Thursday, 16 June 2011

ABOUT BUNT COMMUNITY WEDDINGS

Bunts or Nadavas, a forward Hindu community, originated from the west coast of India, are mostly found in the south Kannada and Uduli districts of Karnataka state and Kasargod district of Kerala state. Bunta in the Kannada language means a strong or powerful man or soldier. With a deep-rooted culture they play an integral and important part of the social and economic fronts of this area.

For the “Nischitartham or the Engagement ceremony, the male members from the bride’s family visit the groom’s house with a silver platter containing betel leaves, betel nuts and flowers. An elder member from the family introduces the two families to each other and the date and the time of the forthcoming wedding is finalized. The two families exchange betel leaves and betel nuts to confirm the alliance with the elders as a witness to it. These days ‘Nischitartham’ has become a more elaborate affair with the bride and groom exchanging diamond engagement rings followed by a lavish party.
The modern day ceremony, Mehendi or the henna ceremony is performed in both houses separately. This traditionally simple ritual has now evolved into a full-fledge celebration with “mehendiwallis” or professional henna artists create intricate patterns on the hands and feet of the bride, by applying henna paste on them. The groom also gets “mehendi” on his palm, only as a symbolic dot.
“Mangalasnana” is a ritual bath held separately in both houses prior to the wedding day. The groom’s face, body and arms are smeared with turmeric and coconut milk by his cousins and close relatives. The barber is invited to give him a haircut and his sister’s husband or maternal cousin takes him for a bath. In the bride’s house her cousins apply the paste on her body and face. Her brother’s wife or an older lady from her family takes her for her bath after which she wears a new sari, gold jewelry and black bangles.
The groom does the shaving, pedicure and manicure and the bride pedicure and manicure with the help of a barber. The ‘Kajidaaye’/’balegaara’, the bangle seller puts bangles on the bride’s hands and the hands of other ladies present. The goldsmith slips ‘kalungura’/toe rings on to the groom’s and bride’s toes.

After a brief prayer in the ‘puja rooms the bride and the groom proceed to the “tulsi katta”(sacred tulsi plant) to participate in the ‘tulsi puja’ conducted by the ‘pujari/priest
In the ritual “Murthasaese”, held separately in both houses, the bride and the groom receive blessings from their families and friends in a decorated ‘pandal’ or canopy specially erected for this elaborate function. The bride’s aunt puts a silver toe-ring on the second toe of the bride’s leg and also a V-shaped finger ring called ‘vadungeela’ after which five ‘sumangalis’ (married female relatives) slipping red and green bangles in a sequence and a black one on her hand while the women invitees are given red and green bangles by the eldest “sumangali’, a lady whose husband is alive. All the ‘sumangalis’ together decorate her hair with Mangalore jasmine flowers (hair plait).
For the groom, in a simple function ‘Murtha’, his maternal uncle’s wife or his paternal aunt slips silver or gold ring onto his toes to be worn till the wedding.

“Muhurtham” or “Lagnam”—the wedding rituals:
Traditionally the elders in the Bunt community used to officiate all the wedding rituals. But these days ‘pujaris’/priests perform the needful. The groom’s sister’s husband or maternal uncle leads him to the wedding venue where the bride’s brother receives him by washing his feet. The bride’s aunt conducts the traditional “aarti” followed by her mother performing the ‘deepa aarti’ (‘aarti with a lighted lamp) for him.
Now the bride in all her fabulous bridal costumes and jewelry appears and is escorted to wedding ‘mantap’/platform by her brother’s wife, a cousin or an aunt. A similar type of welcome is accorded to her by the groom’s sister as well. The bride wears a very costly Kancheepuram silk sari decorated with heavy ‘zari work along with a matching tight-fitting blouse. She is adorned with a gold ‘mundale’, a pendant like jewel on her forehead, ‘mallige’(Mangalore jasmine studded) hair plait, gold necklace embedded with pearl and precious stones, a gold ‘vanki’ on her arm and ‘sontpatti’ a waist band, usually made of gold or silver.
The groom comes in a dhoti worn in the traditional way known as ‘kacche’ or ‘shetty-kacche’, a full-sleeved shirt, a headgear known as ‘peta’ or ‘mundasu’ and a shawl. He also wears rings, necklace and earrings with precious stones.
At the request of the’ pujari’, holding the hands of the couple the groom’s sister and her husband or a cousin lead them around the ‘diyas’/lamps and the ‘mantap’/platform. The couple enters the ‘mantap’ and after a ‘puja’/prayer the bride and the groom exchange garlands.
‘Dharemaipuna’/’hareyeruna” The wedding ritual begins with the bride’s parents holding a silver or brass vessel with spout known as ‘chembu’ filled with holy water. They take this vessel to the elders of the two families to get their blessings followed by the ritual ‘dhare’ in which a gold coin or ‘nanya’ is kept on the bride’s palm and the groom places his hands below it. Now the bride’s parents pour the holy water from the vessel on to their hands.
The groom ties the ‘Mangalsutra’, a gold chain with black beads around the bride’s neck and the bride, in turn, slips a plain gold ring on his finger. The bride and the groom, holding the ‘chembu’/vessel sit down and rise three times quickly. This ritual, known as ‘dhareyeruna’ is performed in some families without a priest.
’Homam’ or sacred fire sacrifice is now practiced by many Bunt families. The priest lights the holy fire and the couple go around it three times. Each time they go, the bride’s brother puts fistful of puffed rice into the hand of the couple which they offer into the fire. The bride and the groom take seven steps around the fire seven times holding their hands together. The bride tips over tiny heaps of rice with her right foot with every step and they repeat the seven marriage vows.
In the ritual ‘ponnu occhune’ or ‘ponnu oppisune’ the eldest woman from the bride’s family raises the right hand of the bride and keeps it on the hands of the eldest woman from the groom’s family and requests her to take of the bride as their own daughter. Then she tells the new bride to be a dutiful daughter-in-law of the new house.
The groom drinks part of a ‘bonda’, tender coconut water and asks his wife to drink the remaining which she refuses to drink the’ left over’ of her husband. At this the groom ties money or gold on her sari ‘pallu’ and she drinks the coconut water.
Now the bride proceeds to her new house along with her husband and someone from her family, usually a young girl. The elders in the house prepare the ‘kurdi neer’ to remove evil eyes on the couple. The bride enters into her in-laws’ house with her right foot first after offering prayers at the ‘Tulasi katte’/Tulsi plant. The newly weds are given milk or ‘bonda’/coconut water to drink.

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