Being on an impromptu trip of discovery and self-exploration brings you a handful of heartfelt experiences. I would like to believe it’s cyclical and works in tandem with nature; if you desire more, you gain more and if you are ok with what you have, then you stay right there in your comfort zone. On my trip to Kerala, some local people were kind enough to invite me for a regional Orthodox Syrian Christian wedding to be held at Parumala and why on earth would I turn down once in a lifetime experience?
Parumala is 35 odd km from Kottayam, the place which served as a crash pad and midway to everything around for the next few days. Took a bus ride to Parumala and reached St. Peter’s & St. Paul’s Orthodox Church by noon. The wedding was a Christian one and was supposed to be held at a church, unlike the lavish laid back North-Indian weddings.
Parumala is a place is small and has nothing much to offer except the usual life but the church gathers a herd of people due to its importance among the Syrian Orthodox sect of Christians. The church has now been standing for more than a century and is one of the most important churches for the Orthodox Christians residing in India. The couple who got married was from Bombay and came here only for the wedding.
The Syrian Malabar Christians are the descendants of the natives and those of the Jewish diaspora in Kerala, who became Christians in the Malabar coast during the earliest days of Christianity. They follow a unique Hebrew-Syriac Christian tradition, which includes several Jewish elements although they have absorbed some Hindu customs. Their heritage is Syriac-Keralite and their language Malayalam. Much of their Jewish tradition has been forgotten, especially after the Portuguese invasion of Kerala in the early 1500s.
The bride was dressed in a sharp white sari and the groom in a black suit. They faced the Bishop with their back towards the crowd, which barely left any vantage point to capture the wedding properly. As per the tradition, during the wedding, the groom presents a new sari to his bride. This sari is called the ‘mantra kodi’.
The night before the church ceremony, strands of thread are drawn from this sari by the groom’s sister and twisted to form a cord. On this cord, is tied the ‘taali’, a leaf-shaped gold pendant with a cross, inscribed on it. The ‘mantra kodi’ is placed on the bride’s head by the priest and blessed. Not like a western-style Christian wedding, in a Syrian Christian wedding, it is the priest who puts the rings on the bride and groom’s hands to symbolize the bond made before God, a bond that will not be broken.
The Syrian wedding is a good physical workout which makes you stand for good 2 hours, without understanding much of the finer nuances and hoping for them to finally get through, which took around 2 hours span in my case. By the time I had already sat on the floor twice just like a bunch of other people who feel its absolutely ok to comfort yourself and it won’t jeopardise the wedding. Which finally lead to a plated meal like a Muslim wedding with rice, fish, dal and sweets; A much-needed push to finally make me go back home.