18 April 2009

Kerala Wedding

I attended my friend's wedding in Kerala last year. Yesterday she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. In India as one would be aware of, there are thousand of different communities and equal number of different cultures. Here one need not go to another country to observe a different culture. Every state has a unique culture by itself. Kerala is just one hour journey from Tamil Nadu where I live but the culture and language is all so different.

The venue of the wedding is usually the brides place. Sometimes they may choose to have it in the house of the bride or they may rent a Kalyana Mandapam (Wedding Hall). The typical wedding is a two day affair in Kerala (the duration is different according to communities).

This particular wedding I am talking about took place in a temple in the bride's town. The bride's side invitees gathered in her house in the previous day itself. There was an elaborate feast at her house. The entire house was decorated with lights and flowers. This gave a shimmering as well as a fragrant experience.

I reached there in the late evening because I had a funny stint with the auto rickshaw driver who took me to a wrong village all together. By the time I was there, the bride was fully decorated and was receiving the guests. She looked gorgeous and her happiness reflected on her face. I hardly got to speak to her that evening as she was incessantly receiving her relatives and friends.

Only in night we got some time to catch up with each other. We called her fiancee and she introduced him to me. Please note that this is not a love marriage. She got to know the bridegroom just a month ago. So the shyness and a bit of that awkwardness was still there. He was a warm and jovial person and I was very happy she got a good person for her husband.

Next day the muhurtam (auspicious time to tie the knot) was to 6.30 am. So all of us woke up as early as 3.30am and started decorating the bride. This is the most important day for her and she should look her best. I tied the sari for her as I am quiet good at it. Her parents had bought her gold worth 10,000$. A normal middle class family offers so much to their daughter.

Economically well off people give four or more times more than this. This has been a practice in India from time immemorial. It initially started as creating social security for the girl. At time of adversity the couple can sell or pledge the gold given by the father and take care of themselves. The property and business go to the sons. But today giving gold is more a status symbol and marriages are more a platform to flaunt your riches. One may have heard about Arun Nair's extravagant wedding.

We all proceeded to the temple where the bridegroom's party was waiting for us. Since the wedding was in the temple they did not perform much of rituals. Usually the rituals go on for almost the entire day. But in the temple they do away all that. The couple took the blessings of the presiding deity of the temple which was Sri Bhagavati Amman, and the priest initiated a homa (sacrificial fire). The groom tied the customary Thali (the symbol of a married woman) chain around the neck of the bride. That's it! They are man and wife! They circumambulated the homa and the groom took the oath to take care of his wife till the end of his life. Ironically this is done in sanskrit language which not understandable by anyone there including the couple to be married. So the groom really does not really know what oath he has taken.

Today's Indian marriages are just rituals without any meaning attached it it. No one is curious or bothered to know the significance of what is done. There is jubilation sans meaning. But fortunately majority of Indians are bound by the society which prevents them to break the vow of marriage and so the marriage is safe. But unscrupulous people are here now in the increasing trend also. It is just some time before Indian society will also talk in the following terms-'my children and your children are playing with our children'. Luckily it is not so untill now. Or is it?

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