals and Traditions:
India being a melting pot of various cultures and traditions, nothing can be as exciting as weddings in the country. Like elsewhere in the country, the typical Odia wedding also has undergone a vast change. While earlier it was solemnised through two significant rituals of ‘Nirbandha’ or engagement (the ceremony that finalises talks over the wedding being fixed) and the grand wedding ceremony, now it has many pre and post wedding rituals that spread themselves over more than a week.
As Smita Choudhury from Cuttack, busy with preparations for her son’s wedding and finding it difficult to arrange for the added functions like the sangeet, mehendi and bachelors’ party says, “Earlier, marriages were a formal event and had limited guests on the invitee list with a precise budget. They had their share of fun too. But with the youngsters now influenced by the peer groups and media, marriages, now, have become more about glamour and less about following rituals. There is also no limit on the money that is spent on the functions.”
However, on the contrary, Pratishruti Mohanty from Cuttack is happy that a lot has changed for her generation. “Today, not only can I choose my life partner, I do not have to sit through the yawning lengths of rituals. I can pick and choose my look for the wedding as well as coordinate the ceremonies according to my suitability. Life has become too busy to strictly follow all the time-consuming customs today,” she adds.
Just like Pratishruti, many youngsters feel that weddings should not be all about slogging under the burden of responsibilities. Rather, they should give the chance to laze a bit, and make merry to shake off the anxieties that a wedding brings with it. So, comes with this flurry of ideas of hosting a cocktail or the bachelor and bachelorette parties to be enjoyed with close friends and families before the main event.
Chandni, a college student, who is excited to attend a few pre-wedding parties of her friends and cousin to be held this month, says, “I love these parties as we can enjoy to our full without irking our elders who usually do not want any disturbance during the marriage ceremony. We had arranged a post wedding DJ party for my brother and sister-in-law who got married recently. At least it helped my sister-in-law relax a bit with her in-laws’ family and also gave the couple a much-needed break after the tiring wedding ceremonies.”
But can these parties and ceremonies hold the charm had it not been for those majestic and grand venues?
“Venues have played the major role among other factors in transforming the look and feel of the wedding affair. Shifting from the simple residences to the more lavish and extravagant party halls, mandaps, clubs, hotels, resorts or even parks, venues have also taken away most of the trouble from the family’s part. The larger space at the venues can accommodate more guests than what one can do at the residence. While hosting a marriage at home might mean compromising on privacy with guests and the decoration, hosting it at a mandap or a hall ensures that the family can delegate the decorations and other arrangements to the venue management or other service providers,” explains Abinash Sahu, an event manager and owner of a mandap in Cuttack.
Sahu tells us that couples and their families these days are experimenting with all aspects of wedding, be it the decoration or treating the guests to some exotic locale. He says, “Even the flowers have undergone a seachange. The local favourites like marigold and rose flowers are losing their demand for decorations and there is an increasing demand for orchids, carnations, lilies or other varieties of flowers that are imported from other cities. They are more expensive. To add to it, people want more thematic decorations like the Bajirao Mastani, Jodha Akbar, fairy tales, royal palaces, temples and several other concepts to impress their guests. Few of my clients with bigger spending capacities prefer hosting the wedding at a different location altogether and call it the ‘destination wedding’. Some of them even fund the total expenditure of the guests’ travel and accommodation.”
Goutam Shaw, who recently held all the ceremonies of his daughter’s wedding at a resort in Kolkata’s outskirts, says, “I wanted my daughter’s wedding to be lavish but did not want to dilute the fun with an extended and unmanageable guest list. So we decided to host it in a private resort near Kolkata that had modernised cottages for accommodation. It suited our purpose since the wedding theme was ‘rustic’. The whole event was managed excellently by a local wedding planner. So, with a certain number of invited guests, family and friends, all we had to do was relax and enjoy the special occasion while also following the customs and rituals in the authentic way.”
“These destination weddings have also brought about a change in the way weddings are enjoyed these days, especially for the rich. They are not only a time for tying the knot but also a way of taking a family vacation together,” says Archana Sahni, a Rourkela-based wedding planner. “Rajasthan and Goa are the favourites among other locales in India,” adds Sahni.
Although some feel the fancy ceremonials only add to the hectic preparations, for many the tribe of wedding planners has come to their rescue when they are pressed for time and manpower. “A professional wedding planner doubles up as an idea bank to make the wedding unique while also managing the logistics from the couple’s wedding trousseau to the venue, food and decorations,” says Soumendra Mishra, an IT professional from Bhubaneswar.
With so much experimentation happening with creating the right ambience for the wedding, how can the wedding attire for the bride and the groom and their family be far behind? While brides have always been the cynosure of the entire event, nowadays grooms are also seen to be living up to the ante with matching trousseau with the bride. The family members too find it a great occasion to flaunt heavily embellished ethnic fashion.
Interestingly, red no longer seems to be the hot favourite among brides who feel spoilt for choice while experimenting with different colours and textures. Girls also do not want to stick to the typical nine yards when they can pick from a variety of lehengas and other designs. To make their job easier, they now have many fashion designers to assist them in getting their style right on their special day. Complementing their style are the emerging bunch of makeup artists who make all the efforts to turn the normal girl into a perfect bride or give her the bridal look of her favourite Bollywood diva.
“When brides come for the bridal make up, they demand to have a naturally gorgeous look or look like a celebrity. I find the modern generation very particular about their attire, hair and makeup,” says Papili, owner of Giligili parlour in Cuttack.
Wedding photography has also seen a craze for capturing more candid moments and behind the scenes story than the usual group photos with family. They have become more about documenting the story of the couple and their bond in perfect snapshots and not just about who attended their wedding.
With all the arrangements set in place, an Odia wedding will always be incomplete without the mouth-watering delicacies. The grand Odia wedding feast has also been through a journey of sorts. The caterers have now largely taken over food arrangement at the marriages. From the regular feast dishes like rice or sweet kanika, dal, fish/chicken curry, khatta, and some desserts like kheeri and rasagolla, one can find Continental, Chinese, Italian and other cuisines besides a whole range of items from the Indian cuisine.
Well, all said and done, the quintessential Odia wedding may have undergone a seachange but it has survived in its very essence of celebrating love and happiness and the changing trends can only add to the fun.