A Travellerspoint blog

Jaipur - Dagri

Leaving luxury and AC behind and heading for an adventure

sunny 40 °C
View A Big Fat Indian Wedding - India 2014 on Grete Howard's travel map.

So, I wake up this morning to find my cold sore has really taken hold – David did ask if it had declared independence yet! Just what I want for a wedding! Not.

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Breakfast at the hotel was a part buffet part cooked-to-order but we stayed with the Indian food on offer, and very nice it was too: Poha, stuffed parantha, vada sambhar.

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As we had a little bit of time before the driver picked us up, we gave ourselves an unguided tour of the hotel. It may be quite small – only about 30 rooms or so I think – but the Umaid Bhawan is beautifully formed with lots of attention to detail. Every bit of wall, floor and ceiling is beautifully decorated, and there are lots of nooks and crannies everywhere, very quirky. Just the type of place we like.

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I wish we'd had time to use the pool, but we have a lot of ground to cover today. First stop the pharmacy to stock up on some antibiotics (which are easily and cheaply available across the counter here in India) and electrolytes to try and prevent dehydration in this severe heat.

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Unsure of the situation with filtered water at the farm, we stock up on water, juice and Diet Coke for the next few days in Dagri. The store does not stock Diet Coke, but by the time we have finished choosing everything else we want, they have sent a boy out to another store to buy some for us. Good man. We are now ready for our adventure in rural Rajasthan.

Sabu has also arranged for us to meet up with his trusted tailor – he made some shirts for me last time and I was so impressed I wanted him to make some more. I just gave him one of my shirts and he simply copied it. I want to do the same this time, but it is a Sunday, so the cloth store is shut. No problem, the tailor knows the owner and has arranged for him to come and open up especially for us. We choose some fabrics: I am after some clothes to wear on safari later in the year; most of my shirts are brightly coloured which would scare the animals, so I select seven different muted shades this time.

Before we can be on our way to Dagri, we stop at Sabu's place to pick up Jo's suitcase and some other stuff. We were greeted like long lost friends by his neighbours, who remembered us from our visit in March. As we pull up, a camel cart arrives – not sure where he is heading, but he stops and chats for a while.

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I have to admit that most of the journey from Jaipur to Dagri is pretty dull – desert, sand and the odd acacia tree; although we do see some typical Rajasthani road scenes along the way.

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Dagri
Dagri is a small rural village (or hamlet even) in Rajasthan, some 80km east of Nageur. It is so small you won't find it on any maps, although the nearest “big” town of Degana is. The total population of the village (according to the internet) is 1367. This is the family home of our friend Sabu, the bridegroom. We are staying with them until we go to the bride's village on 1st, to meet up with the bride and her family for the main part of the wedding celebrations.

Never having been to Sabu's farm before, Rishi was unsure of the way and had to stop and ask directions a couple of times. Even though we came in the opposite direction from the way we arrived five years ago, David still recognised the farm entrance. He never ceases to amaze me when it comes to directions!

On arrival at the farm, we received the customary greeting with red mark on the forehead studded with rice (known as bindi for women and tilak for men).

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Inside the house, some of the women were busy sorting lentils for tonight's dinner, while singing a happy song.

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After a while some lunch appeared – rotis with sabji (vegetables in a sauce) and a sweet.

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In the grounds of the farm, a large canopy had been set up, under which large scale cooking was taking place ready for the various parties over the next few days. Huge vats of gulab jamun and another delicious Indian sweet which I did not find out the name of, were being prepared in the stifling heat.

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A friendly – but very efficient – security guard with a big stick had been employed. He was to prove very useful over the next few days.

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A new toilet (squat) and shower block was being hurriedly constructed, ready for the 1000 or so guests expected at the party tomorrow night. Believe it or not, it did get finished (sort of) in time. This was to supplement the old ablutions block which had a traditional western style toilet (minus the seat) and a bucket shower.

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Elsewhere on the farm there was a hive of activity getting the place ready. Another huge canopy was being erected for guests to mingle, eat and sleep under, away from the glaring sun.

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On the roof, electric neon lights were installed.

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The goats and buffalo were much bemused by the whole goings on.

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Later the priest arrives and red string bracelets (known as "kalava" or "mauli") are blessed and tied around our wrists by one of the women. The bracelets promote healing, love, good fortune and strength to the wearer, and should be worn until it naturally fades or falls off. The thread has a supari, an iron ring, a shell and beads of mustard tied to it in a small cloth.

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In the coming pages, I will try my best to describe the wedding rituals as they happened, with information mostly gleaned from the internet, but also picked up on the days before and during the wedding itself. I cannot make any guarantees that this is an accurate description of the facts, legends and traditions, but it is a reflection of what we experienced and how we saw it.

A puja (prayer ritual) followed, the significance of which I unfortunately did not catch, but it involved a branch from a tree, sacred red thread, a leather strap and donation of money.

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Turmeric (Haldi – also known as Ubtan or Tel Baan) Ceremony
At the haldi ceremony, everyone (mainly the groom's female family members) gets to “paint” the groom with a turmeric paste during a ritual holy “bath” (the bride will no doubt have the same treatment by her friends and family in Sikar).

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Haldi means turmeric. The haldi paste is made from turmeric, mustard oil, vermilion, curd, sandalwood and rose water which is then applied to the skin using grass. The turmeric is said to improve your complexion and should be applied seven times on the body from bottom to top and then top to bottom, although Sabu was only symbolically adorned with haldi on his hands, shoulders, face and feet.

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With its antiseptic qualities, turmeric also acts as the protective shield for the wearer from cuts, bruises and any other seasonal ailments. The colour yellow is also considered auspicious, the bride/groom are supposed to wear yellow clothes while haldi is being applied to them. Traditionally, once the haldi ceremony takes place, the bride/groom is not allowed to step outside until the time of their wedding, but this what not practised here in Dagri.

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Henna (Mehendi) Ceremony
Although this ceremony is mainly for the bride, I was keen to get in on the action too, and was hoping Sabu's sisters and other female family members would be holding their own little mehendi affair, which of course they did.

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Traditionally Mehendi is said to be one of the sixteen adornments decorating a bride without which her beauty is said to be incomplete. According to popular belief the darker the colour of her mehendi, the more her husband will love her. The designs for the bride generally include the name of the bride and the groom hidden in the design, which is to be found by the groom before the wedding night can commence.

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Another belief is that the longer the mehendi stays, the more she is adored by her mother-in-law. After the wedding, the bride is not expected to perform any housework until her Mehendi has faded away.

The term refers to the material, the design, and the ceremony.

In addition to the aesthetic qualities of the design, the henna has immense medicinal and healing powers. Any wedding is undeniably a period of strain and tension and creates a lot of stress. Applying of mehendi on the hands and feet helps to keep the nerve-endings cool, which in turn reduces stress. Mehendi also acts as an antiseptic agent; thus, keeping the bride free from viral diseases, cuts and bruises around the wedding. Application of meehndi also improves blood circulation. Thus, the practice of applying mehendi was traditionally not just to beautify the bride, but also to keep her healthy and hearty.

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While us girls (and Sabu!) were busy getting beautified, David and a small gang of helpers were occupied with putting the tent up under an acacia tree on the farm land. The soft sand meant the tent pegs were difficult to secure, and as there is quite a strong wind here, that could prove a little hazardous. Anyway, we now have a home from home in Dagri.

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One of the many myna birds around the farm had somehow fallen into a large vat of food slops where Sabu's cousin PC rescued it and gave it a good scrub from the kindness of his heart.

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It looked rather bedraggled and I am sure the detergents PC misguidedly used did not do it much good. It was unable to fly and kept falling over, poor thing. Even though its feathers were drying quickly, we eventually put it on the roof of the cow-shed, to keep it away from marauding cats and young hands, hoping it would eventually fly away.

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Once the sun went down, the lights came on. Cooking continued for the big do and a dinner materialised.

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After dinner there was music and dancing into the wee hours. Unlike the UK, where it is mainly groups of girls dancing around their handbags; here in India, men are the main performers on the dance floor. Here Naryan and Bhanwar show off their dance moves.

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We stayed for a while – joined in even – then retired to our tent for the night. But first we had to secure it from the raging wind. As I said earlier, the ground was so soft, the wind was just pulling the pegs straight out, even with large rocks placed on top. In the end we had to secure the guy ropes to the beds to stop the tent blowing away.

The beds – or cots as they are known locally – consist of a basic wooden frame with string across for support, topped with a thin mat and a pillow if you are “lucky”.

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Sleeping inside the tent was way too hot, and sleeping outside was an “interesting” experience: being blasted from the wind laden with the fine sand. There were lots of noises in the night too, from birds, to buffalo to music and people.

Posted by Grete Howard 11:58 Archived in India

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Comments

Are there any pictures of you actually IN bed? I'm wondering how accommodating the beds were to us Westerners.
1 bathroom for 1000 people? That must've been trying.
Were there any showers or was the bucket "it"?

by Homer

The new shower was pretty good, and the only line I ever found was made up of Westerners. The bucket shower was mostly used by the Indian women, whereas the men would use buckets from the well or the irrigation hose outside.

The cots (beds) were surprisingly comfortable, albeit very short. The main problem was that every evening someone had been in to our tent and 'stolen' the beds so we had to go in search of new ones. :-(

As for the toilet, I only ever used the western style one (having twisted my knee getting up from a squat toilet the first day) and there was never a line. There was no flushing water either, so you had to hunt for a bucket when you came out and fill it from the well in order to flush the loo after use.

by Grete Howard

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