Mumbai: 40-foot-long wedding bill from 1849 pops up in Vasai
Written in Modi script, the scroll contains records of every single expense and duties that each person performed during the grand 10-day celebrations
There were many big fat Indian weddings the past year, but Vasai's Shridatta Raut has found a 40-ft wedding bill from 1849 that can put even the grandest ones to shame.
The 40-foot-bill - about as long as seven adults stacked one on top of the other - would have been eye-popping in the 1800s. Written in Modi lipi (precursor to the modern Marathi script), the handmade scroll goes into painstaking details of each and every expense during the 10-day festivities, adding up to a princely sum of R1,811. This might seem humble by modern standards, but would amount to crores today, easily comparable to the lavish weddings of industrialists and Bollywood stars in recent times.
Who were they?
From what can be deciphered in the scroll, the father of the groom was Vaman Vinayak Pandit Chintamani, a resident of Pune. The wedding was held in Miraj, in Sangli district, where the bride hailed from. "The scroll mentions minute details about the wedding, including what food was cooked and by whom, what items were bought and how much the gifts and jewellery cost," said Raut, who got his hands on the relic four months ago.
"Four months ago, we had an exhibition of ancient artefacts in Vasai. Many people come to sell ancestral items. The person who gave me the document just gave it to me. I don't know who he was, but he told me to keep it since he didn't have any use for it," the historian recalled.
Raut realised much later what a gem he had stumbled upon. "Recently, one of my students, Vishnupriya Kulkarni said she wanted to read some Modi lipi, so I gave the scroll to her. When she started reading it, we realised what the document was," he said.
The 40-foot scroll as long as seven adults put together. Pics/Hanif Patel
Party like its 1849
The bill includes expenses incurred on food, firecrackers, wages, clothing, cash, horses, gold, diamonds and pearls. It offers a glimpse into the wedding planning, detailing who performed what duty. For instance, Balaji Nevaskar and Ganoba Acharya were in charge of meals, Pant Chaphekar made the sabzi and Haripant Chaphekar cooked the rice. All the meals were vegetarian. "It mentions the quantity of rice, daal, cloves, cardamom, and even how much paint was used at the house," said Raut.
Most of the purchases were in smaller units of currency such as the anna (equivalent to a sixteenth of a rupee) and paili. "My husband, children and I have all been studying Modi lipi under Shridatta Raut's tutelage. I couldn't believe that each and every item used in the wedding had been recorded in the scroll. I was surprised that people maintained such detailed records then, which we still can't manage to this day," said Kulkarni.
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