Mangalorean Marriage Customs and Traditions – Finalising the Alliance Sairik



After the match was agreed, photos exchanged and approved, a day was fixed to visit the girls house to see the girl. The father, the boy, a maternal uncle and one or two close friends or relatives and the malo or gurkar*1 proceeded to the girl’s house to see the girl.

Pan podWhen they arrived they were welcomed with Pan-pod (betel leaf, betel/areca nut arranged on a plate) and udak (water).  This custom of offering pan-pod’ and udak is still symbolically practiced for all important ceremonies by many and is considered a mark of respect to the visitors and guests to whom it is offered.  This is clearly a survival of the Hindu wedding-ceremonies adapted by the Christians.** 2.

The girl was then called under some pretext.  She was asked to fetch water from the well or to place some object in the courtyard or to serve coffee to the guests.  The bridegroom and his father thus had an opportunity to observe her. The girl of course knew the reason she was called and would feel very shy.

If the grooms’ party approved of the girl the amount of dowry (dot), property and position and the family background was discussed in the girls house.  Amount of dowry differed according to the status of the family and it was considered a status symbol to pay an enormous amount of dowry.  Dowry was given by the bride’s father around two weeks before the wedding with great solemnity in the presence of many witnesses in the house of the bridegroom. To celebrate this occasion pan-pod was distributed i.e. a plate with pan-pod was passed from the bridegroom’s side to the bride’s party and vice-versa. This exchange was called badalchen (changing hands). A packet of pan-pod was also sent to the Parish Priest and to the other relatives as a seal to the final sairik.  With the dot, the bridegroom bought the jewellery especially the mangalsutra which was called ‘moni’ (silver beads in those days), gifts and clothes especially the “sado” red wedding saree for the bride.  When fixing the wedding date, certain days of the week and leap year were considered inauspicious.



Gifts of sweets

Fruit baskets

Gifts of fruit

In modern times an alliance became an even more intricate matter. Enquiries were made on sickness, physical and mental defects, etc. in the family and even remote relationships were minutely discussed.  These enquires were often so detailed that it gave rise to the proverb “Bara kathi jartalyo”  (to fix an alliance the soles of the feet are worn off twelve times).

In arranged marriages, it is appropriate to finalise the alliance. A day is fixed for the parents and few elders of the grooms family to go to the bride’s house to formally accept the bride into their family and to finalise the alliance “sairik’.

My elder son had an arranged marriage and the groom, the eldest aunts and uncles of the groom (from both sides of our family i.e my side and my husband”s side), me and my husband (eight of us) went to the bride’s house. It is customary to take some gifts of sweets, fruit and flowers to the girl’s house.  Additional gifts are given by the boy and his parents as a formal welcome to the girl, could be a watch, jewellery, saree, etc. These gifts depend on personal choice.

Mogra flower stringsIMG_4211IMG_4220

Flowers are put in the girl’s hair by the boy’s family once everything is finalized and sweets (instead of pan-pod) are distributed to seal the proposal.

In modern times dowry has lost it’s former importance, though it is still demanded in villages. However, the boys father or an elder relative would usually specify that they don’t want any dowry but that anything the girl’s parents wish to gift their daughter would be welcome and this is called denem (instead of dot). In this case, the girl and her family would buy her jewellery and sarees and the boy pays for the mangalsutra  (moni) and the sado and is also free to give more sarees or jewellery if he so wishes. This denem is then to be delivered to the groom’s house prior to the wedding day. (More on that will be covered later in the section “Wedding garments and Jewellery”). Other wedding plans are discussed and more often the wedding expenses are shared by the boy and the girl and their families. A wedding date would also be discussed, etc. and in todays time, any day of the week or even leap year is not considered inauspicious.

This custom of finalizing the sairik is for those who wish to follow some traditions otherwise like in love-marriages mutual consent becomes more important rather than parents decisions and the parents are just kept informed of the preparations and would generally just go along with the arrangements.  Yet, it would certainly be a beautiful gesture for the boy to seek the blessings of the girls parents.  His family may also formally ask for the girls hand in marriage.





My second son had a love-marriage and we did go to the gir’s house to finalise the alliance as stated above as we felt it is important to give the bride and her parents due respect and importance.






*1.Gurkar system: As only a few priests had accompaned the Christian emigrants to Canara, it was impossible for these priests to look after them properly and they therefore made use of the gurkar system and appointed men of good moral character as headmen in the Christian settlements.  The gurkars also known as Social leaders was appointed for each village and in the Christian villages they had also to replace the absent priest and therefore acquired more influence and importance.

** 2.Hindu wedding ceremonies adapted by the Christians : Christianity was established in Canara in the 16th Century when the Portuguese made themselves masters of Mangalore and other coastal ports when Canara was placed under the ecclesiastic jurisdiction of the bishop of Goa in 1534. Immigration of newly converted Christians from Goa also started on a vast scale and coincided with the introduction of the Inquisition in Goa in 1560. The rules of the Inquisition forbade the observance of any traditional Hindu customs after conversion and those who refused to comply were forced to leave Goa and settle outside the Portuguese dominion.  Some went to the Deccan, others to Canara.  The second emigration from Goa was in 1683 when Goa was invaded by Mahratta chief Sambhaji and many Brahmins fled from the Bardes District in Goa and settled in Canara. These Chistians who fled continued to practise their christian faith after they left Goa which proves that they only wanted to observe their ancient social customs which had nothing to do with religion.

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References: Severine Silva and Stephen Fuchs & Victor D’sa, S.V.D.: The Marriage Customs of the Christians in South Canara, India




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