Though it may be called by different names in different communities, the first family reunion or Roka ceremony holds a most significant place in the Mauritian society. A pre-wedding event which will determine how the next steps will unfold, especially the wedding preparations. Literally meaning ‘stop’ in hindi language, Roka is when a lady’s family goes to visit her loved one at his house (or it can be the other way round), bringing with them goodies and homemade delicacies.
Officially, it is the first event where both families will meet each other. On this occasion, the boyfriend, well groomed, accompanied by his parents, sisters, or brothers and sometimes a few close relatives will go to the girlfriend’s place with platters of gifts consisting of local delicacies beautiful wrapped and decorated. The boyfriend will, of course, offer a bouquet of flowers to his sweetheart. Once at the young lady’s house, they will be warmly welcomed as special guests. The bride to be, dressed in a simple but beautiful outfit is rather observant. Parents will then discuss about how the events will unfold with the planning of the engagement and the wedding ceremonies.
Parents will offer some money to the suitor as a token of being ‘rokafied’ (stopping him from seeing any other girl in view of marriage). Similarly, the suitor’s family does the same with the bride to be. During the Roka ceremony, offering money symbolizes that the couple and their respective families have accepted this relationship and have decided to move forward to prepare the wedding.
Originating from India, this tradition holds a major significance, especially in most Hindu families in Mauritius, where they will sometimes organize a large-scale celebration where both families invite their relatives and friends as well as a Pandit (hindu celebrant) to perform pooja (traditional Indian prayer). As a whole in Mauritius, over time, there has been some changes in the ceremony as the couple now already know each other prior to the ceremony, whereby in the past, they both may never have met before, but it still has its importance. The name of the event may vary in different communities such as ‘reunion de famille’ (family reunion) or ‘bague d’arret ceremony’ (where the groom to be will give a ring to his beloved implying that she is now considered as promised to be married to him), but the main essence of the event remains the same.