Feb 22, 2010
The verdict on the eternal query, ``Which came first, the egg or the chicken?,” is still not out. And, probably, never will.
The ``Heart-thoughts” on ``Catholic Roce – Doing Away with Animal Cruelty” by Pearl D’Silva got me thinking and ask the question: What has breaking eggs or pouring beer got to do with Roce?
The practice of two or four men carrying a pig on a pole upside down with its snout and legs tied by rope as part of the so-called yesteryear’s tradition of bringing ``Vojem” or gifts, which also includes rice ``mudo” or murrah as the Britishers used to call, pumpkin and other vegetables (kuvaallo, bobllem, mogim etc) along with coconuts and arecanuts (naarl, popllaam) and bunch of raw banana (kellyaamcho ghadaay) by relatives, neighbours and friends before the commencement of the Roce ceremony is still prevalent.
In fact, in the not too distant past and even now in rural areas, the tradition of erecting a huge pandal or ``maatov” made up of palm tree leaves (indaace thaalle)for seating the invited guests is still followed. The best part of this tradition is that relatives, neighbours and friends lend a helping hand to the host – parents of the bride or bridegroom – by bringing Vojem and also in erecting the Maatov. They also help in killing, cleaning, cutting and later cooking the pig. Indaad, Bafaat and Sorpetel with rice idlis or ``sannaas.”
Well, I am digressing. The point I am interested in making is about the growing fad, particularly among the youngsters, the neo-rich and the hip-hop crowd in breaking eggs or pouring beer and other stuff on the bride or bridegrooms after the application of coconut milk or roce and coconut oil. There are instances of rotten eggs being used, which is nauseating not just to the to-be-married bride or bridegroom but also to the invited guests. Do we really need to kind of practice, which can only be described disgusting.
Roce, as we all know, is a beautiful ceremony preceding the nuptials in all Mangalore Catholic families. It is considered a symbol of purification of the body for the young bride or bridegroom as he or she would be led to take a ritual bath to end their bachelorhood or spinstership before the nuptials.
Milk extracted out of desiccated coconuts is brought out in plates or small vessels by the mother, sisters, aunts and other elderly married women along with coconut oil to be applied to the bride or bridegrooms along with the singing of Vovyos or traditional Konkani ditties which generally consist of advice and sometimes poking fun or even jokes in good-natured humour. All the invited guests enjoy this tradition.
Of course, it goes without saying that the commencement of roce begins with prayers and invoking of divine blessings as the bride or bridegroom are embarking on the most important step in their lives of entering into, the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.
So, then, why smash eggs on the heads of hapless bride or bridegroom? Or even, pour bottles of beer? The stench becomes so unbearable that the bride or bridegrooms need bottles of shampoo to clean themselves. The maatov or marriage pandal also stinks. There are instances of persons with delicate stomach or sensibilities vomiting or refusing to eat. How the invited guests draw sufficient courage to overcome everything and sit down to eat after such a vulgar display is simply unimaginable.
In fact, in China, particularly ancient Chinese culture, ``Red Eggs and Ginger Party” are part of religious ceremonies during the naming of new born babies, generally held 40 days after birth. In Malaysia and many other countries, there is a practice of secluding newly-wed couples in special rooms with Rice and Chicken dishes plus Eggs for feeding each other with the first meal. In some societies, there is a tradition of offering specially decorated hard-boiled eggs to the wedding guests.
This might probably because eggs are generally considered a symbol of new life or fertility. That perhaps explains the fascination of the younger crowd in smashing eggs on the heads of their friends on the eve of their wedding day. Or, is the act of breaking of eggs is another symbolism given the fact that egg shells are fragile and brittle and therefore suggestive of the breaking of virginity (assuming, of course, both the bride and bridegroom are resolute and virtuous enough to resist the temptation of pre-marital sex) as the boy or girl would be having their last bath of bachelorhood following the roce ceremony? Is there some other reason known only to the younger crowd?
Apart from breaking eggs, the other question is: Why pour beer? Try, as I did, I could not find any explanation. Is it because of the fact that brewing beer or alcohol made of grains started with the advent of civilization? In Germany, Oktober Fest is a big beer festival. Similar beer fests are organized in several other places. Britain, France, Czhekoslavakia and other European countries too have different types of beer or wine festivals. But unlike the Western or European countries, which are mainly beer or wine drinking, beer drinking is not that popular or predominant in India. Those who are accustomed to drinking – either habitual or social and occasional – mostly prefer the heady stuff of Whisky or Rum (or arrack in the countryside, mainly among the poor).
Anyway, the fascination with beer and alcohol could be, because, as anthropologists suggest that when pre-historic human beings ceased to be nomads and settled down to grow foodgrains to sustain themselves, they also began producing food, bread and alcohol.
The first miracle attributed to Jesus Christ in The New Testament is of making wine. In fact, bread and wine are an integral part of our Holy Eucharist. Indian Christians and Catholics are the products of conversion by foreign missionaries, and have, therefore, probably started following their customs, eating and drinking habits. Also, drinking and partying is considered the done thing among the affluent and yuppie crowd. Not that the poorer and illiterate sections do not drink. But, we must accept the fact that Indian mythology and religious texts are also full of descriptions of gods and goddesses drinking Somarasa, which is nothing but alcohol. Is that why alcohol, which includes beer, has become an inescapable part of our lives and culture?
Whatever may be reason for breaking eggs or pouring beer on the heads of bride or bridegroom during our Roce, it is time to put an end to this and ensure that Roce remains a ceremony of purification of the body before the bride or bridegroom embarks on their new sacrament of Holy Matrimony.