Mangalorean marriage customs and traditions – Roce


Roce stage2
Roce stage and Pan-Pod Udak

Roce is a beautiful  ceremony preceding the nuptials, symbolizing purification of the body of the young bride/groom to cleanse her/him and make them pure in the eyes of God as they are about to enter into the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.   After the anointing she/he is led to take a ritual bath to end their bachelorhood or spinstership in preparation for the most important event of his/her life – The Wedding.

Roce is sort of an emotional ceremony and is held only once in a life time.  A person re-marrying, for whatever reasons, will not hold this ceremony.  So it is a unique ceremony and should be respected.  After this ceremony the bride/groom are not supposed to leave the house except for the nuptials.


On the eve of the wedding an important ceremony is performed at the bride and groom’s house respectively, called the ‘roce’– oil bath or anointing and with this the wedding ceremonies actually begin. This ceremony signifies the mother’s love for her son/daughter.  Guests were warmly welcomed at the entrance to the matov with pan-pod and udak. Guests who are in the habit of eating pan-pod take the plate in their hands and chew some pan-pod.

Traditional dress worn by bride is a skirt and blouse (called ‘Kirgi bhaju’) and changes into skirt blouse for the roce application. The groom (voreth or novro) wore a loin cloth called ‘pudvem’ or a half pant or a ‘lungi’ and the upper body may or may not be covered with a half sleeved singlet and the dhedes wore the same.

The yejmani accounces the roce. Yejmani can be the parents or any elder family member, but not widows or widower. The male is yejmani and female is yejman.

The bride/groom with their dedhiyo (bridesmaid)/dhedes (groomsmen) sit on a low stool monoi or a bench surrounded by the guests. The yejman enters with two plates vatli, one containing coconut oil and one coconut juice. She puts a sign of the cross with oil on the forehead of bridegroom, puts oil on the head rubs it in and puts oil in the ears.  Then proceeds to apply the coconut juice all over the body and softly rubs it in. The bridesmaids and groomsmen are also anointed likewise.  In earlier days only the women applied roce to the bride/groom.

This anointing is done accompanied by singing of the voviyos  by women, the procedure being one women leads the song while the rest of the women say ‘voi’ voi’ (yes, yes) at the end of each verse and then repeat the last verse.  These wedding songs voviyos express the genuine enterprising nature of the manglorean Christians, their high ideals, respect for elders, their deep faith in God invoking the blessing of God on the couple.  It was not uncommon for two senior women to sing the voviyos in competition with each other, one praising the bride and the other the groom.

When the anointing comes to an end the bride/groom are led by the mother to the bath for their last ‘bachelor’s bath’ avnkarponachem nan-navnche.  The mother and god-mother, elder aunts would symbolically bathe the bride/groom by pouring the first few mugs of water on them.

The roce ceremony is an impressive and ritual purification rite by which the bride and groom embarks on a new state of life i.e. saunskar.  The blessings of God are invoked and their dead ancestors remembered.

The roce banquet consists of steamed rice,  polov of ash-pumpkin (kuvalo),  chone sukke black-gram curry,  lonche pickles, kele sukke curry of raw bananas and vorn sweet dessert. Those who can afford serve muton-polov. In some communities the main dish of the roce meal consists of fish curry.

The meal began when the bride/groom finished their bath and had taken their seat of honor in the matov. The MC or Garcho Yejmani says a few words while raising a toast for a bright future to the bride/groom.  This is called boliki magchi – wishing good health to all present in the matov. At the end of the yejmani’s short speech everyone says ‘dev borem korum’ – ‘May God Bless you’ and the meal begins.  Usually children, women and people coming from long distance would eat first (poili pankti).  When people sitting at the last turn (kadechi pankti) finish their meal the laudate is sung. That night there is great merry-making, singing and joking in the matov which continues through the night.  Those in charge of cooking, keep themselves busy killing the pig, slicing onions, etc. for the wedding banquet.


The Roce ceremony is held two or three days before the wedding.   In the cities,  roce may be held at home if there is sufficient place in the compound or a building terrace where a wedding matov/pandal is erected or in a private hall.

The day would begin  by mass being offered for the departed souls of the family Gharchin almaun.  The close family members then gather for lunch at the bride/bridegrooms home to prepare for the evening roce ceremony like extracting roce.  The vojem gifts are made.

The coconuts used should be in odd number, three, five, seven, etc. depending on how much roce is required which would depend on the number of guests expected at the function.  The scraping of the coconuts are done by the elder sisters, sister-in-law, maushis, etc. and extraction of the roce although required to be squeezed by hand only,  maybe ground in the mixer and extracted by placing the coconut paste in a cloth and squeezed if a large quantity of roce is required.

The roce plates are also in odd number 3, 5, 7 etc. depending on the number of women who will be given the honor by the yejman of carrying the roce plates.  Elder sister-in-law, God mother, aunts, etc. are given the honor but not widows and spinsters.

As the concept of matov and rashyo is seldom followed various traditional kitchen items are displayed near the stage on the roce day, as shown in the kazara matov post.

The event is conducted by a professional Master of Ceremonies who will make the required announcements to give a proper format to the event. Food is catered and music is hired so that there is great entertainment for the function.

When the anointing comes to an end the bride/groom are led by the mother to the bath for their last ‘bachelor’s bath’ avnkarponachem nan-navnche.  The mother and god-mother, elder aunts would symbolically bathe the bride/groom by pouring the first few mugs of water on them.

Roce Kuwalo cutting

The roce ceremony today is similar to the earlier custom and by far many of the rituals are followed even if only symbolically, like the stage decorations, vojem procession, traditional costumes, singing of voviyos or recorded voviyos.  Symbolic cutting of the kuvalo by the bappu and extracting coconut juice is also symbolically performed at the begining of the formal roce function.

The traditional roce menu is served but in addition mutton, pork, chicken etc. are also included depending on individual choice and/or financial status of the host.  The meal is served buffet style instead of the traditional banana leaf meal.


No mangalorean roce function or for that matter any wedding function is complete without the Mangalore Mallige Jasmine flowers.  As with all preparations it is ensured that an order for the flowers is made well in time. The Altar is also decorated with jasmine flowers and after reserving for the bride to adorn her hair after her ritual roce bath, the remaining flowers are distributed to women of the family, relatives and friends.

A typical roce ceremony would go along the following lines::-

  1. Keep the Roce plates at the alter
  2. Welcome
  3. Prayer at the alter
  4. Bible reading
  5. If priest or nun is present or a senior person, can give short commentary over the bible reading and the Roce program.
  6. Make bride/bride groom to stand at a prominent place and all senior people come in a line and give blessings.
  7. Make the people involved in Roce to sit at the bench provided in a Matov. (If it is bride then bride along with her sisters or cousins or dedhiyos. If it is bridegroom then along with him his brothers/cousins or dedhes)
  8. Applying the Roce
  9. Take the Novro/Vokol and give them a bath.
  10. Dedho/Dedhios too will go for bath.
  11. Dinner

and Laudate

Then music, dancing and merry-making!

Enjoy this wedding song…

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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, Konkani Roman Catholics of Dakshina Kannada

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