As the wedding nears, relatives continue to arrive. Uncle comes, looking appreciatively at Auntie, who has been losing weight. A male cousin arrives with his shy, sixteen year old wife and their brood of children. Phulan grows anxious, and Shabanu gently reassures her. Rahim-sahib sends Phulan a gift of pearls and rubies. Phulan gushes over the beautiful jewels, but Shabanu looks at them with revulsion: he is merely, she tells Phulan, buying what he wants. Phulan gasps at Shabanu, and Shabanu closes her mouth, realizing that she must keep her bitter thoughts to herself, or Phulan might tell Dadi.

Two days before the wedding, the mahendi celebration begins. At the mahendi celebration the women gather to decorate the bridal party's feet and hands with henna and to prepare the young bride for marriage with advice, dancing, fragrant oils, and teas. At sunset, the women gather around Phulan and begin painting her palms. Phulan timidly asks Sharma for advice and wisdom. Sharma cryptically tells the young girl that she must please her husband by learning to keep her "innermost beauty" hidden deep within her, so that her husband must always reach out to her to find it. Phulan seems confused, but the words lift Shabanu's heart.

Dawn approaches and the women prepare to dress Phulan. Mama hugs the grieving and confused Shabanu and promises her that she will heal. Shabanu cries in her mother's arms. Shabanu wanders outside and sits with Mithoo. Suddenly, with her friend beside her, she reconciles herself to losing Murad, and peace steals over her.

The women dress Phulan in a rich red silk chadr. They lead her out to Murad and his family. The two young people exchange vows and ascend to sit on an elaborate platform amidst singing and dancing guests. Murad drinks from a glass of milk and hands the glass to Phulan. In her first act of obedience to him, she drinks. The couple sees each other for the first time as man and wife in the mirror Bibi Lal holds under Phulan's chadr. Later, Bibi Lal pulls the veil off of Phulan's face, and Mama and Shabanu lead her to the camel on which Murad waits. The women cry and wail as Phulan and her new family disappear.

On the next day, Murad's family gives a feast. Rahim-sahib attends, and he watches Shabanu closely the whole time. She throws him one glance and spends the rest of the day feeling his eyes on her back.


In some ways, the wedding preparations serve to turn Phulan into an even more beautiful object for Murad's consumption. Phulan feels pleased by her beauty and desirability, but as Shabanu is quick to observe, men can use this pleasure to manipulate and control women. Beauty takes time, effort, and resources to maintain, and it fades with age. By relying on beauty to attract a man who will provide for her, a woman becomes enslaved to conceptions of beauty and men's responses to it. She cannot depend on herself.