New trends in the revival of cultural traditions during the pre-nuptial ceremony - Roce

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Report and Pictures by Eugene Moodubelle

09 January 2010: As the Christian wedding ceremonies, especially in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi Districts becoming more westernized and elaborate, the revival of some elements of the local Konkani cultural traditions associated with the pre-nuptial ceremony-Roce could be seen in some places which is a welcome development.

Recently, I had an opportunity to attend the pre-nuptial Roce ceremony in Moodubelle. On  reaching the courtyard, I was quite impressed by the backdrop that was decorated not by flowers or colourful buntings but  by traditional items that had been in daily use since centuries till recent past. On the vertically fixed mats, a coconut grater (kanthne) with one half of the coconut and a big sickle (koytho) over it with the symbolic drip of coconut milk (roce) on the plate and another half of the coconut were attached at the centre. On the top, the traditional headgears (khandi), and the circular ‘kurpans’ used to decant the rice water, and below, the vessel-bases (nivnne) and the traditional spoon made of polished coconut shell and bamboo handle, formed the decorating items. Two hurricane lamps were seen hanging on either side of the backdrop.

To the right of the backdrop, on the pre arranged stage, a number of assorted traditional items and local vegetables and fruits were on display. There were the measuring units (paav and sher), spitting vessel (pikthani), brass plate (vatli), plough, yoke, gas-light, wooden containers to collect cooked rice water from large containers after decantation (konpo), large round shaped pot (valni), copper idli steamer, rope hanger (shinkem) to keep the food away from ants and cats and a number of other items were arranged. Some of the commonly used vegetables were seen hanging from the top of the covering roof.

While this collection of traditional items and fruits served as a kind of mini-exhibition, it also served as a kind of guessing game. In between the roce ceremony, when the bride went for a change after the prayer service, the MC called upon the guests to volunteer and identify the items on display and name them in Konkani. The person who could identify the maximum number of these traditional items and vegetables and fruits would be declared as winners. Around five to six guests tried their luck and ultimately the guest who identified over fifty items was declared as the winner.

Another aspect worth mentioning is that while applying the roce to the bride some women among whom was a young girl, recited the ‘vovyo’ till the end of the roce applying ceremony. The Konkani culture and traditions associated with such functions would be richer if the young men and  women learn these ‘vovyos’ and recite them during these functions.

In the bygone era there had been a tradition of contributing some items such as vegetables, banana leaves, rice, coconuts, etc.  to the father of the bride or the bridegroom by the family members (daijis) and relatives in order to share some burden of the marriage expenses in the form of ‘vojem’. This beautiful tradition was also enacted just before the beginning of the roce ceremony that i had recently attended. Relatives of the bride came in procession lead by the band, carrying on head baskets full of  various types of  vegetables, bunch of bananas and even carrying a rooster and dragging a goat. They were welcomed by the father of the bride with   traditional offering of jiggery and water and plate of betel leaves and areca nuts (paan pod).

It is a good trend that the cultural items associated with our ancestors could be viewed and identified by the new generation that is increasingly growing up with modern amenities and electronic culture. It is encouraging to note that many families are trying to revive the traditional cultural trends at least in some form during the pre-nuptial ceremonies such as roce.

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