In the good old days, invitation cards to a wedding were just that, cards! Not the fancy books or boxes currently in vogue. Invitations were printed on standard pink board with flowery die-cut edges. Some were printed on folded yellow boards with ornate designs running across the sides. People wishing to splurge a little more had a thin but expensive sheet carrying the schedule of events inserted into the folded board. This was secured by an red silk tassle running across the fold. The card was inserted into an envelope which was either a simple white or made from a more ostentatious hand-made paper. What was common to all was a dash of wet haldi across the top left of the envelope to signify an auspicious event.
The invitations contained the program more in detail. It mentioned the date of the tilak ceremony (Tilakotsav), the haldi samaroh, (sangeet timings too -as the decades went by- in keeping with Karan Johar’s influence on the non-Punjabi society), the time of the baraat arrival (dwaar puja) and dinner (preetibhoj) time. Considering that most weddings in the North happen post midnight, the dinners were always before the wedding got solemnized. Some cards would even carry details of the wedding muhurat (called the panigrahan samaroh) and then the time of the vidaai.
If the invite was from the groom’s and if you (the invitee) were considered important enough, an additional small card was stapled to the main invitation card inviting you to join the baraat. (Sometimes you would get invited to the baraat not because you were a VIP but your sole qualification to be a baraati was that you were tough enough to undertake a 12 hour bus journey through the length of the state).There was detailed information regarding the exact spot where the baraat would assemble (next to “Tinku Garage” or at a particular crossroad- chauraha , the mode of transport to be employed (if it was a bus equipped with a video, this was mentioned prominently; “VDO coach”) and the time of the dwaar-pooja. Then there was this information about the time and date of the “reception” party which followed a few days after the wedding after the baraat had returned to the groom’s place.
There were salutations to Ganapati printed on the invitations cards. There was this mandatory “Shri Ganshaya Namaha” on all the cards. Most also carried Ganapati Vandana: Vakratunda mahakaya, suryakoti samaprabha……………..” Ganeshji’s line drawing was ever present.
What was infinitely more interesting was the poetry printed on the cards. The most common of the lot was: Bhej raha hoon neh-nimanatran, priyavar tujhey bulane ko, hey maanas key rajhans tu bhool na jaana aaney ko. Am sending you a love-dipped invitation, oh dear one, to invite you. Oh honored resident of my mind (alternately translates to bird of the heavens), please do not forget to come. This was often accompanied by a line drawing of two rajhans zeroing onto each other from opposite edges of the invitation card. Some card designers got even more poetic: “Do hriday miley, do suman khiley., do kaliyon ney shringar kiya. Do door desh key pathikon ney, sang-sang chalna sweekar kiya“. Loosely translated: Two hearts join, two flowers bloom, two buds don themselves up. Two distant travellers have sworn to stay together through thick or thin.
The invitation was always on the behalf of the senior-most relative. The parent –father and never the mother- showed up in brackets next to the names of the bride and the groom. If the invite came from the bride’s side, the brides name was mentioned first (Soubhagyakanshini, or sometimes its abbreviated form Sou.). The Chiranjeev’s name (sometimes its short form Chi.) came first if the source of the invitation was the ladka-wallah. Sometimes there were even some helpful line-drawings of generic looking groom and bride approaching each other from either end of the card carrying garlands. And another line-drawing of a hand-shake (only the wrist and beyond) between boy and a girl.
The language was uniform Sanskritized Hindi. The main invite started thus: Param pita parameshwar ki aseem anukampa se (With the infinite compassion of God) Chi. so-and-so marries Sou. such-and-such. Pawan parinay ki mangalik bela par sapariwar padhar kar var-vadhu ko shubhashirwad padan kar hamein anugraheet karein. (please oblige us by joining us with your family and blessing the newly-weds). The sapariwar bit was not to be taken too seriously. The real indicator whether you were invited with family or without was on the envelope where your name was written. It would mention your name and then next to it in brackets “Shri and Shrimati”- Mr and Mrs or Samast Pariwar (entire family). If you were the holder of a Mr/Mrs card and took your family then your host would not take this very kindly though he would of course not say anything then!
Invites were never complete without the entreaties of the family members urging you to attend the ceremonies. There was this darshanabhilashi (desirous-to-meet-you) group (a motley group of relatives of the groom or the bride). Some of these even sounded like the list of song requesters in Vividh Bharati: Jhumri Talaiya sey Suresh mama, Rajnandgaon sey Mahesh chacha, Timbuctoo sey Bishop Desmond Tutu tauji, etc etc. A recent variation has been the entreaties of the family kids beseeching you thus: “Merey chachoo/ mamoo ki shaadi mein jalool, jalool aana.” in their lisping styles. Followed by the kids’ names: Bunty, Beauty, Baby, Babloo, etc, etc. Just in case some family members got left out there was an additional line added (e.g. aur samast Tiwari parivar)
After the wedding was over, some of the better looking cards were preserved for reference while the others were put to good use by the household children who would use the reverse of the cards for painting or for craft work.
I have been staying away from Bihar ever since I passed from school some three decades ago and I do not receive cards anymore. My parents at Jamshedpur get the cards while I receive the intimation by phone. Oh, how I miss those cards! Maybe I should start off by locating my own wedding card which must be there in those old papers. I am not sure whether my children will have their shaadis complete with tilak, haldi and baraat, but irrespective I have resolved to get some cards printed to mark that occasion complete with the ditties I used to see.