A Traditional ‘VOJEM’ as part of ‘ROCE’ ceremony of St Anthony’s Ashram Community Wedding
Mangaluru: It’s nice to see that the traditional Mangalorean ‘Roce’ customs of the olden days are still brought back and continued in modern-day life. The modern-day folks have incorporated the true sentiments and fun of ‘Roce’, thereby still keeping those decade-old meaningful traditions. The literal and traditional meaning of ‘Roce’ is coconut juice, and the ‘Roce’ ceremony consists of anointing the bride or the groom with coconut juice and oil at their respective homes under a ‘Matov’ (pendal) erected in the yard constructed out of coconut palm leaves, arecanut leaves, and decorated all around with green leaves/palms and flowers. ‘ Roce’ symbolizes the purification of the bride/groom in preparation for the prestigious event in their life – their wedding. And the ceremonial bath that follows after the bride or bridegroom is anointed with roce and oil, is supposedly the final bath as a spinsterhood or bachelorhood, which is considered as the very important part of the ‘ Roce’.
The traditional ‘Vojem’ procession where Uncles, aunts, Bappus, Maushis, Dedo (best-man), relatives and friends join in is yet another ceremony prior to the roce ceremony, was enacted by parishioners of various Catholic churches, to mark this traditional ceremony. The ‘ Vojem ‘ ceremoniously enters the ‘matov’ with the contribution/offering of ‘vojem ‘ (their share of the burden, vojem actually means burden). Here at St Anthony’s Ashram-Jeppu which will host the Community Wedding for 20 Couples, this Vojem was joined by neighbouring parishioners viz. St Joseph Church, Jeppu; St Vincent Ferrer Church, Valencia; St Rita Church, Cascia; Our Lady of Milagres Church, Mangalore; Sisters from Holy Rosary Convent, Jeppu; Roshani Nilaya, Valencia brought a goat, pig, roosters, rice, vegetables in a procession accompanied by Milagres brass band to St Anthony’s Ashram, Jeppu. The same was received by the director of the Ashram and his team. The director on behalf of the inmates and the guests to be gathered on the wedding day thanked all those who brought the vojim. The ‘Vojem’ procession is a traditional custom among the Coastal Catholic Community where the neighbours and relatives bring items that are needed to cook the wedding meal.
The ‘Vojem’ is indeed incomplete without a country band, so to add charm to the ceremony the Milagres Brass Band played some popular tunes, and men and women, girls and boys danced the night away. Even folk songs were sung by Denis Permannur and his team. A Roce meal was served to all those who participated in the event. Although the 20 couples who were going to tie the knot during the community wedding were not present for the Vojem? Roce ceremony, usually the wedding ‘roce’ ceremony was performed in the evening for the bride; and evening or on the wedding day morning for the groom. If the ‘roce’ is held in the evening, it implies that there will be a ‘rosa jevann’ or meal after the ceremony.
As the wedding celebration was now reduced from 10 days to three days and presently to one day, the main wedding dinner would take place at the groom’s residence. Therefore, the bride’s side avails the opportunity of the evening roce so that they can invite their relatives, neighbours, dear and near ones for the roce ceremony meals. The invited guests of the bride also would attend the wedding the next day. But certain things have changed now. Prayers were offered to the couples who were getting married, with a host priest Fr Onil D’souza- the Director of St Anthony Ashram at the helm in leading the prayers.
As Roce customs, it is learnt that it is not necessary that the parents only act as yezmani or yezman (masters of ceremonies). This responsibility can also be given to anyone related to their family (widowers are excluded). It is well remembered that in olden times the voviyos were expressed with sentiments and gave vent to the feelings of the people about the marriage partners and their families – primarily, invoking the blessings of God on them. The voviyos sung in modern days, have been composed a few centuries ago, and some of them maybe even older. The voviyo sung during the anointing is usually started by the yejmani. It is characteristic that the different Mangalorean ‘Roce’ ceremonies are accompanied by songs (voviyos or Limericks) sung by women.
The procedure is that one of the women, usually an elderly lady who knows the voviyos in a sequential manner, leads the voviyos, while the rest of the women sing ‘vove’ and then repeat the last verse. In this way, the young girls learn the voviyo and when confident, take the lead and thereby continue and carry on the tradition. And here at the ashram, the women who joined in the ceremony from various parishes sung beautiful Voviyos. The time came to have fun and freak out during the celebration. In between the talking and drinking, the dance floor was open where revellers thronged to the dance floor to the music of the brass band.
After a short prayer, dinner was served which was very traditional, comprising of rice, bread, Kuvallo with mutton, Pork sorpotel, Dhali Saar, pickle and a variety of vegetable dishes like ‘tendlim’ (gerkins) with cashew nuts, Sane Sukhe, and to top it off, dessert ‘vorn’ was also served after the dinner. The ‘Vojem/Roce’ ceremony concluded with everyone singing the traditional Latin hymn ‘Laudate’. I went back home with my belly filled with sumptuous traditional Mangalorean food, and my heart filled with joy and happiness of a traditional ‘Vojem/Roce’ ceremony, which also brought back memories in me of the yesteryear.
Lots of kudos should go to energetic volunteers and organizers of St Anthony Ashram-Jeppu Community/Mass wedding, for arranging the Volem/Roce systematically and successfully. A job well-done folks!