A day or two later, the swayambhar ceremony takes place. This is the central part of the wedding ceremony. The janti (groom’s procession) arrives at the site of the swaymbhar (previously, it was usually held at the bride’s home, but nowadays, more people prefer to have it at some hotel or some commercial banquet sites (a.k.a. party palaces). This is because it’s easier to look after the janti, which could number a score to a few hundreds, as well as friends, family, and relatives of the bride. Snacks, drinks, a lunch, and so on, are catered by the concerned establishment. This also means that it’s another reason for digging into the piggy bank, more substantial expenses. The groom, on his part, has also probably arranged for his procession to gather at some hotel, where the guests (again, family, friends, relatives) can drink to their heart’s content so as to be in a jovial mood, and partake of tasty morsels served by the hotel.
The janti is preceded by a brass band belting out the latest hits and wedding-related numbers. Considering the distance, the procession reaches the site of the swayambhar before the appointed time on vehicles, and then get down a few hundred meters away to walk the rest of the way on foot. Where the distance is not so great, the janti dance their way to the swayambhar site, at least some of them do, and it’s a merry occasion, to be sure. The groom is taken by the hand by the bride’s father and taken to the place where the swayambhar will be held. Garlands and rings are exchanged between the couple, followed by some other rituals.
The photographer is the busiest man around by now, recording everything for posterity and Facebook. This ceremony is a longish affair, and would have been still longer if it weren’t for the fact that on reaching puberty, the bride, like other girls, underwent a bel bibah (a ritual in which she is wedded to the bel fruit). Please note that the wedding being described is that of the Newar community. This means that she has already undergone many of the wedding rituals, so not much is left at the wedding itself. There’s one interesting custom during the swaymbhar; the bride’s sisters and other young female relatives hide the groom’s shoes, and at the end of the ceremony, money is demanded from him for their return. Nowadays, this demand can burn a hole in his pocket!
Anyway, it’s a contentious affair between the bride’s young female relatives and the groom’s friends/relatives. There’s a lot of bargaining, but in the end, the bride’s side always prevails. After that, the couple gets into the groom’s car, which is covered on top by a bright red and gold brocaded piece of cloth. The procession then leaves for the groom’s home, where the action now shifts. On entering the gate of his home, the couple’s way is blocked by his sisters and other young female cousins who demand money to let them in. Again, money changes hands after some heavy bargaining. Once inside, the couple rest for some time, before relatives start arriving bringing with them sagun (auspicious foodstuff; usually fried fish, meat, and lentils, curd, badas, a doughnut type snack, fruits, etc.) and presents in the form of clothing.
It becomes a never-ending affair since families here are mostly large in number. By and by, the couple at last gets some rest. However, if the reception from the groom’s side is held on the same evening, then it becomes one heck of a tiring day. If it’s held on the day following, it becomes more of a leisurely affair. Another thing to be mentioned here is that the supari mentioned earlier (all those trays bearing gifts and foodstuff) is returned to the groom’s house after the swayambhar. It’s a funny custom, since it consists of just taking the trays back and forth. The bride’s side add a couple more trays, and the fish, especially, is replaced with fresh ones. And, yes, keeping in tune with modern times, the supari sent by the groom also includes a wedding cake that’s cut by the bride and enjoyed by all present.
So, there you have it—a typical Nepali wedding. You’ll agree it’s a momentous event, and one that entails much preparation and money. But, then, as they say, a wedding is a once in a lifetime occasion, and should be celebrated as such.