A Kannada wedding can be said to be a relatively simple affair in comparison with the resplendent weddings conducted in other regions of India. Kannadiga refers to the people who speak Kannada in Karnataka state. Karnataka state is home to people who speak different languages in different regions: - Kannada, Tulu, Konkani and Kodava. There are about 6.1 crore (61 million) people in the state of Karnataka who form 5% of the total 1.2 billion Indians. There are regional and local variations in the wedding ceremonies based on caste, community and religion.
As such there are various communities in Karnataka and the wedding rituals followed by each of these communities are typically different. One vital feature of the Kannada wedding is the numerous rituals performed pre, per and post wedding. Some interesting and key Kannada wedding rituals are elaborated here
Pre wedding rituals:
Nandi: This is a ritual performed to ensure that the marriage takes place without any hindrances and goes on peacefully even if there is a death or birth on either side. The first wedding card is placed before the Lord along with coconut, aarti and a kalash.
Kaashi Yatre: This is a traditional playful ritual in existence since yore. The groom pretends to be angry as nobody is bothered to search a bride for him. He announces Brahmachara and leaves for Kasi on a pilgrimage like a true sanyasin. He carries a walking stick, an umbrella, a fan and a coconut, a small packet of rice and dal and also a dhoti. At this juncture his maternal uncle intercepts and convinces him and puts forth the bride he has chosen.
Dev Karya: This ritual is normally performed on the day of arrival of the groom's family to the village or the place the marriage is being conducted. The goods used for the wedding are placed before the Lord Ganesha and blessings sought. The bride and the groom are applied with 'haldi', a paste of turmeric on their bodies and this is considered auspicious. The 'uddin murth' grain which is considered sacred is ground.
When the groom and his retinue reaches the venue, the married women, the 'sumangalis' from the bride's party perform an aarti. They then lead the bridegroom inside the wedding hall
Mandap Puja: This is in fact the first ritual that is performed on the day of the marriage. This Puja is for the Mandap or the marriage hall to be rendered appropriate for the wedding. The Var Puja is a ceremony performed when the bride's father brings the groom to the Mandap. The ceremonial washing of the groom's feet by the parents of the bride takes place and a silk dhoti and pitambar is offered to the groom to adorn him for the wedding. It is the usual practice that none should see the face of the bride when she is brought to the Mandap. So the bride's face is shielded by peacock feathers.
Garlanding ceremony: The bride is escorted by her uncle to the Mandap according the Kannada wedding traditions. The bride and the groom stand facing each other with a white cloth in-between them. The bride and the groom take standing positions and the 'Mangalashtam' which is the wedding mantra is recited. The white cloth is now removed and the bride and the groom now garland each other amidst the chanting of mantras. Now the groom's sister holds a kalash of holy water that contains coconut water, betel leaves and Kombu Gindi.
Giving away of the bride: 'Dhare Herdu' symbolizes handing over their daughter to the groom. The bride's father takes the groom's hand and places it on the hand of the bride. The groom then holds the bride's hand along with coconut and betel leaves while her father ceremonially pours water into the groom's hands signifying 'dhara' that now she belongs to the groom. Puffed rice is then poured into the haven five times before the seven pheras or the saptapadi begins.
Saptapadi is the actual wedding ceremony of the bride taking the groom's footsteps seven times around the holy fire 'sapta padi'. The groom's angavastram and the bride's pallav are tied with a nuptial knot.
In the Kannada wedding, five women tie the Mangalsutra or the holy thread while the bride groom holds it around the neck of the bride. The couple bows before the elders and seek their blessings.
In some kannada weddings, a game called Okhli is generally played with the groom's wedding ring dipped in a vessel containing colored water. The bride and her brother search for the ring thrice.
Post wedding rituals
Vidaai ceremony symbolically refers to the tearful farewell of the bride from her maternal home to her in-laws house. The bride's parents shower her with numerous gifts including an umbrella, vessels, cot and other items to enable her set up her new home.
Graha Pravesh is the ritual of the bride entering her new home. She kicks a kalash full of rice with her right foot kept at the entrance of the groom's house. This ritual signifies that her arrival is bound to bring prosperity and she enters a new phase of her life. The name changing ceremony follows. The groom decides on a name for his bride which he inscribed with a ring on a plate containing rice.
Kannada wedding clothes
In traditional Kannada weddings, the bride wears a navari (nine yard) sari and green glass bangles. She is adorned with fine gold jewellery. The groom wears a silk dhoti and pitambar and a pheta, a turban. In the right hand he holds a stick which has been sanctified in a holy place. Both wear a bashinga on their forehead.
Among the various communities in Kannada, in the Balija community wedding the wedding attire is distinctly different as the bride dresses in white silk sari with contrasting border. The groom is draped in white silk dhoti edged with zari border and a Valli which is a stole of the same material draped over the shoulders. He also wears a white shirt and sports ornamental turban of gold brocade called pheta. The groom wears a turban of white or cream color. A large tilak marks his forehead.
Some communities would show the social status of the groom by the turban - a long white towel made of silk with Zari, and the Zari edged Veshti/Dhoti with a silk towel spread over the shoulder, called as Angavestram. This practice is usually standard with many South Indian Brahmin communities. The Sanskrit/Tamil words describing the attire indicate that many cultural practices are common across the same Hindu communities.
The Kannada Coorg bride wears a traditional brocade sari draped in typical Coorg style. A veil covers the bride's head. In Kannada weddings the bride is presented five sarees by the groom's family. Each saree is meant for respective occasions during the wedding. During Dare Puja, a grand Kancheevaram silk saree is worn whereas a simple saree is worn for haldi ritual. An elegant saree is selected for Puja and when the bride sits near the groom after Graha Pravesh.
Kannada wedding feast
Kannada weddings are occasions for vegetarian delights - four types of curry, a sweet chutney, salt, pickle and two types of kosambari which are salads made out of yogurt and cucumber or beetroot. Papad and Payasam are 'must haves' in the menu.