The mock wedding of Deepavali

The mock wedding of Deepavali

The mock wedding of Deepavali

Deepavali is generally associated with crackers, diyas, food and family. But what if I tell you that Deepavali is about mock marriages too? A certain tribal community of Uttara Kannada district commemorates the festival of lights with mock weddings, in which both the bride and the groom are guys!

Welcome to the unique tradition of the Halakki community, who are predominantly based in Karwar taluk of Uttara Kannada district. They have been carrying out this bizarre practice since ages and in fact, the tradition is still prevalent in villages of Kilkon, Binaga, Sanimakki, Aligaddha, Muduga Devatakona, Sakalbena, Todur, Shirwad, Bargal, even today. In this mock wedding, the headgear for the bride and the groom is fashioned out of kakadande (locally available creeper), hand fans are made out of the leaves of bottle gourd plant and the leaves of marigold flowers replace the traditional betel nut leaves.

Unlike a traditional wedding wherein holy hymns are chanted, this mock performance has people singing folk songs with metal plates for instruments.

The Bali Padya day of Deepavali is very important for Halakkis. The day of the festival begins with gopuja and as the night falls, everyone heads to the village head’s or the head priest’s residence from where mock wedding celebrations begin.
First, women get into two groups and begin the process of soliciting the bride, singing folk songs all the while. They then select two young unwed (unrelated by blood) guys and assign the roles of bride and groom to them. The groom is called balindra and the bride, grihadevi. In some other villages, the bride is also called as samee hindu and the groom as bidiru hindu. The match is then finalised and celebrated with some dancing. The comical antics of men and their peculiar attire sends everyone into peals of laughter.

This merry-making goes on till four in the morning. Then, as the sun rises, the bride and the groom are adorned with makeup, while women sing Tai tai to, kakadande balli basinga, sorekai yele bisanige, tai tai to. Every year, a villager takes the vow of organising this mock performance and a procession is carried out to his house in the village. He then feeds everyone a bottle-gourd-based meal, after which the procession heads to the village temple, with the women singing songs in praise of the couple.

The wedding is conducted according to the Hindu traditions, wherein the couple stands before the village deity and a cloth is held between them. In many cultures, godhuli (the time between evening and night) is considered to be the auspicious time for matrimony and the same goes for this mock ceremony too. The elder sister and brother-in-law take the lead in conducting the ceremony here. After the wedding, the presiding deity is worshipped, while the villagers play different musical instruments.

Then, the villagers give the newly-weds gifts like mango leaves, broken pots, old vessels, paper packets and stones as wedding gifts in a comical gesture. Then, avalakki (rice flakes) is fed to all the villagers. “Unlike real weddings, here a simple dish like avalakki is considered to be the wedding feast,” says Ramesh Goud from Binaga village.

Finally, the headgear of the newly-weds is removed, which signifies the end of the mock wedding. Couples who got married the previous year grace the occasion and take the blessings of elders. It is believed that those who come to witness mock weddings should cross the holy fire without looking back while returning, otherwise they would be cursed. “Such mock presentations are only restricted to the Deepavali festival and they symbolise the beginning of the year’s wedding season,” explains Purushottam Goud from Sanmakki village.

(Translated by A Varsha Rao)

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