Did Hurley's Indian Wedding Insult Hinduism?

April 10, 2007 — -- Most couples would expect to go straight from wedding to honeymoon before settling into a life of marital bliss.

Unless you are a celebrity, that is, in which case no ceremony is complete without the sale of one's wedding pictures to the highest bidder.

Presumably that is what Elizabeth Hurley was thinking when she sold pictures of her seven-day Hindu wedding extravaganza for nearly $4 million to UK-based Hello magazine.

Those pictures were also slated to accompany the launch of the magazine's Indian edition.

Unfortunately for the happy couple, the sight of Elizabeth guzzling champagne and kissing her husband was too much for some residents of Jodhpur -- the conservative west Indian town where the wedding was held -- to stomach.

Last month, one of them, 44-year-old Vishnu Khandelwal, sued the couple for allegedly making a mockery of the Hindu faith during their wedding. A court is now deciding whether the case should be prosecuted.

Khandelwal argues that since the twosome were already married once in a Christian ceremony at Sudeley Castle in England, they were actually not eligible for a Hindu wedding.

His case has been taken up by well-known lawyer Hastimal Saraswat, himself no stranger to celebrity, having defended Bollywood megastars Salman Khan and Saif Ali Khan against criminal charges in the past.

This time though Saraswat will be prosecuting Hurley and her husband, Arun Nayar, for what he terms "an attack on Hindu religious sentiments." An Indian court has already begun to hear testimony related to the case, including some from unexpected quarters.

Vinod Nayar, Hurley's father-in-law, called Saraswat soon after legal proceedings commenced.

Saraswat told ABCNEWS.com that "he was initially not inclined to take the call," assuming that Nayar was upset about the charges against his son and daughter-in-law.

But then, Saraswat said, "I discovered that he was in fact really upset about the wedding, about Ms. Hurley's disrespect towards him and towards Hindu traditions at the wedding."

Nayar furnished Saraswat's team with details regarding Hurley's alleged misbehavior at the ceremony. He is also expected to submit a written and notarized statement of witness to Saraswat's legal team, stating her supposed offenses.

Apparently, the English model refused to take off her leather shoes for the ceremony -- a complete no-no, since the Hindu wedding mandap (or canopy structure) where the bride and groom sit is regarded as a sacred space, requiring that all who sit there remove their footwear, as they would to enter a temple.

Hurley is also said (and the pictures in Hello support this) to have refused to sit there altogether, preferring to perch on a sofa instead, overlooking rather than bowing to the agni (or sacred fire) before which all Hindu ceremonies take place.

All these allegations have Saraswat, Nayar and much of Jodhpur up in arms.

When ABCNEWS.com contacted Suresh Vyas, a Jodhpur-based journalist with the Hindustan Times, an English national newspaper, he said that "No one took much notice of their wedding until the pictures were published and it began to emerge that they had already been married before in England."

Vyas said, "They were already living together as husband and wife before their Hindu wedding, which seems outrageous to people here. If you don't care about religious sentiments, why have a religious wedding?" Now, Vyas said, "Community meetings are taking place about this issue. After all, Jodhpur is not Bombay."

Indian journalist Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr., of DNA (Daily News Analysis), a Mumbai-based daily, laughed off any expectations of public protest against Hurley and company, telling ABCNEWS.com, "Frankly, no one cares about this in Bombay or Delhi. The wedding itself failed to create any ripples, and poor Hello, although launched with much fanfare in India, sank without a trace."

"Perhaps," he said puckishly, "this is the latest attempt to keep Liz Hurley in the news!"

In that case, it seems to have worked. But now that legal proceedings have begun in earnest, with her new father-in-law serving as an important witness against her, Hurley may well find that all publicity isn't good publicity. And sometimes, a picture costs more than it pays.