5 Things That Happen at Every Malayali Wedding You Won’t See in Any Other Culture
India is a country with rich cultural and religious diversity. There are different ways of doing things all across the country, and when it comes to marriage, there are a myriad of local customs that are prevalent all over India.
The culture and heritage of southern India is rich and diverse in itself, with four different ethnic groups residing in the peninsular region. One of the four groups are Malayalis. Now, Kerala is a diverse place, with many different religions cohabiting the seaside state, thus there are many different wedding customs that arise there. However, the type of wedding which is usually associated with Kerala is the Malayali Nair wedding. There are many traditions in Malayali hindu weddings that are very different from North Indian weddings, and here are some that stand out.
The weddings happen in the morning.
Most North Indians wedding ceremonies are held after sundown. However, Malayali weddings often happen in the morning. One explanation for this is that most of south India considers itself to be 'Dravidian' and for Dravidian people, the time immediately after sunrise is considered to be auspicious, because they believe that they are the descendants of the sun god. It is vice versa for Aryans or the north Indians, which explains the difference between the planned timing of the wedding ceremonies.
They are simple affairs.
Malayali weddings do not bring with them the pomp and grandeur of Punjabi weddings, or the long drawn out process of the Bengali ones. They are usually a day long, and get over really quickly. There is no loud music or dancing, and the muhoorat is low-key and pious. Malayali weddings do not usually have sangeets or mehendi functions that are usually a very important part of North Indian weddings. The first thing that hits you during a Malayali wedding ceremony is how orderly and peaceful the atmosphere is. The girl is brought into the hall accompanied by her aunts and sisters, each of them carrying lit lamps in their hands. The boy arrives the same way.
Priests are not the MVPs of Mallu weddings.
The priest has an important role in a north Indian wedding, as they are the ones who conduct the whole ceremony. However, it is not important for a Malayali wedding to have a priest presiding the wedding. There is usually no priest, or fire. or homam, unless the function happens in a temple. The wedding, in modern times, happens on a stage which is decorated with lamps and flowers. There is always a para or a vessel made of brass and copper, filled with nellu (rice grains with husks).
The bride has a ton of gold on her person.
Brides always dress their best, be it a wedding in the United States, or North India. South Indian Brides are no different. They have to wear a traditional kasavu settu saree, and the groom wears a mundu (Lungi) and shirt. However, what sets the south Indian bride apart from the north Indian bride is the amount of gold jewellery that adorns the southern woman. Of course, there are a lot of women who decide to forego the bling, but Malayali weddings are famous for the amount of gold that is visible on the day of the wedding.
This began because Kerala used to be a matriarchal society. Women used to have the final authority in the house, including finances. The newly-wedded bride had the next authority after the eldest lady in the family, so when the bride entered the new house, she took over the responsibility of the finances of her husband. The gold she adorned was her share of the wealth she brought to her new family. Now, the bride wears the gold that the friends, families, and relatives give to her as presents.
There is a brilliant array of post-marriage dishes.
The wedding ceremony is usually done with by lunchtime, and it consists of par boiled pink rice, side dishes, savouries, pickles, and desserts spread out on a plantain leaf. Tradition insists that the tapering end of the leaf points to the left of the seated guest. The feast begins with the serving of Parippu, a liquid curry made of small gram and ghee. The second course is Sambar. Avial, a side dish is a blend of vegetables, coconut paste, and green chillies. Some of the other important side dishes include thoran, and olan. The savouries include upperi, pappadam, ginger pickle, pachchadi and khichadi.
Desserts are served mid-way through the meal. The payasam is a thick fluid dish of sweet brown molasses, coconut milk, and spices, garnished with cashew nuts and raisins. Pazham, a ripe golden yellow plantain, is usually had along with the payasams. After the payasams, rice is served once more with the spicy rasam. Kaalan, or seasoned buttermilk is served at the end of the feast. Unlike north India, the wedding feast is pure vegetarian, and does not have any non-vegetarian items.
There are a lot of interesting traditions and rituals that happen at Malayali weddings, from the nischayam or the engagement to the sadya or the wedding feast. In modern times, the bride and the groom tend to adopt some north Indian traditions as well. However, Hindu weddings are not the only kinds of weddings in Kerala, which has a healthy Muslim and Christian population as well.