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(Part One)

As remembered by Charles F. Lewis, Kingdom of Bahrain is thrilled to present Charles Lewis’ articles in this memory lane.  Even though these articles may be memories for Charles, but these are highly informative in narrating the traditional marriage celebrating customs, which were quite common in the forties, fifties, or sixties.  Needless to say, Charles has put considerable time, effort, and humor in preparing these articles, and his reflections are praiseworthy, something to learn from. Enjoy.

I fondly remember the grand marriage celebrations which took place in the areas like Bennekudru, Dharmashala, Halekodi, Hanehalli, Hosala, Kachhur, Matpadi, Moodahadu/kudru, (Pandeshwar) and Nagarmutt, the surrounding villages of the historical town called “Barkur”, during my early life there, between the years 1955 and 1973.  It is difficult to forget those marriages because most of the people in those days followed a tradition that was indistinguishable from every marriage.  Definitely there is no comparison to the marriages of yester years to those of the present.  Those days the preparations for the marriages were lavish, elaborate, and lasted for several days when compared to a few hours involved in the marriage celebrations of now a days, where the invited guests attend the church service (if time permits!) and the reception, followed by lunch or dinner.  In a few hours the wedding party is over.  In every situation ‘time’ plays a major role.  Proposed marriages were the rule of that time and were mostly practiced as against the love marriages these days.  There is no harm in going for the love marriage as these marriages will have better understanding and love between the couples, but infrequently we see few of the marriages end in disputes and then, of course, separation.  It is impossible to imagine about such broken marriages where the ultimate sufferers are their precious children.  Who will guide and bring the situation to normalcy in such calamitous circumstances?  Nobody would come forward and only because God is aware and is in full control during these conditions, He can confer peace and comfort to the estranged couples and their children.

As I attended several marriages during that period and to the best of my knowledge and ability, for your reading pleasure, let me elaborate below about the manner in which the Christian marriage celebrations took place in Barkur region in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

The Beginning

The marriage proceedings begin from the time any two families put forward their proposal (Sairik) and shook hands to unite their Son or Daughter in marriage.  The news of such ‘Sairik’ used to spread like wildfire throughout the surrounding villages and even to distant towns.  The moment anyone sees some unknown people entering a house, the gossip would start as to who those people visited that house, and why of course.  May be, perhaps, to propose for their son/daughter, etc...etc...  Immediately after that the news of the finalization of ‘Sairik’ remains the most talked about subject of the village until the Engagement (Kharaar) date is announced.  The real excitement begins from this time onwards.  On the day of ‘Kharaar’ the Groom with his relatives and friends meet the Bride, her relatives and friends at the Church.  In the presence of the Parish Priest they conclude the Engagement Ceremony followed by lunch or dinner to celebrate the newly formed alliance between the two unknown (or less known) families.  Once the engagement is over, the Groom and Bride have been always flooded with lunch and dinner invitations by their relatives, friends and neighbors thus demonstrating their true love and bond for one another.  The newly established relationship will be strengthened further by the confirmation of a marriage date.  During those days hardly any marriage invitation cards were sent to relatives and friends.  Most of the villagers have never even heard of or seen a Marriage Invitation Card.   Friends and relatives were personally invited for the marriages by the close relatives of the Groom or the Bride, such as Father, Brother or Uncle.  This was how the hosts treated their guests, relatives and friends with complete respect and humility, and personal touch, or personal contacts.  (Not by e-mails!)

The ‘ROCE’ at the Groom and the Bride’s residences

On this day, all are busy with various tasks such as erecting a tent (Maatov) in the courtyard, cleansing of all messy areas, filling water, scraping large quantity of coconuts, grinding rice or masalas, cutting vegetables, preparing fish and sweet dish (Vorn) besides the usual rice for the dinner after the ‘Roce’ ceremony.  The Roce was always celebrated a day before the wedding.  During this ceremony it was nice to watch the Groom or the Bride, in their respective homes, being drenched with coconut milk and oil applied by their close relatives, (with the sign of the cross on the forehead) and friends and the (elderly) ladies singing very funny, but meaningful songs (Rosachyo voviyo) during the proceedings of Roce application.  This Roce ceremony is considered to be the “Final Clean Bath” for the Groom and the Bride before their marriage.  After the Roce it was time for the Prayers and Rosary followed by the grand dinner to be served on banana leaves with fish, vegetable, rice, mango pickle (Ambyachem Lonnchem – mouth-watering!!! even now!) and sweet dish (Vorn), tasty preparations, cooked in cooperation with all near and dear ones.  Huge pegs of local liquor ‘Soro’ remained the main attraction to the drinking adults.  Local musical Band was always present for every marriage and the famous one in those days was a Band from Koteshwar.  Their very presence was enough for many enthusiastic dancers, of course, after few pegs of ‘Soro’, to swing to the melodious musical tunes of good old Hindi and Konkanni songs.  Notable among the Hindi songs were from films like Mere Sanam, Sangam, Dosti, Teesri Manzil, An evening in Paris, Dil Deke Dekho, etc.., and from Konkanni only two - Nirmon and Amchem Noxib were very famous indeed. (‘Ami Dogi Sejara’ came much later!) Here I would like to make mention of a very important and famous lady, whose presence was instrumental and vital in almost every marriage.  The famous lady I am referring to is none other than our beloved Asu Mavshi (the late Mrs. Assumptha Fernandes, wife of the late Mr. Jerome Fernandes of Moodahadu Village).  There were no Engagements, no “Roces’, no ‘Kazaars’ and no ‘Parties’ without the graceful presence of our dearest Asu Mavshi.  Her unbiased and untiring service to thousands of weddings in and around Barkur was remarkable and truly praiseworthy.  She was exceptionally famous cook (Randpinn) specialized in delicious food and the guests who tasted her preparation at any of the ceremonies have left absolutely nothing on their banana leaves.  (Finger licking good!)  Believe it or not, in India we the rich and the health conscious villagers never use our lunch or dinner plates for the second time.  (I meant the BANANA LEAVES!!!  We invented the real and original disposable dinner plates hope some one won’t patent them!).

I would also like to highlight one of the funniest times my friends and I enjoyed the most during the ‘Roce’ nights.  After all the relatives and guests applied ‘Roce’, the coconut milk, on the Groom or on the Bride they would join to recite Rosary prayer, lead by the elderly person of the family or of the village and in our Moodahadu Kudru it was almost always by the Late Mr. Jerome Fernandes.  We mostly tried to stay away from this reciting Rosary as it would never finish within a short time.  Whenever we friends attended there was always laughter as we never took Rosary seriously and on many occasions we heard our dear Asu Mavshi, the Cook In-charge, yelling out at one of the ladies during the middle of Hail Mary, Maggie, maasle kadiyeche meet chakon polle (Maggie, taste the salt of fish curry); Eliza, sheeth sizlengi polle (Eliza, see if the rice is cooked) etc... etc... and then continue her Hail Mary.  Such was the attention she paid, and the responsibility she took upon herself in preparing quality food, without being exposed to any culinary arts!  Such laughing incidents were common and were of great fun for all the youngsters at the Roce nights, besides attempting to try out a cigarette.

(End of Part One of Two...Watch this place for part Two)

For a glimpse of the life at Barkur as remembered by Barkurians, check archives

Barkur, located in Udupi Taluk, Karnataka, India. 576 210

Copyright Kishoo, Barkur 2002.