There are many ways to say 'I do'. When a Maharashtrian boy from kolhapur decided to get married to his Polish fiance, he decided to say it in english. To be specific he got a priest to guide them through the traditional Marathi wedding ,chant the relevant mantras and then explain their meaning in plain english to his bride. I feel that now my bahu understands the rituals, and the family better, says Manav's mother Shubhada Bharde.

Inter- continental and multi cultural indian weddings have pushed up the demand for English-speaking priests. Even youngsters who come from the linguistic background are now demanding that the sanskrit chants be demystified for them . Two sanskrit institutes in Rajasthan, the popular destination for splashy NRI weddings, had special english classes for priests a few years ago. Elsewhere too,purohits and sasthris are learning to make themselves understood in English.

Ruchita Parelkar, founder of elite wedding planners recently went on a hectic hunt for an English-speaking priest for a multicultural wedding in Jaipur . Her clients are often from two differentcontinents or from different parts of the country. At the Jaipur wedding the groom is a south-indian keen to understand his Gujarathi bride's ritual and parctices. They wanted an Indian wedding but they did not know what a 'Haldi' cermony is or how a mantap should be till i explained it to them.I am also getting them a Gujarathi maharaj and a translator, she says.

English skills get a priest a far better fee. A midsize wedding can fetch a fee between Rs.4000/- and Rs.5000/-. But throw in English and amount can be doubled. If the wedding is really big and fat the rate could be upwards of 20000/- say planners.

A lot of NRI weddings are also attended by foreign friends and guests of the couple and they find it tedious to sit through rituals they cannot comprehend. After watching bored guests troop out at one such wedding,Parelkar handed out leaflets explaining the significance of saat pherasand bidal at a wedding she helped organising last November. The guests were happy that they could understand whatwas goingon' she says.
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Earlier even if an indian bride or groom wanted to question the priest about rituals or chants they would be asked to shut up andnot ask silly questions'says N.V.Srinivasan a vetaran sasthrigal(priest) from chennai. But soon small booklets explaining the significance of the Mangalasutra or the idea of Kanyadaan made their appearance . Instead of makingdo withbroken English,priests like Srinivasanworked on improving their communication shillss.

I did't go for classes but I developed my languages skills' says Srinivasan. Gadgil still cannot translate complex sanskrit mantras but makes sure she takes a bilingual priest along.



Sandya Soman/TNN

Excerpts from the article "the English-vinglish priests"- The Times of India, Chennai, dated 23-2-2014


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