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Eternal Mewar and An Eternal Wedding

Posted by Admin on Monday, February 17th, 2014

Of all the several hats (crowns in his case) that Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar wears, his most important in recent years is that of  Cultural Conservationist. His Living Heritage project,  whose  core precept  is ‘Continuity with Change’,  has designed a functional blueprint and a living model  of a community that practices and preserves the Mewari way of life  while creatively matching step with a changing world. The project hinges on the position that the underlying principles of this heritage are not antiquated or regressive but enlightened, inclusive and in fact modern. Even eternal.

His son Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar’s  recently concluded nuptials with Nivritti Kumari Deo were a sensitive testament of how to get that exactly right. How to match the outer symbols of heritage with inner principles.

Modern Indian weddings are a Bollywoodized version of heritage – a time when families reach far back into their cultural closets for every scrap of ‘tradition’ they can find. If their own are not spectacular enough, they will borrow a few.  But while the  zardozi on the bride’s sari is antique, the décolletage is  emphatically not. The ceremony is pure sanatan, but abbreviated to suit short attention spans. Beautiful ‘traditional’ weddings that have been a year in the planning often barely even survive that long.

It’s easy to substitute form for substance. With swarms of cameras trained on the couple – their costumes, make-up and moves designed and choreographed by professionals -  they feel like they are  starring  in their own real-life movie. There is a strong sense of  make-believe. For them, for their supporting cast and for their  audience guests, it’s easy to forget that a wedding is not just a week-long costume party.

The real substance of a marriage is a lot less glamorous . Aside from the rigours that a life-long committed relationship entails, a Hindu marriage stands for much more. It involves subsuming in some measure, your youthful individualism into social conformity. To submit yourself, in part at least, to the greater good – of family, community and tradition. To agree to not put yourself first.

For those who understand, all this is implicit  in the mantras,  pujas and rites that are performed, in the bowing to receive blessings, in the giving and receiving of gifts.

This understanding   was in evidence at the Mewar wedding. It was there in the steely discipline of the tired bride weighed down by unaccustomed veils and jewelry as she sat steadfastly through puja after puja while guests grabbed some much needed rest. There again in the impeccable manners of the  groom who greeted every guest by name and saw each one off when they left. And then again, when the newly-wed couple went to  first pay their respects to the family-priest at his  modest home before entering their own royal palace; walking up the narrow lane to his house even as crowds pushed cell-phone cameras into their faces. The wedding was as much about humility, patience and  discipline as it was about royal splendour.

Every ceremony contrived to be accurate to the minutest Vedic detail. The archives and palace records were scoured to get everything exactly correct : right down to the very quantities of ghee, gur or rose petals  to be used to worship the particular kul-devi or devta ; even the very kind of  ghee or gur to be used.

There is method  to this madness and meaning to the minutiae. The Living Heritage philosophy holds that rituals are intuitive of an underlying metaphysical principle. Outward alignment is an expression of inner  alignment,  each acting upon the other in a  very real way. Besides, rituals being vehicles of culture, they must be preserved and practiced so that they survive into the future for coming  generations to ponder, decode and draw from.

It’s certainly a difficult proposition. To be a king without political  power,  to be responsible for the survival of a  kingdom that is an idea, not a geographic entity. To contextualize an ancient heritage to fit  the 21st century. If it has been hard for Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar , it will be harder for his son. But a great vision , if underpinned by great integrity, has a power of it’s own.

  • Shila Desai

    thoughtful and thought-provoking

  • Jenny Meade

    lovely to hear about dicipline and consideration for others. It’s so important to keep the traditions alive. I was fortunate enough to meet Bhagwat Singh in London when he invited my grandmother Mrs Cook and I for a home cooked dinner. II thought that he was an amazing kind and thoughtful man.
    My grandmother spent some time in Udaipur at the time when the lake Palace was being transformed into a hotel.
    Jenny Meade


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