Rajasthan. The mere mention of it evokes memories of music, heritage, colour, grandeur, tradition. All of these ingredients were brought together in the most elegant manner for us to experience at the wedding of a dear friend in Jaipur. As it happens often in India, friends turn into family effortlessly over time; we are fortunate to still preserve those elements of our culture that allow us to do so. Nirbhay, whose sister was the bride, is a dear friend and because he lovingly calls Rahul dada (older brother), we are knit into a successive web of relationships in a manner typical to Indian culture. And so, there we were- Aadyaa, Amma and me, imbibing the ambience of a traditional Rajput wedding in Jaipur.
Some of what I saw was familiar to me, being married into the same community in another part of Rajasthan. But this was the first time I was seeing a Jaipur wedding and I was happy to sit back (with my camera) and admire the jewellery and clothes, the refined mannerisms and confidence of those born into royalty, with myriad interpretations of what that means in modern times.
The traditionalism in a Rajput wedding is marker, with the men and the women socializing in separate areas and everyone turned out in traditional attire. Whereas in a wedding in Delhi or Mumbai, one would see several interpretations of Indian clothing, much of it influenced by Western styling, this wedding very much reflected the pride of the Rajput community in its own unalderated traditions. Women wore heavily embroidered poshak (comprising of 4 parts-a lehenga, odhni, kurti and kachli), in colour combinations that were both the conventional bright as well as a more modern range of pastel colours. The jewellery also is distinct, with the typical round rakhdi worn on the forehead, the heavy aad on the neck, bajuband on the arms, bangdis (bangles) and gold pajeb (anklets) being typical to the Rajput community. I thoroughly enjoyed taking portraits of some of the loveliest women I have ever seen (see if you agree!).
While the women outdo each other to wear the loveliest and most unique poshaks, the bride traditionally wears red (or yellow in some families). The bride, Shruti, wore a lovely red poshak with traditional embroidery on it (I hear her mother hand embroidered it for her and I cannot imagine the love and feeling that went into that, lucky girl!) with exquisite jewelry. The impact was intensified by the minimal make up and I loved the simplicity of her look. It also ensured she was very comfortable through the ceremony. In fact, when I met her moments before her wedding, she told me she was surprised about how light and easy to manage her attire was! A sign indeed of a happy carefree bride!
The men are dressed in bandhgalas (also called sherwanis), worn with trousers or breaches. Men also wear jewelry, especially on the neck and ear studs as well plus the distinctive saafa (headgear) that is actually several yards of cotton tied on the head. I was specially impressed by the bridegroom’s sartorial sense, his sherwani was made of a subtle brocade silk and so were his jootis (shoes), all matching matching! His kamarband that held the traditional sword (a mark of the warrior class) was also very subtle and elegant.
Much of the ambience was also created by the architecture around us. Dera Mandawa, the stunning boutique hotel that Nirbhay’s family runs (it is an extension of their own home), made the perfect setting for a traditional wedding. I admired, through the evening, the taste with which the decor had been chosen, the wonderful voices of the folk musicians that pervaded the air, the understated elegance of the ceremony. I could have expected nothing less from the family, especially the father of the bride, Thakur Durga Singh who is a true connoisseur of art and culture and responsible for quite a bit of the insights that I have about the state and its culture, especially the Shekawati region. All in all, this was one of the most enjoyable evenings I spent. I was so glad I took my camera along, so I could share some glimpses here with all of you.
We made a few navigation errors while returning from Dausa to Gurgaon, routing through smaller roads rather than the faster highway. No regrets though, for in Alwar district around Sariska, we saw some more architectural marvels as well as some of the most scenic views of the Aravallis I have laid my eyes on. I hadn’t set up any expectations, so I was delighted indeed!
Ajeybgarh loomed up before us, a seemingly lone fort atop a hillock. Then we saw some submerged monuments in a lake. We turned the corner and there it was before us, an entire town of abandoned, ruined structures. Now I know from various sources on the Internet, that Ajeybgarh is a fortified town built in the 1630s by Ajab Singh Rajawat, who was the grandson of the founding ruler of Bhangarh, Madho Singh. The family was closely related to the Mughals as Madho Singh was the younger sibling of Maharaja Mansingh, who was the General of Mughal Emperor Akbar’s army. In fact, the famous Jodha Bai was a grand aunt of Ajab Singh and both Akbar and Shahjanah were guests at Ajeybgarh.
Interestingly, Bhangarh which we did not see but isn’t too far from here, is one of the most well known haunted spots in India! Legend has it that the town was deserted overnight when an evil magician cursed it and no one is allowed to be in there after dusk. I can bet that has piqued your curiosity for this area! Mine is, for sure, but more so because it is supposed to be a magnificent heritage and archaeological site.
Later, we also passed through the town of Pratapgarh, which also is dominated by the fort that towers over its daily activities. We lost our way here, so we criss-crossed the town a few times and each time, the fort framed our views. Unfortunately the sunlight was blinding and the photographs are only silhouettes.
I’ve been to Sariska a very long time ago and to Alwar only for family weddings. The vignettes I saw on this drive certainly make for a more relaxed trip to Sariska, Alwar, Bhangarh, Ajeybgarh and Pratapgarh. I would say it would be comfortable to do this on a 3 day weekend. Alwar is only a few hours away from Gurgaon where I live. Sounds utterly doable and mu travel diary is filling again!!