This is the story of the time when Dhepewada hosted the first ever wedding with all its pomp and glory. Traditional marigold garlands laced and decorated the entire property. The main entrance had a beautiful flower arrangement and a traditional colourful Rangoli raised the bar of attractiveness in the open space outside the main doors. An arrangement of Sanai and Chaughada on the main entrance was staged to welcome all the guests with the traditional welcome of playing melodious tunes of the Sanai. The tunes of the Sanai were great and the atmosphere was laden with the rich cultural feel to it. The wedding ceremony was going to take place in the courtyard or ‘Chowk’ inside the house and both the parties were immersed in the hustle bustle of the ceremony.

Both the families and their close relatives had arrived the previous day. Having stayed together and participated in the traditional cultural program had given them the comfort level to interact freely with each other. Uncles, aunties, and children from both sides helped in all the preparations for the wedding. As the auspicious moment drew near, the rush and hustle bustle reached its peak and the typical call to the uncles from both sides to bring the bride and the bridegroom on the main stage was made on the loudspeaker. Chanting the wedding mantras, the priest finally came to the part where the bride and the groom garland each other and the wedding ceremony is marked as complete. The entire audience applauded with claps and the traditional use of rice grains coloured in red and yellow to mark the wedding ceremony.

The best was yet to come – the luncheon prepared as per the traditional Maharashtrian wedding menu which was savored by each and every visitor. The special seating of the family lunch in which both the bride and the groom and their immediate families have lunch together was accomplished as per the cultural norms.

After the lunch, the farewell ceremony took place. The bride was given a farewell by her family members and she left her family home to go to her new home. The atmosphere had become very emotional and everyone, including our staff was almost close to tears. She was bid farewell at the main entrance by her parents in the traditional style with wet eyes and heavy hearts.

When we were constructing Dhepewada, we always had this in mind that a number of functions such as weddings, engagements, thread ceremonies etc. will take place in the traditional Marathi style. While we experienced this first wedding here, we were actually living our cherished dream. Tears of joy rolled down our cheeks as we had the satisfaction of an accomplishment.

I remember my grandparent’s house in which I had seen all these things actually happen. I had built Dhepewada to see it again after 30 to 35 years. Around these many years ago, wedding halls and reception lawns were very limited or non-existent. All the functions and ceremonies would take place in such large traditional homes called as ‘wadas’ with the help and participation of everyone in the family. A large number of people living together was fun. Every festival, function, and celebration was done with the involvement of every member. Individual fights, arguments were kept aside at such times and the people really enjoyed their time. All these people would be together and form a team, right from planning a function to execution to completion of that function, they would stick together and work as a team to ensure complete success. Another advantage was the distribution of work and responsibilities. The main members of the family would not feel the burden of taking everything along on their own.

 

A naming ceremony had a traditional song associated with it called ‘Palna’. The women folk of the family would come forward and sing it on their own. A thread ceremony was looked upon very highly as a way to imbibe the ethics and values of the family culture. Even if a prospective groom and his relatives were to come and meet a young girl from the family before they decided to tie the wedding knot, the whole house would be aware of this and would prepare well in advance to ensure this meeting went successfully. Being a joint family, in such situations, the meeting would happen at the largest place in the house. Whoever had this part of the house would gladly offer it for this reason. Weddings were always the most celebrated events in such homes. Sometimes, the people living in these large houses or ‘wadas’ though not related to each other were just like a close family. Any function or wedding in any of the homes was as good as a wedding in all the families. Wedding shopping was a collective exercise and someone or the other was always there to help in any of the chores. Special wedding shopping also known as the ‘basta’ was done under the guidance and consulting of older experienced people. Getting the snacks of ‘chivda’ and ‘laddu’ made from the cook and packing them in smaller packets was a favourite chore taken up by someone from the home. Whenever a girl left the house to go and live at her in-law’s place, she would carry gifts known as ‘rukhvat’ with her. The gifts were prepared with immense love and she would cherish them for her life. They would always remind her of the love and affection and her attachment towards her own family and home.

The lunch or dinner at every function was a celebration of its own. People would be seated in a line with plates in front of them and they would be served food by other family members. The concept of some outsiders working as servers was non-existent. There would be a race to consume the maximum quantity of the sweet by the people who were having their food. Each and everyone was served with love and affection and with additional servings that were offered with immense love and respect. Everyone was fed to their full capacity. No one went to go back with an empty stomach.

In summary, the entire atmosphere was filled to the brim with happiness, joy, and enthusiasm. Every member of all the houses would bid farewell to the bride with tearful eyes. Once the function was over, the wrapping up of all the things was a collective exercise and everyone participated in the same with equal enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, in the last twenty-five years, this tradition has given way to a separate and nuclear family culture. Keeping money and financial status on priority, families began to drift apart and these traditional houses ‘wadas’ were dismantled and large buildings and housing towers took their place and people’s lifestyles changed drastically. “Simple living and higher thoughts” which was more of a way of living than a mere proverb, transformed rapidly into its exact opposite. Nuclear families meant that relations and relationships became mere formalities – for many, it was an annual event where they met for festivities or any type of functions, which were more of events rather than family celebrations.

All in all the very soul of celebration, cooperation, and family bonding was missing from our functions and festivities. But, this first wedding at Dhepewada brought back this soul and we knew we had done the right thing. As time progressed, the number of functions taking place in this house of ours grew and its popularity increased with every satisfied family. The experience of a ceremony in this house is altogether a different one and this is exactly what these families value and cherish. The satisfaction and happiness on their faces give us more encouragement and satisfaction to continue our work.

That is what makes it all worth the effort of constructing this unique and different styled home – Dhepewada.

Nitin Dhepe

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