It’s not everyday that I get kicked out of a hotel. It’s not everyday that the hotel is actually an island. And it’s not everyday that two billionaire families join in marriage and decide to take over Mumbai and Udaipur. This is what happened.
We flew from Mumbai to Udaipur, India and arriving after sunset finally settled down in one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen – the Taj Lake Palace. Originally built as a summer palace for the Maharana Jagat Singh in 1746, the Taj Lake Palace sits on Lake Pichola, spans 4 acres, has 83 rooms and suites and it only accessible by boat.
The original plan was to stay at this magnificent hotel for three days, but just before we left the states we got word that *someone* had taken over not only the Taj Lake Palace, but pretty much every hotel in Udaipur so we had to spend the third night in another hotel, the RAAS Devigarh. More on that fateful stay in another post.
It turned out that our itinerary had to be changed for the wedding of Isha Ambani and Anand Piramai. The Ambanis are India’s richest family with some $39 billion in assets. Anand Piramai’s father is no pauper either with about $4.8 billion in net worth. The Ambani’s extended family all live in this $2 billion 4,000,00 square foot, 27 story building in Mumbai, called the Antilia where the wedding ceremony took place:
We were not invited to the wedding – these photos are from the internet.
The post-wedding parties, including a private performance by Beyonce’ took place in
Not only was our hotel commandeered but the wedding parties also took over some major Udaipur historical sites (and tourist attractions) including the City Palace. I will talk about this beautiful complex of marble palaces and galleries in another post.
One might think that despite having these sites closed off from tourists, the setup for the wedding reception and parties might produce a monetary boon for Udaipur workers. Nope. The Ambani’s brought in non-locals for all the labor involved. In addition, the imported workers paid little heed (in our viewing) to avoid damaging the grounds of the City Palace grounds, etc. as they built platforms and other wedding reception paraphernalia.
Consider that the estimated spending for the wedding was $100 million.
As Mr. Knightly said to Emma – “Badly done!”
Interestingly despite all this opulence and gluttonous, conspicuous consumption, the marriage of Isha and Anand was arranged in the age-old custom followed by up to 90% of Indian families. This custom dates back to the beginnings of Hinduism in 500 BC. Marriages have traditionally been arranged by parents of the same caste (more on the caste system in another post) in different villages for their children who have never met. Ads are even put on social media sites and newspapers etc to look for potential mates based on suitability – caste, looks, ability to care for home and children for brides and income prospects for the groom, Romance places little to no part.
Only 1 in 1,000 arranged marriages in India result in divorce as compared to 44% of American marriages, so one must agree this system appears to work. Having big bucks like the Ambanis and Piramais also must be a deterrent to divorce – imagine the pre-nup..
The Albani/Piramai weddings’s lack of concern for the locals they displaced is actually the exception rather than the norm. Usually a Hindu wedding envelops the entire community in rituals and celebrations. They are quite hypnotic and emotional and deserve a post of their own – to follow next week.