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  The Roce Ceremony

On the previous evening of the wedding day, an important ceremony is performed which is called 'roce'  - a ritual hot water bath taken with anointing of oil and application of  pure  coconut juice,  by the groom/the bride. This signifies the last bath that the bride or the groom will be taking in their bachelorhood/spinsterhood.  With the ceremony of  'roce'  the wedding celebration  really begins. Both bride and bridegroom have to undergo this ceremony in their respective homes. This ceremony also signifies the mother's love towards her son or daughter.  The guests who come for the roce are warmly welcomed by the hosts  “Yezman” and “Yezmani” at the main entrance of the ‘matov’ (Pendal) saying ‘paan-pod udak ailem' ('receive this plate of areca-nut,  betel  leaves, etc., and pot of water’).  The guests acknowledge the welcome and reply :  ‘Dev Borem  Korum,  yezmanya”  (May God bless you).  Among the guests,  those who are in the habit of eating ‘paan-pod’ (betel  leaves and areca nut)  take the plate in their hands and chew paan-pod.

The wedding ‘roce’ ceremony was performed in the evening for the bride and evening or on the wedding day morning for the groom.  If the ‘roce’ is held in the evening, it implies that there will be a ‘rosa  jevann’ or meal after the ceremony.  As the wedding celebration was now reduced from - say 10 days to three days  and now  to one day, the main wedding dinner would take place at the groom’s residence.  Therefore, the bride’s side avails the opportunity of the evening   roce  so that they can invite their relatives, neighbours, dear ones for the roce ceremony meals.  The  invited  guests of the bride also would attend the wedding the next day.

The yezmani, usually the father  of the bride, announces the commencement of the roce. The wife of the yejmani  is called 'yezman'.  It is not necessary that the parents only act as yezmani or yezman (masters of ceremonies).  This responsibility can also be given to anyone related to their family  (widowers are excluded).  Soon after the yezmani announces that roce is to be performed at such and such a time, the bridegroom with his best man (dhedo), and other companions called ‘mhal dhede’ usually his own younger brothers, and in case he has no brothers, his younger male cousins, sit on a bench in the centre of the ‘matov’ facing the house or house altar.

For the roce ceremony, usually the groom (at his residence )can be seen  moving outside in the matov, but the bride usually remains inside her  house and will be asked to come out and be seated for the roce ceremony only when it actually  begins.  She will be wearing a skirt and blouse ( called ‘Khirgi bhaju’) and so will be the bride’s maids, usually a couple of young girls. The groom (voreth or novro) will be wearing a loin cloth called ‘pudvem’ or a half pant or a ‘lungi’ and the upper body may or may not be covered with a half sleeved singlet. The same dress code goes for his ‘dhedes ‘too.

The yezman enters the matov with bowl filled with coconut juice called ‘apros roce’ in her right hand and a small container with coconut oil and a small spoon in the other hand.  She places the juice bowl on the floor in front of the groom and stands with the oil container in the hand. Two more aunts of the groom (or sisters) also carry juice bowls (one each) and place them in front of the ‘dhedes’ seated on either side of the groom.

After this , the roce ceremony begins.  Firstly, the  yezman  dabs  her thumb in the oil and makes a sign of the cross on the forehead of the groom,  followed by each of his  ‘dhedes ‘ sitting beside him. These actions will be commenced with the singing of appropriate ‘VOVIYOS’. Then,  she will dip the spoon in the oil and drops oil in each of his ears  (the groom will have to tilt his head each side for this)  and then puts 5 drops of oil on his head and rubs oil into his hair. Then she will do the same to others as well.  Once this ritual  is completed,  she hands the oil container to one of her aids and then comes in front of the groom and by cupping her hands, scoops roce from the bowl and pours oh the grooms head, rubs, then pours roce on his face, hands and even legs and rubs it gently. This process she will continue to the rest of the ‘dhedes’ seated along with the groom.

The next honour to apply the roce to groom  is for the grand  mother, god mother, sisters, aunts, relatives (daiji) and neighbours.  The father, Uncles (both paternal and maternal) join in followed by all those who are present who wish to apply roce.  Soon after the completion of the roce ceremony, the groom is taken by hand and led to the bathing place.

It is well remembered that in olden  times the voviyos are expressed with  sentiments and gave vent to the feelings of the people about the marriage partners and their families - primarily , invoking the blessings  of God on them. The voviyos  sung in modern  days,  have been composed a few centuries ago, and some  of them may be even older.  While the anointing is carried out, women whose husbands are still living (also known as ‘sobagin/sumangali’) stand around and sing. The voviyo sung during the anointing is usually started by the yejman.

The Tradition of Voviyo
It is characteristic that the different ceremonies of Mangalorean Catholic weddings are accompanied by songs (voviyos or Limericks) sung by women. The procedure is that one of the women, usually an elderly lady who knows the  voviyos in a sequential manner, leads the voviyos,  while the rest of the women sing ‘vove’ and then repeat the last verse. In this way, the younger ladies learn the voviyo and when confident, take the lead and there by continue and carry on  the tradition.

It is well remembered that in olden times,  the wedding songs expressed very lofty sentiments and gave vent to the feelings of the people about the bride and the groom and their families, invoking the blessing of God on them. The tradition was carried by  them to Kanara from Goa , when our ancestors fled from  Goa and settled in Kanara,  in the  Kingdom of Ikkeri  Nayaka dynasty, who welcomed them and allotted land for them for cultivation. Unfortunately many of these songs are now lost and completely forgotten. The few which are preserved and remembered are recited on this roce day and at mangalorean catholic weddings. The verses sung in our days have been composed a few centuries ago, and parts of them may be even older.

While the groom is taking the bath, preparation for the serving of the roce dinner is being made and drinks are served at this time.  Once the groom and his companions have returned, a short prayer is said for the groom, his family, and for the deceased members of the family etc., and then the dinner is served.  The dinner,  if traditional, will be rice, Kuvallo with mutton or  Kuvallo with dried baby shrimp called ‘galmbo’ and a variety of dry vegetable dishes likr  ‘tendlim’(girkins) with cashew nuts,  chonno sukho (gram) or Khelen sukhen,  and the sweet, ‘vorn’ will be served  after the dinner.

To conclude the ceremony, usually the traditional Latin song ‘Laudate’ is sung.


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