Indian wedding in Chennai (Madras)
This post is also available in: French
Chennai (or Madras) is one of the biggest Indian city in India but we weren’t really eager to go there once again. We came in the capital of Tamil Nadu 6 years ago briefly, between a bus and a plane and didn’t see much expect that the city seemed to be industrial, not very dynamic and very traditional. Since then, many French or Indian friends gave us also bad reviews about it: “hot and humid”, “worst rickshaw drivers in India”, “not open-minded”, “nothing to visit”…
Invited to a Indian friend’s wedding there, we were having the opportunity to go for a new reality check. If we skip the weather part (yes it’s hotter in Chennai than in Bangalore, but wasn’t that bad), Chennai is a pretty pleasant city finally. Some residencial areas are green and quiet like in Bangalore,there are also some really nice temples south-Indian style (like the Kapaleeshwarar temple we’ve visited), a rich colonial past and heritage (bright San Thome Church for instance) some bustling commercial areas as we like them (Pondy bazaar) and… the sea and beaches which are allowing the city to breath. It’s at least what we were thinking of the city until… 7pm. Because it’s the time of the day when the comparison with Bangalore or any other Indian city is difficult for Chennai. Even if, as you know it, we keep complaining about the very limited nightlife of Bangalore with the closing time of the bars at 11.30pm. At least, in Bangalore, we have bars, real ones (without even mentioning the micro-breweries). In Chennai, night life, or just places where you can indulge yourself with a good beer casually is restricted to bars inside luxury hotels! The one we’ve tried had also the good idea to refuse us to go in because of our short pants…
Concerning the wedding, it was our first Indian one and we weren’t disappointed. Great atmosphere, we were welcomed as part of the family by our friend’s parents, uncles, aunties, cousins, friends… And as we were expecting it, almost everything going on during those celebrations is different from what we’re used to in France:
– the time: celebrations lasted approximately 3 – 4 days
– the timing: the main celebration was taking place in the morning at 8.30 (which is specific to Tamil Nadu)
– the rituals: complicated and sometimes funny, it lasted more than two hours and everyone seemed to be a bit lost. One time, you have to wash the groom’s feet (by the father in law!), an other time the whole family is making a circle holding a rope, then they have to go around a fire and finally the groom has to tie a necklace to the bride… We missed some of them of course.
– the general atmosphere: like the rest of India, it’s pretty casual, noisy, not really codified and even less solemn. Guests are coming and going during the performance of the rituals, chat together, go eating, come back and try not to miss THE time which is important where everyone’s supposed to throw rice on the bride and groom (like in France there!).
– the food: as it was starting at 8.30 am, we were treated with a breakfast and a lunch. Both of them are happening in a room next to the ceremonial one and you can go there almost whenever you feel it’s the time. They serve one guest after an other on long tables the typical and tasty south-Indian thali on banana leaves. So for planning who is going to seat where, it’s much simpler than in France!
– the party: It’s difficult for us to speak about it as we’ve missed the main one which was going on in Pondicherry in the middle of the week… Still, we were able to participate to the “warm-up” at the bride’s family apartment in a very casual atmosphere where all generations of the family were dancing and drinking together as soon as 9pm!
– the outfit: Multicolored saris are of course the main attraction and are giving a great touch to the whole scene. Men are making less efforts though. A bit like in France also finally.
So we thank again a lot Uttara’s family who received us in Chennai and gave us the opportunity to live this unique experience! Thanks again.