A Bollyhood wedding

BOLLYWOOD STARS Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan began life as Mr and Mrs Bachchan on Saturday after three days of wedding celebrations for Indian cinema's hottest couple. 'It's a Bollygood show,' said a headline in the Hindustan Times

bollynewspaper yesterday over a picture of the wedding procession in Mumbai, India's entertainment capital, where thousands of fans jostled for a glimpse of the stars, who married late the previous night.

'Reel to real: Abhi-Ash get married,' said the daily Indian Express, a reference to the couple's nickname Abhi-Ash, or India's answer to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's 'Brangelina' partnership.

Police had to use batons to control the crowd, who broke through barriers and climbed trees on Friday to try and catch a glimpse of the former Miss World and the son of veteran Indian screen legend Amitabh Bachchan.

"There's no monarchy in India but there are the Bachchans —this is the dream wedding," Jagdeep Kapoor, chairman of Indian marketing consultancy Samsika, said. "Movie-mad Indians have been feasting on details of the couple's wedding in which Rai, 33, wore a red sari for the traditional Hindu ceremony, while the 32-year-old groom sported a ceremonial turban and gold-embroidered, cream-coloured sherwani coat."

bolly1The ceremony kicked off at the auspicious hour of 6:13 pm on Friday with an exchange of garlands. Astrologers poured over the couple's star charts to determine the ideal time for the wedding. "Eleven priests chanted mantras and the couple walked around a sacred fire seven times to complete their marriage."

Billed as the 'Wedding of the Year' by the media, the event was kept relatively low key out of deference to the bridegroom's grandmother, who is unwell in hospital.

Unlike usual Indian weddings where the guest list can run into thousands of people, the wedding ceremony was restricted to around 100 close friends and family.

bolly2The only controversy came away from the festivities, when a 'mentally disturbed' and little-known Bollywood actress attempted suicide ahead of the wedding, claiming Abhishek had promised to marry her, police said.

Bollywood movies have a huge following in India and around the world, especially in nations with large Indian populations such as Britain, Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa.

Ash shows mangliks the way

TECHNICALLY, ABHISHEK would be Aishwarya's fourth husband. Earlier this year, the manglik actress reportedly married a pipal tree in Varanasi, a banana tree in Bangalore and a deity in Ayodhya in order to avert the effects of 'mangal dosha' on her marriage.

As a consequence, she invited the wrath of feminists and even a PIL. But even as the doe-eyed beauty prepares to wed a human being now, other manglik girls in the city are consulting astrologers for similar orthodox remedies.

There is a sudden rise in manglik rituals after Aishwarya unknowingly became their brand ambassador.

Two Maharashtrian girls, a 22-year-old psychology student and a 28-year-old bank employee, who recently approached astrologer Vipul Saxena, opted for the Aishwarya treatment.

"Both of them married pipal trees before their actual marriage," says Saxena. Though he reveals that marrying a tree is considered the most effective way of nullifying the effects of 'mangal' (presence of Mars), Saxena was surprised to see these "modern" girls bothering about planetary positions and traditional beliefs.

To ward off ill-effects, the girl is usually advised to wed a tree, an animal or a deity. This ritual is called the 'kumbh vivah'.

Though some of the dramatic remedies tend to depend on who the astrologer is, there are rituals that almost every manglik girl endures, like special pujas, wearing specific gemstones, reciting the Hanuman chalisa or Ganesha mantra and visiting temples.

After the Aishwarya episode, Saxena says that he has also been getting calls from concerned parents asking intricate questions about the rituals.

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