Nothing could exceed in picturesqueness the scenes surrounding the marriage of a son or daughter of a maharajah in India. Nor is the effect diminished by the mingling of European with Oriental fashions that have characterised such functions during recent years.
Preliminary festivities sometimes include a
The principal personages of an important Indian wedding: H. H. the Maharajah of Kapurthala (centre), with Prince Tikka (the bridegroom) and Princess Brinda of Jubbal (the bride). This wedding was solemnised with all the pomp and magnificence of a great Indian ruler garden-party, where some of the guests play tennis and badminton, and where the contrasts of costume lend a further interest to the scene. Should the family be one that has known much of European society, there will probably be a ball in the evening, to which English or French acquaintances are invited. Native partners are not always found very agile in the dance, but, at least, they look picturesque in their Eastern costume and many jewels. At a recent wedding of the kind, when the beautiful Princess Brinda of Jubbal, daughter of the Rajah Kanwur Gambhir, was married to Prince Tikka, the Maharajah of Kapurthala was the host, and the fetes were held in the great Durbar Hall, that immense building remarkable no less for its size than for the beauty of its decorations. On a velvet dais fringed with gold, at one end of the hall, were ranged six silver thrones intended for the Maharajah of Kapurthala, the Maharajah of Kashmir, the Rajah of Poontch, the Maharajah of Jalawar, Prince Tikka, and (the only European in the group) the Commissioner of Jullundur, representing Great Britain.
No description could convey an idea of the magnificent raiment of the Hindoo princes, their coats sewn with jewels and heavy with ex-quisite em-broideries and their turbans, of every colour, radiating light from the splendid jewels with which they were adorned.
On one side of the dais were the Maharanee (a beautiful Spaniard, in white lace and ermine) and the European guests; at the other were rajahs and envoys from all parts of the Indian Empire. Their magnificent costumes and turbans repeated the note of vivid colour and of glitter-sapphires, emeralds, rubies, pearl collars, immense diamonds, gold and silver embroideries, all shimmering in the light.
With the utmost dignity the princes advanced to the dais and took their places. The hour would be a very early one in Europe (8 a.m.). Behind each prince a servant held a sky-blue umbrella embroidered in gold.
When all were seated, eight Brahmin priests, clothed in pure white and wearing yellow turbans, rose and went to fetch the bride. She entered, wearing many diaphanous pink veils embroidered in gold. Round her neck was a row of huge pearls. A. rope of equally magnificent pearls fell in five rows to the waist. A red spot on her forehead was the only note of colour. It was the sign of her high descent. She was a "daughter of the sun."
She seated herself near her father, and the bridegroom advanced towards her, a veil of fine pearls over his eyes. The priests offered the pair presents which symbolise happiness, flowers, fruit, bags of gold. Then they chanted prayers, and lighted a fire on a small altar. Bride and bridegroom threw some grains of rice in the flame and walked four times round the sacred fire. Then they sat down, she on his left. They were now man and wife.
Afterwards the couple advanced to a dais, where Sikh priests read aloud some pages from the sacred writings. They presented a cup, from which the newly-married drank in turn. The sound of a trumpet was now heard, and at the same moment the bridegroom took off his veil of pearls, and was supposed to see his wife's face for the first time. In this instance it was a very lovely one. Then the Sikh war cry rang through the hall, and was taken up outside by the crowds, and the Kapurthalan orchestra played the Hymn of Glory.
The procession of elephants that escorted the bride and bridegroom to their palace was led off by the musicians, followed by a squadron of cavalry, this by a detachment of infantry, and these, again, by a hundred men of the bodyguard of the Maharajah.
Then came the elephant of the high priest, who, standing erect in the gilt howdah, held the sacred book open, while the crowd prostrated itself in the dust. Then came the open barouche, drawn by a splendid pair of horses, and containing the newly married pair, a servant holding an umbrella over Prince Tikka. A cavalcade of young princes rode at either side. Behind came a whole string of elephants in the most sumptuous caparisonings of gold brocade, clinking with enormous jewels, each led by a mahout carrying a long gilt wand. Princes mounted on fine horses, and not averse from displaying their horsemanship, caracoled on either side of the procession of elephants.
This pageant of colour under the burning Indian sun was indescribably splendid, unimaginably so to those who do not know the gorgeousness of the East, where even the shadows have colour, deep purple for black, contrasting with the rose and violet of the temple walls, the amethyst of the hills, the intense blue of the river, and the golden glory of the sky, the blue washed out of it with heat, as someone once graphically remarked.
Their Highnesses the Maharajahs of Kashmir and Kapurthala on their state elephants in the wedding procession. The royal beasts were sumptuously caparisoned in gold brocade, adorned and festooned with jewels. The scene was a pageant of gorgeous colour
Photos, Johnston & Hoffmann, Calcutta