Mangalorean marriage customs and traditions – Vojem

STEP 9

VOJEM gifts

Then:

Vojem2

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.

Now:

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

Then:

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.

Now:

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 Fuchs & 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, mangalorean.com, Konkani Roman Catholics of Dakhshina Kannada Chapter III.

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