After our whirlwind day in Agra, the next morning we packed up our bags and hopped into 2 autos, racing each other to the train station before heading southbound to Bhopal. Thanks to the kindness and wonderful hospitality of A’s family, our time in his hometown was one of luxury and comfort. As our trip to India had been planned around the wedding we were to attend in Bhopal, the five of us were very excited to see if real life Indian weddings were as grand and colourful as Bollywood had led us to believe. Although the wedding would last a week for the couple and their family, we were only planning to attend 4 days (!) of the celebrations which would start that evening with an intimate gathering at the groom’s family house.
Although I had been concerned that we would show up and be shunned for not knowing the couple getting married (or anyone else there apart from A’s family!), any worries which had risen whilst on our way to the function disappeared the moment we stepped out of the car and saw the beauty of the surroundings. The party was held in their garden and as a royal household, I’m sure the groom’s home would be pretty amazing on any average day. However, the effort they had put into the decorations completely blew me away; fairy lights were wrapped around every tree trunk, multicoloured ribbons and decorations were draped between branches from which decorative umbrellas and ornaments were hung. I tried to take pictures but they really don’t do the place justice, I guess you get a rough idea though.
Any worries I had had turned out to completely unnecessary. Everyone was so kind and welcoming towards us, constantly asking if we were having a good time, dragging us onto the dancefloor and encouraging us to try different dishes from the wonderful selection of food on offer. The evening was a brilliant introduction to Indian weddings and after a wonderful few hours we left the party and headed back to A’s abode.
The next morning was spent wandering around the markets of Bhopal before we were persuaded by A’s mum to attend the daytime function for lunch. We turned up at the hotel, ready to grab some food when we noticed that all the guests were dressed in their best clothes whilst we were rocking flip flops and sweat marks. Luckily we were still allowed in and the food we ate was amongst the best of the entire trip. I was so excited to see that mehndi artists had been hired for the function and although traditionally for women, the boys didn’t want to miss out on this experience and ended up with incredibly macho flowers on their biceps.
The Prince who was getting married follows a particular traditional branch of Hinduism which meant that most of the events were either hosted by the bride’s family or the groom’s family, rarely together. The event that evening was organised by the groom’s side and J and I were thrilled to be wearing another traditional Indian outfit. This gathering had more of a subdued atmosphere than the night before and a Bollywood star (I forgot his name) was there singing some ballads which was great until he made each of us foreigners get up on stage and make a speech. Unluckily for me, my trousers had been held up by safety pins which decided to pop open just as I stepped up onto the stage, resulting in a rushed sentence or two whilst clutching onto my trousers to prevent them from falling down before I hurried to the toilets to sort myself out.
The day after, we decided to visit the Buddhist monuments at Sanchi, another UNESCO World Heritage Site which dates back to the first century BC! The views from the top were beautiful, however we had stupidly decided to visit at midday and by that point the temperature had hit the low 40s and the heat was getting to all of us.
That evening was the Prince’s cocktail party which was held at a fancy hotel in the city centre. We (I) definitely took advantage of the free cocktails and why not because at midnight it turned into the 6th of June, better known as my birthday. Somehow word had spread that it was mine and two other people’s birthday and a few minutes later the groom’s sister, the Princess, was on stage telling us to head to the front before a waiter wheeled out 3 cakes and countless bottles of champagne for the three of us! Soon after that everyone started dancing to Bollywood tunes and it was one of the most fun nights of my life so far. All the pictures I took are awful, a sign of a good night perhaps?
The event the next evening was the final one the five of us would attend before leaving Bhopal for Bombay. J and I finally got to wear sarees and felt like princesses for the night, in fact we loved them so much that we didn’t want to take them off when we returned to A’s house afterwards. Once again, the celebrations were split between the bride and the groom so we started off at the groom’s event where he just casually turned up on elephant. No biggie. After a couple of hours we went to see what was happening at the bride’s event, unfortunately we had missed the main events so not before long, we returned to the groom’s function to see that the bride had joined to make their vows. The ceremony was beautiful and is the same in all Hindu weddings; the couple make 7 vows to each other and have to hold a rope whilst walking around the sacred fire.
When we woke up the next morning, A ran into our room to show us that we’d made page 3 of the biggest newspaper in the state of Madhya Pradesh! Our time in Bhopal was a whirlwind and let’s be honest, probably a once in a lifetime opportunity; I’m sure most people want to attend an Indian wedding and I can now say that I’ve been to a royal one. I’m so thankful to A and his family for inviting and hosting us, it was an incredible experience and is a wonderful memory I’ll always treasure.
Sorry for how long this post turned out to be, definitely didn’t plan this but there was just so much to fit in. The next post will be on our night in Bombay and our dreamy stay in Goa.