Monday, June 23, 2008

Monsoon Wedding II: Preparations

Once the wedding date is decided by the priest, there is no end to the preparations. The priest will provide both date and time (muhurath/muhurtham)

Our Date : 08-08-08 Time : 12:20pm (Abhijin Muhurtham)

Here is the most comprehensive list ever that I found :
( the detectives are a tad scary )

The usual practice is to make a book with your own list. We saw lists of several friends which gave us a lot of help.

1. Book the hall

If you're living in a city, this needs to be done several months in advance. In my case, it was done 6 months prior to the date. Most halls also have rooms, do check the rooms where the bride / groom will dress etc. In many cases, the hall may look grand but the rooms inside will be tiny and poorly ventilated with cracked mirrors and bad bathrooms. Check if power back up is present. Check for the presence of lock-able cupboards.

2. Caterers

Choose the caterer well in advance. Caterer will need to check the hall to confirm the presence and use of utensils and equipment etc. Make an appointment for this. Ensure that you get to sample the fare to get an idea.
Our Caterers:

Menu for the following will need to be decided: Two breakfasts, drinks or juices between breakfast and lunch, Served Lunch and Buffet Dinner for the Reception.
Caterers can also be asked to provide snacks and savouries for a week before the wedding to satisfy the hordes of visitors who may come.

3. Gifts

For GSB marriages the following MUST be gifted by the bride's parents.
Gifts for the ladies are a Silk Sari and for the Gents a shirt and trouser piece.

a. Uncles and Aunts of the bride (Paternal and Maternal) - these are the most important and their gifts are correspondingly so. Maternal Aunt and Uncle are particularly important.

b. Sisters (of the bride) and their husbands (if any )

c. In absence of female siblings, Paternal female cousins and their husbands
( too bad for the Maternal cousins )

d. Youngest brother of the bride gets a shirt piece ( traditionally a shawl )
( I wonder why he doesnt get the trousers too )

e. "Dhedi" ( the unmarried girl who sits next to the bride )

f. "Dhedo" ( male version of above who sits beside the groom )

From the Groom's side:

a. Mother and Father of the groom.

b. Sisters of the groom and their husbands

c. Grandparents of the groom - i.e elders who are older than the Groom's Dad.

d. The priest and his wife must be gifted as well. The priest is given a silk Dhoti set (called Patte Thodopu) and a silk sari for his wife.

Outside of this list, it is usual to gift persons in the family who are close to the bride or her parents. For the elder ladies Kanchivarams in traditional patterns are preferred. The colours get darker(not brighter) in direct proportion to the age of the person. For the younger women - i.e younger than the bride's mother Saris can be gifted other silks ( bangalore silks / mysore silks )
For women, the borders of the saris get thinner in direct proportion to age. If they are very very aged they are given super light silks or cotton saris with thin zari border. Cotton to be given only if they insist on it. We bought one such cotton sari from Calcutta.

Tip: Keep a stack of post-it notes handy. Stick them on to the boxes with labels. This allows them to be reviewed and rearranged if needed.

In GSB weddings, gifts are NEVER gift wrapped. This is because they will be displayed when being gifted. The boxes that the saris and clothing pieces come in will be kept open and gifted.

Where to buy: ( we bought from all of these )
Angadi Silks, Jayanagar ( Best for buying in bulk )
Sudarshan Silks, Sheshadripuram
Cauvery Silks International, M. G. Road ( For mysore silks )
Girija Silks, Udupi
Dhakeshwari Vastralaya, Calcutta
Manish Silks, Patna
Johari Bazaar, Jaipur

3. Videographer and Photographer

These are provided by the hall as well. It is however best to pick an individual who is familiar with the wedding style, so that the important functions will be covered.
Be sure to ask the details of the package and mention if you dont want sound / video editing or any special effects.

4. Wedding Cards
These require a trip to Chickpet. It cannot be avoided, so do it when its a sunny day with no chance of rain. I would suggest parking the car in some shopping complex nearby and taking an Auto. We took several hours to choose our card. Take along water and some nourishment to keep the men awake.

Once the cards are bought, they need to be printed. This requires yet another trip to chickpet. If you want to save a trip, take along the text, typed out and formatted on A4 size sheets. Make a few copies just in case. Take along the route map to the Wedding Hall ( this will be provided by the Hall ). Printers often have ideas of their own. Ask for a sample for proof reading before the whole batch is printed.

5. Accomodation for out-station Guests

Service Apts are the best option for wedding parties. They provide transport and catering as well. This link has most of the places, sorted according to budget :

6. Transport
Includes Transport to pick up guests from airport/railway station and drop them at guest houses and for the wedding party itself. The hall / caterer / service apt/ hotel often provide these.

7. Hall decorators and Musicians

Usually these are provided by the hall itself. It is best to choose them since they will be well versed with the hall.

8. Wedding favours

South Indian weddings provide a bag/box with a Coconut ( this is in Kannadiga style ) or a Fruit. In GSB traditional style, its a box of sweets, a packet of savouries and a Sweet Pan - called "Beeda" . Sometimes a small idol of ganesha is also given.
Getting the bag requires a trip to chickpet. Many options (velvet / plastic/ jute/ cloth) and sizes are available.
If a sample is provided, the process becomes easier. Also needed is the dimensions of the sweet box from the Caterer. The Bag will need to be printed with the details of the wedding. Better to carry that along as well.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Monsoon Wedding - I

First of all, this is not a bird related post. I'm taking a small sabbatical from birding to concentrate on a personal project - My Wedding. This is the first of a short series of posts that will detail all you ever wanted to know about an Indian Hindu Wedding. I hope this will prove useful to anyone planning a wedding.

Pls Note: I belong to the GSB - (Goud Saraswat Brahmin) community.

The Horror Scope!

Finding the Groom/Bride, usually is a tedious process which involves horoscope matching. While a lot of the older Indians swear by it, most have little or no clue of what exactly is getting matched.

The matching process involves calculating a Score using 2 birth-charts or horoscopes. The Max Score possible is 36. Cut-off marks are high. The couple need to score greater than 18. We scored 24.
The Mangal Dosh (made famous by the Aishwarya Rai wedding) is cancelled out if both the boy and girl have it in their horoscopes.

Birth-charts : Are documents created when a child is born into a hindu family, noting the date and time of birth, location (latitude and longitude) among other things. The positions of important stars and planets at the time of birth are noted in the form of a chart.

Note: South Indian and North Indian horoscopes contain the same info but are organised differently. Usually the date, time and location are used to construct a fresh birth-chart of a similar style for matching.

The system supposedly checks for 8 different regions of compatibily. For details, check out this article on Vedic Horoscope Matching

Traditionally horoscopes are matched by family priests. The priest will usually take his own time and provide a verdict. Details are usually not explained.
Several sites offer online Horoscope matching. Its free, detailed and the report is mailed to your email address.

We used Planetary Positions
Our horoscopes (one north, one south) were also matched by 3 different priests - 2 north indian and 1 south indian and all gave the same results as provided by PlanetaryPositions.

The Engagement

Once the formalities are out of the way, an Engagement date is chosen by the priest. Time is as important as the date. Usually no auspicious activity should be done at Rahu kala. The panchang( hindu religious calendar) is consulted to find a good time.

For Tamil Muhurtham dates:
For North Indian Muhurath dates:
Free Software to calculate a date:
Disclaimer: I havent tried this one myself.

Many communities dont have a ring exchange at the Engagement, although now a days the western practice of rings is increasingly followed among many ( After all - Who wants to say no to Diamonds? )

A Simple GSB style Engagement will usually be done at the girl's house. Ideally there should be elder relatives from the maternal and paternal side to bless the boy and girl. The girl and boy are expected to exchange gifts ( usually a gift of clothing ). A small prayer is said and the couple can seek blessings of all elders present by touching their feet. The families will exchange sweet boxes.

In the north indian custom, the exchange of gifts is far more elaborate. A complete set of clothing, foot wear, handbag, jewellery, cosmetics is given in addition to baskets of fruit and dry fruits.

The girls in the south will usually wear Saris though many are now opting for Ghagra Cholis. Note: Unless you have occasions to wear it again sometime, this is a dead investment. In south india, the girl will be expected to wear some amount of gold. Parlours offer makeup services for Engagements - Rs. 3000 from Lakme

The guys will usually settle for Kurtas. Suits are a big NO, unless you want to look like you're attending a seminar in Europe.

Gift options:
For Her : Sari, Gold/Diamond Ring, Gold Chain/ Ear studs, Shoes, Perfume, Watch, Handbag, Salwar suit
For Him : Shirt and Trouser set, Kurta set, Gold Ring, Watch, Sun glasses, Cologne

Buy Gold from Big Brands that will offer buy back ( in case you need to exchange ) and will also provide free Service. My engagement ring was from Gili and they replaced it at no charge when a diamond in it fell off.

Try to shop at a Mall that has a loyalty program.

Use a credit card for all purchases atleast till the wedding is over. The huge bills in the coming months will generate a lot of reward points that can be converted to vouchers or Air Miles. (Remember to pay credit card bills on time.)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Nandi Hills


This was our first birding trip to Nandi hills, the last one being just a fun trip with non-birding friends. Expectations ran high, we hoped for a glimpse of the paradise flycatcher and the oriental white eye and prayed for good weather and clear skies.

It was cloudy and drizzled a bit along the way. We made a few stops one to watch some bee-eaters along the highway and another to check-out a small waterbody that turned out to be quite devoid of any life.

When we stopped though, we got a rare chance to meet a lion-hearted purple sun bird male. Bold and unperturbed by the presence of our car or us, it settled down to have breakfast just 2 feet away in a flowering bush.

Purple Sun Bird Male
Purple Sun Bird Male

Our next stop was at a lovely curve in the road where Keshav and I followed a divide and conquer policy. He met a White Browed Bulbul and I met a Jerdon's Bush lark which stood meditating on a little ledge on one leg. I began to get concerned if it was injured, but shortly after, it hopped about quite happily on both legs.

Jerdon's Bush Lark
Jerdon's Bush Lark

Nandi hills did not disappoint. The hills were cloaked in mist and it was so refreshing to drive through it, leaving behind all the dust and heat of bangalore.
The road is quite sceanic and one will be tempted to stop all along the way by some breathtaking sights. Dont go by these photos, they are limited by my skill.

Misty Stairway to heaven

We did see a fair number of birds, few unidentified. Possibly scimtar babblers and a lark like bird that taunted us by sitting high up in a tree among leaves and singing at the top of its voice continuously "teee teeee taaaan".

It is difficult to spot and photograph in the dense foliage. The few who consented to pose follow.

Red Whiskered Bulbul
Red Whiskered Bulbul

Small Green Barbet
Small Green Barbet

Butterflies were plentiful particularly the crimson rose and chocolate pansy. The ones I photographed, I had never seen before.

Blue Mormon Butterfly
Blue Mormon Butterfly
Common Gull butterfly
Common Gull butterfly

We were very fortunate to see a Tickell's Blue flycatcher in an obliging mood. Keshav has some splendid pictures owing to superior skill, height and equipment. :)

Tickell's Blue Fly Catcher
Tickell's Blue Fly Catcher

Nittie Gritties:
Nandi Hills has a parking space and your car can be taken all the way up beyond the ticketing gate. Parking costs - Rs.60 for a car and Rs 10 for a bike.
There are several small eateries near the parking area. There are also some "guides" who will pester you; wanting to show you the nearby temples for a price, so be aware.
There is a Ladies loo, the maintainance of which is left to nature.

Nehru Park is a great place to see butterflies and birds. The tree opposite the statue of Nehru is visited by oriental white eyes. Several of the nearby trees too have a large number of birds visiting them - prinias, bulbuls and barbets.
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