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Indian Lawmaker Seeks to Trim Big Fat Indian Weddings as it is becoming Social statement for most Indian Families

In a country that holds some 10 million marriages a year, India’s booming wedding industry is estimated to be worth about $35 billion and racing ahead at 30 percent a year

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Brides arrive beneath a canopy of flowers for the wedding ceremony. (A. Pasricha/VOA)
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With weddings becoming the biggest social statement for most Indian families, a bill that proposes to target the usually ostentatious celebrations has stirred a lively debate – can Indians be persuaded to cut down on the size and scale of marriages?

The big, fat Indian wedding is no longer restricted to the rich. As a booming economy has put more money into the hands of the middle class, they too are staging extravagant, multi-day celebrations at five-star hotels and farmhouses.

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A member of parliament from Bihar, Ranjeet Ranjan, is introducing a new bill in parliament called the Marriages (Compulsory Registration and Prevention of Wasteful Expenditure) Bill 2016, which proposes that those who spend more than $ 7,500 on their wedding should donate 10 percent of the money to a government fund, which wold be used to fund marriages of poor girls. It also seeks to put a cap on the number of guests and dishes served at wedding functions.

Indians spend thousands of dollars on decor to transform banquet halls in five star hotels and farmhouses for marriage functions.

Indians spend thousands of dollars on decor to transform banquet halls in five star hotels and farmhouses for marriage functions.

Ranjan told VOA her aim is to remove the intense social pressure the middle class and others face to host elaborate celebrations. “This has become a status symbol. People sell land, take loans to host their daughter’s weddings,” she lamented. “Parents set aside a fat budget for their children’s wedding, particularly girls weddings.”

Estimates show that many Indian parents fork out one fifth of the wealth they have accumulated on hosting a wedding. While budgets vary widely, many middle class families shell out $50,000 to $100,000 for their children’s nuptials.

In a country that holds some 10 million marriages a year, India’s booming wedding industry is estimated to be worth about $35 billion and racing ahead at 30 percent a year. It is often described as a recession-proof industry, untouched by financial downturns or economic slowdowns.

At colorful Indian weddings, grooms arrive on horses and chariots amid dancing and beating of drums. (A. Pasricha/VOA)
At colorful Indian weddings, grooms arrive on horses and chariots amid dancing and beating of drums. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

New Delhi resident and finance professional Pradeep Bhargava, who has hosted his daughters’ and sons’ marriages in recent years, feels wedding spending has gone a step too far. “We are going 100 percent overboard, trying to show off, trying to be one up,” he says.

Many of these parents recall that their own weddings some three decades ago were relatively simple affairs where family and friends sang wedding songs at home and cooks prepared traditional delicacies.

But that’s history. Now as an aspirational middle class joins the race to put up a grand show, elaborate ceremonies spread over two to five days have become the norm — from putting henna on the bride to choreographed dance shows, grooms arriving on chariots and elephants and exotic wedding feasts with several types of food available. Event managers and wedding planners are no longer just the purview of the rich.

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The spending on décor alone can run into the thousands of dollars said Pooja Gupta from New Delhi based Elusive Dreams, which specializes in adding glitz and glamour to wedding venues. “They want new themes that come out every season, and they really want to transform the face of the venue, and they are willing to spend whatever, unlimited. They want to outdo each other at the wedding,” she said.

Many people vehemently oppose any effort to impose a tax on wedding expenses and say any effort to trim lavish Indian weddings has to be led by society itself.

Sanjoy Pasricha, who is in the midst of hectic preparations for his daughter’s wedding to be held next month, has opted for a destination wedding in the beach resort of Goa. He points out that a marriage is a major event for an Indian family. Strongly opposing any government role in regulating wedding expenses he said, “It’s my decision how much I want to spend. It’s as good as saying that you will have to stop wearing suits and only wear trousers, or you should not wear silk saris, but only cotton saris.”

Putting henna on brides and guests is one of the elaborate ceremonies at Indian weddings. (A. Pasricha/VOA)
Putting henna on brides and guests is one of the elaborate ceremonies at Indian weddings. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

Putting henna on brides and guests is one of the elaborate ceremonies at Indian weddings. (A. Pasricha/VOA)

However, lawmaker Ranjeet Ranjan said many people would welcome an escape from the extravagant spending that weddings now involve. “The response I am getting is that a lot of people who spend due to pressure from society will be happy to get the shelter of the law,” according to Ranjan.

The lawmaker, who is from the opposition Congress Party, said she has found strong support for her bill, which could be taken up in the next session of parliament starting in March. Although new legislation typically takes years as it winds through the two houses of parliament in India, she is confident it could pass if the government supports it.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not yet taken a position on the proposal.(VOA)

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Facts about Indian Railways you can’t miss

India proudly boasts of world's largest railway network. Not only that, but the India railways itself can boast as the biggest employer in the India. 

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Facts about Indian Railways you shouldn't miss. Wikimedia Common
Facts about Indian Railways you shouldn't miss. Wikimedia Common

India proudly boasts of world’s largest railway network. Not only that, but the India railways itself can boast as the biggest employer in India.

Railways is a major part of India, not only because of its importance as a means of transportation but also because of its political and economic significance.

Here are some interesting facts about Indian Railways which might surprise you :

  • The New Delhi-Bhopal Shatabdi Express is the fastest train in India. The train runs at an average speed of 91 kmph and touches a top speed of 150 kmph on the 195 km Delhi-Agra stretch. The Nilgiri Express with an average speed of 10 kmph is said to be India’s slowest train.
Indian Railways is one of the most important and controversial transport in India. Wikimedia Commons
Indian Railways is one of the most important and controversial transports in India. Wikimedia Commons
  •  Indian Railways-owned the longest railway platform in the world at Kharagpur with a length of 2,733 feet. Now, breaking the record, Gorakhpur station has recently taken its place with a length of 4,430 feet.
  • Two historical railway elements are included in the UNESCO’ World Heritage site list – the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, and the Indian Mountain Railways.The Indian Mountain Railways includes three railways – the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways, Nilgiri Mountain Railways and Kalka Shimla Railway. All three trains have been functional for some 100 years. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is famous for its classic fusion of Gothic art with Indian architecture.
Indian Railways is on UNESCO list too. Wikimedia Commons.
Indian Railways is on UNESCO list too. Wikimedia Commons.
  • The Vivek Express (Dibrugarh to Kanyakumari) travels the longest distance of 4273 km. The shortest run is taken by a few scheduled services between Nagpur and Ajni – a total of 3 kms.
  • Mathura junction has the maximum number of routes emerging from it. The 7 of them include – Broad Gauge (BG) line to Agra Cantt, BG line to Bharatpur, BG line to Alwar, BG line to Delhi, Metre Gauge (MG) line to Achnera, MG line to Vrindavan and MG line to Hathras.
  • The railways function on a high operating ratio of 94%, that is, it spends 94 paise on every rupee that it earns.
  • The mascot for Indian Railways is Bholuor Bholu the guard elephant, which was designed by National Institute of Design. It was introduced on 16th April 2002.

    Bholu - the elephant guard was revealed in 2002. Wikimedia Commons
    Bholu – the elephant guard was revealed in 2002. Wikimedia Commons
  • The oldest working Indian locomotive still in use is the Fairy Queen, which worked with a steam engine.
  • India has eight Railway Museums – in Delhi, Pune, Kanpur, Mysore, Kolkata, Chennai, Ghum, and Tiruchirappalli. The National Railway Museum in Delhi is the largest rail museum in Asia.
  • Toilets were introduced in 1909 in the lower classes of trains, after a letter by certain Okhil Babu that described the ordeal he faced due to the absence of lavatories.