Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Chess themed Indian Wedding!

Sagar Shah elo 2304 (2 IM norms) and Amruta Mokal elo 2041 (4 IWM norms) 

It is said that Marriages are made in heaven but are celebrated on Earth!
When I met Amruta Mokal back in 2008, I was not sure that she was the girl that I wanted to marry! But over time, the attraction developed into liking and liking developed into love! And after 5 and a half years, on 5th of february 2014, we both tied the knot!
The wedding was held in the city of Pune which is the hometown of the bride!

The Wedding Invitation cards were designed by Amruta keeping the overall chess theme in mind!

This article is based on specifically one day of my life i.e the 5th of February which is the most special to me! To know more about how our relationship developed, you can read the article on my love story. But right now lets focus on the wedding!

Let me first put things into perspective. Both Me and Amruta wanted a different sort of wedding! Indian weddings are not only known for their pompous nature but also for their excruciatingly long ceremonies and rituals. We wanted to break the monotony and what better way than to celebrate the very reason of us coming together i.e the game of CHESS!

We had already shown our chessic innovation in July 2013 when Amruta specifically designed our engagement rings in the shape of the chess King and Queen!

But this time it was bigger! There were going to be nearly 500 people who would attend the wedding. In order to give tribute to the game of chess, we decided to decorate the stage with the Chess Pieces!

You can see the King and the Queen in the Center with the Bishop knight Rook and Pawn besides it.
The S near the King stands for the name of the groom i.e Sagar and the A near the Queen stands for the name of the bride Amruta!

Usually the wedding dresses of the Bridegroom and Bride are quite elaborate in an Indian wedding! So, Lets have a look at how the protagonists dressed up for the event!

The Bridegroom i.e me, came well prepared for this game! The turban on the head is usually worn by kings and hence gives a royal look to the groom. The Shirt which I have worn is known as a Sherwani. Green in Colour, its quite intricately woven! You can also see a red scarf like thing around my neck. It is called a Dupatta and makes the dress aesthetically pleasing.
In place of trousers, I am wearing a dhoti! In the earlier days tying a dhoti was an art in itself, nowadays you can find readymade dhotis tailormade for amateurs like me!
And finally in place of shoes, I have worn something known as Mojdi. They are designer chappals which go well with the overall dress.
On that particular day, I did feel like a King because of my attire!


Amruta looked nothing short of a princess! There were so many minute details in her dressing that it will take many lines to describe it. Let me make an attempt!
The dress that Amruta has worn is known as a Saree. Its the most popular kind of attire for women in India. The material of the saree is silk and the green colour is considered auspicious during rituals.
She has worn a lot of jewellery, for eg the one of her head, connected to the nose, in her ears, around her neck, fore arms and around her waist. The bangles in her hand made up of green and gold colour are known as "Chuda" which is supposed to be worn by a newly wed bride.
The brown colour on her hands is known as Mehendi. Almost each and every bride applies it in order to look beautiful.
Do not miss the chess king on Amruta's right forearm and a chess queen on her left!


If you see the image of Amruta, you will observe that she has worn a lot of jewellery. In Indian weddings its a tradition that the bride should wear all her jewellery made of gold. Due to this tradition, many poor families are under a lot of stress when it comes to the marriage of their daughters. Thus whenever a girl is born in traditional families it is still considered a burden.
Wearing Jewellery which is aritificial and not made of gold in any ceremony, Amruta in her own little way tried to change the prevailing rigid traditions of Indian marriage. Maybe this little act of hers will give other girls the confidence that its not always necessary to spend a lot during wedding, thus reducing the burden on their parents.

Saying no to gold may reduce female infanticide in India.

The wedding was well attended by a lot of chess players! Most notable amongst them were India no.9 GM Vidit Gujarathi (2602), GM Abhijit Kunte (2439) IM Swapnl Dhopade (2424), Indias Latest IM Sameer Kathmale (2398), IM C.S. Gokhale (2248) and many other strong players like Aniruddh Deshpande, Abhishek Kelkar, Chinmay Kulkarni,Shashikant Kutwal, Sohan Phadke, Vinod Bhagwat, Atul Dahale and Niklesh Jain.

The attendance of strong chess players was pretty high!

The groom flanked by 2 GMs Vidit (L) and Kunte (R)

One IM who was definitely going to be present at the wedding was IM and Fide Trainer Prathamesh Mokal, Amruta's brother!

A unique way for the guests to convey their best wishes!

These chess players definitely had some more work to do at the wedding. I will come to the most interesting part of the wedding in a bit. But first a few things about the caste system in India.

Every person just on the basis of his birth is attached to a specific caste. The castes in Hindu religion are Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Kshudras. Then there are sub castes and I think this classification goes on and on. Though the awareness is increasing now, many people still try to find their partner from the same caste in order to lead a similar family life before and after marriage. However the problem is very simple. People from one caste think that their caste is superior to the other. Clear lines have been drawn. The Caste System is one of the prime reasons for inequality in the Indian society.
Aamir Khan, a very famous Indian actor says inter caste marriage is the only way to get rid of this caste system in India.

Caste system is such a outdated concept, I still wonder why people follow it!

I and Amruta not only are from different castes but also speak different languages at home. While she is a Maharashtrian, I am a Gujarati. The thing which binds us is not any caste or religion but love! {and to some extent the game of chess! :)} And the advantage is that each one of us can learn the other person's language,rituals, traditions and customs and thereby increase our knowledge!
In any case the bottom line is simple: You marry the boy/girl you like without thinking about the caste or religion.

The wedding ceremony was done in Vedic format which is common for all castes and religions. I have tried to explain some of the most important moments of the ceremony through the pictures.

mangala sutra (from Sanskrit mangal, meaning "holy, auspicious", and sutra, meaning "thread") is a sacred necklace that a groom ties around the bride's neck, which identifies her as a married woman.

By putting the puffed rice in the fire, Amruta asks God to keep us united and prays for my long life!

Throwing rice grains over Amruta which symbolizes that I am agreement with whatever she is asking and I will fulfill it!

Taking Pheras (circles) around the fire, pledging our devotion and loyalty to each other.

The Saptapadi! Taking 7 steps with Amruta we together prayed for food, strength, piety, progeny, wealth, comfort and health.

The antarpath: Before the final step of exchanging garlands, we both are separated from each other by a flowered veil.

The Garlands are exchanged and finally we are married!!

As it was a union of two chess players we tried to do something bold! We organised a small chess event which lasted for 6 minutes.(3 mins each)
We made 2 teams. Team Amruta and Team Sagar. Each team had 6 members. So there were 6 boards. 
In order to make the game more interesting and less serious we tweaked the rules a little by interchanging the place of the King and the Queen and Black making the first move. Also castling was not allowed! This resulted in some original chess.

The two GMs were pitted against each other on board 1.

Team Amruta consisted of all the pune players as she is from Pune. They were Abhijit Kunte, Shashikant Kutwal, Anirudh Deshpande, Sohan Phadke, Abhishek Kelkar and Kiran Panditrao.
Team Sagar had players from different places. They were Vidit Gujarathi, Sameer Kathmale, Vinod Bhagwat, Chinmay Kulkarni, Nikhil Joshi and Omkar Patwardhan.

The interest generated amongst the crowd was simply mind blowing! People were extremely excited seeing top players of the country in action and forgot that a wedding was actually going on.

The players too enjoyed playing but as you always know chess players hate to lose! 
I wont get into individual results but Team Amruta emerged victorious by a score of 3.5-2.5.
It was a very closely fought match and many people said that now Amruta will dominate over me for the rest of the life! I personally think the scenario would not have changed even if my team would have won the match!! :D
I and Amruta take this opportunity to thank each of the 12 players for being such a good sport and playing the game in the right spirit to make it a unique and memorable event! 
A special thanks to Niklesh Jain for organizing this event as well as he organizes tournaments in his state of Madhya Pradesh! :)

His Rook is hanging on g5 and his king is in check, yet he has the audacity to pose for a picture!!

Many people played chess! In our own little way we were able to popularize the game!

The best chess players of Maharashtra in one frame!

No appearance money for these top players! :D

My very good friend Shailesh Nerlikar, who is 100% disabled travelled all the way from Kolhapur to attend the wedding!

A very colourful picture of beautiful women at the wedding! (unfortunately,dear readers, all are married!!)

Much needed energy after hard days work!
It was wonderful Maharashtrian food in silver dishes which included Roti, Puri, Shrikhand, Potato sabji, Vegetable rice, Gulab Jamun, Ice cream and much more!

We were happy that our wedding was covered by the popular Marathi newspaper Loksatta because of the uniqueness in the way the arrangements at the wedding were made. The headline was:
 "The game begins now!"

A huge thanks to my and Amruta's parents who allowed all this madness to happen! Without their permission and support it would have been simply impossible!

Now that I and Amruta are married we would like to work together and become better chess players. There are a lot of strong chess couples in the world. Many of them add upto a combined elo of 5000 points.  So who holds the title of strongest chess couple in the world? ..... any guesses?

Alexander Grischuk and Natalia Zhukova

Their combined rating is 2786+ 2499 = 5285 while me and Amruta tally upto 2304+2041= 4345!
Thats a whooping difference of 940 points!! We have a lot of work to do now in order to become the strongest chess couple in the world! :D 

Thank you dear friends, for patiently reading about our wedding! I hope you found it unique and enjoyed it! Do send us your blessings. I look forward to a happy and fulfilling life with my wife!


  1. Very beautifully done.Though I'm not a huge fan of Chess but found this wonderfully creative! Congratulations and I wish you both a very Happy Married Life ahead. God bless! :-)

    1. Thanks a lot Sarla Krishnamurthy. Inspite of not being a chess player, you read the entire article and also took the pains to comment. that means a lot!
      Thank you very much.

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  2. u are really a nice person sagar.. :)

    1. I dont know who you are as your comment is anonymous. But thanks a lot for your compliment! :)

  3. Hi Sagar,
    Cograts on your wedding
    Thanks for posting about it.
    One thing I will disagree about is your write-up on the caste system. I am not sure that castesystem even exists in the large metro areas - particularly among the educated people. Atleast I didnt feel it when I grew up in Bombay in the 80s and 90s.
    Congratulations again and apologies for expressing a different opinion.

    1. I respect your opinion.
      Caste system is a problem in India be it rural or metro cities. I just brought it into light with the hope that people must not worry about such things when they fall in love.
      Thanks for your opinion!

    2. Who said that Caste system is problem? Its always a problem for people who have not understand it. That is why divorce rated have increased in metro cities than in rural areas. caste system should be followed but not thinking one superior to other rather in thought of finding the right candidate. Caste system is more of a problem in love marriages than in arrange marriages where people see the human and get marry but find the real being after marriage!!. No wonder love marriages success rate is lower and India Sri lanka has lowest divorce rates (~4%) (firm believer of arrange marriages).

  4. This is beautifully and rather innovatively done Sagarbeta. Wish you and Amruta a blissful married life with loads of love, respect, trust and understanding for each other. God bless you both.

  5. Everything is very good and excellent except the caste system you have written.Caste System has it merits and demerits. It is foolish to say why one should not follow it. It has logical backgrounds of why one should follow it. Still there is a rule never deny a good girl from any family. girls are always worshiped here. Today's culture has lost the virtue of marriage. So its foolish to expect from hybrid societies to follow caste system as irrational people wont understand it which has nothing to do with education. And remember caste is determined by the work and not by the surname.

  6. God bless you and wish you a very happy married life !!

  7. Hi Sagar., congratulations and happy married life :) i wish you both to achieve the title "strongest chess couple in the world ". apart from good chess player, you seems very nice human-being.!! good luck for all future endeavors.

  8. Hey Sagar Shah,

    Wow! Very Awesome!!

    Congratulations Sagar!! and I wish you both a very Happy Married Life...!!!

    Nihar Kulkarni,
    Deaf Chess Player..

  9. Hi Sagar, I wish you a very happy married life!
    The blog is well written. I enjoyed reading, Thanks,

  10. Hi Sagar & Amruta,
    I wish you, all the best for happy married life. Once I shared accommodation with Amrutha in a chess tournament.

    Former SL female chess player

  11. I love you color choice and the Shape of chess behind the stages is the perfect touch. Thank you so much for sharing your inspiration with us at 4 Crafty chess wedding.

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  12. It must be very nice to see this type of marriage with own eyes but unfortunately I am not in your friend's list and I do not know any one in frame personally, its ok but congrats and all the best.

  13. This is wonderful coverage of a very nice wedding with a top theme. Great explanations of the wedding and the photos are so good. The couple looks wonderful. Wishing you both great success.

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  41. Reading this after 7 years.. Source is your video off course.. Happy Anniversary Sagar Bhai... Loads of Love from Kolkata

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