Our plans of visiting the Sabarmati Riverfront were dashed as we woke up after it became too sunny. As all the ceremonies were planned for the evening, we were left with quite some free time. After a quick late breakfast at Apurvi’s the four of us left for the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar.
It was during this visit that I understood how vibrant Gujarat really is. The entire experience was one of the smoothest I have had till date – every part of our journey was very comfortable, and we hardly faced any delays on the way. The traffic was well controlled, the roads neatly maintained, the roadsides lined with trees and the plants on the road dividers. We reached the temple rather quickly. We had anticipated a large crowd at the temple on account of it being a Sunday. Fortunately for us, it was a long weekend and it was pretty sunny at the time of our visit. We managed to reach the main temple without much of a wait.
The temple is dedicated to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and is the focal point of the 23 acre complex. It has been built using 6000 tonnes of pink sandstone. The fact that got me really intrigued is that it is constructed in accordance with the Vedic architectural principles – no iron or steel has been used anywhere in the temple. The beauty of the temple was mesmerizing – We felt a sense of calmness as soon as we entered. I really loved everything about the temple premises – the waterfalls, the well-manicured lawns, layout of the temple itself, the intricately carved pillars and walls. The temple was a treat for our eyes – quite literally, as we weren’t allowed any gadgets inside. We really wished though they had allowed us our cameras inside to allow us to capture and share the beauty with everyone else.
Another thing that I really admired about the temple was the food court area – it is really well planned and I remember my last experience there being great. This time we relished on ice-cream for a little while. As we were pressed for time we didn’t get an opportunity to visit the other attractions at the premises – the exhibition halls and the water show. We passed by the various cultural spots in Sahajanand Van on our way out. Looking at the sculptures reminded me of my childhood memories – being told stories of Dashavatar by my grandparents.
We passed by the riverfront on our journey back to our hotel, and got dressed for the wedding while listening to music. Once we were all dressed and ready, we left for the Cambay Grand Hotel. Cambay Grand was the location the “baraat” or the procession from the guy’s side is supposed to depart from. The wedding was to be held at the same place as the Sangeet ceremony. Just like the evening before, we reached the venue first and started clicking photos. We were all charged up and ready to go after we had the snacks.
The chariot driving Anshul to the wedding arrived there in a short while. Attached to it were a couple of horses. As the groom’s sister, it was Apurvi’s duty to feed chana dal to the horses before the journey began. It was definitely a sight to behold – the horses put up a decent fight with Apurvi for the thaali and ate up the chana completely. The expression on Apurvi’s face was just priceless as she tried yanking the now-empty thaali away from the horses who weren’t just willing to let go!
As the time for the baraat’s departure inched closer, the lights on the chariot were lit. The band hired for the occasion got their own vehicle and started playing the songs. I have never seen Apurvi as happy as she was while dancing at the baraat – her energy level was insane, considering that she had barely slept in the past couple of days.
This was just the beginning of the evening – the baraat was led by the vehicle of the band, followed by the ‘baraatis’ or the wedding procession, and finally the chariot. Fireworks adorned the skies as the procession moved ahead. The departure of the baraat was one of the funniest incidents of the day. The band members confidently led the procession in the wrong direction. When the mistake was finally, realized the entire procession had to be turned around 1800. I am still amazed by the fact that they successfully managed to turn the chariot around without much trouble on a really narrow road. The rest of the journey was fun – we danced to the tunes.
The highlight of the baraat was the Naagin song – everyone went into Naagin (snake) mode and seemed to enjoy every bit of it. We bumped into the Pundit in the middle of our journey – he came out of nowhere on the bike, overtook us, and wasn’t seen again until the very end. The part of the baraat I enjoyed the most was dancing to the Jhingaat song towards the end – that song has the capability to lighten everything up.
We finally reached the club at about 8.30pm. The club was very beautifully decorated – elaborate rangolis made with flowers and candles lined the path to the mandap where the ceremony was to be held. The mandap itself was very beautiful – it was installed on the lawn and adorned with flowers. By the time we reached, the venue was filled with guests, and we felt lucky to get seats for ourselves close to the mandap. This was when the level of fun really peaked – Apurvi anticipated that Anshul’s shoes will be stolen by Bharvi’s cousins, and hence gave them to us for safekeeping. Running short of ideas, we hid the shoes under our seats and covered them with our dresses.
The four of us did this exercise in rotations so that all of us could go and have something to eat. This went on for about four hours, at the end of which we were actually “praying” for someone to come and challenge us or try to steal it from us. We finally burst out laughing when we realized that we had been played, and that nobody was coming for the shoes.
Although Sree, Kriti and I had intentions of leaving early, we decided to stay as we had never witnessed a Gujarati wedding before. As it was getting late and we were getting drowsy, we told jokes and chatted to stay awake.
As the photographers and videographers blocked our view completely, we decided to go and stand closer to the stage. During the “phere” ceremony, the bride and the groom go around the sacred fire seven times symbolizing the seven promises they make to each other in the beginning of their new journey together. The friends and family of the couple shower them with flower petals as they go around the couple. In our case, we began aiming rose petals at the couple initially. When we ran out of petals we aimed some marigolds at them. Then someone in the crowd even aimed a garland of marigolds at Anshul. I am sure that Anshul was pretty intimidated, especially by our gang – every time he came close to us, he instinctively shielded his face!
At the end of the last phera, he finally caught a marigold that one of his cousins aimed at him. He gave the flower to Bharvi, who aimed it back at the person who threw it. Bharvi is undoubtedly one of the swaggiest brides ever.
As the marriage ceremony came to an end, the couple sought blessings of the elders and proceeded to the final ceremony of the evening – Bidaai (farewell of the bride). We reached our hotel at about 3.30am and slept like logs.
We packed up and checked out as early as we could. Loading the luggage in the car, we proceeded to Apurvi’s place for a late breakfast. En route to the railway station we stopped by at Farki’s to pick up some rabdi and at Induben Khakrawala to carry back some of the famous khakra delicacies – the dosa khakra is famed to be sensational. It was really sweet of Prerna and Apurvi came to drop us off as we boarded the Shatabdi Express back to Mumbai.
As we neared the Borivali station (where we planned to alight) we carried out an interesting “social experiment.” We were almost 20 minutes out and had pretty bulky suitcases placed on the luggage shelves overhead. We started unloading them one by one, hypothesizing that the exit would be crowded by the time we get there. We just wanted to see how the rest of the coach would respond to this innocent little act. We weren’t surprised by the result – the entire coach went into a frenzy, unloading the suitcases and making a dash for the exit. Our hypothesis did come true in the end – by the time we got the suitcases down, the exit was all blocked. I was intrigued by the ability of three girls to create a chaotic situation without as much as saying a word!
This experience was certainly one of a kind – never in my dreams did I think I would enjoy an event so much. A very special thanks to Apurvi and her parents for inviting us and making us feel right at home the entire time.
Based on my experiences here are a few tips and tricks which might help if you are planning on visiting Akshardham temple anytime soon–
- The temple premises remain closed on Mondays, and this plan your visit accordingly.
- No electronics are allowed inside the premises. You will need to deposit your cell phones and bags at the respective counters outside.
- The security at the temple is pretty strict – avoid carrying any leather articles such as wallets or belts.
- The food court is pretty amazing – it is spacious and well planned, and the food is tasty as well.
- The water show is held in the evening at around 7.30pm. If you plan your visit well, you can easily spend the entire day at Akshardham
In case you missed it, here is the link to the Sangeet blog post