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A wristful of bangles

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

As in other parts of the Bardez taluka (district) of Goa, the months of April and May in Saligao are witness to a number of feasts and weddings. In the Goan weddings of old, bangles formed an important bridal accessory, among Christians as well as Hindus. It was customary for the Goan bride to wear the best bangles possible, in specified colours, purchased from the regular bangle-seller of the village, known as the volar or kankonkar.

A day or two before the actual Goan wedding ceremony there was a special and solemn bangle-wearing ceremony known as chuddo, usually performed at the house of the maternal uncle of the bride. The bangles symbolise married life for the bride, as they are broken only on her dead husband’s coffin.

This chuddo among some Saligao Christians consists of a set of 15 glass bangles of green, brown and yellow on each wrist. The number and colour of the bangles differs from village to village. For instance, in Moira it is 13 or 15 bangles and the colours are the same as in Saligao. Among others, the bangles are of the seven colours of the rainbow.

For the ceremony, the bride-to-be is bedecked in flowers and the bangles are fitted onto her wrists by the bangle-seller. He also gives relatives and others present at the ceremony a pair or more of bangles of their choice. Offerings of money, as a token of blessing, are made and kept in a tray placed before the bangle-seller. The money thus collected is later taken by him, in addition to the negotiated wages for his services.

As with most other Goan customs and traditions of this nature, songs typical of and appropriate to the occasion are enthusiastically sung. Improvisation of lyrics is an art, and some ladies of the village excel in it. They engage themselves in singing in parables and pointed metaphor in the form of zotis – extolling the virtues of the future bride and groom, while simultaneously throwing in a taunt or two in lighter vein, with less than charitable references to relatives and would-be relatives. There is competition in song, not unlike the qawali and chand that is characteristic of other regions of India, with each singer trying to outdo the others in tributes as well as taunts.

The chuddo ceremony is also performed among the Hindus of Goa and Saligao is no exception. Although conducted by the maternal uncle, it is generally held at the bride’s place. In the old days the ceremony used to be held in a large matov (pandal or pavilion) set up in front of the bride’s house before the Goan wedding. On this day the bride receives gifts from relatives and wears the ceremonial bangles, eight to nine in number on her right wrist and seven to eight on her left.

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