Monthly Archives: May 2018

Mangalorean marriage customs and traditions – Vojem


VOJEM gifts



On the eve of the wedding, neighbours, people from the vaddo and close family ‘daijis’ ** brought gifts ‘vojem’ to the family which consisted mainly of various kinds of food required for the roce and wedding dinner like rice, vegetables like pumpkins, gourds, fruits like jackfruits and plantains and plaintain leaves, the latter were used as plates. Those who could not afford food contributed money.

*Wealthy and influential people brought their gifts accompanied by a brass band and group of dancers brandishing swords or wooden staves and this group was called talim. The bearers of the gifts came in a long line and in a solemn manner.  The gifts were received with some solemnity by the master of ceremonies ‘yejmani’ and his wife ‘yejman’.  No widow or widower can act as Yejmani and Yejman and this honor is then given to the closest married elder relative. The family accepting these gifts had to return them in a larger measure when a wedding was celebrated in the donor’s house.

* In the early 20th century most of the konkani roman catholics were temporary cultivating tenants ‘Chalgeni’ and the lanlords used to bestow various privileges on the cultivators. It was necessary to provide presents on important festivals and occasions of birth, marriage, etc., e.g. on a wedding the minimum present from the landlord in addition to various fruit, vegetables, coconuts was; 4 muras of paddy and another 4 muras worth of cash to pay the dowry, 16 yards of cloth, 4 1/2 kudatis (1 kudati = 12 tolas) of coconut oil, 1000 betel leaves, 100 areca nuts and some cash, etc.  It was after the land reform act was passed and introduced that surplus land was re-distributed among poor cultivators and needy landless agricultural labourers that most of the ‘cultivating tenants’ became land owners.

So when a reference to *Wealthy and influential people bringing vojem is made and the symbolic vojem processions we see at present day functions, I would think these wealthy people were the landlords bringing their presents with great pomp and show accompanied by the band.  Hence you see the head of the vojem procession a wealthy man (based on his attire) accompanied by his workers/labourers carrying the vojem.

This video which Mr. John Rodrigues of Johncy Digitals was kind enough to allow me to present, depicts the traditional vojem procession complete with brass band and the traditional music played on this occasion.


The vojem culture, albeit on a limited scale, still continues in our family and I am sure, in many mangalorean families.  Although not in procession, but close family members gift fruit like bunch of bananas, vegetables, coconut oil, coconuts, rice (by relatives from native place), cash, alchohol, etc. but the gifts are made privately.  The vojem is usually given couple of days before the wedding or on the morning of the roce day when the close family members gather to prepare for the evening roce function.

Today’s Roce functions also have the symbolic vojem dance/procession where close family members dressed in traditional attire participate, to enhance the entertainment quotient of the roce celebration. Professional vojem dance and voviyo singing and performing teams are also available, if required.

Dinner for the Deceased


A special dinner was served at noon of the last day before the wedding in remembrance of the deceased of the family.  Prayers were recited for them and dinner served.


The dinner is omitted, but an individual requiem mass is offered for all deceased members of the family and for the souls in purgatory.


Special thanks to Mr. John Rodrigues for sharing the vojem procession video.

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** Daijis – The great grandfather (father’s father’s father) is called ponzo and the descendant’s along the male line are one’s daijis.  Literally daiji means one who has share in the daij (ancestral property).  The daijis have a duty to help each other and their presence is important on all ceremonial occasions like weddings etc. and are to be given precedence over others on such occasions.

References: Severine Silva and Stephen Fuc hs & Victor D’sa, S.V.D.: The Marriage Customs of the Christians in South Canara, India, R.G.Kakade in ‘Depressed classes of South Kanara’ a socio-ecenomic survey, Francis Buchanan Land Reforms of Karnataka, Daijiworld,, Konkani Roman Catholics of Dakhshina Kannada Chapter III.


Mangalorean marriage customs and traditions – Kazara Matov


Wedding Pandal ‘kazara matov’

matov entrance


In the wedding week or couple of days before the wedding, preparations were made to erect the wedding pandal ‘matov’ both at the bride’s and the bridegroom’s house and it was essential that all weddings took place in the ‘matov’. A special invitation called ‘matvachi voulik’ was given to the neighbours expert in erecting matovs, inviting them to put up the matovs.  Usually two are erected, one for the main wedding function in the front courtyard and the second one at the side for cooking etc. called the rashyo.

The posts of the matovs had to be of an odd number and were made of stems of aerca-beetlenut1 tree madinut trees (madi) and the roof of leaves of coconut tree.  The front arches were of plantain trees with the bunches of plantains hanging down.  The plantain trees tied to the front posts of the matov seems to be a hindu custom carried over by the catholics as the tree is considered auspicious and a sign of fertility and prosperity.

The rashyo had the newly formed hearths for cooking the roce and wedding feasts. A few days before the wedding the women of the house and neighbourhood gathered to prepare the various spices which were first fried and then ground to a powder for the cooking.  This powder was called karpo.

The traditional kitchen equipment used in the rasshyo were the Ghatno/Vaan, the tondor,  adalo, kail, kailatho, kanthne, koitho, koithi, bornis, etc.

Traditional Kitchen Equipments


The Matov culture continues to exist even in modern cities provided the houses or apartments have sufficient place in the compound or the apartments’ terraces especially for the roce and porthapon ceremonies, if conducted at the homes of the bridal couple. Food however is rarely cooked at home and instead catered.  The modern matovs are built with bamboo and cloth/fabric.

Weddings though, take place in banquet halls, which in most cases must be reserved almost a year in advance.  Roce and Porthapon also in most cases take place in banquet halls.


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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


Marriage customs and traditions – Wedding Invitation


Wedding Invitation “Voulik”


Upon finalising the dates of the wedding ceremonies, utmost care was taken and special attention was given to inviting close relatives in person, going from house to house and this form of invitation is called ‘voulik’.  It used to be a verbal invitation. The bridegroom and a near relative of the bride alongwith two elderly men of either party would go to issue the ‘voulik’ by giving details of the ceremonies like time of ros, resper nuptials, jevan wedding banquet, etc.  ‘First’ invitation was made to the parish priest, then the gurkar (head of the Christian community). Then invitations were exchanged between the bride and the groom’s family.  First the bridegroom’s father and some relatives went to the bride’s place for inviting the family to the wedding.  Then the father of the bride with some relatives went to the bridegroom’s place for extending the invitation.

Pan pod

Certain rules had to be observed when going for the voulik. Upon reaching the relatives house, they had to stand outside the main door, greet the owner, enquire about their health and then reveal the purpose of their visit. He would say “Havn voulik sangonk ailam” – I have come to invite you for the wedding. At once the master of the house would welcome them saying ‘dev borem korum, udak ailem’ – God bless you, please, accept this water.  The invitation had to be announced in a particular manner lest it be taken as an insult.  If any invitees were not present at their home at the time of the visit ‘pan-pod’ was left at the entrance of the house to indicate the visit.  This system of invitation may be still be in practise in rural remote villages.



Personal invitations ‘voulik’ are still made alongwith the ‘printed invitation’, but the  bride and the groom’s family go separately for the ‘voulik’, each inviting their own relatives.  Some rules though are customary to be followed.

The first invitation is a symbolic invitation to “The Holy Family” Jesus, Mary & Joseph to seek blessings on the bridal couple and the marriage ceremonies. So an invitation card is placed at the altar at home.  This may have been done in olden days also but have not found any mention of this.

The next invite goes to the bride’s family by the bridegroom’s family and vice-versa. Then the elders of the family are to be invited in person, followed by other relatives and friends according to time and convenience.  Invitations are also sent using postal, courier, electronic services and social media, followed-up by a telephone call if necessary.

e972dc2f889c7fc9650ff6b6b296cff4--wedding-paper-wedding-cardsPrinted invitation cards, Save the date, RSVPs, announcements on social media, etc. have become the norm.  A wedding invite should be kept as simple as possible but as it  provides a glimpse and sets the tone of the events leading to the wedding, the style and contents require some thoughtful planning as it is an important medium in announcing the ‘good news’ to family and friends.

Tips to be followed so that no information is omitted, is to ensure ‘who, what, when, where’ details are provided on the card i.e. who is getting married, date and venue is important to be on the invite.  Any other information should be on separate cards or can be directed to the wedding website if there is one or by word of mouth.  It is also important to add the names of who is hosting the wedding as the wording on the invite would differ if the parents are hosting, bridal couple is hosting or both parents and couple are hosting.

A typical timeline for wedding invitations would be :-

  1. Save the Date invites go out 6 to 8 months before the wedding
  2. Order the wedding invites 6 to 8 months prior to the wedding
  3. Invites are sent 6 to 8 weeks before the wedding
  4. Invites to a destination wedding, 3 to 4 months before the wedding
  5. RSVP requests 2 to 3 weeks before the wedding
  6. Wedding website details should be included on the ‘Save the Date’.
  7. Wedding registry details may be included on the website and not on the wedding invite.  Gift-giving is a ‘blessing’ to the newly married couple to begin the new part of their lives and while it is tempting to include the gift registry with the wedding invitation, etiquette dictates otherwise.

A word on RSVPs.  Guests do tend to take the RSVP request lightly. Out of courtsey to your hosts, do make it a point to reply to RSVPs in time.  As soon as you know you will be attending or not attending, let the the hosts know by email or a call.  A huge amount of effort and costs go into the planning of a wedding and it’s a shame for the hosts to have to pay for guests who don’t make an appearance!

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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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