'Prateeksha' shrouded in secrecy as big day nears

THE HOUSE resembles a fortress. Every single person going in and out is given a thorough once-over and curious passersby are promptly given the boot by ferocious looking security guards.

You could be forgiven for thinking that "Prateeksha", the Bachchans' sprawling bungalow in suburban Juhu, is the venue of some top secret meeting. Rather it is where the wedding of the year —between Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan —will take place on April 20.

As the Bachchan family prepares to welcome Aishwarya into its fold on Friday, one thing evident about the big event is the amount of secrecy that has shrouded it.

Details of everything from the guest list to the "mehendi" ceremony, the bride's dress and even the honeymoon have all been kept top secret.

Both Aishwarya and the Bachchans have consistently refused to talk about the wedding or the details and all guests have been sworn to secrecy.

Even while the marriage of the former Miss World and the scion of the Bachchan family evokes immense curiosity all around, those actually involved in the wedding have been very tight-lipped.

Amitabh Bachchan himself is said to be supervising each tiny detail of his son's wedding. Guests include industrialist Anil Ambani and wife Tina, Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, who will take time off from the Uttar Pradesh elections, and other close family friends. More PTI SSJ

The three-day wedding celebrations will also see some of the Bachchans' closest friends from the film industry gracing the occasion.

Karan Johar, Goldie Behl and wife Sonali Bendre, Apurva Lakhia and Anupam Kher, wife Kirron and son Sikander will all be part of the celebrations.

"The Bachchans' are famed for guarding their privacy. The media has been at their heels for any information they can get but even guests and those involved in organising the wedding have been asked to reveal no details," sources said.

Bachchan even went to the extent of requesting neighbours not to allow media into their houses on the day of the wedding.

The couple got engaged on January 14 after a great deal of media speculation on their relationship.

Amitabh donates Rs 51 lakh to Tirupati

AHEAD OF the Abhishek-Aishwarya Rai wedding later this week, superstar Amitabh Bachchan donated Rs 51 lakh for education of poor children and hospital facilities at the Tirupati temple. His friends Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh and industrialist Anil Ambani who were accompanying him also made a donation each, of the same amount, to the temple trust.

The Big B was at the abode of Venkateshwara to seek blessings for the marriage.

Eyewitnesses say that even as the superstar placed the wedding invitation card at the feet of the deity, the temple priests began reciting hymns and performed 'Aaseervachanam' and sprinkled 'Akshata' (holy rice), turmeric and kumkum on the wedding card. Later Big B dropped the card in 'Sri Vari Hundi' (a holy container where devotees drop their offerings) the first invitation was thus offered to the deity seeking his blessings for the couple.

The three donated Rs 51 lakh each towards the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam (TTD)-run Pranadanam, Annadanam and Balamandir Trusts which are aimed to provide free surgeries, free food to pilgrims and take care of orphans respectively. They handed over the cheques to TTD executive officer A P V N Sharma. Each of them has reportedly donated Rs 17 lakh towards each trust.

All the three arrived here in a special flight from Mumbai around 7.30 am and had darshan of the Lord at 8.30 am. The three entered the sanctum sanctorum through the special entrance for VVIPs and offered prayers for about 15 minutes. Later, they were led to Ranganayakula Mandapam where they were given 'prasadam' of the deity amid chanting of Vedic hymns. The priests presented them with holy 'Vastram' (piece of cloth) and blessed them with 'Veda Aaseervachanam'.

The Tirupati temple managed by the Andhra Pradesh government is one of the richest temple trusts in India with revenues topping Rs 900 crore annually. The temple came to limelight only after a concerted effort at marketing it from the early nineties onwards. Known to attract pilgrims from across India, Amitabh Bachchan himself visits Tirupati five to six times a year.

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