- Nikkah *
Like the Muslims else where, a
Muslim marriage in Kerala is a simple contract between the boy and
the girl's father. The presence of the girl is not
essential for the marriage. The "nikkah" - the ritual of contract
- needs to be made in the
presence of two male witnesses and the services of the mullah (musaliar
in local language), is needed for observing some of the Islamic
guidelines. The groom needs to give a mehr (dower) to the girl's
father while accepting his daughter as his wife. Islam does not
stipulate any religious ceremony for marriage as such. Consequently,
local flavor has found their way in to marriage ceremonies.
Like other communities in kerala, the elders occupy the center stage
and decide the future of their issue. Rather than the compatibility
factor, the financial and social standings get prominence. Once
the initial discussions between two families are over, girl and
boy get to meet each other. If they like each other, a particular
day is fixed for the conduct of the initial process, "valayidal"-
the custom of giving gold ornaments to the girl. The date for the
function of engagement is arrived at through mutual consultations.
On this day, some male members of the bride's family will go to
the groom's house, and after reciting some parts of Koran (usually
the first chapter); the boy will be given some gold ornaments or
cash. At some places dowry is passed. This betrothal is a contract,
not bound by any law or religious custom, and can be broken, if
one wishes so. On the preceding
day of the marriage, sister of the groom and some female relatives
proceed to the bride's house
to take part in "mailanchi"(or mehendi)- a practice of applying
henna on the girl's hand as part of beautifying her. On the marriage
day, the groom and his entourage will reach the place of marriage
(it can be held at any place. Usually it is held at marriage halls
and some use the option of marrying at mosques) at the appointed
time. Brother of the girl receives
him there and a bouquet and garland is offered to the groom.
Then the groom is led to the place where "nikkah"- the marriage
contract- will take place. After reciting some portions from the
holy Koran, by the mullah, the groom and the father of the bride
are made to express the oath of acceptance. Bride's father makes
the statement to the effect that he marries away the girl to the
prospective husband according to the Islamic way. The bridegroom
then declares his acceptance of that commitment and that he has
married the woman according to the terms specified. After this the
groom is led to the women's section (men and women are segregated
at all the functions). Here he will tie a gold chain around the
neck of the bride, assisted by his sister.
After the wedding there is a big reception, given by the bride's
parents to guests from both sides.
After the reception bride is taken to the groom's house and later
they will proceed towards the bride's house.
Christian Marriages *
Except for some variation in basic customs, Christians of
kerala has wholeheartedly assimilated themselves into the fabric
of Kerala society.
But, still, some differences persist in the wedding rituals and
they are worth exploring. Like in other religions, here too the
parents select prospective partners. After extensive background
checks, including financial and social standing, and several meetings
later, between the parents of bride and groom, the actual players
get to encounter each other. Once things are endorsed, they have
to notify their individual churches to procure sanction. Once the
sanction is granted, they have to undergo a marriage preparation
course conducted by the church. After that, at a day of their convenience
(except on Fridays), they have to present themselves before the
church officer for
"manasammatham" (engagement), accompanied by friends and relatives.
A prayer will be held before engagement ceremony and afterwards
the vicar gives the blessing. Rings can be swapped after this, but
it is not there in the general itinerary. Two male persons from
both the parties have to stand witness for this ceremony. This will
be recorded in the church register. After this for the next 3 successive
Sundays, while the church is in congregation, this engagement will
be announced. This is to inform others and to give them a chance
to file objection, if they have any. Alternatively this information
will be displayed at the church notice board. If some objections
are noticed, church will conduct an inquiry regarding this and proper
actions would be taken. There is no bar on breaking the engagement.
The parents of the bride and groom,
after mutual consultations, fix a date for the marriage. Normally
the wedding is held at the diocese of the groom.
On the appointed day, both the
bride and groom, along with their relatives and friends, will reach
the marriage place before
the appointed time. At the given time, both the groom and bride
will enter the church, escorted by relatives and friends, and proceed
towards the altar. Some of the customs of traditional kerala wedding,
"thalikettu" - the process of tying the sacred thread around bride's
neck, giving "mantrakodi"- the wedding sari, are incorporated into
the Christian wedding. As soon as the vicar enters the altar, the
process of marriage (divyabali) begins. Reciting of those portions
of bible which are relevant to the marriage function will be done
by the vicar as well as the congregation, accompanied by music.
When this function reaches its midpoint the vicar asks the groom
to tie the nuptial knot, followed by the presentation of dress.
Hindu Marriages *
FOR HINDU, Marriage is the attempted union of two different families
rather than the union of two individuals. Social status,
financial security and a host of other things are take into consideration
while searching for prospective matches. It is assumed that when
the horoscopes foretell compatibility, things will progress smoothly.
The young people get a chance to see each other. But, in most cases,
what makes the marriage work is the trouble shooting done by the
parents. After the prospective horoscopes are matched "nakshatra
porutham" - matching of the
stars by the astrologer, an auspicious day and time is fixed.
At this appointed time family members and the boy will go to the
girl's house, escorted by close relatives and the "jathakams" (horoscopes)
are exchanged between the father
of the boy and that of the girl.
This will be performed in front of the picture of their favorite
god or goddess. Betel leaves, Betel nut, fruits, Incense sticks,
Nilavilakku (traditional kerala lamp made of brass) and bhasmam
(vermilion) will also be placed besides the picture of the deity.
Then the girl and boy, in traditional dress, will exchange rings
in presence of the gathering. Usually the engagement is held as
a sacred one and is not allowed to withdraw from it.
FUNCTIONS BEFORE MARRIAGE
For fixing the day of the marriage. The usual procedure for this
is that on the day given by the astrologer, two to three male members
of the grooms family will go to the brides house and gives the astrology
slip mentioning the day, date and the exact time (muhurtam) to conduct
the wedding. Normally Tuesdays and Fridays are avoided for
MARRIAGE DAY FUNCTIONS
On the marriage day, the girl proceeds to visit the temple of her
favorite deity. There an offering "vazhipadu"
is made in the name, and star, of the groom. It is called 'astothara
At the auspicious time, the relatives of the bride will receive
the groom and his relatives. The brother of the girl (or the person
having that position) will apply sandal paste on the forehead of
the boy, and offers him the garland. Afterwards the boy will be
lead to the 'mandapam' - an elevated place usually decorated by
Then the bride is led to the mandapam, just before the muhurtam,
in company of 9 to 11 girls in a procession of 'thalapoli'- a custom
of leading the important person to the stage by girls holding a
small circular vessel, made of brass or steel, with a coconut lamp
and flowers. Then the father (or other elders if he is dead) will
lead her to the mandapam and seats her on the left side of the groom.
At the appointed time groom will tie the sacred thread (this is
usually a gold chain, but some people prefer an yellow thread),
amidst the compulsory 'nadaswarem'- a mixed band of kerala musical
instruments-with the help of his sister (or of those who occupies
that position). At this moment the gathering of friends and relatives
will shower floral petals on the newly wedded couple. Then both
of them will garland each other. He then gives her 'pudava'- the
traditional sari in a silver or steel platter. Then both of them
will circle the mandapam, thrice. A pujari will also be present
to help them go through the rites without hitch. He will be offered
some 'dakshina'- a practice of giving some token money for the guidance.
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