Marriage is truly a blissful event not only for the two souls that join as one but for all the parties related. It is not simply a commitment to each other but what each person is made of, including all the traditions and customs they follow. A traditional Sinhala Buddhist Sri Lankan wedding ceremony is a story of its own accord which has been passed down from our ancestors to us. These traditions differ from different areas to another and they are not done in the same order. However,  Being mindful of the story behind the Poruwa gives a couple the insight to fully comprehend what it means to get married under this tradition. Each aspect of the Poruwa ceremony has an underlying significant meaning which makes it a beautiful experience for any couple choosing this ceremony.

The Poruwa ceremony

The elegant adorned wooden structure that the marriage ceremony takes place on is called the Poruwa. It represents a strong house that the couple will share and is a symbol of the new life they will start together. It is believed that the ceremony that is celebrated today is an homage to the marriage ceremony between Prince Siddhartha and Princess Yashodara by the satharavaram devivaru (the four main deities). It is the reason that four clay pots filled with coconut flowers are placed on the four corners of the Poruwa together with an oil lamp that is lit during the start of the reception. Each of these objects hold a significant story, the fresh coconut flowers represent the four noble truths of Buddhism that the couple must understand whilst the nine sets of three betel leaves are placed to seek protection of the nine planets and coins are placed on the Poruwa as a reminder to the couple not to only focus on seeking wealth.

Entrance and Ascending the Poruwa

The Sri Lankan wedding drums will signal the entrance of the bride from the left side and the groom from the right side of the Poruwa, each stepping on to the Poruwa on their right foot at the nakath time . The nakatha is an auspicious time decided by the alignment of planets and the couple’s horoscope. Thereafter the Ashtakacharya conducts the marriage ceremony by performing various traditions to religious chants each implying a much deeper and significant remembrance of the past and promises for the future.

Union of the Bride and Groom

The tradition that symbolizes the marital union of the couple in Sri Lankan is called the ‘Sarana Bandanaya’. This is the moment where the little fingers of the bride and groom are tied together with a pirith nool (blessed string) or a gold string and pirith pan (blessed water) is poured over the fingers to a spiritual chanting by the Ashtakacharya . When the blessed water is poured over the thread it usually gets tightened which signifies the strong bond that is to be built by the couple. Water is also a sacred element and is considered eternal just like the commitment and love between husband and wife.

Exchange of gifts and offering of thanks

One of the most symbolic events in Sri Lankan weddings would be when the groom gifts his mother in-law the kiri kachchiya (white cloth). It is an expression of gratitude from a married man towards his mother in-law for raising a strong lovely woman who is now his wife. The white cloth depicts a child being nourished by a mothers’ milk. Thereafter the couple will exchange gifts with each other as a representation of what will be needed for their future life together. They will share kiribath (milk rice) to signify that they will look after and care for each other for the rest of their lives together. The couple will also share gifts of gratitude with the family while also presenting beetle leaves with coins as respect to their elders and to invoke blessings for their life together

Sinhala – Buddhist Sri Lankan weddings are not merely a celebration of the marital union of two people but of their families, values, traditions and customs! It is an observance of the rich culture of the country that is passed down to us by our ancestors with each custom symbolizing a story of its own.

By Ayindhie Alles