MUMBAI, Apr 19: Marriages are made in heaven - one wedding Saturday in Pune came pretty close.
Pune adventure sports enthusiast Shital Mahajan got married to Vaibhav Rane, working as a software engineer with Nokia in Finland, around 600 feet above the earth in a hot air balloon.
Hindu priest Milind Bildikar Guruji and Shital's father Kamlakar Mahajan accompanied the young couple in the small basket dangling below the huge multi-hued balloon.
Shital, 25, sported a red sari with golden designs while Vaibhav was attired in a cream-coloured churidar-kurta for the ceremony.
Though a bit wary of the swaying basket, Guruji chanted the Vedic hymns and conducted the 'saat pheras' around a makeshift 'havan' (going around the holy fire seven times) while the couple exchanged garlands.
Kamlakar "gave away" his daughter Shital to the groom.
Vaibhav then tied the traditional gold-and-black-beaded 'mangalsutra' necklace around the bride's neck as the balloon gently wobbled in the cool breeze. The morning sun swathed them in golden hue while their families and others looked up from the ground below.
Shortly after coming down to earth, Shital's 'bidaai' ceremony (leaving parents' home for husband's house) was performed. A joyous but weeping Shital told IANS that the dream towards which she had been working for the past four-five months had finally borne fruit.
"I wanted to do something different and memorable. With the support of my family, my husband's family and scores of others, I have achieved it. All the ceremonies were completed without a hitch as planned," she said in an emotion-choked voice before passing the phone to Vaibhav.
Vaibhav, hailing from Madhya Pradesh capital Bhopal, said that he had done para-jumping a couple of times in Finland so the experience was not entirely novel. "However, my family members are very thrilled at this unique marriage and everybody supported our endeavour," he said.
The couple will depart for Finland April 30 and hope to return in October for Diwali.
The expense of conducting the marriage in the balloon came to around Rs.600,000.
Shital holds several world records in adventure sports - the first amateur woman to achieve free fall jumps on the North Pole (April 2004) and South Pole (December 2006).
Shital said the Limca Book of Records would recognise her marriage "feat" and the couple would also apply for recognition to the Guinness World Records soon.
When the wedding procession reached the Oxford Golf Course, on the outskirts of Pune, at around 5 a.m., they were accompanied by weather specialists. The experts tested the winds for a favourable speed before allowing the balloon with the 'wedding party' to take-off around 7.30 a.m.
The balloon gently glided up to cheers from the crowd below. The priest began his ceremonies immediately and completed the proceedings before the balloon landed an hour later.
On April 18, 2004, Shital did her maiden parachute jump from 2,400 feet above the North Pole at minus 37 degrees Celsius. She jumped from 15,000 feet over the South Pole at minus 38 degrees Celsius on Dec 15, 2007 - becoming the first amateur woman in the world to jump over both poles without trials.
After the South Pole jump, she was awarded the prestigious Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award by then president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.