Aravind of Salem has been involved for more than five years in creating several islands as part of the restoration of the Mookaneri Lake in Kannankurichi.

A destination wedding is the stuff dreams are made of for many a bride and groom, be it in a castle, at a palace, on a beach, mid-air or under-water. This wedding on November 1 is an island wedding, only that the island was created by the groom himself.  Even if ‘green weddings’ are fashionable now, G Aravind has gone a step ahead with his plans.

Aravind of Salem has been involved for more than five years in creating several islands as part of the restoration of the Mookaneri Lake in Kannankurichi. So when he decided to get married, he couldn’t think of a better location. Twenty-seven-year old Aravind is an active member of the Salem Citizens’ Forum that is into lake restorations since 2010. 

When the Forum’s Convenor Piyush Manush began work in 2010, the 58-acre span of the lake was a near-barren stretch of thorns and bushes, and polluted water expanses. Slowly, with the help of motivated locals and determined volunteers, the face of the lake started changing. Aravind joined the work, like many of his peers, and has been a regular since 2011, lending all his spare time to the cause of restoring the lake.

Mookaneri Lake

Today, Mookaneri is freed of idols of Plaster of Paris, stone and other material, plastics and other debris “that one cannot even imagine people will dump here” and has transformed into an island-strewn lake that is now home to many exotic species of birds. 

The island is created by removing the clay from the bottom of the lake using excavators and building a sort of a bund. Initially it is filled with millet saplings to arrest soil erosion. After a while, saplings of neem, banyan, jamun, peepal, and vetiver trees are planted and eventually the bund becomes an island filled with trees. Now 46 such islands dot the huge water expanse and house over 12,000 trees. 

The lake has become such an integral part of Aravind’s life that he wanted to organise the most important event in his life there. “A lake represents water, which is the elixir of life. Without water there is no existence. But unfortunately we go to the banks of a river only after life ends, either for a funeral or for last rites. I wanted to change that. I wanted to use water for a beginning,” says Aravind.

The Island where the wedding will take place

Working closely with Piyush and other volunteers of the Forum has brought him closer to nature. He has his own outlet “Amudham Natural Store” that sells organic grocery. Though not a very commercial option, he sees this as an awareness creating exercise for the people in Salem. 

When his parents found an alliance in P. Poovizhi, Aravind shared his island wedding plan with her. Though she was surprised, Poovizhi agreed because she liked the idea. “When he told me it sounded very different, yet I liked the idea. I spoke to my parents and they were convinced,” says this second year B.Sc. Physics student.

The island where the wedding will be held, “the latest, but not the last” as Piyush hastens to add, is the 47th one. It took Aravind and his teammates three weeks to make this island. Now it is filled with millet saplings. The wedding is planned in such a manner that only the immediate family of the bride and the groom will go to the island using a few coracles. The ceremony will include an exchange of garlands and tying of “thali”. Since the wedding will take place with trees and water as witnesses, it will not be solemnised by a priest in the presence of the conventional “homam”. Since a “homam” involved felling of trees, it has been avoided. The bride and groom will be dressed in cotton and wear minimum jewellery.

Piyush Manush on the coracle which will be used to go to the island.

The Amphitheatre

This will be followed by planting of a few saplings on the new island to symbolise a new start. The 500-odd guests will be assembled at the amphitheatre that is part of a garden at the lake. After the wedding, the couple, the guests and volunteers plan to plant 1,000 saplings.  

Aravind has requested that his guests come dressed in cotton or khadi. Though gifts in kind are not encouraged, cash is welcome, as the money received as gift would be contributed to the restoration of lakes. 

No one is happier than Piyush as he says, “This will be a lesson to those people who spend lakhs and crores on weddings. It will spread positive energy and touch many youth who are about to get married. The concept of such a wedding is very difficult to accept to begin with, but this will surely become popular in the long run. People will come to realise that nature, and not fire, should be the witness to solemnise a wedding, and nature worship is the best form of worship”.