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A Traditional Roce...

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[ Published Date: September 5, 2009 ]

ELREENA MARIA PINTO, is the only daughter of Eric and Lona Pinto., and niece of the yodeling king Melwyn Peris.  Just Completing 12 and studying in the Seventh Standard at MES Indian School, Doha. Brilliant in her studies, an exceptionally good dancer, drawing artist, well trained singer (English, Konkani and Latin) and musician (already in the 3rd grade piano having passed the 2nd grade with 100% marks), Elreena started playing the organ in the church when she was just seven. A very humble and simple yet well disciplined young girl, Elreena  single-handedly trained a group of more than 40 children to sing nearly 25 hymns for the 2008 Monti Fest Novena masses, demonstrating her immense leadership qualities. Elreena sings and even plays for Mando songs so well that she has already become the darling of the Mangalorean community of Doha, and is  indeed emerging as a future star which will grace the horizons of Mangalorean Cultural Heritage. Currently holidaying in Mangalore, she wrote this short article exclusively for her favourite portal……Mangalorean.com

As I was approaching my twelfth  birthday in life……..I was also busy preparing for my terminal examinations which I wanted to finish fast because that would be the beginning of my long holidays …..nearly sixty days of summer holidays which were rescheduled this year to coincide with the Holy Month of Ramadhan.  But what was irking me the most was the way some of my close Konkany speaking friends, a little senior to me and my music guru Uncle Dony….were teasing me by singing Bara Soron Terra Laglin Main ….. and sarcastically requesting me not to forget their names in my invitations list!

Once we reached Mangalore ….there it was …. My native place….where my parents and their parents were born and brought up, and even though they were quite senior in age., were following a lifestyle totally different than what I have been used to in the Gulf, in Doha to be precise. For example, all, all the members of the household had to be back home by 7.00 pm., kneel down and start the Rosary, some times short but on Fridays….a long one, and at the end of the Rosary….we had to fold our hands and go to each of the elder in the group and say "Besavum Di Anna / Vodlimain"., but when they used to really bless me ….deep within my heart I used to feel God Himself is blessing me, and felt spiritually richer. (I pitied all my friends who miss this unique experience by promptly putting on their TVs or computers after the Rosary).

Then there was a wedding in our family and my Dad and Mum took me along with them to the bride's house two three days in advance and they in turn started helping the others present in putting up what was called a "Matow". Mum made me to join many children in preparing little flowers with pink, red and white scrape paper ….which they then put around the matow as decorations. Then came what was supposed to be the Roce day…..a day or rather evening which I am just unable to forget.

First was the bride dressed not in jeans or salwars but with a dazzeling pinkish red saree and a very peculiarly stitched blowse. My mum noticed I was amused but was prompt enough to explain that it was a traditional dress…..Gagro Polka and Kirgi Bazzu with a voil draped around ….was supposed to be a dress  worn by every young girl who has come of age and approaching the marriage. ( Later she also proudly showed some of her own photographs especially what she wore for her Roce day (believe me  I felt God has blessed me the most beautiful mother and father in the world.)

Once the Roce evening approached, we were in the Bride's house by 6.30 by which time the local Paulamachen Band was already in attendance playing some beautiful melodies like Gupit Mog, Tambde Rosa etc. In between they also played traditional konkany folk songs (Rosalene mojea mogachya")….from a cassette which I was told was Dony Lobo's cassette….(none of them knew that I am learning Music from the same Dony Lobo in Doha)…. and as guests started coming in one by one in family groups, each one of them brought either rice, bananas, fruits, vegetables in big baskets known as "Battiyos" carrying on their shoulders and some more citybred friends and family members brought envelopes which my mother explained as Vojen, because it was their contribution towards the marriage expenses.

When the actual time came for the Roce., I saw one of the elders start the Amori (Angelus) and then the Rosary to which everyone joined very reverently and they all sang  Moriyek Hogolsian…and remembering the hymns which I used to sing for Nativity feast in Doha, I too lent my loud voice to the chorus ……and then they kept special chairs in the compound and made the bride (Vokal) draped in a dazzeling pinkish saree with the kirgee bazuu and a veil around her and her hair draped with lovely flowers known as Jesminso, Mogryanso, Kolyanso and Abolinso. They also made some young ladies, including me to sit in line with the bride…and they called us as Dediyos....and then they brought a few saucers filled with what was supposed to be Coconut Milk and as the elder lady started anointing the bride ---they all sang a few verses called Vovyos. I could see at times all including the bride were crying bitterly and at times laughing spontaneously …..so powerful seemed to be the words of the verses they were singing …..and the ceremony lasted roughly for around 40 minutes and nobody ever got bored of it. Later the bride was escorted by the elders to the bathroom., and after finishing her bath., was asked to move into a special room ….was offered a big plate of dinner and then she had to lock herself inside till the time came next day morning to dress up for the nuptials. (My Mummy explained to me that Vovyos is a unique way in which everyone gathered therein revoke the special blessings of the Heavenly Father, the Virgin Mother and also remember the elders and ancestors who have passed away and seek their special blessing from heaven above on the 'Couple". I now wanted to learn the Vovyos to sing and my Mummy assured that Uncle Dony is the best person to teach.

Some members of the bridal family then took me along to the would be bridegroom's house…where a similar roce ceremony was on going except that this time it was only young men known as Dedeys sitting on either side of the groom dressed in snow white banyan,  pudven and while the elders were applying roce to the bridegroom and on the Dedeys.,……and just like the bride, he too laughed and cried at times as the vovyos were being sung.

My Mummy explained to me that Roce is actually a sort of Purifying Ceremony like a second Baptism for the bride and bridegroom to cleanse them and make them pure in the eyes of God as they are about to enter into the Holy Sacrament of Matrimony. In olden times, as the churches used to be far away from the houses and it was difficult for the priests to pass through jungles and fields at night and hence a Gurkar of that area (Wado) would officiate the ceremony on his behalf…….like leading the prayers and speaking a few words……My Grandpa who was overhearing our conversation interrupted to say that in the olden days, the bridegrooms used to sport broad and thick Mush as a sign of their Mascho image. My Mum blushed but did not comment and noticing her amused look, to divert her I asked as to why then people sing Bara Soron Tera Laglin Main….Kazar Korge Maka…….for which my Grandpa again interrupted saying that your grandma too was just thirteen when we got married and added that in the good old days, a girl in the family who comes of age around 12 or 13, was promptly got married. Seeing my worried looks, my Mummy consoled me saying that Don’t worry, we wont marry you now…you become big, finish your college studies and all that and then only we'll see about it.

The absolute sanctity of the two Solemn Roce ceremonies were  however climaxed (or marred) by a peculiar action of a few of the young men….who at the end of the formal roce in the bridegroom's house brought in a couple of eggs and smashed them on the head of the bridegroom and a few others sitting besides him.

No one could really explain to me the meaning of this act….smashing eggs on the head of the groom and I leave it to the readers of this portal to come out with their respective opinion  and enlighten the readers!

So friends….that's all for the moment and I'll be back again with the next episode…which is the next day's "Resper" ceremony followed by Sado, Portaphon……. And in the meanwhile as I sign off for the moment the words of the powerful vovyos still keep ringing in my ears…….. "Kani galen tel…kopolari kadlo kuris…….."

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MERWYN COLACO, Canada :
WHAT IS THE REASON TO ANNOINT WITH COCONUT OIL AND JUICE--DOES THE COCONUT SIGNIFY SYMBOL OF GOOD HEALTH AND PROSPERITY?

kINDLY EXPLAIN

MERWYN COLACO
LEISEL, Qatar:
always be close to God.
D. D\'Silva, Saudi Arabia:
This is an amazing article and tells volumes of the impact of traditional Mangalorean culture on an impressionable, Gulf brought up child. The writer has the gifts of keen observation, powerful expression and also natural fondness for her cultural roots. Kudos, Elreena!
Anitha Prabhu, India :
On not knowing the meaning of 'Roce', Mr.Kudpi Rajnikanth Shenoy (whom I fondly call 'Mamu', suggested I read this article.:)
Very touched by the songs and its meanings, nice rituals by our Konkanis :)

Wish I could get to see one !!

Well worded article by Elreena :) Good luck to this child prodegy, lovely talents.. All the best.. Looking forward to reading your articles in future also :) :)
Gladys Mascarenhas, Bandra,Mumbai, India :
Dear Elreena, we Mangaloreans have a rich tradition. I am proud to say that we in Bandra, follow these traditions of Roce, Resper, Sado and Portaphon. In fact during all these auspicious events when the Bride or Bridegoom at their Pongtare (lunch or dinner) we sing the Laudatee (this is a hymn sung in Latin - as thanks giving). I hope the future generations of Mangaloreans keep up the traditions.
Thank you and keep up the good work of educating the new generation.
Louis, Mangalore, India :
The tradition of carrying "Battiyos" and "Vojen" disappeared almost 50 years back from now. You are just 12 year old and it surprsied me to read that you witness everything that we haven't got a chance.
Sharon D'Sa, Canada :
Excellent article - very informative and I learnt a few things that I did not know at all. Keep writing!
Merlyn D'Mello, Kuwait, Kuwait:
Well written Elreena, keep up the good work! I see a lot of potential in you...God bless!
Mariola D'Souza (Agnesian-Aloysian Graduate Alumni - Qatar, Qatar:
A beautiful article, should be read by not only every Gulf Born child, but even children of the community all over the world including Mangalore itself. The impression and impact that a traditional life style and cultural events have on a gulf born child speaks volumes of the richness of our own heritage. Bravo Elreena....look forward for more write ups from you in the protal.
lancy pinto, Qatar:
well done niece, very well observed and written
Total Comments: 10   Showing: 1-10
 

 
 
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