Can someone explain Knanaya Wedding Traditions for the groom and bride? SyroMalankara -Thomas?

My girlfriend and I are super into Indian Christianity :D. We’ve both been to many of the liturgies both East and West Syriac. Last week we were invited to our Knanaya friends, meilanchi? It was a really exciting event but we both had no idea what was going on. It was hard to find out because everyone there was really into the whole celebrations and we didn’t wanna bother with questions. Supposedly there was more that happened on the grooms side. Anyway in general it was really fun but we were completely lost :stuck_out_tongue: Could Thomas, SyroMalankara, or anyone else with knowledge on this please explain? We’ve been really excited to find out!

P.S: Sorry to bother you guys so much with the questions on Indian Christianity, I just find it super interesting.

I wish I could tell you the only time I have ever been to an Indian church was when I went to the Syriac Orthodox one in Augusta and that was the night after a wedding. Liturgy was beautiful though. So I have not gotten first hand experience with it but I am curious

No worries, I am glad that you have an interest in the Churches of St. Thomas and Knanaya Tradition. Knanaya wedding customs and traditions are the age old mixing of Hindu, Syriac, and some scholars have said Jewish customs. These customs can be split into a few different faccets-

*Note that every celebration has a specific wedding song that is chanted during the event.
*Slight variations in timing/etc do occur with these traditions
*Priests often reside over every event and give blessings
*The ceremonial nilavilaku (oil lamp with the St. Thomas Cross is lit during every event)

Kaipidutham- This is the betrothal ceremony in which the uncles of both families lock hands and are ready to give away their brothers/sisters son or daughter. A priest resides over this event and blesses the union.

For the Bride:

**Mylanchi Ideel **- This is the beautification of the bride ceremony, in which all of the brides family and relatives commune at the brides home. Their is a great canopy set up at which the front there is a raised platform/stage and in the center and rear there are many seats. On the stage there is a large stool in the middle and two on either side. The bride to be sits on the center stool, with her grandmothers or elder aunts on the two stools beside. With ancient songs being chanted, because eve walked with her feet to the tree and plucked the fruit with her hands, the grandmothers/aunts purify this bride of her original sin. To do this, they take the Mylanchi Shrub (which is a pasty substance) and spread it on the brides feet and hands, sometimes in special designs. After the Mylanchi is spread the bride is considered pure and is taken away by her grandmothers to change into a new dress. This concludes the first part.
Mylanchi Ideel Part 2/ Ichapad Kodukal **- The bride returns in a new stunning dress and is once again seated on the stage on the center stool. This time beside her often sit little girls, often her younger cousins or sisters. Because the bride is now pure she is fed sweet rice pudding or “Icha Pad” by her paternal uncles and sometimes older cousins. Before the uncles feed the rice pudding to her, the bride must rinse her mouth with water out of a special brass container. The eldest uncle comes forward and holds the brass container to the brides mouth and she spits out the water after rinsing into another brass container, she must do this three times.

Now the bride is ready to consume the sweets, however the eldest uncle to do so must ask the crowd, “Manavatti peninnu icha padu kodukettay?” (Shall I give the bride to be sweets) and the crowd replies “Ketila ketila ketilunay, ammavan chodichatha kettilanay” (We did not hear, we did not hear, what the uncle has asked). The crowd and the first uncle repeat this twice but on the third try when the uncle asks, the crowd replies “Ketalo ketalo, ketalonay ammavan chodichatha ketalonay” (We have heard, we have heard, what the uncle has asked). Now the eldest uncle has received permission from the crowd of family members and relatives to give the bride sweets. He ties a special turban around his head and gives the bride sweets using a special hand manner, (the uncles left hand must hold the elbow of the right hand and feed the sweets through the right hand). All other uncles after him (in descending order by age) come after him to feed the bride sweets using the special hand manner (however these uncles do not have to repeat the questions and unfold the turban and put it around their shoulders). Often the uncles will feed the little cousins/siblings sitting next to the bride in a teasing manner. After this ceremony the bride leaves the stage and the traditional celebration has ended but later their are Margam Kali’s, dances, and songs sung and performed by family members for entertainment. There is also often food, alcohol, and other consumption at the event.

For the Groom:

Chandam Charthal: On the same night as the brides Mylanchi Ideel, a similar canopy and stage is setup at the grooms house with his family and relatives. The groom sits on the middle stool with two younger cousins or siblings on either side. Chandam Charthal is the celebration in which the groom is purified by a ceremonial shave and smearing of oils. Since Adam was not the one who committed the original sin, the groom is not smeared with the mylanchi schrub. Instead the towns barber comes to the stage and asks the crowd twice, “Manavalan cherukenay chandam charthatay?” (Shall I beautify the groom) and the crowd replies twice “Ketila, ketilla, ketillanay, padagarmi chodichatha kettilanay” (We did not hear, we did not hear, what the barber has asked). On the third time, the barber asks “Manavalan cherukenay chandam charthatay?” (Shall I beautify the groom) and this time the crowd replies “Ketalo, ketalo, ketalonay padagarmi chodichatha kettalonay” (We have heard, we have heard, what the barber asks). Now the barber has received permission from the grooms family and relatives to shave the grooms face and smear it with oils. Now the groom is purified from lively sin and is taken away by his maternal uncles to change.

Chandam Charthal Part 2/ Icha Padu Kodukal: The groom comes back to the stage in new stunning clothes and is seated in the middle stool again aside his two younger siblings/cousins. The same ceremony that happened at the Mylanchi with the sweets occur with the groom, however the only difference is that is it performed by the maternal uncles. Similar to the Mylanchi, the traditional ceremonies of the Chandam Charthal are followed by family dances, songs, and other entertainment. There is also food, alcohol, and other consumption.

For Groom and Bride in Unity:

Wedding Qurbana: The Wedding Qurbana or Wedding Mass, is the East Syriac Qurbana of the Syro Malabar Church or the West Syriac Qurbana of the Syriac Orthodox Church depending on whether the wedding is Knanaya Catholic or Knanaya Jacobite. For Knanaya Catholics the Wedding Qurbana is the same as a Syro Malabar Wedding Qurbana, the only difference is that at the end of the Qurbana the ancient East Syriac hymn “Bar Mariyam” or “Son of Mary” is chanted by the priest and the parishioners. Jesus is called upon as the Son of Mary to come forth and seal the union.

Nada Vili: As the wedding ends and the bride and groom exit the Church and all the men of the family come together in a circle outside (with a processional umbrella in the center) and cheer “Nada Nadayoo!! Nada! Nada! Nada!!” (Which is basically the equivalent of shouting Hooray!). After the Nada Vili, the bride and groom are carried by their maternal/paternal uncles to the reception hall in procession with the others at the wedding.

Nellum Neerum: As the bride and groom are the first to arrive at the doors of the reception hall they are greeted by the grooms mother. The grooms mother wets blessed palm leaves from Palm Sunday in rice water and makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of both the groom and bride thrice, giving them God’s blessing. After this, the entire procession hall enters the banquet hall. The groom and bride are seated at a higher level above everyone else on a beautified stage.

Vazhu Pidutham: One of the maternal aunties or mother of the bride comes unto the stage and crosses her hands over the groom and bride. While the ceremonial hymn “Vazhvenna Vazhu” is being sung, the aunt or mother gives her great blessing upon the two and their newly married life.

Kacha Thazkukal: Maternal Aunts and uncles of the bride wait in a line near the stage. They all come up offering different gifts that signify different meanings. The eldest uncle gives a new sari to the bride and offers it in a distinct gesture similar to the Mylanchi and Chandam Charth. The uncle ties the turban around his head and askes “Manavalan cherukenum manavati peninum kacha thazuketay” (Shall I give the gifts to the bride and groom), the rest is the same and the uncle finally receives permission on the third try. The groom waits with his hands held out and the uncle places the sari in his hands. Then the uncle touches the top of the sari and the hips of the groom (repeated 3 times) and gives the groom a piece of jewelry from his body (often a ring), the uncle does the same thing with the bride however no gift is given. Another sari is given to the grooms hands and a maternal aunt repeats the same process of the uncle but instead gives a piece of jewelry from her own body (often a bangle) to the bride and no jewelry to the groom. The sari is removed and other uncles and aunties come up to the stage to offer jewelry from their own bodies and embrace the groom/bride. The rest of the time is spent eating and conversating between family and friends.

Adachu Thura: After the reception, main family members go with the bride and groom to the grooms house. Upon entering, the bride holds a lit St. Thomas Cross Lamp and enters her new home with her right foot. Tea is served and both the families sit in communion. The ceremony of Adachu Thura means “open and close”, the doors of brides new chambers in the grooms house are opened and closed to signify her new life with her husband.

*Numerous other minuscule traditions also take place that are not listed

**Pictures: **

Mylanchi Ideel

Nada Vili

Vazhu Pidutham

Baru Mariyam Chant and Blessing**

Thats pretty awesome Thomas, thanks so much for the info it cleared up alot. Do you know what the meaning behind the uncles asking and the people saying they cannot hear is?

For the uncles I really am not sure what the exact meaning is however I do know for the barber. The barber technically akses: “I ask the gentlemen here who are the protectors of 17 castes, shall I shave groom?”. This is a reflection of the historical position of Knanayas being elevated above 17 castes, a position given to them by Peruman Cherumal the king of Kerala during the arrival of the Knanayas. However, I do not know of the significance of the crowd saying they cannot hear. I myself always find that part very intriguing at weddings.

Thanks :), I hope I get invited to a Chandam Charthal one day because its female counterpart was very exciting.