A cross-border royal Rajput wedding

Bridal couple: at the Roka (ring exchange) ceremony in Jaipur, June, 2014

Bridal couple: at the Roka (ring exchange) ceremony in Jaipur, June, 2014

This is an updated version of the piece I wrote published in Aman ki Asha on December 3, 2014

It’s nice to be able to write about something joyous for a change. This time, it is about the forthcoming marriage of two beautiful, bright, spirited young people, one in Pakistan and one in India.

The Rajput community on either side of the border is particularly excited about the marriage that will join two princely families from either side of the border. Preparations involve the Tikka ceremony that took place in Pakistan on Dec 7, 2014, for the first time since 1947.

The young couple, Kunwar Karni Sodha of Amarkot (Umarkot), Sindh, and Padmini Singh Rathore, of Thikana Kanota, Jaipur, exchanged rings at a Roka ceremony in Jaipur on June 10 this year, five days after they first met at a relative’s house. “It’s a proper arranged marriage,” Karni told me while sending an invitation (sadly I couldn’t attend).

Karni Sodha, a lawyer by training, is the son of Rani Nalini Prabha and Rana Hamir Singh of Amarkot. We had stayed them last year, driving across the Sindh desert into Tharparkar, with a doctor friend has family connections with them going back generations. I wrote about that trip here.

Amarkot: Akbar's birthplace

Amarkot: Akbar’s birthplace. Photo: Beena Sarwar

The historic town is famous as the birthplace of Akbar (later known as The Great) after the then Rana gave sanctuary to the Mughal king Humayun who was fleeing Sher Shah Suri.

The bride Padmini Rathore’s father Thakur Man Singh Rathore owns the Narain Niwas Palace Hotel in Jaipur city and hotel Castle Kanota in his principality, Kanota.

Tikka ceremony, Amarkot, Dec 7, 2014. Photo: Sadaf Aijaz

Tikka ceremony, Amarkot, Dec 7, 2014. Photo: Sadaf Aijaz

The Tikka (formal engagement) ceremony took place at Rana Jagir, Amarkot, on December 7, with 30 guests from India arriving on Dec. 4, bringing gifts for the groom’s family as is traditional.

Sarita Kumari Sodha, also from the royal family of Amarkot who moved to India after her marriage there, sent her two young sons as part of the entourage. She herself stayed back as it is “a men’s ceremony”.

After performing the Tikka ceremony, the bride’s brother (in this case her twin Kunwar Pratap Singh) gives the groom a sword – which had to be foregone this time due to international travel restrictions — and other gifts.

The bride Padmini Singh Rathore with her father Thakur Man Singh Rathore and her twin brother Kunwar Pratap Singh

The bride Padmini Singh Rathore with her father Thakur Man Singh Rathore and her twin brother Kunwar Pratap Singh

Thakur Man Singh presents the groom with the Lagan – the official invitation to the groom and his family to come to the wedding, which is scheduled to take place in February 2015 in Jaipur.

This is the first time that the Tikka ceremony will take place in Pakistan since 1947 although several cross-border royal Rajput weddings have taken place since then largely due to the Rajput custom of not marrying within the same family.

Rana Hamir Singh’s mother Rajmata Sahiba Subhdra Kumari came from Bikaner, India, when she married his father the legendary, late Rana Chander Singh. Rani Nalini Prabha came from the Ajmer royal family. Karni Sodha’s three sisters married Rajputs on the Indian side as did Rana Hamir’s sister Sangeeta Sodha.

Roka ceremony: Exchange of rings between Karni Singh Sodha and Padmini Singh Rathore, Jaipur, Jun 2014

Roka ceremony: Exchange of rings between Karni Singh Sodha and Padmini Singh Rathore, Jaipur, Jun 2014

A graduate of the Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) in Karachi, Karni Sodha has worked with a barrister in Karachi after obtaining an LLB Honours degree (University of London external program) in August last year. These days he is looking after the family farms, and rises before dawn to do his daily rounds.

Padmini Rathore attended Maharani Gayatri Devi school in Jaipur and St Bedes College, Shimla. She has a Graphics Design diploma from Jaipur and played cricket at the school and national levels. She lives in Jaipur city as well as the family’s village Kanota.

With family members: at the Roka ceremony

With family members: at the Roka ceremony.

The restrictive visa regime between India and Pakistan particularly affects the Rajputs of Pakistan. Forbidden to marry within their own family, they must forge marital alliances with Rajput families in India. Daughters who are married across the border always face a problem in visiting their country of birth.

Here’s wishing the young couple all the best, and for the visa restrictions to be eased not just for their sakes, but for the sakes of so many divided families and people who just want to visit. Milne Do.

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