There is something about weddings that strikes a chord with everyone. Be it children, who enjoy them for the tasty mithais and ice creams, or teenagers who dreamily imagine themselves in a fairy tale wedding (the boys I am sure have limited imagination, so they usually just abhor the expenses and the social funfair). The ones married obviously cannot stop gushing and remembering their wedding (again men do not always gush about such things!), and the elderly smile with care and a lot of blessings for the new couple.
Indian weddings, of course, take revelry to a completely different level. Almost all Indian weddings that follow the traditional route, are expensive, a food fest, a fun riot and of course a means of a grand family gathering. At the same time, weddings are also strictly about prayers, blessings and following the rituals to the tee.
One such wedding tradition that combines proper code of conduct with pleasure and fun is Ara Antar. A wedding tradition followed by the Parsi community, Ara Antar is a sacred tradition of uniting two souls in the presence of the priest and the families. The Parsi wedding can be divided into pre- wedding, wedding, and post – wedding rituals and celebrations. Ara Antar is a part of the main wedding tradition.
A Parsi wedding is usually held in the Fire Temple or a baug. The Parsis consider the time immediate after sunset or early in the morning as auspicious for marriage. The venue is, of course, decorated and usually, rangoli designs are drawn at the venue and the homes of both the bride and groom.
The Ara Antar Ceremony
The bride and groom dressed in gorgeous whites sit facing each other in this particular ceremony. A cloth is held in between the two of them so that, they are unable to see each other. A fistful of rice is given to each of them to hold on to. The priest then reciting prayers takes a string and circles the couple seven times with it. At the completion of the seventh round, both the bride and groom throw the rice at each other. The first to do so is considered to be more dominant of the two in the relationship.
Now, this is what I mean by Indian weddings being a complete mix of rituals and yet not compromise on the fun factor. Imagine as a bride or groom, when you sit facing your to be better half, veiled by a cloth, your heart will only flutter for a peep the other side. With the priest circling the string around both, I am sure there is a feeling of overwhelming warmth and responsibility towards each other. At the same time, as soon as the seventh circle ends, the anticipation of throwing the rice first and to be counted as the more caring and forthcoming in the relation also plays in the mind. With all these mixed emotions which are totally expected in a wedding, the families look about with joy and cheering. There is intimacy and crowd, there is prayer and fun, and there is also a serious sense of commitment but also a genuine feeling of light-heartedness and gleefulness.
No wonder then, that in spite of a fast paced life many couples today opt for a traditional form of marriage. Though the rituals pan across for more than a couple of days, many people prefer to take time out for their marriage and make it a memorable event. An event that is marked with tradition, frolic and a gathering of near and dear ones, weddings are the real social and religious platforms for spreading cheer and hope and at the same time rooting oneself into values and tradtions.