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Traditional Hindu wedding for Priyanka Gandhi

George Iype in New Delhi

Priyanka Gandhi and businessman Robert Vadhera will have a traditional Hindu marriage, much in the manner that her great grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, her grandmother Indira Gandhi, her father Rajiv Gandhi and her uncle Sanjay Gandhi were led into wedlock.

The marriage will be held at the Gandhi home, 10, Janpath, on February 18, amidst Vedic chants and, possibly, a yagyopavit ceremony. Sources claimed the latter ceremony is meant 'to convert' Robert, an Anglo-Indian Christian, to Hinduism. The Nehrus are Kashmir Pandit Hindus though Priyanka's paternal grandfather Feroze Gandhi was a Parsi and her mother Sonia was born a Christian.

The Gandhi family had earlier approached the Delhi archdiocese's Sacred Heart Cathedral to conduct a Christian wedding. Robert's mother Maureen, people in the know say, very much wanted her son to be married in church.

Sources said enquiries at the archdiocese's offices were carried out by Sonia Gandhi's private secretary V George, through a local priest. But the cathedral's priest explained to the Gandhi family that he could not permit a church marriage until Robert proved his religious status with his baptism certificate.

Robert's father Rajinder Vadhera is a Punjabi Hindu. Maureen is said to be a devout Christian who attends the New Friends Colony parish church in New Delhi every Sunday. Some say Robert was brought up as a pious Christian; during his school days, they claim, he attended mass along with his mother.

Others contest this claim. They say Robert, who never cared either for the church or the temple, always wanted a civil marriage.

Whatever his religious inclinations, Robert will now have a a traditional Kashmiri Pandit wedding. Sources claim some of the Gandhis's relatives felt that Robert should go through a yagyopavit ceremony "to convert himself into a Hindu."

Though the marriage is seven days away, the Delhi police -- under instructions from the Special Protection Group which guards the Gandhi family -- have deployed a dozen policemen outside 10, Janpath to tighten the security in the area.

A shamiana is coming up near the bungalow and all the roads leading to 10, Janpath are being spruced up. A spokesperson of the Central Public Works Department told Rediff On The NeT that the urban development ministry has asked the CPWD to refurbish the roads within a week.

Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi have been personally calling on the capital's elite to invite them for the first wedding in the family for 21 years. Those who have already been invited include President Shankar Dayal Sharma, Vice-President K R Narayanan, Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, some of his Cabinet colleagues and top Congress leaders including its president Sitaram Kesri.

The simple, golden invitation card says: 'Shrimati Sonia Gandhi requests the pleasure of the company of --- at the wedding of her daughter Priyanka to Robert, son of Shrimati and Shri Rajinder Vadhera on Tuesday, 18 February, 1997 at 5 pm at 10, Janpath.'

Predictably, there is a scramble among Congress leaders to be invited to the wedding. Sonia wants to limit the guests at the ceremony to 300, so many Congress politicians are spending anxious nights wondering whether they feature on the list of invitees.

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