Pehla Nasha | Akshata & Sandeep
"Destiny decides who you meet in Life,
But only your heart decides who gets to stay in it"
Finding 'The One' and getting married is amongst the most difficult and the most satisfying experiences of life. Your eyes scours the earth and heart prays, sometimes pleads the skies. In India thankfully parents take up one of the last major endeavors of their lives as their children hit mid 20s - finding a suitable prospect and getting their children married. Arranged marriage, as they are called, is what around 74% of young Indians (18 to 35 yrs) prefer according to a survey.
It was 2016 when Akshata, a instrumentation engineer, was working in a Pharmaceutical giant in Hyderabad, India. Sandeep, an industrial engineer, was working in an automotive components multinational in Charlotte, US. Their parents based in Vizag and Narsapur respectively, both in Andhra Pradesh state of India were looking for suitable prospects. Sandeep had already seen and rejected many girls over past couple of years whereas Akshata was just beginning the process. Destiny brought them together. A simple Skype chat was enough to convince their hearts. After few calls and parent's approval, they decided to get engaged on 26th December 2016.
"Fall in love with someone who doesn't make you think love is hard"
It was 18th December when Sandeep arrived at Hyderabad airport and Akshata met him face to face. It took few moments for all the nervousness to fade away as they both felt convinced they had made the right choice. It was easy to love each other, they felt. Few days of togetherness and they got engaged in Filmcity, Hyderabad amongst close friends and family. The ceremony saw them exchanging rings and garland along with families giving gifts. A Puja was performed where the soon to be bride and groom paid reverence to God. The highlight of the day was right before they exchanged the rings when Sandeep suddenly got on his knees to propose Akshata and offer her the ring. The reactions of family and Akshata herself are memories worth cherishing. The day ended with some performances. Akshata's friends gave a speech and also sung her all time favourite song - Pehla Nasha (The first intoxication). They also danced with Akshata and Sandeep.
The wedding date was soon decided by the priest and the Big day was 30th April 2017. The couple had to wait for another 4 months to be together forever. Again falling into a long distance relationship, they used the courtship period to know more about each other as Sandeep headed back to US. Then followed number of sleepless nights, long chats over the phone, video calls just to see each other, flirting, smiling, chatting continuously on Whatsapp, sharing photos and getting to know each other more with each passing day. It wasn't long and the D day soon arrived. The groom-to-be was back in India to celebrate the biggest day of his life.
'From this day onwards, You shall not walk alone
My heart will be your shelter and my arms will be your home'
It was a typical Telugu wedding, setup in a Jubilee Hills International Center in Hyderabad. Like most Hindu Indian weddings, the event was full of rituals and ceremonies that have deeper meaning rooted in Hindu religion and mythology. The day began with Ganesh Puja as Ganesha is considered the remover of obstacles and God of success. This Puja took place on the main mandap (wedding stage) with priest, both sets of parents and groom participating actively. At the same time, the bride sat alone in a corner of the hall doing Gowri Puja on her own. Gowri Puja is something most Hindu girls perform annually since school days praying for the right groom. Goddess Gowri (also known as Parvati), mother of Ganesha, is considered to be the most powerful mother of the universe and Lord Shiva & Gowri are considered to be the ideal couple. By invoking the Goddess blessings, the bride seeks strength and divine love for a happy and long married life.
The groom is considered to be a personification of Vishnu (the protector of the universe) while the bride is considered to be Lakshmi. Before the bride's arrival in the mandap, a holy cloth was drawn like a curtain in the front of the groom to prevent him from seeing the bride. The bride arrived in the mandap carried in a lotus shaped bamboo basket (symbolizing lotus on which goddess Lakshmi sits) by her maternal uncles and brothers. She then sat in the mandap in the same basket separated from the groom by the yellow curtain, till her parents finished the Kanyadaan – the process where the bride’s parent offer their daughter to the groom (Kanya meaning bride & daan meaning to give away).
Post this, as the most important part of the wedding drew closer, both the bride & groom were given a small paste made of sweet jaggery & bitter cumin seeds (Jeera). The jaggery & cumin seeds when ground together form an inseparable paste thus denoting that the bride & groom should become inseparable through life’s sweet & bitter times. At the mahurat, the auspicious time decided by the priests, the bride & the groom applied paste of jaggery and cumin on each other’s head. This act also marked the dropping of the yellow curtain allowing bride and groom to see each other for the first time since the beginning of the event.
Post this the elderly of the family then blessed the couple by sprinkling turmeric coated rice on their head. Rice grains hold great significance in Hindu weddings and events in general because of its life sustaining qualities. It is considered to be a symbol of prosperity and fertility and is thus used in number of rituals. The couple parted for a brief break and changed. After arriving back to the mandapa or the wedding stage, the groom tied the mangalsutra around bride’s neck offering commitment and safety to her. Mangalsutra or the sacred thread is a symbol of marriage just like the wedding ring and is worn by the bride till the uneventful death of her husband. The groom then tied a belt made of reed grass around bride’s waist signifying bonding her with his family and praying to God to give her all the strength necessary to shoulder the responsibilities for his family.
It was now time for some fun. The bride and the groom showered each other with rice mixed with saffron and turmeric symbolizing couple’s desire for happiness. Post this they also showered each other with different colored pearls symbolizing their desire for prosperity and finally they showered each other with thermocol balls symbolizing their desire for enjoyment. These 10-15 minutes when the bride and groom shower each other with various artifacts is not only fun for them, but also a sheer joy to watch and click. This is unique to Telugu weddings (Weddings in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states of India) but different cultures within India have different rituals which are lighter on note and fun to participate.
With Sanskrit verses recited by the pandit (priest), the couple then exchanged garlands. Garlands are beautiful flowers tied with thread; the flowers might fade with time and lose their charm but they never leave the thread. Similarly exchanging garlands symbolizes that though there might be ups and downs through life, they will never break their wedding vows. This was followed by guests and the couple showering rose petals allowing them to have more fun. Most of the guests by now made way to have lunch and then departed.
'Let the marriage be even more beautiful than the wedding'
Akshata and Sandeep were tired by the end of it all, but also excited to begin their journey together as man and wife. According to Indian traditions the bride is supposed to leave her family after the wedding as she becomes part of the groom's family. A few days later, Akshata flew with Sandeep to Charlotte, USA to settle down. We hope their 'Pehla Nasha' lasts forever and they have a wonderful married life together.
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