Marriage spectacular hits a rocky patch

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The Independent Online
New Delhi (AP) - A top politician yesterday scaled down the wedding celebrations of her foster son amid a public outcry and criticism that she had used government money. The Indian media had earlier billed the wedding in Madras as the most lavish seen in the country in recent years; critics said it was to divert attention from corruption in the government.

As priests chanted hymns, the bride and bridegroom exchanged rose garlands before 100,000 guests in a 30-acre tent designed by movie art directors. The bridegroom was SV Sudhakaran, the foster-son of Chief Minister Jayalalitha Jayaram, a former film actress who used her popularity to get elected to the highest office in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Sita Lakshmi, the bride, was the granddaughter of Sivaji Ganesan, the leading light of Tamil cinema.

News reports had said that more than 300,000 people had been invited for the wedding and a feast. Those plans, however, had apparently been scaled back under public pressure. More than 5,000 lambs and 25,000 chickens had been bought for the feast. But they were never used and a vegetarian meal was served.

Still, the celebrations were opulent. The bridegroom's relatives, including Ms Jayaram, wore saris woven mostly with gold. The bride's family kept a low-key presence.

The guests watched the couple exchange their wedding vows on hundreds of closed-circuit television sets kept in the auditorium. They then dined on a six-course meal of 50 dishes prepared by 3,500 cooks.

n The average Tamil earns 50 rupees (pounds 1) a day, writes Tim McGirk.

Activists said that child labourers were paid only five rupees for working 18 hours a day, making fireworks so that Ms Jayaram could dazzle her guests.