Indian Ghost Stories by S. Mukerji
THE BRIDAL PARTY.
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In Benares, the sacred city of the Hindus, situated in the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, there is a house which is famed pretty far and wide. It is said that the house is haunted and that no human being can pass a night in that house.
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Once there was a large Bridal party.
In India the custom is that the bridegroom goes to the house of the bride with great pomp and show with a number of friends and followers and the ceremony of "Kanya Dan" (giving away the girl) takes place at the bride's house.
The number of the people who go with the bridegroom depends largely upon the means of the bride's party, because the guests who come with the groom are to be fed and entertained in right regal style. It is this feeding and entertaining the guests that makes a daughter's marriage so costly in India, to a certain extent.
If the bride and the bridegroom live in the same town or village then the bridegroom's party goes to the bride's house in the evening, the marriage is performed at night and they all come away the same night or early the next morning. If, however, the places of residence of the bride and the bridegroom are say 500 miles apart as is generally the case, the bridegroom with his party goes a day or two earlier and stays a day or two after the marriage. The bride's people have to find accommodation, food and entertainment for the whole period, which in the case of rich people extends over a week.
Now I had the pleasure of joining such a bridal party as mentioned last, going to Benares.
We were about thirty young men, besides a number of elderly people.
Since the young men could not be merry in the presence of their elders the bride's father, who was a very rich man, had made arrangements to put up the thirty of us in a separate house.
This house was within a few yards of the famed haunted house.
We reached Benares at about ten in the morning and it was about three in the afternoon that we were informed that the celebrated haunted house was close by. Naturally some of us decided that we should occupy that house rather than the one in which we were. I myself was not very keen on shifting but a few others were. Our host protested but we insisted, and so the host had to give way.
The house was empty and the owner was a local gentleman, a resident of Benares.
To procure his permission and the key was the work of a few minutes and we took actual possession of the house at about six in the evening. It was a very large house with big rooms and halls (rather poorly furnished) but some furniture was brought in from the house which we had occupied on our arrival.
There was a very big and well-ventilated hall and in this we decided to sleep. Carpet upon carpet was piled on the floor and there we decided to sleep (on the ground) in right Oriental style. Lamps were brought and the house was lighted up.
At about 9 P.M. our dinner was announced. The Oriental dinner is conducted as follows:--
The guests all sit on the floor and a big plate of metal (say 20" in diameter) is placed in front of each guest. Then the service commences and the plates are filled with dainties. Each guest generally gets thrice as much as he can eat. Then the host who does not himself join stands with joined hands and requests the guests to do full justice, and the dinner begins. Very little is eaten in fact, and whatever is left goes to the poor. That is probably the only consolation. Now on this particular occasion the bride's father, who was our host and who was an elderly gentleman had withdrawn, leaving two of his sons to look after us. He himself, we understood, was looking after his more elderly guests who had been lodged in a different house.
The hall in which we sat down to dine was a large one and very well lighted.
Adjoining it was the hall in which our beds had been made. The sons of _mine host_ with a number of others were serving. I always was rather unconventional. So I asked my fellow guests whether I could fall to, and without waiting for permission I commenced eating, a very good thing I did, as would appear hereafter.