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MANGALAK BANDIRI  ( by Maleyanda Monica)

“KODAVAS bring alive their age-old traditions”   ~Courtesy: Times Of India, Mysore

Okay…so I decided to write about this topic because it took a lot of hard work from me to convince my non kodava friends that Kodava weddings are DEFINITELY NOT only about “food, booze and drunk dancing”…!! Yes, that was the exact description they gave me… And that got me thinking that maybe most of us, me included, don’t really appreciate anything about the actual meaning and the customs we have at our weddings…! We just take in all the color and fun. So, usually, my strong, opening line in the argument about our weddings with my non Kodava friends is always this very strong you-don’t-know-a-thing-statement which is usually a summary of the fact that we do not believe in giving or accepting dowry and instead practice the concept of sharing expenses of the wedding equally by the bride and groom’s families. That, I think is something that only kodavas practice till date. Believe me , it really works , every single time…No one can argue with that line …!Also, another aspect I learnt from my thatha Mr. Chendrimada Muthanna which may not really be true anymore, is that it is believed that the proposal should (preferably) come from the groom’s side first !It is believed to be some kind of unwritten constitution..!

Anyway, generally, Kodava Weddings stretch over two days – Oorukooduva Ceremony, which is followed by the Muhurtham on the next day. The wedding starts by offering meedhi to the ancestors (Guru Kaarana) at the bride & groom’s homes respectively. The wedding halls usually are chirping with excitement on the Oorukuduva day itself starting early in the morning with the Karikmuripa ceremony, which is usually the best place for all the maamis, kunjavvas, bojavvas and doddavas to catch up on all the latest gossip and of course help with the vegetable cutting!! Although we are Hindus, we typically do not have any priests conducting the weddings and neither does the groom have to tie the “karthamani” around the bride’s neck (this statement usually generates a lot of-“whaaaat are-you-kidding stares and exclamations”) but it is true, the mother of the bride ties the pathaak around the bride’s neck which is an indication that the bride is now a married woman. In most cultures, a widowed mother is not allowed to perform marital rituals, but in Kodava weddings, with family consent widows have been allowed to perform the rituals for their son/daughter. That , I believe is something very honorable.

On the second day, the bride and groom get dressed in their traditional attire- The bride in a red sari, red long-sleeved blouse and all the traditional Kodava jewelry, like the kokkethathi, pavala maale, jomaale, pathak, etc, the bride is always accompanied by her bojakarthi on the day of the wedding. The groom is dressed in a white kupya chalae and of course the majestic odikathhi and peechekatthi tucked into the chalea and always has his bojakaara by his side at all times. The groom is led to the mantapa with his bojakaara following the cutting of the banana stumps (which is apparently a ritual to maintain that Kodavas were originally a warrior class and that we are still very proud of our origin) and the bride follows with her bojakarthi. Once on the dais, the bride and groom sit separately on “mukkaalis”. The guests then start blessing the couple on the dais with gifts and wishes (pana kattuva). My favorite memories of this custom when I was little, is that when the bride or at the wedding was a very close cousin, my cousin sisters and me use to share the “heavy and very important” responsibility of wiping the “Akki” off the bride or grooms head with our fancy lace hankies (according to my Balyamaami we were the little bojakarthis and were like the little helpers of the tooth fairy… and obviously the tooth fairy was like the only person who could make anyone’s wishes come true so no counter questions were asked. It is so funny to think we actually fell for that then!!)

Once the guests have bestowed their blessings on the newly married couple, and have had a chance to enjoy the sumptuous meal, the “Neeredpa” ceremony takes place in which the bride has to draw water from a well after breaking a coconut with her grooms “peeche katthi” and offering her prayers to goddess Cauvery (Gange Puje) and carry a pitcher with water from the well, flanked by two more girls (from the grooms side to make the new bride feel more at ease)with a pitcher of water each. The members of the groom’s family then dance to the music and try to obstruct the brides path to the kitchen (“Thadupa”).This is apparently done to test the bride’s stamina and strength. Once the bride manages to get past all the obstructions in her path, this is followed by cutting the wedding cake by the couple, which usually marks the end of the wedding.

The next day the newlyweds and the groom’s relatives visit the bride’s house for the Mane-Mutto ritual which is usually a grand get together in celebration of the newlyweds.

Honestly, I never ever questioned why we have our tradition the way it is…I love every bit of our weddings..for the simple reason that it is colorful, lots of fun(you get to meet second/third cousins who suddenly grew up to be very handsome…!!),one can dance funny and blame it on the vaalaga-kaaras or the “thatha juice”….and of course the CHIKLI UNDAES(I could attend any Kodava wedding just for that)…!! But well, that’s just me !:)

*P.S – I did OBVIOUSLY Google before I wrote this, because I really did not know a few of the words. If I have mentioned something wrong or put it incorrectly, please do not be offended, I may not have put everything together perfectly well and that is precisely why it is just a blog. It’s just my version of Kodava weddings. I promise to do a better job of paying attention to details at the next Kodava wedding I attend.

Different Types of Kodava Mangala

First category: When mangala is used in the regular sense of conjugal relationship, it is called Kanni Mangala. Another mangala which comes under this category is ku:davali mangala or widow marriage.

Second category: When mangala ceremony takes place to reward or felicitate a person. For example, Nari Mangala / Tiger Marriage. A marriage ceremony is performed for a tiger killer, may it be a man or a woman. Another mangala under this category is payta:ndki alapi mangala which is performed to honor a woman who gives birth to ten children *question – 10 children at a time or in her lifetime? If the later then consider rewording to “to honor a woman who has given birth to at least ten children in her lifetime”+.

Third category: When mangala is a celebration. Kodi mangala is celebrated when a child is born after a long wait/longing, or kemikutti mangala is the ear-boring ceremony of a male child.

Fourth category: This mangala is a ritual to ward off the evil. Bale Mangala is performed after the consecutive death of wives, when the widower is married to a plantain tree before he marries again.

Fifth category: This mangala is performed for the sanction of rights – either of inheritance, legitimacy or changing the family. These mangalas are called parije.