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My study on marriage rituals among Christians in India

Avatar Law student, worked with The Hindu
Aishwarya Girinarayanan
Member since November 11, 2017
  • 4 Posts
  • Age 20

During my final year of high school, I had conducted a case study to understand the marriage rituals that took place among the Christian communities in India - such as the Christians of Kerala, Goa and Mizoram - compared to the marriage rituals among Christians in western countries. The objective of my case study was to highlight the noticeable differences in these marriage rituals among the Christian communities in India as opposed to the Christians living in the west.

It was noted that the Syrian Christians of Kerala and the Christians of Goa incorporated some elements of the Hindu tradition in their weddings. For example, the women in Kerala get married in a white sari called Mantrakodi (Indian clothing) and also wear a thali (which is a leaf-shaped gold pendant with a cross on it), while the women in Goa go through ceremonies called Chuddo (which requires the bride to wear green and yellow bangles as a representation of her married life) and Roas'(a Goan tradition that involves applying of coconut milk over the bride a day before the wedding to symbolize the beginning of a new life and the end of spinsterhood). It was seen that these rituals that involved the bride wearing a sari during the wedding, or a woman wearing a thali (chain) and bangles to symbolize her married life, are considered to be extremely important aspects of the Hindu tradition. Even pre-wedding rituals like the Roas ceremony held among Goan Christians have a striking similarity to the Haldi ceremony that is carried out in certain Hindu communities.

While the Syrian and Goan Christians have certain Hindu rituals as a customary part of their weddings, the Christians of Mizoram get married in a ceremony that is similar to Christians living in the west, with the additional inclusion of the bride price which is an amount that has to be paid by the groom's family to the bride's family. This is the opposite of dowry, which is still practiced widely in India and among some Syrian Christians although currently, economic and educational factors play an important role in deciding whether dowry is paid or not.

While this study surely enabled me to understand the customs and rituals of Christians in India, it also made me realize that a large section of our population is deeply unaware of these rituals among Christian marriages in our country. It reinforced the fact that India happens to be an exceptionally diverse country with lot of different cultures that incorporate a fundamental set of values and beliefs from one another. That's when I understood that there are so many wonderful things to learn from each culture which can help us mutually co-exist and appreciate the beauty in our seemingly different similarities in this often, conflicted world.

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