Jaipur, India: A Spectacular Sangeet Party for an Indian Wedding in Jaigarh Fort

February 01, 2018
Jaipur, India: A Spectacular Sangeet Party for  an Indian Wedding in Jaigarh Fort



AN EPIC WEDDING PARTY AT AN 18th CENTURY FORT IN JAIPUR, INDIA

“Everything is bigger in Texas”? Darling, no. Everything is bigger in India...at least as far as weddings are concerned. My non-Indian friends, have you ever had the immense pleasure of being a guest at a traditional Indian wedding? Amazingly, despite enjoying a rather eclectic friendship circle across several international cities including my hometown, the mulitcultural Kuala Lumpur (incidentally, there are 2 million Malaysian Indians - that’s 7% of our population), at the ripe ol’ age of 30 I had yet to partake in the festivities of an Indian wedding. So when the invitation came from one of my long-time friends - the first friend I ever made in London, actually! - to celebrate her nuptials in Jaipur the proper way ie. several hundred guests on at least a three-day bender of feasting, drinking, and dancing; the RSVP was a resounding YES. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity in more ways than one (I mean, most people would be so lucky to get married only once) and you can be sure I‘ll be there with bells on!

What follows are photos I don’t remember taking (even if I faintly recollect the scenes) of one of the most the most exciting evenings I’ve ever had: a night of colour, celebration, chaos all set in an 18th century fort in the hills of Jaipur, India. Oh, and there were elephants, too. I told you, everything is bigger in India!




Jaipur, India: A Spectacular Sangeet Party for  an Indian Wedding in Jaigarh Fort

WEARING A LEHENGA AND CHOLI  I HAD MADE FOR THE SANGEET.
THE DRESS CODE IS “ROYAL”, HENCE MY CHOICE OF ROYAL BLUE.

A traditional Indian wedding, on average, lasts 3 days, with at least 2 events everyday and with as many or more outfit changes per day. Naturally, navigating the dress code as foreigner in a culture that takes great care and attention to detail to the art of dressing up was a sartorial minefield.This was my first time wearing traditional Indian clothing and I wanted to get it right. My choice was The Bombay Connection (TBC) in Brickfields, the Little India of Kuala Lumpur.

I had two outfits made for two occasions: the sangeet and the dinner. The sangeet, which takes place on the evening of the second day, is the all-dancing, all-singing extravaganza. I needed to be able to move freely, so I chose the much easier to wear LEHENGA. For the dress code - “Royal” - I had a LEHENGA skirt made from a gorgeous peacock blue silk and embroidered with gold threads, with green and pink accents. The dinner on the third night - dress code: “Formal” - was a sit-down affair so I took the opportunity to have a SAREE made. Eight metres of embroidered red silk and chiffon had to be wrapped with great skill by professional drapers. With over 80 recorded ways to wear a saree there was no way I was going to attempt it myself - best to err on the side of caution. #Sareenotsorry 

A gold CHOLI - crop tops commonly worn with sarees in South Asia - for each look, as well as a suite of matching jewellery (head piece, earrings, choker) plus a stack of gold bangles completed my two ensembles that I had made especially for this occassion

Jaipur, India: A Spectacular Sangeet Party for  an Indian Wedding in Jaigarh Fort

DRESSED IN RED FOR A BLACK TIE EVENT: THIS IS INDIAN FORMAL WEAR.
A RED SAREE DRAPED TO FORM A DRESS: DECEPTIVELY EFFORTLESS.


All suited and booted, the wedding guests (all 500 of us!) were spirited away into the night, in a hundred-strong fleet of cars, to begin our evening of festivities at Jaigarh Fort.




I had seen Jaigarh Fort, once - the day before, from across the nearby Amber Fort. Built in 1726 by Jai Singh II and named after him, Jaigarh Fort is perched on the Hill of Eagles like a watchful bird of prey, overlooking the Maota Lake and the palace it was designed to protect - Amber Fort. Connected by a series of subterranean passages, Jaigarh Fort and Amber Fort are considered as one complex. Although both forts have the same structural design and rugged shape, Jaigarh Fort is deceptively well fortified and armed - its nickname, Victory Fort, is well-deserved as the fort has never been seized by an invading army. That is, until tonight.



A menagerie of painted beasts at the very first of many entrances to Jaigarh Fort was an indication of the lavishness to come. Horses, elephants, and bears, oh my!








The warren of tunnels and nooks cut into the walls of the fort, which once held cannons, watchmen, and soliders were now lined with sentinels of a different kind. The flickering light of hundreds of candles and lanterns, cast patterns on the sandstone walls, making them glow a fiery red. Carpets of red rose petals set the tone for more scenes of romance and intrigue: from musicians to dancing girls to chariots to fire dancers...and we hadn’t even yet arrived at the party.

And then we finally found it. A sloping rampart, lit by flaming torches, leading a narrow path down to centre stage: the jewel and centrepiece of Jaigarh Fort, its square garden, Aaram Bagh.

DESCENDING INTO THE DEBAUCHERY...








Navigating the tight, downhill path in heavy evening gowns made for a slow entrance, all the better for the dramatic reveal of where we would be drinking, dancing, and feasting the night away.





Jaipur, India: A Spectacular Sangeet Party for  an Indian Wedding in Jaigarh Fort


Jaipur, India: A Spectacular Sangeet Party for  an Indian Wedding in Jaigarh Fort



The Indo-Persian architecture of Jaigarh Fort, its remarkably well-preserved details (having never been ransacked), and of course its royal history as a fortress and pleasure house for Maharajas and their families lent a certain air of gravitas to the already opulent event. The patina and texture of this several-centuries old monument made for a romantic, almost eerie ambience that money can’t buy but only the brushstrokes of time and history can paint. The idea of romping like royals in Jaigarh Fort - a cultural attraction in the daytime that tourists don’t get to see in the evening - “after hours” added to the clandestine playfulness of its all. That we were decked out, as per the dress code, like Maharajas and Maharanis, added to the palatial atmosphere. Serving you royal realness for your nerves, hunty!




Whatever refinement I had mustered up to that point was about to be swept away in an exhilarating tide of music, merrymaking, and dancing (or in my case, indiscriminate flailing of limbs)...




...the minute the friends and family of the bride and groom put on the quintessential “boys side vs girls side” dance-off to a thumping medley of traditional wedding songs, Bollywood hits, pop and rock classics, and the occassional hip hop track, it was game ON.






...aaaand then I had no recollection of the rest of the night. Haha. Depending on who you ask, I was at three different places at the same time. I have no idea how I even made it back to the hotel, a half hour drive through winding hill roads in pitch black darkness. I did try to piece the night together by looking at my camera and phone, but my Instagram Stories stopped abruptly some time at 2 in the morning and my camera battery had long since died by then. The only clues to a night well spent were the wrappers of four chocolate bar (wedding favours, delicious!) I woke up covered in and had no memory of eating - yet somehow I had the presence of mind to take my makeup off before collapsing into bed.

All in all, it’s safe to say that it was a smashing sangeet done in style, and that an amazing time was had by all. Not only I had survived my first ever Indian wedding party and lived to tell the tale, I’d enjoyed a once in a lifetime experience of partying like a Indian royal in a historical Indian royal setting, and yet managed to not make a royal fool of myself. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it...

INSPIRED BY THIS MONTH'S TRAVEL LINK UP TOPIC: ONCE IN A LIFETIME EXPERIENCES 

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