In Jaisalmer, the unique practice of painting wedding invitations on house walls continues

Caught between the expectations of the world to nurture the rich legacy and the growing aspirations of its youth to take a giant leap forward, Jaisalmer is holding on to many unique customs and traditions.

One of them is the practice of painting wedding invitations on the walls of the house. Tracing the remnants of the past, in the narrow winding streets of the Jaisalmer Fort – oldest living fort in India -- home to old havelis, exquisite stonework and a multitude of narratives, the painted wedding invitations make one of the most intriguing sights.

At the entrance of almost every house is painted Lord Ganesha - the deity invoked before embarking on anything auspicious – announcing the date of the wedding and inviting one and all. “In the case of bride's house, the girl's name is written first and then the groom's name while in the case of groom's house, its vice-versa,” says a middle-aged Anita, who is visiting her parental house, where a wedding has just taken place.

Standing against the backdrop of the colourful invitation her Vasu Family extends, Anita helpfully adds, “The trend of distributing cards began as late as some thirty years ago. Jaisalmer was a small city where everybody knows everybody and this was the perfect way of inviting people and spreading the word around. A family in one street would see it and then pass the message to the others living elsewhere.”

While some prefer to do simple crisp ones in Hindi, a few families pep it up with amusing one-liners. The residents claim it's a tradition that's specific to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan but something that cuts across different Hindu castes and sects living there. According to Tarachand Vyas, the practice runs common to Pushkarna Brahmins, Bhatias, Khatris, and many more. “I was born here in 1940 and have seen these invitations ever since. Marriages or saawas, as we call them, are an auspicious occasion and how do we forget Ganpati on such an important event. So, we call a local painter three to seven days before the wedding, to paint. And it's important to note that the invite stays on the wall till a new wedding is announced and replaces the old one.” Another local citizen chips in, “That's why our weddings used to be so huge, around 2000-3000 people and still are…”

Practiced for centuries, the tradition's popularity hasn't faded a bit. The younger generation considers it an integral part of their culture which is indispensable. “Wedding cards are there but nothing can replace the charm of these wall invitations. Our grandfathers did it, then our fathers did it and now we will do it,” says Prashant Acharya who works as a guide.

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