Kannada weddings are rather simple celebrations when compared with other colorful and magnificent ceremonies in other parts of India, but they are also very meaningful and filled with joy. As there are various different communities in Karnataka, there are some minor differences in the way that these weddings are conducted. One of the main parts of a Kannada wedding is that there are many rituals that are performed before, during, and after the wedding. However, there are some rituals that are staples of Kannada weddings and appear in all of them regardless of the communities they are a part of.
Both the prospective bride and groom’s parents must first approve and sanction the pairing of this couple before anything can progress. When this happens, a pre-wedding ritual called Nischay Tamulam or Fixing of the Alliance is performed. This is carried out by using a plate with supari and betel leaves. The groom’s parents visit the home of the bride and present offerings to her of a sari, blouse piece, fruits and coconut. Dhoti, fruits, and coconut are presented to the groom –to- be by the girl’s parents. A priest attends this gathering as well. He compares the horoscopes of the matrimonial hopefuls to make sure they are compatible and to ensure that the date, as well as the time of the wedding, can be fixed appropriately.
Nandi is the next pre-wedding ritual that takes place. It is conducted shortly before the wedding to make sure that the ceremony goes off smoothly without any problems, even if a death or birth occurs on either side of the family. A part of this ritual is a puja with coconut, kalash, which is a copper pot, and aarti. God is offered the first invitation card.
When the wedding day has arrived, a havan takes place in the houses of both the bride and the groom. This means that a sacred ritual of purification is performed. In this ritual, a sacrifice is offered to Agni, the god of fire. After the sacrificial fire is lit, fruits, wooden items, and honey are put into this fire. Any evil spirits that may be present around or inside someone will be burned away in this sacred fire. It is also believed that these sacrifices will bring happiness, health, prosperity, and luck.
There is next, the departure of the Groom’s Party. This happens only after they have all bowed to the elders, goddesses, and gods in the house. Once they have done this and received their blessings, the groom and his wedding party travel to the venue where the wedding will take place.
Welcoming of the Barat is performed in honor of the arrival of the groom and his wedding party to the wedding place. The married women, or sumangalis, from the bride-to-be’s side of the family perform an arti, which is a ritual offering light from wicks soaked in purified butter, or ghee, or camphor to the deities. There are also songs sung to praise the deity or deities when the lamps are being offered. Following this, the sumangalis take the groom to the marriage place.
The traditional ritual of Kaashi Yatre is conducted next. It is a ritual which is done with playful intent in which the groom-to-be makes believe that he is angry because no one is seeking a bride for him. The groom threatens to leave on a trip to Kashi to find a bride on his own. He holds a walking stick, a dhoti, a fan, an umbrella, a coconut, a little container of rice, and dal. At this point, the groom’s maternal uncle intervenes. He convinces the groom that he doesn’t have to go on this long pilgrimage because he has found a bride, who is then put before the groom.
Just as the rituals and ceremonies of a Kannada wedding are very important, the clothes worn during the wedding are also quite significant to the entire affair. They are a very large part of the beauty of these meaningful ceremonies. A traditional Kannada wedding finds the bride dressed in a 9 yard sari called a navari, which is accessorized by bangles of green glass. Fine gold jewelry is added as part of the adornments. The groom is most likely dressed in a silk dhoti, pitambr, a pheta, and a turban. A stick has been blessed in a holy place for the groom to carry in his right hand.
For a wedding in the community of Baliga, you will find the wedding clothes significantly different. Here, the bride is usually dressed in a white silk sari with a contrasting border of a different color. A dhoti of white silk that is edged with a zari border is donned by the groom along with a stole made from the same white silk material of the dhoti called a Valli. A white shirt along with an ornamental turban made of gold brocade is also worn. This is known as a pheta. Marking his forehead is a large tilak.
The wedding attire for a Coorg Kannada bride includes a traditional brocade sari that is draped in the typical Coorg fashion, and a veil that covers the bride’s head. As the bride is presented with 5 sarees from the family of the groom, she has a different one to wear for the different parts of the wedding. Examples of this include Dare Puja, during which the bride wears a saree made of Kancheevaram silk, the haldi ritual where a simple one is worn. More elegant sarees are chosen for the Puja and also when the bride is seated close to the groom following Graha Pravesh.
One last pre-wedding ritual is called the Dev Karya. Typically, this is performed the day that the groom’s family arrives in the village or wherever the marriage will take place. Goods that are used for the wedding are put before the Lord Ganesha to receive blessings. Haldi, a paste made of turmeric, is then applied to the bodies of the marriage couple, and the sacred “uddin murth” grain is ground.
The first ritual performed on the wedding day is called Mandap Puja. It is done to ensure that the Mandap, or marriage hall, is made appropriately sacred for the wedding to happen there. When the groom is brought to the Mandap by the bride’s father, the Var Puja is performed. This is a ceremonial act in which the bride’s parents wash the feet of the groom. It is considered a way for them to show honor to the groom. Following this ceremonial washing, they present him with a silk dhoti and pitambar to wear during the wedding ceremony.
The Jaimala, or Garlanding Ceremony, occurs after the bride is brought to the Mandap by her uncles. As it is customary that no one see the face of the bride, her sister covers her face using a fan made from peacock feathers. The newlyweds –to-be are separated, at first, by a white cloth. They stand as they recite the Mangalashtam, or marriage mantras. The cloth is taken down and the newlyweds place garlands around each other’s necks among chanting. A kalash of holy water is held by the groom’s sister. This also contains betel leaves, coconut water, and Kombu Gindi.
Dhare Herdu symbolizes the act of giving away the bride and takes place next. In this ritual, the bride’s father places the hand of the groom on the bride’s hand. The groom holds his bride’s hand with coconut and betel leaves as her father performs the ceremony of pouring water into the hands of the groom. This is known as dhara and shows that the bride now belongs to her husband. Puffed rice or corn is thrown into the havan 5 times. Now the saptapadi, or the 7 pheras, can begin.
The actual wedding ceremony is called the Saptapadi. The groom’s angavastram, or piece of cloth worn by him during the wedding, and the bride’s pallav, are tied together using a symbolic nuptial knot. Then the bride treads in the footsteps of her groom 7 times while going around the saptapadi, or holy fire. The holy thread, or mangalsutra, is tied by 5 married women while the groom secures it around the bride’s neck. Bowing to the elders, the happy couple leaves to visit the temple for blessings.
Okhli is a game that is played at some Kannada weddings. Typically, it is played using the groom’s wedding ring, which is dipped into a vessel of colored water. The new wife and her brother then look 3 times for the ring.
The wedding feast is something that is highly anticipated by all who are involved. A Kannada wedding is celebrated by serving many vegetarian dishes. There are 4 types of curry, salt, pickle, sweet chutney, and 2 kinds of kosambari. The kosambari are salads that are made from yogurt and cucumber or beetroot. Papad and Payasam are also considered to be a vital part of the menu. Papad is a thin wafer that is sometimes called a cracker or flatbread. It can be served as a side to the main dishes or have toppings added to use as an appetizer. Payasam is a traditional dessert usually made into a pudding by boiling rice with coconut milk and sugar.
The bride’s departure from her home to go to her husband’s house is called the Vidaai ceremony. This normally takes place among many tears and best wishes for the newlyweds. The bride’s parents give her parting gifts that are intended to help her in setting up her new home. These gifts include vessels, a cot, and an umbrella. The bride’s brother goes along with her to the home of her husband and spends the night. He returns to his home the following day.
Graha Pravesh is the ritual performed when the bride enters what will now be her home. Using her right foot, she kicks a copper pot, or a kalash, that is filled with rice, which stays at the entrance to the house. This symbolizes that her arrival will bring prosperity to the home and that she is entering a new phase of her life. The next part of this is the name change ceremony. For this, the groom chooses a new name to give his wife. He uses his ring to write the new name on a plate of rice.
On the second day that the bride is at her husband’s home, her family arrives to take the newlyweds back home with them. This is where they remain for a short time. Then the groom’s family journeys to the home of the bride’s family and brings them back to the home of the groom’s family.
The Kannada weddings have many time honored traditions that make them special events when they are followed closely. These are occasions that should not be missed if you are lucky enough to be invited to participate. The beauty of Kannada weddings lies more in the traditional ceremonies that are a part of the entire process than the trappings. While the wedding attire may not be quite as colorful and bold as other traditions, it is still beautiful and elegant in appearance, matching the rest of the ceremony perfectly.