Traditional Marriage Rituals in Bunts Community

In the olden days, the engagements used to happen when the child was still in the cradle. The wedding ceremony was performed when the child reaches 4-5 years of age. High incidences of child mortality lead to lot of difficulties and complications. Therefore, this traditional was abandoned and the weddings were performed before the girl reaches puberty. With time, the wedding age for the girl has changed to post puberty.

The relatives of a man who has attained marriageable age approach the family with an eligible daughter. The selection criteria was not based only on the girl or the boy. It depended also on the social standing of the family.

One or more of the following criteria were used in determining a suitable alliance.In general, lineage (bari or bali), land/property, type of land, agriculture, family structure, position of the family within the society, etc., were used to measure the compatibility of the two parties. If the boy and the girl were of the same bari, the alliance will not go forward. If the family is a landlord family, the family status and equivalence of the two families may determine whether the alliance would go forward. If the family had agriculture, whether the property is swantha (owned) or gheni (leased), total agriculture land, how many pairs of eru (bullocks) they have, water resources etc would determine the present and future financial status of the family. The education level of the family head and siblings and other people who live in the house, living style, if the siblings are married, the family of their spouses, the age and physical build of the boy or the girl were used as factors for deciding on the alliance.

Marriage between the children of a brother and a sister is sodara sambandha (marriage between first cousins). By lineage, this marriage is allowed in bunt community. Marriages between cousins were encouraged for reasons such as keeping the property within the family, improving the ties/cooperation between the two families, avoiding the trouble of searching for a new family relationship, helping out a brother or a sister who is in financial hardship etc. These relationships were decided some times at birth. Over the years sodara sambandha marriages have less common.

The boy along with a few elders of the family goes to see the girl (ponnu thoopune). If they like the girl and the family, then they invite the girl’s family to visit them. Once the two families decide to go forward with the relationship, the horoscopes (jathaka or kundali) of the boy and the girl are taken to a purohit to determine the match. This is done either by one party or both parties together go to the purohit. The two horoscopes should match (or more or less match). If the star power of the girl is stronger than the boy or the girl is older than the boy, they may not continue with the alliance. In the event one of the parties does not have the horoscope prepared, it is a common practice to go to the family deity or an agreed upon temple and perform a puja. The number of flowers or the color of the flowers given by the priest as prasadam is used to determine the match of the relationship (this method is called poo deppune). If they do not match, the relationship is not continued. Once the match is confirmed, it was not customary to reject the girl on the basis of looks, beauty or color. It was not common to ask for badi (dowry). However, depending on the boy’s qualifications and/or family status, it was common to offer token dowry as agreed by the two families. Once the match is confirmed, the relationship is not terminated due to disagreements on the amount of dowry.

All visits till the go-forward decision is made are informal. The two families would not accept formal meal at each others house. Women normally did not participate in the process. When the decision is made to go forward, the close family of the boy would visit the girl’s family for a formal visit. The boy is generally accompanied by his father, elder brother, brother-in-law, grand father and maternal uncle. The hosts would have arranged for a sammana (lavish meal) for the guests. After the meal, the two parties discuss the wedding details. The boy’s side invites the girl’s family to decide the wedding date and place.

The two parties consult a panchanga (almanac) or a purohit to determine the convenient date and time for the wedding. When the girl’s relatives come to the boy’s house, they decide on the place and the time for the dibbana to arrive. The distance between the marriage place and the dibbana time determines whether the marriage muhurtha (auspicious moment or time) is for the day or the evening. As a symbol of engagement, the veelya is exchanged between the two families. If there is a dowry payment, part or the entire dowry is paid. If only part of the dowry is paid, the date for the payment of remainder of the dowry is also agreed to. The drafts of the invitation cards for both families are prepared.

Marriages are not held in the months of Paggu and Aati. Tuesdays are not considered auspicious. During the jatre (festivities) at the village temples or family deities, marriages are not performed. Ugadi, Anatha chathurdashi and vijaya dashami are considered very auspicious. Some believe that Thursdays and Fridays are auspicious. Abhijin muhurtha (noon time) and godhuli lagna (evening) are considered auspicious. Since the transportation was not very convenient in olden days, godhuli lagna was preferred over the abhijin muhurtha.

There is no rule on where the wedding ceremony is performed. Depending on where the wedding is, the other party brings the dibbana. It is common to have the ceremony performed in a temple or a function hall. In this situation, both parties bring dibbana.

Wedding mantapa is prepared by the host party. It is generally a raised platform where all the marriage ceremony is performed. Seating arrangements are made for the guests around the mantapa. A dompa is built to provide shade (or cover from rain). The dompa and mantapa are decorated with banana plants, flowers and mango leaves.

The family elders pray to the family or village deity and proceed on the dibbana (wedding procession) with relatives and friends. The bride and the groom are carried in a dandige and elders and women ride the decorated gaadi (bullock cart). The dibbana also includes a music band, banner holders, deetige (torch) carriers, and other necessary help.

The hosts make arrangements for the dibbana to stay in the temple hall or with their relatives. Once the dibbana arrives, the head of the host family accompanied by nine married women and the band goes to receive the guests. They carry flowers, kumkuma, akshathe, kurdi neer, and panneeru (rose water). Women put akshathe on the bride or the groom followed by arathi. Rose water is sprinkled, kurdi neer is raised to ward-off the drishti, and flower is offered to the women of the dibbana party and escorted inside. The arrival of the guests is announced to the assembled people by kombu and trumpets.

he bridegroom and the bride take a ceremonial bath. It is common to use turmeric water for bath. The barber completes the shaving, pedicure and manicure for the groom and pedicure and manicure for the bride. Madirengi is put on the bride. The kaajidaaye or balegaara (the person who sells bangles) puts bangles on the bride and other assembled women. The goldsmith puts the kaalungura (toe rings) for the groom and the bride. Bride and the groom get dressed for the ceremony.

If the bride has reached puberty, she wears a saree and if she is a small pre-teen then wears a half-saree or a dress. She gets dressed with mundale (a pendant like jewel that is placed on the forehead) and flowers on her hair, necklaces with gold, silver, pearl and other precious stones and sontapatti (a belt, usually made of gold or silver). The groom wears a kacche or shetty – kacche (a traditional way of wearing dhoti), full sleeve shirt, a peta (head gear, also known as mundasu) and a shawl. He wears rings, necklaces and precious stone ear rings.

As the wedding muhurtha nears, the bridegroom and the bride arrive at the dompa. The groom enters the hall first. When he reaches the entrance of the dompa, his brother-in-law (sister’s husband) washes his feet and escorts him to the mantapa. He holds the right hand of the groom with his right hand and walks in front of the groom. This is called kait pattune (holding hand). Kombu and trumpets accompany them. Once he is seated, the bride arrives. The groom’s sister repeats the same for the bride. The bride sits to the right side of the groom. The ceremony begins by the couple exchanging garlands, groom puts the garland on the bride first.

Dharegindi is filled with water and tulasi leaves. The mouth of the gindi is covered with jackfruit leaves, mango leaves and a coconut. The maternal uncle and the parents of the bride take the dharegindi to the assembled elders for their blessing.Dhare is then performed. In this ritual, the bride’s hand is placed over the groom’s hand, palm side up. The dhare water is poured over their hands three times by the maternal uncle of the bride. A plate is held below their hands to collect the water. The groom and the bride are now husband and wife. They exchange their positions and now she sits to his left. Following this, the groom ties the karimani to the bride. There are quite a few rituals that have got incorporated to the wedding ceremony. A homa is performed by a priest in the mantapa. The bride walks seven steps with the groom (saptapadi). This is then followed by dhare. After the dhare, the bride and the groom are seated for akshathe or maru sese or ari padune. A group of five or seven women perform aarathi to the new couple. It is common to sing shobane (marriage songs) during arathi. After the arathi, they put kumkuma to the new couple. A senior member of the family brings a plate filled with akshate (usually rice mixed with flower petals) and puts the akshathe on the newly weds. She then requests the guests to put akshathe. It is customary to give money to the bride and the groom. Someone records the name of the person and the amount being presented.

The new-weds are then escorted out of the marriage hall. This ritual is called dompa-jappune. If the wedding is in the temple, at this time they go and pray to the deity. Otherwise, they just take a few steps out of the dompa. The close relatives accompany the couple along with the band. The accompanying sister and brother-in-law of the groom hold the umbrella for the new couple. The couple re-enter the hall. At this time, the brother of the bride washes the feet of the newly weds. The groom has to reward his brother-in-law for his service. The groom is given a bonda, he drinks part of the bonda and asks his wife to drink the rest. She refuses to drink the “made (left over)” of her husband. He then ties a gift (generally money or gold) in her pallu and she drinks the bonda.

This completes the rituals of the wedding ceremony. The newly weds are then escorted to the dining area by the sister and brother-in-law of the groom. The newly weds eat with the assembled guests. After the meal, the newly weds seek the blessings the elders.

The ritual of ponnu occhune or ponnu oppisune (entrusting the bride to her new family) is performed. The elder woman of the bride’s family brings the bride to the elder woman of the groom’s family. She raises the right hand of the bride and places it on the hands of the elder woman and requests her to take care of the bride as their daughter. She then asks the bride to perform her duties as the daughter-in-law of the family.

The bride then leaves for her in-laws. She is accompanied by someone from her family, generally a young girl. This is called “kuruntu popune”. A few elders arrive at the home before the newly weds arrive. The elders prepare the kurdi neer and remove dhristi dosha on the new couple. They pray at the tulasi katte and the bride enters the house with her right foot forward. They are offered milk or bonda to drink. If the wedding is on a Tuesday, the bride has to return to her parent’s house.

The daughter-in-law can not touch her brother-in-laws (elder brothers of her husband) in person or their belongings. Since most of the families were undivided families, it is not always feasible to follow this rule. Therefore, when the bride arrives at her in-laws, she gives veelya to her brother-in-law and touches his feet, seeking his forgiveness if she touches his belongings or person as a part of co-existence. She is also not allowed to call her husband, mother-in-law and brother-in-laws by their given name.

The marriage is followed by a feast at the bride’s house. This is called maami (mother-in-law) sikhe. The newly weds arrive to the party with his friends and family. This is groom’s first visit to his in-laws after the wedding. The youngsters generally play prank on the groom. The maami has to give maami sike maryadi (a gift) to the groom as a part of this ritual.

This is then followed by the mother of the bride visiting the groom’s house. This is called marmaya (son-in-law)-sikhe. This is her first visit to her daughter’s house.

It is customary for the bride to go to her mother for the month of aati for “aati kullune”.

Illa marmaye (son-in-law who lives with in-laws) used be a common practice among bunts, especially if the girl’s side did not have a son

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