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Mauritius: A traditional Muslim wedding – (Part ½)

Dressed in this stunning bridal white dress, I walked into the wedding hall, my father by my side.  My close relatives and friends were already there to welcome me. The nuptial ceremony (Nikka) was going to be celebrated, closely followed by the reception (Walima) where dinner would be served. In the Muslim community the Nikka is considered the most important ceremony during the wedding events, though in Mauritius, as Muslim originated from India, there are some traditions which have been adapted locally.

In fact, on the eve, was held the Mehendi (Henna) ceremony, where my future husband’s relatives came to offer my wedding dress, shoes, jewelries, perfume, and sweets.  All of these gifts were beautifully wrapped in large platters. As per traditions, it was also on that day that henna was applied on my hands and feet. These elaborated designs were so much time consuming to apply that I remained seated for over 5 long hours. Around me, the festivities were going on as well as the preparations to welcome my groom-to-be’s relatives. On this occasion, some Muslim families would invite a person to sing Qawwali songs (a form of Sufi Islamic devotional singing, originating from the Indian subcontinent) to contribute to the festivities. My husband to be was not present as per rituals, but he did send the dowry (called mohaar). Indeed, in the Muslim community, it is the groom who gives dowry to the bride, an amount previously agreed by the couple, traditionally given in terms of jewelries. Offal curries were served to the close relatives who were there to help with the preparations. The Mehendi ceremony was held after dinner time where tea, coffee, and some local savory cakes (samosas, gato pima etc) were served. The relatives from the groom’s side stayed for a while, ate, and drank before departing.

On the day of the Nikka ceremony (which is usually organized by the bride’s family) the ladies were all welcome at the wedding hall while the men went to the mosque where the religious ceremony was being held. Indeed, I was represented by two witnesses who had personally asked me beforehand if I agreed to marry the chosen one.  At the mosque they answered on my behalf to the imam (Muslim priest) who celebrated the Nikka. My father played an important role as he was asked if he was agreeable to give the hand of his daughter to her husband to be.  After getting the consent of all, the Nikka was sealed and written in a record book at the mosque. A glass of sweetened water was given to my new husband which he drank half while the rest was given to me. The sharing of the sweetened water is in fact, more symbolical than anything else.

The male delegation (called Baraat) left the mosque for the wedding venue where the rest of the relatives and I were waiting. My mother was the first to congratulate me by saying ‘Shadi Mubarak’ (blessed wedding). Finally at the wedding hall, my husband was welcomed gracefully and came to meet me. We were both seated on a raised dais facing the invitees. Shortly after, we exchanged wedding rings and proceeded to the cutting of the wedding cake while some local delicacies were being distributed to the assembly. Each in turn, family and friends came to take group photos and congratulate us. Dinner was served around 6.00 pm and it was only then that there was a large flow of persons coming. The famous biryani was served accompanied by cucumber and carrot salad and a variety of pickles. The biryani was prepared by a professional cook (bandari) in large containers called “dègues”. Reaching the end of the event, it was time for my husband and I to leave. What an emotional moment! While I hugged my loved ones saying goodbye, dropping a few tears, my husband remained by my side. It is especially hard for my parents letting go of their beloved daughter.  As a newlywed couple, we left to embark on a new journey together.

Zafi

Mauritius – Roka Ceremony
Mauritius: A traditional Muslim wedding - (Part 2/2)

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