5/18/13

day by day india: kerala ceremony


Timing is everything and today I was seriously off.

I was told the cab pick-up time for this morning's event was 9am and so when the call came at 8am nor Tavani or I were ready to go. And because we were running late, I had missed an opportunity to find someone who knew (as the younger women did not) how to wrap the two-piece saree Ramani & Advaitha had so lovingly chosen for me to wear. Slight disappointment, and inadvertent insult that I hope I can explain.

The Palace Grounds have been transformed into a temple hall where the Kerala ceremony is performed. There is a raised platform at the front of the hall where Ramani is preparing the nilavilakku (a brass lamp) with oil and the wicks to be lit and another family member is arranging the thali plate with its offerings. A procession of women carry thalams, plates filled with a small lamp and other symbolic articles and lead the bride and groom to the stage.  Dinky and George once seated run through a series of rituals and blessings, offerings from family to family, and once completed circle the altar 5-6 times with George leading and Dinky following.  During the ceremony guests watch from the banquet pews below.

Once the ceremony is complete there is a brief pause where guests mill around and then the happy couple reassemble onstage and we make our way to greet them sprinkling them with rose petals and feeding them a spoonful of banana milk.

Next: The Banana Leaf Lunch

Lunch after the ceremony is served on a banana leaf. Nrithya and Prutha guide us through the process which starts with wetting down the leaf with water in preparation for an assortment of chutneys, spoonfuls of chicken and beef curries and variations of rice and curd dishes to be spooned onto the leaf. An assembly line of servers appear with ice bucket sized serving dishes and make their rounds to serve everyone. It was quite a dining experience and I was certainly glad to have local foodies to guide me through it. 

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