I remember so vividly sitting on the London underground on the first night I met my husband. I looked at him and thought ‘this is my husband’. Somehow, I already felt like his wife even though only a couple of hours had passed since we first met in person. I have heard people say that marriages are sometimes made in heaven, this certainly felt like it. The second time we saw each other, we didn’t want to wait any longer. I had just arrived in India for the first time and we wanted to get married as soon as possible. So, we did, without telling anyone.
There is a small town a couple of hours outside Nagpur, there stands a temple, a temple built by one of my husband’s ancestors. He told me of his fond childhood memories of eating sweets, running around and playing hide and seek with his cousins there.
This is where we had our Gandharva marriage.
There are a few types of Hindu marriages and a Gandharva marriage is a love marriage. The girl and boy get married without the knowledge of their parents. The only condition of this marriage is mutual love. The ceremony is simple, the exchange of garlands made of flowers and application of a red powder called sindoor by the groom to the top of the brides forehead. There is no need for witnesses other than God himself.
Before going to the temple, we bought two marigold garlands, a small pot of sindoor and sweets to offer to God (prasad). The men sitting on the side of the road, selling their marigolds, must have known exactly what we were up to. I smiled as the elderly man, threading the marigold blossoms together, looked at me suspiciously.
On the day we got married, the sun was hot, heavy, the air humid, but as soon as I ducked my head to climb into the small entrance of the stone temple, the air became cool. The atmosphere calm. We washed our feet and made our way towards the inner sanctum, I had never been inside a Hindu temple before.
We exchanged our garlands and became husband and wife (once again?). My Husband applied sindoor to my forehead and we both broke into a smile.”We are married”, we said in unison. It was so beautiful and simply perfect. The stillness of the temple, the tranquility of my soul made me never want to leave that beautiful place. We sat there for a while, holding hands. When we had to leave, we gave the sweets we had offered to God to children playing in the temple, chasing each other and hiding behind the ornately carved stone pillars.
How did people react when they found out a couple of months later? The majority were surprised but very happy for us. My Indian family were eager to make it public by also arranging a big Indian wedding. My mum was annoyed I hadn’t let her in on the secret first, but thought it was extremely romantic.