Engaged to be married

Posted: December 12, 2010 in Uncategorized

When a dear neice told me of her forthcoming engagement, I was excited and sad at the same time. I live in Canada and she lives in India. How would I celebrate with her? I wanted to share my excitement with my Canadian daughter but the idea of an ‘engagement’ being such a big deal was foreign to her. This blog is for my daughter and anyone who is interested to learn that an engagement ceremony in India is bound in tradition, ritual and perhaps even contractual in nature. For the purposes of visuals, I borrowed a photo from furiousphotographersblog.com. After my neice send me photos of her own engagement, with her permission, I shall post those here. So, my neice explained the meaning and method of the engagement ceremony in Punjabi tradition. My neice and the man she is getting engaged to are yuppie types and while wanting to keep the tradition, will make some modifications to suit their modern ways of thinking. All is done with the permission of their parents which shows respect for families and honor for tradition.

The name of the engagement ceremony is Roka. As soon as the couple decide to wed, The Roka or Saith ceremony, which is an announcement that the boy and girl have found their soulmates and will look no further for a life partner, is held. The origin of this custom lies in the arranged marriage norm where the parents would let out the word that they are looking for a suitable match for their son or daughter. And once they had found that match, their search had come to an end. Rings are not generally exchanged but my neice and her man have decided to exchange rings. Prayers may be said though I’m not sure whether they will be in this case. Gifts are exchanged between the boy and girl. Gifts are also exchanged between bride and groom’s family. The gifts can be as lavish or as humble as one can afford. Some gift gold and others fruit and sweets. After this ceremony, the couple is officially engaged.

The familes then celebrate together with close friends and relatives. In my neice’s case, there will be a reception at a hotel as their home is too small to accomodate the thirty or so guests that will attend. Oh yes, engagement outfits can also vary from being lavish or simple according to one’s taste and purse. I think my neice will wear a sari. Oooohhhh, I am so excited.

All this got me thinking about engagements in Goan culture because I am a Goan. My memories took me back to some of the engagement parties I went to as a child followed by weddings and receptions. Of course, I only remembered the celebrations and feasts so, I had to research for the information on engagements. Here is what I found which is accurate according to my memory.

ENGAGEMENT: A suitable boy and girl are introduced to each other by an informal proposal for marriage brought by matchmakers (more likely mutual friends, female relatives, teachers or priests) known to both
families. After the young couple and parents are introduced, both
individuals and families pursue a dialogue and social interactions. If
both are interested in the union, after background checks (due-
diligence) and at times after a check on the horoscopes, the girl’s
parents officially visit the boy’s parents to bring a formal proposal.
Negotiations of the marriage process may ensue.

If fruitful, an engagement, soirik, mangni or sakharpuda ceremony is
planned. GSB refer to an engagement as nishchaytambul or nischay. Some
groups publicly announce the ritual prior to its event. Others do so
after the engagement ceremony but before the marriage.

Engagement rituals with prayers are performed at the girl’s home in
front of parents, close relative and friends. Among Catholics,
engagement rings are exchanged. According to Hindu custom, the girl
sits on a stool, her feet are washed, and she wears kumkum on her
forehead. In both groups, the boy offers the girl gifts of fruits,
sweets, green bangles (kankne or chuda) and gold jewelry. The boy also
receives some gifts. The new couple exchange pudos (cone-shaped paper)
iced with sugar. After a pledge of their intentions, the girl wears
twelve bangles of different colors which she continues to wear during
the courtship period and until the wedding.

After the ritual, there is the usual celebration, feasting and toasting.
This private celebration calls for playing traditional Goan songs. Lots
of Konkani tapes and CDs presenting a repertoire of Goan wedding and
love songs are now available! But, this should not prevent some live
joint-singing of traditional Konkani classical songs and love songs
special for this occasion. As this merriment can be an additional mental
burden for the girl’s parents in a nuclear family, it would help to
assign a relative (aunt or uncle) who has an artistic bent to plan the
enriching entertainment of the evening. This would be an honor and
pleasure for them to help – remember culture is inter-dependency! Goan
artistic events should also be about other aspects of our traditions
beyond Goan food and drink (an aspect of Goan custom that fortunately is
never in short supply). There should also be opportunities of the
members of the two families to come to know each other.




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