The Ambani Wedding & the Modern Face of India

The recent Ambani wedding has undoubtedly captured the attention of those within the Indian community. The extravagant details, such as the staggering cost exceeding $100 million and Nita Ambani’s necklace possibly valued at around $50 million, have been widely discussed.

These exorbitant figures represent a level of opulence unparalleled in many other cultures. Reflecting on this with Dr. Lalchand, I pondered whether Hindu culture, having endured centuries of conquest, finds solace in displays of wealth and material abundance.

This stands in stark contrast to the Persianate tradition, where luxury is revered but with a strong emphasis on restraint. In my own Baháʼí upbringing, luxury has typically been met with guilt.

Without significant historical political power, mainstream Hindu society often sees wealth and its ostentatious display as a form of security. The Ambanis, with their immense wealth, power, and fame, have become emblematic figures within the Desi community, and to some extent, beyond.

Yet, I can’t help but feel that the Ambanis could redirect their resources towards bolstering India’s STEM legacy or preserving its architectural heritage. Eventually, excessive opulence may lose its allure and succumb to hedonic inflation.

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Nivedita
Nivedita
1 month ago

Agree with the writer. This wasn’t opulent, it was a garish flaunting of wealth. Observation is accurate though, as median wealth increases, the desire to flaunt wealth increases, be it for any function: weddings, naming ceremonies, birthdays even! And this phenomenon cuts across caste and region! I personally feel it dilutes the sanctity of what is meant to be a very personal and meaningful occasion.

Nivedita
Nivedita
28 days ago

Yes, I have seen it in those Brahmins who are part of the nouveau riche strata.

Saurav
Saurav
1 month ago

I have an inkling that all these opulence might end with senior Ambani. FWIW, Mukesh is a hard nosed businessman, who cut his teeth in the oil refiners of Jamnagar, and knew which business were the cash cows. Thats why all the shiny new objects like telecom, movies etc., were given to Anil, while he kept the old and dusty refineries. Soon enough without the financial backing of the refineries to bankroll them, these new ventures failed, and Anil has gone groveling back to Mukesh. Plus Nita Ambani’s extravagance can also be attributed to one up Tina ( Anil’s wife) , who was far bigger celebrity in her days than Nita ever was. Mukesh is too smart to be tangled into these things.

All three of Mukesh children are more like Anil, soft and attention hungry. The person who gets the refineries will still last longer than the other two, but i see the next generation of Ambani’s being what Birla’s are today. Old money whose children use their dad’s money for vanity projects like being pop idols and Cricketers.

Billu
Billu
30 days ago

The idea is in Osho’s biography.

That indians have always had a wealthy civilisation; hence out customs shows usage of wealth.

Desert people’s customs show plainliness cause there isn’t much in desert. That it’s the same in Iran is a revelation ………… or is that just restricted to Baha’i ?

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Sumit
Sumit
25 days ago

I don’t think the Ambanis really have much in the way of STEM chops they are astute political and traditional business operators. And their wedding just demonstrates that.

The pre-wedding ceremonies were held in Jamnagar, including vist’s to the animal rescue center, specializing in elephants, that they have set up there.

This type of thing buys them a lot of goodwill in the Hindu community. They have developed their hometown and built animal welfare facilities.

I was also quite surprised how good Anant’s Hindi vocabulary is in interviews and how little English he mixes in compared event to many Bollywood actors whose job it is to be able to deliver Hindu / Urdu dialogue. Again this is a big plus if you want to be viewed favorably by the masses.

For cultural stuff they seem to be more into contemporary Indian arts and entertainment via the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre and their IPL team, rather than historic preservation.

I some sense I think of them as being emblematic of 21st century Hindu norms.

An interesting documentary on these new norms…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaIFRKEtH00

Ghazi
Ghazi
25 days ago

“This stands in stark contrast to the Persianate tradition, where luxury is revered but with a strong emphasis on restraint. In my own Baháʼí upbringing, luxury has typically been met with guilt.”

I find Persians of today no different than Indians in their displays of wealth/luxury – it’s a similar display of garish, brash, gaudy, loud, ostentatious behavior. Only difference is that Persians like to mask it with a veneer of European luxury (although some of the Indian elite does the same nowadays) whereas the Indians tend to pull from the pages of Indo-Persianate tradition.

In fact Persian music (techno/EDM music) with its shrieking autotune is far more crass than Indian hip-hop. I have been exposed to both cultures quite intimately and found they are quite similar in this fashion.

And from what I’ve heard, in India, the Parsis are seen as eccentric by the natives, so I don’t think Persianate tradition is about much restraint. Although, I do think other Iranic cultures practice it.

Last edited 25 days ago by Ghazi
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