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Traditional Sri Lankan Buddhist Wedding Customs
Marriages, the romantics say are made in heaven. A traditional Buddhist wedding in Sri Lanka certainly is, since it all depends on the stars and planets.
The preliminaries consists of a formal proposal of marriage by the parents of the aspiring young man to those of the girl. This is usually done through the medium of the magul kapuwa, a king of one-man marriage bureau and a slightly comic character who is a favourite subject of satire.
With the proposal goes the suitor’s horoscope. Only if it is compatible with the girl’s is the match agreed upon. Details about dowry then have to be settled. Next, the young man’s family visits the girl’s house and sees her for the first time. Rings are exchanged and astrologically auspicious times are decided on. From then everything moves on astrological precision and nicety, not only the wedding arrangements but a host of other things as well, even the making of sweet meats for the reception.
The wedding itself varies according to the milieu of the families concerned. In sophisticated, western influenced society, the couple may be married in a hotel, but according to an age old Sri Lanka rite, the going away is in a rain of confetti in a gleaming limousine, trailing an old shoe.
In a village wedding a corrugated iron marquee may be erected and decked gaily with bunting. Colored paper and flowers. Inside, the poruwa, a raised structure rather like a pulpit either severely simple in style or a triumph of village artistry, is et up.
Rice, betel heaves, coconuts, baskets of kiribath (un-sweetened rice pudding that is an integral part of any ceremony) and kevum. (fried mushrooms shaped cakes of ground rice and treacle) are spread on a mat on the poruwa. When the ceremonies are over, these are claimed by the village washerman and washerwoman who play an important role in the wedding ritual.
The bridegroom arrives in procession at the prescribed auspicious time, accompanies sometimes by drummers and dancers. The bride’s brother washes the feet of his brother-in-law, and the bridegroom responds by presenting him with a gold ring which is he drops into the basin of water.
Also at a prescribed time the bride arrives, often wearing a white veil in a custom borrowed from the west. She will be dressed in a white saree (some times home-made by herself on a hand loom) and jewellery of traditional design. The bridegroom puts a chain around the brides neck and a wedding ring on her finger.
The most important rite the trying of the nuptial knot, now takes place. An uncle of the bride joins the right thumbs of the couple with gold or white thread and the ashtake blesses the union while pouring water from a special jug on their fingers. The three main elements earth, wind and fire bear witness to the union.
When the knot is untied, the happy pair feed each other kiribath and bananas. White clad girls sing Jayamangala Gath evoking further blessings.
The couple step down from the poruwa and the washersman steps up taking a heavy knife and breaks a coconut laid on the floor. If the two halves of the nut fall apart kernel up, it augers well for the future. This invariably happens, which is just as well. All this takes places to the resonant beat of the drum, the magul bera.
The ceremony over, the guests are regaled with rice and curry and traditional goodies like kevum (never left out of ceremonies), kokis (a Dutch treat like cookies), and delectable kalu dodol (a dark brown thick jelly). Feasting done the bridal couple are escorted to the bridgroom’s house, where they duly live happily ever after.
Even if they don’t who can blame them? The fault is not in themselves but in their stars.
(Traditional Sri Lankan Buddhists Wedding Customs is taken from Explore Sri Lanka)