I come home and there I see an envelope in cream and gold and I know for sure that one of our cousins is tying the knot. What is it with Malayalees and their fixation with gold? Gold is such an integral part to every Keralite that no ceremony is complete without the presence of the yellow metal. Hence it is a matter taken for granted that you would see an excess of it during the Malayalee weddings.
When you are travellling by road in Kerala, every second hoarding you would see will be an advertisement for jewellery stores. Alappat, Alukkas, Kalyan are some of the names which I recall immediately, but these are just the big players in the jewellery market. There are several small players too. It’s hilarious to see paintings of male Malayalam film stars on the jewellery hoardings. Very often you would find Mammooty or Mohan Lal wearing a huge chain or an atrocious gold bracelet on huge hoardings smiling at you with the name K.R.Jewellers or something to that effect written right beneath it.
Shopping for gold before the wedding is a major event. As lakhs of rupees is spent, the entire family goes for the shopping escapade. The girl is made to wear every chain and bangle and opinion of all and sundry are asked to see whether that particular piece is fit to be bought. Normally, the boy’s and the girl’s family shop together for the wedding rings and the “thali”. Mullamuttu mala (jasmine bud chain), Palakka mala (chain with green stones), Manga mala (Mango chain) are some of the traditional chains, which are sure to be found in every mallu bride’s trousseau.
Irrespective of the religion, in any Mallu wedding, you would normally find the bride bathed in gold. She resembles a mannequin in the jewellery store. Very often she is found with her head bowed down. It’s not because she is trying to look demure and coy but due to the fact that her neck is weighed down by almost 30-40 sovereigns of gold. If she ever fell into the water, she would drown for sure. From head to toe, there is gold everywhere. It is not unusual for a bride to have dizzy spells during the weddings as she is covered in gold plus golden kancheevaram sari plus the incessant lighting of the videographer and added to it the thousands of people who are crowded in the wedding venue.
There are lots of families who get special jewellery made for their daughter’s weddings so that they will have jewellery that no one else have seen before. Such is the craze for something different that people even travel to Delhi and Jaipur to get authentic kundan jewellery. These, then become a closely guarded open secret (which everybody knows) and is taken out on the day of the wedding so that none would copy the design. The bride’s jewellery is a matter of intense discussion and debate among the ladies at the wedding. From the design of all the items displayed on the bride, to the cost of each item to the place where the jewellery is bought is the major topic of conversation during the wedding feast.
Fashions in gold are also subject to change. Earlier you would find the bride wearing 3 feet long chains whereas now you would find her wearing chockers. Now the preference is slowly but surely changing to diamonds. Nowadays thankfully, the focus is on simplicity and comfort of the bride rather than the ostentatious display of wealth. So it should not be shocking if you find the bride wearing a single diamond chain on her wedding day like I did for mine. But then I guess I may be one of the exceptions than the norm. However, it is very difficult to imagine an authentic mallu wedding sans the yellow metal.