Gaveshaka attends a typical village wedding
The ‘magul gedara’ - a big social event
A wedding is the biggest event in a village family, particularly for the bride’s family. The relations would eagerly await the big day having been invited in the traditional style by the bride’s parents visiting the home and announcing the date and time by offering betel placed on a ‘bulath heppuwa’ - betel tray and covered with a white handkerchief. The head of the family would take a leaf from the tray by lifting the handkerchief thereby indicating that he has accepted the invitation on behalf of the family.

The bridegroom’s party too would invite their relations in the same way. Even if there are misunderstandings among families, a wedding is one occasion when these are forgotten and an invitation extended to come for the wedding.

There is much more preparations in a bride’s house than a bridegroom’s because the wedding takes place at the bride’s residence. Apart from tidying up the house, the womenfolk are kept busy preparing traditional sweetmeats including ‘kevum’ (different varieties like ‘athirasa’, ‘konda kevum’ and ‘mung kevum’) ‘kokis’ and ‘aasmi’ which are prepared in the house well in advance. The men will be busy erecting the ‘magul maduwa’ - a separate shed in the garden and decorating it for use as the reception hall.

There are specialists in the village who will prepare the ‘poruva’ which will be kept at a prominent place in the main hall facing a particular direction as indicated by the astrologer. The ‘poruva’ is gaily decorated with flowers. A mat is laid out and a white cloth stretched over it. Rice and silver and copper coins are spread over the white cloth. Four fresh clay pots are kept in the four corners, each pot carrying an opened ‘pol mala’. An oil lamp is kept on top to be lit when the ‘poruva’ ceremony starts. Betel is kept ready to be offered by the bridal couple to the relatives at the given time.

On the day of the wedding, the bridegroom’s party will leave at the auspicious time and will time the journey in such a way as to arrive at the bride’s residence ahead of the time for the ‘poruva’ ceremony. In the early days, the party would travel in carts but today it is a motorcade that will bring the bridegroom’s party. As the motorcade is sighted, a long line of crackers tied to two trees will be lit and the entire village would get the message that the party has arrived.

As the bridegroom enters the house, a younger brother of the bride would pour a few drops of water on the bridegroom’s shoes and he would drop a ring to the basin of water. This is a modern adaptation of the custom of washing the feet before entering the house. (Washing of the feet by a member of the household is done when a Buddhist monk comes to a house. This was quite logical because in early days monks never wore slippers).

As the auspicious time for the ‘poruva’ ceremony approaches, the bride would be brought out from her room in her bridal costume. An uncle of the bride leads her to the ‘poruva’ and as she steps on the ‘poruva’, the groom too will join her. An elderly male then sings ‘ashtaka’ - stanzas blessing the couple. A bride’s uncle would tie the couple’s thumbs with a thread and pour water from a ‘kendiya’ signifying that the couple is married. The thread is removed at the end of the recital of stanzas.

The groom then ties a necklace round the bride’s neck and the bride places a ring on the groom’s finger. A bevy of girls sing ‘Jayamangala Gathas’. Betel is then offered by the couple - first to the bride’s parents and then to the groom’s parents followed by close relatives. It is customary to offer a ‘kachhiya’ (40 yards) of cloth to the bride’s mother by the groom as a token of appreciation for bringing up the daughter. Once the formalities are over, a bride’s uncle helps the couple to step down from the ‘poruva’ at which moment a coconut is split with a bang.

While the ‘poruva’ ceremony is on, the ‘magul mese’ - the long set of tables stretching from one end of the ‘magul maduva’ to the other, would be made ready. Dishes full of tasty food will be laid out. The entire table(s) will be covered with white cloth to be removed only after the couple come and occupy their seats.

The plates are placed upside down. At the auspicious time, the couple would arrive followed by the groom’s relations and after they sit, the white cloth would be removed and the dishes displayed.

Depending on the space available a few close relations of the bride too will join. Others wait for the second round. Prior to starting the meal, an elderly person from the bride’s side would get up and speak formally welcoming the groom’s party and wishing the couple well. It is customary for someone from the groom’s party to reply. The couple would continue to sit at the table until all the guests take their turn at lunch. If they leave, it is considered a mark of disrespect.

Until the auspicious time for the couple to leave, the guests keep chatting. A few minutes before the given time, the couple starts greeting the relations. It is a sad moment for the bride’s mother to see the daughter departing after being at home for so long. Yet it is for the good of the daughter, she consoles herself.

As the couple leaves along with the groom’s party, crackers will be lit and the villagers would come on to the road to get a glimpse of the bride.

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