A Wedding Feast in Southern India

An Indian wedding with around a thousand guests requires a wedding feast on a spectacular scale. The dining hall at my friend’s wedding in Tittakudi, a small village in Tamil Nadu, had a constant stream of people entering and leaving. It felt like everyone in the village had come to lunch. Even the elephant had something to eat!

The first meal was provided the evening before the wedding, but it was clear from the preparations going on around us that a lot more food would be served the the following day. There were kilos of vegetables lined up, and apparently the slicing and dicing continued for most of the night.

Several varieties of bread were freshly prepared, as well as rice being served. The breads included chapatis, idly (steamed rice cakes) and thick little pancakes (made from rice and lentils). Nigella’s adage that “a lot of a little” is easier to prepare than “a little of a lot” is all too true, but it didn’t worry the caterers.

The food was served on biodegradable plates, in the form of banana leaves, and eaten with your hands. There were a huge variety of vegetarian curries. Some were already on the plate when you sat down, and others were brought around during the meal. When the soupy sambar arrived you had to build a rice-dam to keep it on your plate. For dessert there was an orange sweet, and slices of mango and jackfruit. The cardamon-flavoured icecream melted all too rapidly in the heat.

Once we had eaten, it was time for the elephant’s lunch. She had travelled to the wedding from her temple in an elephant-float, to bless people and give a few rides. She enjoyed her bananas skin-and-all, and then ate an enormous pot full of idly. She liked to feed herself with her trunk, but people also fed her directly, touching her broad wet tongue.

The highlight of watching the elephant’s meal, though, was when she had a drink. She grabbed the tap in her trunk, sealing it so that not a drip came out. She must have taken up litres of water in her trunk before she finally squirted it into her mouth to drink it.

It’s difficult to say which was more enjoyable, eating the wedding feast, or watching the elephant have hers.

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10 thoughts on “A Wedding Feast in Southern India

  1. Wow, it does all look and sound amazing but I would certainly get the biggest buzz from the elephant. I’ve always wondered what their skin feels like? Anyway, looks like it was a lovely celebration:)

  2. Thanks for the post Arwen. I’ve never really heard about any of the Indian Hindu weddings before. Looks like a lot of fun!

  3. Incredible! Rice-dam, haha!

    I have friends who went to an Indian engagement party recently, and didn’t understand the first lot of buffet was just the entree, piling up their plates high with food. They were struggling to even begin their main foods, silly buggers.

    Love that trunk shot πŸ™‚

  4. one thing i have always loved about indian food is the colours
    i would have loved to see that elephant drinking from the tap
    and the rice dam – is there a photo of that anywhere too?!

  5. Wow, what a fantastic time you must have had. The photos look incredible and just the closeness of the photo of the elephant is awe-inspiring. I love that the elephant ate a lot pot of idly too πŸ™‚

  6. I’ve heard Indian weddings are absolutely amazing. I unfortunately missed a friends one last year. I hope I get a chance to go to another one.

  7. Yay for you. Am glad you got to experience an Indian wedding. So mush happens and everything is so full of energy and colourful! Hope you got the dosas going!

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