Sri Lanka, often known as the pearl of the Indian ocean is home to many traditions and that includes wedding traditions as well. Sri Lanka is famous for its panoramic landscapes and jaw-dropping ecosystems. While Sri Lanka has gained tourists for its splendid green hills and calm beaches, the country also offers a colorful heritage with traditions that have traveled through the generations.
Sri Lankan weddings have their fair share of traditions and customs and are a wonderful experience to be part of. These ceremonies require days of preparation and are more than just an alliance between two individuals. It is a day of grand fanfare and extravagance.
This article lets you in on the top ten Sri Lankan Sinhalese wedding traditions and what they actually mean.
1. Bride and Groom Wedding Attire
Sri Lankan brides usually wear saree which resonate with the culture and national dress of the country. Some brides opt for a western function where they wear a white dress, but most wear the Kandyan osari with traditional jewelry.
The groom, on the other hand, wears one of the most unique wedding outfits in the whole of Southeast Asia. The outfit is inspired by the Kandyan kings of Sri Lanka, who would wear similar elaborate outfits for special occasions.
The groom usually wears a velvet hat and jacket with heavy embroidery done in silver or gold thread. The outfit consists of a hat, jacket, a special sarong, and shoes. The mul and uma were made for kings to wear during special ceremonies like weddings. It is also referred to as a nilame costume.
Not every groom chooses to wear this outfit. In fact, many modern grooms simply wear a western suit.
Buddhist weddings follow solemn rituals and traditions and play an important role in the unification of a couple. These customs and traditions have been passed down from generation to generation and despite the filtering of these rituals, most of them have remained intact and are still followed today. One of the most important is figuring out the best time for the wedding to take place.
This is referred to as the “auspicious time”, which is one of the most important aspects of a Sinhalese Buddhist wedding. The date and time of the wedding are decided by an astrologer after going through the horoscope of the bride and groom.
The birth date and time of the couple play an equally important role in deciding the day and the auspicious time of the wedding. Once the time has been decided, the preparations for the nuptials begin!
3. Poruwa Ceremony
A traditional Buddhist marriage ceremony is referred to as a Poruwa Siritha. This ceremony is held according to the reading the astrologer has presented and finalized.
The poruwa ceremony consists of a wooden altar made of four wooden pillars which house the bride and groom throughout the ceremony. The groom and his family gather on the right side of the poruwa while the bride and her family gather on the left side. The couple steps onto the platform leading with their right feet. Some ceremonies contain the beat of the drum and the sound of the conch shell as they step onto the platform.
The poruwa Siritha was once considered a formal marriage ceremony. This was until the British created registered marriages in the 1870s. Since then, the poruwa ceremony has been a vital part of a Buddhist marriage but is more symbolic. It adopts traditions from other Sri Lankan communities and is a beautiful brew of wedding customs practiced by both Tamils and Sinhalese.
4. The Auspicious Seven
This refers to the seven betel leaf bundles offered to God, as a request to protect the lives of seven generations starting from their marriage.
5. The Ceremony
The ceremony starts at the decided time and begins with the auspicious seven betel leaves ceremony. The couple take turns dropping betel leaves onto the poruwa and repeat the process, blessing seven generations of family on both sides.
Once the ceremony reaches the end, the groom’s brother, or an uncle stands beside him holding a gold chain on a tray, which is then tied around the bride’s neck by the groom.
6. Pirith Nool
Before the introduction of marriage contracts, the tying of the pirith nool (sacred thread) was considered a symbol of union. The Master of Ceremonies ties the gold pirith nool around the small fingers of the bride and groom and then proceeds to pour the pirith pan (holy water) from a beautifully crafted kandyan silver jug.
This is an important ritual because water and earth are considered two sacred elements in Buddhism. The reason for the pouring of the water is so that the ground where the water lands can be a witness to the union of the couple.
7. The White Cloth
After the pirith nool ritual is completed, the groom presents a white cloth to the bride. This cloth is handed over to the bride’s mother.
The white cloth is a token of gratitude from the groom’s side of the family, thanking the bride’s mother for raising the bride since her birth.
This is often considered the most wholesome part of Sri Lankan wedding traditions as this is also the time when the groom promises the bride’s parents that he will look after and protect their daughter for the rest of his life.
8. Kiribath and Milk
A Sri Lankan wedding is considered incomplete without kiribath, milk, and sweets. Kiribath is a dish made out of rice by cooking it with coconut milk.
The bride’s mother shoulders the responsibility of feeding the couple a small portion of milk rice, followed by the groom’s mother giving the couple a sip of milk. The ceremony finally ends when the couple feeds each other some kiribath.
9. Breaking of the Coconut
Once the couple feeds each other Kiribati, they step down from the poruwa. This is when members from the groom’s side of the family break a coconut. The reason for this is to signify new beginnings. The couple steps off the pavilion onto the ground, accompanied by drummers and dancers, which announce to the world that they are husband and wife.
Sri Lankan wedding traditions and culture are unique on their own and are a culmination of heritage. All the traditions diligently practiced during the ceremony have significance and nothing done has no meaning. Most traditions signify new beginnings and a new stage in life.
A Sri Lankan wedding speaks volumes about the rich culture and heritage passed down for centuries and witnessing a wedding as such will be one to remember! Hopefully, these Sri Lankan wedding traditions have given you a taste and feel of the culture and heritage that has been passed down from generation to generation.
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