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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 February, 2004, 18:48 GMT
India mega-wedding justifies hype

By Sanjeev Srivastava
BBC India correspondent, in Lucknow

Menu pictures of the two sets of couples marrying this week
Menu pictures of the couples. Two sons are marrying this week
It was billed as the Indian marriage of the century - and it lived up to its hype.

The bill for the candles alone came to $250,000.

Rich Indians are known to host lavish weddings with pomp and pageantry, but Tuesday night's mega-wedding of the son of Sahara business group boss, Subrata Roy, in the northern city of Lucknow beat them all.

Over 10,000 guests - a veritable A-list of India's power set, including business moguls, Bollywood idols, cricket stars and fashionistas - were airlifted to the city by special chartered planes.

Even Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee flew down to bless the newly-weds.


The guests were all carefully screened before invitations were sent out.

Sachin Tendulkar
Saurav Ganguly
Kapil Dev
Aishwarya Rai
Amitabh Bachchan
Anil Ambani, businessman
Adi Godrej, businessman
Sunil Mittal, businessman

They also had to abide by rules for the event, held on a 300-acre company-owned township in Lucknow which features massive statues.

"No photography, no videos and no autographs," instructed a glossy, user-friendly programme guide given out to all the invitees.

The celebrations looked surreal, practically straight from a full-tilt Bollywood extravaganza.

The balmy night sky was lit up with fireworks while singers belted out bhangra tunes and Bollywood dancers rocked the floor.

A 100-piece orchestra was flown in from the UK to entertain guests, while 50 acrobats and stage artistes from eastern Europe performed.

Some of them entertained on a giant stage erected on one of the lawns where dinner was served, others performed a balancing act atop balloons 50 metres above the ground, still more perched on metal wires tied to giant cranes.

The township was brightly decorated - trees sported bunting, giant torches and thousands of candles supplied by Bollywood-star-turned-candle-maker Dimple Kapadia.

Lavish flights

Then there was the food and drink.

Giant food courts were set up to serve delicacies from different parts of India.

For the more adventurous gourmets, there was Chinese, Mexican, Lebanese, Italian and Mongolian cuisine.

Subrata Roy. Pic - Sahara India website
The enigmatic Subrata Roy banned all photos and videos

Junk food junkies could choose from a range of burgers and coleslaw.

For many of the guests, the festivities began as soon as they left home - those who requested it were picked up by car from their doorstep.

The group's airline operated 27 special flights to fly guests in and out of Lucknow.

The planes were decked with flowers and the cabin crew dressed in bridal finery designed by some of the biggest names in Indian fashion.

Lucky draws were organised during the flights, with prizes including gold coins.

No accurate estimates are available for the final cost but it must have set back India's most enigmatic tycoon several million dollars.

And it's not over yet. On Thursday, the $7bn Sahara group will pick up the tab for the marriage of 101 couples.

There is also talk of a gift cheque of $5,000 for each couple.

Then on Saturday the mega show continues with the marriage of Mr Roy's younger son.

And if that wasn't enough, 140,000 poor people will be fed by the company across the country as part of the festivities.

Star show for India's 'mega-wedding'
10 Feb 04  |  South Asia

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