Thursday, December 15, 2005

Remake the "Kashi Yatra"

The Kashi Yatra is a wedding ritual that I've grown up observing in most south Indian (brahmin) weddings, and yesterday was no exception. My friend, the groom, announces that he has decided to take up a life of sanyas (penance) and will depart for Kashi (another name for the holy city of Banaras, on the banks of the Ganga). He was attired in a dhoti and a pair of wooden sandals, and carried a walking stick in one hand and an umbrella in the other. I'm no longer interested in entering the householder phase (grihastashrama) of life, he says, and begins walking out of the marriage hall. Quite a lot of fun when this begins!

So what happens next? A horde of relatives from the bride's side follows him, and pleads with him to change his mind. And if the bride has a brother (which was the case yesterday), he holds the groom's hand and attempts to change his mind. He feeds him sweets, talks about what a wonderful thing it is to be married, gets him to sit down and re-consider. The groom relents, and is led back into the marriage hall by his to-be brother-in-law and parents-in-law. Fun, no?

Here's the catch. At the wedding, I didn't meet a single uncle or aunty who did not have sons/daughters opr nephews/nieces studying or working in the U.S. The entire wedding reminded me of the story Appadurai narrates in his book Modernity at Large where his wife goes in search of a temple priest in Madurai only to be informed that the priest now performs his pujas in Houston, Texas!

Anyways, as I watched the Kashi Yatra yesterday, I wondered if it wouldn't make more sense to substitute Kashi with some city in the U.S. The religious significance of Kashi aside, imagine how much fun it'd be if the groom announced he liked his bachelor lifestyle in the U.S .way too much, and would rather go back and enjoy himself for a few more years. He could carry his passport and flight ticket instead of a walking stick, and perhaps the bride's brother could plead and then threaten to tear up the ticket? And when the groom agrees, he could be presented with two flight tickets (thrown in a honeymoon package if the family can afford it...)? Just a thought. On another note, I'll be back in Bangalore tomorrow morning and I promise to blog more often...


  • Good post Aswin! Although I grew up in the South, I came to know about the Kashi Yatra ritual only a few years back at a friend's wedding. Very quaint and kind of sweet. So now us bongs have some ammunition to counter the comments on the beetel leaf covering the bride's face and being hoisted by brothers, not to mention the groom undressing before all and sundry!

    By Anonymous amrita, at 12/16/2005 12:22 PM  

  • Amrita! Good to hear from you. And btw, my parents were very, very impressed by your dad's moving around bangalore on a cycle!

    By Blogger Aswin, at 12/17/2005 10:51 PM  

  • Oh my Gawd!! He came over in my BSA SLR??!! I thought he would opt for his canary yellow bajaj chetak!! (with matching helmet)

    By Anonymous amrita, at 12/18/2005 9:26 PM  

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