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Catholic Marriages

Traditions and Customs

Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues explains how traditional marriages are full of meaning unlike the vulgar displays of wealth that rob the sacrament of marriage of its strength and beauty

Different traditions and customs were being observed in Goa, which are today dwindling. The reason for this loss of interest in maintaining traditions could be modernisation of society or the knowledge that traditions only belong to the masses. This is the attitude that the middle and upper classes along with the nouveau riche, have towards the tradition and customs of a people. Today marriages either take place in the traditional way, by selecting the life partner from the proposal one receives, or by directly deciding to get married to the person of choice. The latter we call ‘love marriage’.

Earlier marriages used to be arranged by a middleman who was called mali or raibari, who used to take the proposal to the groom’s or the bride’s family and acted as an intervener between both families. In some cases, if the family liked either the boy or the girl, they would directly approach the respective family with the proposal.

Utor:

After the decision to go ahead with the marriage is made, a formal meeting takes place. This is attended preferably by the parents of both the partners and any other family member, with or without the middleman. At this meeting discussions are held on how much dowry is to be paid along with other terms and conditions, which would include the wedding event itself.

Engagement:

Nowadays the engagement takes place at the bride’s house or at a place convenient for her family. The expenses are borne by her family. However, it is not mandatory to have a formal engagement. This option is left open to the families.

Preparations:

As the wedding day approaches, arrangements are to be made to style the bridal gown. These preparations are made by booking a tailor and an assistant (optional), who would come over to the bridegroom’s house for a number of days in order to stitch the wedding clothes, inclusive of bridesmaids, female relations, etc. Prior to the arrival of the tailor, the fabrics are to be purchased. For that exercise, the relatives of both the bride and the bridegroom go shopping on an appointed day. The most important purchases on that day are: the wedding gown, the saddo, a dress for the torna-boda.

Saddo:

The saddo, which is plain or printed with a red background, is a significant dress. It is even more important than the wedding gown. The shopkeeper while handling over the fabric to the yesman or any female relative of the groom, who is not a widow, says “borem borem zaun okle noureachem” in other words “may the couple be happy.”

The saddo is important because it is with that dress that the bride begins her married life at her husband’s house. When the bride comes into the house for the first time on the day of the wedding, the saddo is placed on her shoulders and the ceremony is accompanied by the zotis.

On the day the saddo fabric is to be cut, relatives and neighbours are invited to witness the ceremony. The tailor cuts two strips of white cloth or alternatively uses cotton tape to make a cross and cuts the fabric. A statuette of Mother Mary is placed on a plate on the table or on the floor mat. Blessings of Our Lady are invoked on the Saddo and those present; place some money in the plate, which is then shared by the tailor and his assistant. Firecrackers are burst to announce the cutting of the saddo.

Civil registration:

The next step is Civil Registration for the couple. According to the Portuguese civil code practiced in Goa, the registration is done at the Civil Registrar’s office in the presence of parents, close relatives and two witnesses. Thereafter, the Registrar affixes a notice on the board inviting the public to submit objection if any within a stipulated period of three weeks.

  1. After the Civil Registration, the couple has to get married religiously, according to the Catholic religion, within 3 months from the Civil Registration day. In case the religious ceremony does not take place with this period, the civil registration is null and void.
  2. In case a person wants to get married only by Civil Registration, then on completion of 15 days from the date of registration, (known as ‘first signature’) the couple has to approach the Civil Registrar’s office to sign again), and confirm the civil marriage, which in this case is a permanent registration.
  3. If there is a genuine reason that the couple getting married cannot wait for 15 days to solemnize the religious marriage or confirm with the second signature, they have to apply to the Delegado , the Assistant Public Prosecutor (APP) to condone the mandatory period of 15 days.
  4. In case either party is a foreigner or both are foreigners and they wish to get married in Goa, they have to ask permission from the Civil Judge, Senior Division Court, by moving written applications. After obtaining the same, they should approach the Civil Registrar’s office for the marriage.
  5. For the purpose of marriage, the age majority is 21 years. A bride between 18 to 21 years cannot enjoy emancipation by the court.

However consent can be given:

  1. Orally by both the parents at the time of registration; or
  2. Consent of surviving spouse and death certificate of the other; or
  3. In the absence of parents in Goa, their written consent duly notarized / authenticated containing detail; or
  4. In case of disagreement between parents, the court gives or refuses consent; or
  5. In the absence of both the parents or in their absence, family council may give consent; or
  6. In deserving cases, a court can also emancipate a minor entitling her to contract a marriage.

Banns:

Banns are read in the church in conformity with the Ecclesiastical Law on three consecutive Sundays, just a week or weeks before the wedding.

In case the marriage is to be held within a short span of time and there is no possibility of reading all three banns, than either one or two may be read. If it is not possible to read even one on any single Sunday, special exemption is to be obtained from the Patriarch. The banns proclaim to the people the impending marriage of the couple, and are a request for objection if any, from the public in general. Objections could be raised if a person was attempting to have a second marriage, if she/he had an affair with another person than the one to be married, etc.

Chuddo:

On the day of the first ban, the bride is invited over to the house of her maternal uncle for lunch. She is made to wear the chuddo. In the absence of the maternal uncle, the maternal aunt performs the chuddo ceremony. This is a special ceremony where the kakonkar (bangle-seller) comes to the house and fits bangles on the hand of the flower-bedecked bride in the presence of other women. The bangles are to be worn in the following order: folli (green background with yellow lines), green, red, yellow, folli and green, red, yellow. It is said that no bangles should be broken, and as such the bride was not expected to do any work, lest a bangle breaks and cast evil on the betrothed.

The wearing of the bangles is to be accompaniment of zotis

Noman Bapak, Noman Putrak,
Noman Spirita Santak
Poilo, poilo versu gaitanv
Povitr, sacramenta socla are viva
Dump ghatlo trimpla are viva….
Povittra Sacramenta

Noman Noman Bapa re viva
Chuddeak bensanv di ghe
Sorgincha Ankuar Morie

In some cases the chuddo ceremony takes place at the bride’s place itself and the same may be worn the previous day. Bangles symbolize married life for the bride, and they are broken only on her dead husband’s coffin. Widows do not wear glass bangles. The kakonkar is paid a measure of rice, one coconut, 5 bananas and some money.

Ros:

The first coconut milk called apros is used for the ceremony. A day before the wedding, the bride and the groom, each at their respective houses, are made to sit in the main hall or in the matov (pandal). Relatives and neighbours are invited over to apply the ros. The ros is applied to different parts of the body, starting with the head and then to the limbs. The parents do it first, then the close relatives neighbours and friends.

The following zoti is sung:

Santa Khursachi Kure, re viva
Coplar cadlo Khuris
Rosak bensav dita Ora viva
Sorguincho Jezu Krist
Santa Khursachi Kuru, re viva
Coplar cadlo Khuris
Rosak bensav dita Ora viva
Sorguinchi Ankuar Morie

Ros is a farewell to the single life, and is probably used for purification.
After the ros each of them are taken for a ceremonial bath with songs sung in a group. In the same way as for the ros the close relatives and friends keep pouring a tumbler of water. Thereafter the bride takes a proper bath in privacy. The guests are served with latol a sweet made from rice, coconut and jaggery.

Beggar’s lunch “Bicarenchem jevon”:

A lunch is held in honour of the departed souls of the house, who are represented by beggars. The speciality of the day is the sambarachi koddi, a heavily spiced aromatic curry, cooked with dry prawns and mango sol (dry unripe salted mango). Sweets include soji made of wheat and sugar cooked in coconut juice, onn made of coconut juice and gram dal. Bread and a banana is a must for this meal and small oddes made of rice and udid dal. The oddes are made on the previous day of the meal, and the rice is ground on the grinding stone (datim). The act of frying these oddes is called caiti. All this is accompanied by zotis. It is very interesting to note that though oddes are small in size, (the size of a rupee coin), they were flattened individually between two jackfruit leaves and a large number of them poured into the oil. This lunch is served on a patravalli, a plate made by sewing together jackfruit leaves. Liquor and beedis are also served. Special paddy is boiled for this meal and for the wedding meal. On this day while washing the rice, zotis are sung.

Noman, Noman, Noman Bapa re viva
Noman, Noman, Putra
Ora viva tanduanc bensanv
Sorguimchi Sorguimchi Ankvar Moriek

Before the cooking for this meal begins, a coconut is broken in front of the house by the elders of the family. So also zotis are sung when other items are being prepared.

Before serving the meal the food is placed on a patravalli with all the items cooked for the lunch along with a bread, banana and beedi. The latter was made of dumpti (tobacco wrapped in dry jackfruit leaf). The patravalli is then kept outside the house and only after the crow starts eating from the leaf, are the others served.

In case no bicareanchem jevon is served, then beggars are given one measure of rice and some money.

The Wedding:

A pandal was erected in front of the house of both the bride and the groom, namely the matov. When the first madi was to be laid for the matov, an elder of the house pours a chalice full of liquor feni into the opening and then inserts the madi. The matov is to be erected either on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. Monday is considered to be a day devoted to the spirits, whereas Thursday and Friday are inauspicious as being the two days Jesus Christ suffered the most.

On the wedding day the calçada as the wedding dress is known, and other paraphernalia needed by the bride is sent to her house by the groom with a close relative, either sister or sister-in-law or an aunt, who has to help the bride to dress. When the calçada leaves the house firecrackers are burst to inform the neighbours.

Before the groom starts dressing up, his neighbours are also informed of the event by the firing of firecrackers, and the yesman and a close relative go to remind the neighbours that they should start dressing up to accompany the bridegroom to the church and attend the nuptials. Before leaving the house, both the bride and the groom, each at their own homes are given blessings by their parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends. Gifts in cash or kind are presented to them. A relative or a friend may sit with a pen and paper to note down the gifts received by the couple. Zotis are also sung.

Caiboro dista caiboro sopta cai
Saibinn Merchelicheo, (2)
Jasmelin miuni bensav dita ga noiva,
Lograr tuca zaunc, (2)

The groom as well as the bride, if from the same village, used to go on foot to the church along with the relatives and the friends. The groom as well as the bride were protected from the heat of the sun by a big red umbrella, which were carried by Mahars called Sontrekar or umbrella-bearer.

After the nuptials, the couple walks back home for the reception, which is usually held at the groom’s house. This group of people along with the couple used to be called Or. They would not step into the house directly on return from the church, but would go to the neighbour’s house, until the relatives, neighbours and friends arrived. The groom goes to invite all his neighbours to dress up and accompany him.

The bride has to step into the house with her right foot. The mother-in-law fixes a gold chain on the neck of the bride and then the couple is taken in by the other couple of the house. The wedded couple is taken directly to the oratory where they have to kneel down for prayers on the ring cushions. The bride has to place some money under the ring cushion. This money is taken by the servant of the groom’s house. Laudate is sung by the village-mistrel. The mother-in-law if not a widow, or sister-in-law or a sister, places the saddo on the shoulders of the bride.

Denem:

On the wedding day the dowry in kind which is given to the bride is also delivered to the groom’s house. After the wedding reception is over, the articles are brought into the matov and after verifying that all the items asked for have been brought, taken into the house.

Xim:

After the reception is over, relatives and guests who are still at the celebration, go to the junction of a road and draw an imaginary line called xim literally ‘boundary line’ in Konkani. The bride’s relatives and guests stand on one side of the line and the groom’s on the other side. A prayer is offered and wishes expressed for the prosperity and happiness of the married couple. Two bottles of liquor are taken by the groom’s family, of which one is handed over to the bride’s relatives, which is carried by them to drink on their way home and the second bottle is served to all those present. If any liquor remains it is poured on the xim. Liquor from the bottle is never taken home. In fact, before the liquor is served to those present, a chalice fullis is poured on the xim. Later, one or two relatives from the bride’s side, cross the xim to formally invite the bridal couple to the bride’s house, which in Konkani is called apovnemm (invitation) for the return of the couple on the next day, for what is known as the torna-boda in Portuguese. In earlier times, there used to be two receptions, one at the groom’s house and another at the bride’s house. On the wedding day the reception will not begin, until the Or enter the house, however, at the bride’s reception, the function begins even before the couple arrives.

After the wedding reception there is a festive dinner or lunch, depending on the time of the wedding where relatives, neighbours and the bride’s relatives are invited. This is known as Mez. The bride’s parents hand over the bride to the groom’s parents or brothers saying aichen tumchi, ‘henceforth she is your responsibility’. After the the dinner or lunch, the family members and relatives bless the bride and the gifts given to her. In the same way the bridegroom is blessed at the bride’s place.

Muino:

On the evening of the same day or the next day the couple go to the bride’s house, for a reception called the Muino. The bridal couple is welcomed by the bride’s mother, then taken directly to the altar where they have to kneel down for a short prayer. The groom has to place some money under the cushion. This money is taken by the servant of the bride’s house. According to tradition, the couple has to have five meals at the bride’s house.

Ojem:

After these, they would return home with an ojem. In earlier times, this consisted of neuroes having a filling of coconut and jaggery, oddes, sweets and plantain, which were distributed to the neighbours and relatives. Depending on the degree of relationship of the relatives, the number of neureos given to them varied. The sisters and brothers had the largest share. They in turn had to distribute them to their relatives and neighbours.

Later on the ojem consisted of bols (made of wheat, flour, jaggery and coconut) and bananas. A minimum of 1000 bols and bananas used to be distributed.

There are different ojems given to the bride. The main one being the fullanchem ojem presented when the dennem is handed over. It consists of 7 or 8 baticas baked in a flat dish and 1000 bols. The baticas are dressed with abolim flowers and garlands of these are also presented.

The second ojem is the one, which consists of neureos, oddes and bananas. Later the bols replaced the neureos. Batica was also offered.

A third ojem is the hankechem ojem, which is given to the bride when she comes to stay for the first time after the torna-boda. The ojem varies from village to village.

The matov is dismantled at the bride’s house when the couple returns to the groom’s house after the five meals. They untie the knot of the maddi. In the same way the matov at the groom’s house is dismantled when the couple come back home.

There was also a custom called the ghor polloipak when relatives of the bride used to go to see the house of the groom and vice versa. On that day the bride’s family used to carry a dish of batica. Likewise on this occasion the groom’s family used to carry a batica to the bride’s house.