Hello from IWA Team,
Today, we’ll discuss events in Coorg Kodava Wedding Program.
Coorg Kodava Wedding Program
Weddings in Coorg are packed with an assortment of interesting and unique rituals.
This is the ritual where the girl’s hand is asked in marriage. When a family with an eligible bachelor hears of a suitable girl in the community, a member from the family along with an elderly person known as an ‘aruva’ visit the girl’s house to ask her hand in marriage. The girl’s family can ask for the boy’s horoscope, but not the other way round! After the horoscopes are matched and the families agree to the alliance, a date for the betrothal ceremony is arranged.
Kuri Maaduva or Betrothal Ceremony
An elderly person from the groom’s family or okka, along with the ‘aruva’ visits the bride’s home. The head of the bride’s family/clan invites the aruva and others for the joyous celebrations. An astrologer is asked to suggest the muhurta or the auspicious day for the wedding rites. He writes it on the lagna patrike or the marriage letter and presents it to the families.
At the ceremony, the central hall, known as the nellakki nadu bade, where Goddess Lakshmi is believed to reside, is ritually purified. A ‘thaliyathakki bolcha’ is placed here. This is a lit oil lamp, placed on a bell metal plate along with a few grains of rice. The two families face each other as they stand across the lamp. The aruvas of the families solemnize the betrothal and the alliance is sealed on the promise that the wedding will be done according to traditional customs.
Kuri Maaduva or Betrothal Ceremony
The aruva and another elderly person from the groom’s okka or clan, fold their hands in front of the lamp and place a piece of jewelry or five coins or panas on the plate, for the bride. This is symbolic of a pledge.
Karik Muripa and Panda Pani
The former ritual is about chopping vegetables for a curry, while the latter is about putting up the wedding ‘pandal.’ A day before the wedding, family members from both sides as well as other villagers, get together for the Karik Muripa. The women help cut vegetables, while the men set up the pandal or the wedding awning.
One of the posts of the awning is supposed to be crafted out of a branch that exudes sap. Banana stumps with fruit on them are tied to each of the posts, and the awning is decorated with strings of flowers and mango leaves. After this ceremony is over, the boy and the girl pray to the sacred lamp in their homes and touch the feet of the elders and parents, thrice, to seek their blessings.
This is the ritual, where the bride’s trousseau is packed. Family members get together at the nellaki nadu bade or the central hall and fill up boxes with clothes, jewelry, money and utensils.
This is the ceremony, where the canopy for the wedding ceremony is constructed on the day of the marriage. A freshly washed bolt of white cloth is tied below the awning. It is supposed to stretch till the central hall. Next, a length of red silk cloth is tied below the white canopy, at the place where the bride and the groom will be seated for the wedding ceremony. Ripe bananas, a coconut, a cucumber and three betel leaves hang from each corner of the cloth, while three areca nuts or the flowers of these nuts, hang from the centre of the red silk cloth.
Rituals for the groom:
On the day of the wedding, the groom sprinkles rice on a sacred lamp on the southwest corner of the house and offers his salutations. He is then led to the sacred pillar, known as the Kanni Kamba. This is supposed to be situated in the southwest corner of the courtyard inside the house. After he salutes it, he is led to the lamp in the nellaki nadu bade or central hall, where he sprinkles rice and offers his salutations. He seeks the blessings of his elders and parents before proceeding for the ritual shave.
The barber fashions a brush with hariyali grass known as garike and pats some milk with it on the groom’s face. After this, he begins to shave the boy’s facial hair as well as a small part of the forehead. The hair is mixed in a platter of milk and not a single strand is supposed to fall on the floor. This ritualistic shaving is known as kombanjoura.
Ritual bath for the groom
After the kshoura or the ritual shave, the groom is led by the bojakaara (best man) or his aruva for his bath. According to the ritual, three married ladies are supposed to pour water over him.
Dressing the groom
The best man helps the groom get dressed for the wedding. After that the groom smears vibhuti or sacred ash on his forehead and chews areca nuts and betel leaves before proceeding for his wedding ceremony. A live band, a must in Kodava weddings, begins to play when the groom arrives at the wedding venue. Holding a gejje thand, (a staff with silver bells) , he is escorted by the best man to the wedding canopy. The best man holds a parasol covered in white fabric over the groom, all through the ceremonial walk to the venue.
Rituals for the bride:
Bale Iduva or the Bangle Wearing Ceremony
The bride dresses in a long-sleeved blouse and a silk sari for the ceremony and is led by the bojakarthi or the best woman for the bangle wearing ceremony. The bangle seller and the bride sit on a mat on the floor, where the former displays his wares. Bright and pretty, the glass bangles are in every possible hue. Black bangles are a must as these are believed to ward off evil. After the bride chooses the other bangles, the bangle seller slips these onto the bride’s wrists.
Ritual bath and Dressing
The bride is led for her bath by the bojakarthi or a woman from the aruva’s family. Three married women pour water over her. The bride is helped by the bojakarthi to get dressed for the wedding ceremony. After she applies sacred ash on her forehead, she chews areca nuts and betel nuts and then steps out to walk towards the wedding venue. As in the groom’s case, the bojakarthi holds a parasol covered in white cloth over the bride’s head.
Neeredpa or Receiving guests
Elders are given special importance at a Kodava wedding. Younger family members, appointed to receive guests, welcome the elderly by touching their feet and seeking blessings. Every guest needs to be offered water to with which wash their feet.
Baale Birud or Cutting plantain stumps
Nine or more plantain stumps, in multiples of three, are attached to wooden stakes and driven into the ground, on the way leading to the wedding venue. Each of these plantain stumps measures about a yard in length. A chosen few, which includes important guests and maternal uncles of the bride and groom, have the privilege of cutting the plantain stumps for the wedding.
A procession leaves for bale birud ceremony. First, the family members and others who are to cut the plantain stumps reach the wedding house. Other family members,the aruva and invitees proceed towards the place where the plantain will be cut. They sing the batte paat or the song of the way and are accompanied by musicians or a band. They carry areca nuts, betel leaves, a small pitcher of water and a mat along with them.
The person performing the ceremony calls out and offers his prayers to the gods along with the villagers and other members of the family. Everyone removes their headgear and turbans as a mark of respect. After this, the person walks around the stumps thrice and cuts three plantain stumps with a knife known as an odi kathi. Each stump is chopped with a single stroke. Once the task is done, the person dances to the beats of drums or any other music.
Before the bride and groom arrive at the wedding venue, the aruva’s wife is supposed to light the sacred lamp in the central hall or the nellaki nadu bade. A few mats are spread facing the North-South direction and the washer man covers these with a carpet. A mukkali or a low stool covered with red cloth is placed in the center, with two others on either side. A bell-metal or silver plate with rice is kept on either side, while a metal pot with a spout, known as a kindi, is topped with milk and placed on the rice. A pair of tall brass lamps are lit and kept on either side of the wedding altar.
Separate ceremonies are held for the bride and the groom. The groom sets aside his gejje thand and odi kathi before sitting on the mukkali. A red cloth is spread out on his lap and the bojakaara sits on the right side of the groom, slightly behind him. The bojakarthi is supposed to stand behind the bride. The assembled women bless the couple followed by the men.
The groom/bride with their bojakarthi/bojakaara walk three times around the low stool at the center. They stand behind the mukkali and sprinkle rice on it thrice and touch it with their hands as a way of paying their respects to it. Before sitting, they then step over the stool with their right feet.
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