The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tied in knots over a red dot
- Mars scare passes, wedding sindoor ready

Mirzapur (Uttar Pradesh), Jan. 27: Every time Aishwarya Rai accompanies the Bachchans to a temple, the country is breathless.

Today, a red smear high on the actress’s forehead was enough to start the buzz that she had already married her fiance Abhishek Bachchan.

Amar Singh, ever present at Bachchan family outings, didn’t help matters with a slip of the tongue, referring to Aishwarya as “my daughter-in-law”. The Samajwadi Party politician quickly corrected himself: “Er, would-be daughter-in-law of the Bachchan family.”

The truth was more humdrum, the priests at the Vindhyavasini Devi temple said. The red dot was the routine temple tilak and not sindoor, the mark of a married Hindu woman.

But vermilion was very much part of the theme at the temple in Mirzapur, which witnessed the final stage in warding off the Mars jinx in Aishwarya’s horoscope.

“The Bachchans have obtained a pot of vermilion sanctified through the puja. It will be used for the maang bharo ritual during the wedding, whenever that may happen,” priest Hanumandatt Pathak said.

The couple were accompanied by Amitabh Bachchan and wife Jaya, Aishwarya’s parents and Amar Singh, family in tow. Chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and Samajwadi MP-actress Jaya Prada were there, too.

At 12.15 pm, Ash and Abhishek stood surrounded by 11 priests who recited shlokas from the Vedas and conducted two rituals — the 16-step shodash sanskar and gode bharai — for the health and character of their future children. The second ritual saw Ash accept fruits from her would-be in-laws after a brief puja.

The families offered the deity a gold nose-ring, a silver umbrella and Rs 1.11 lakh.

“These rituals have finally freed Aishwarya from the manglik dosha,” head priest Rajan Pathak said.

Puja over, the entourage moved to a pandal erected by the Amar Singh Fan Association at Motijheel, 200 yards from the temple. There the star couple blessed 51 pairs of brides and grooms, being married off to mark Amar’s 51st birthday.

“Ash is not just our bahu, she is UP ki bahu (daughter- in-law of Uttar Pradesh),” Mulayam announced, at which the lady in white kurta and green dupatta blus- hed prettily, got off her chair and bowed to the drooling crowd.

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