WHAT GOES INTO A COORG WOMAN’S TROUSSEAU
A “trousseau” is a treasure trove that most brides are given when they get married. A Coorg bride is no different. I know my mother started collecting sarees for my trousseau when I was still in college and wasn’t even thinking of marriage! A trousseau has a collection of sarees, usually new that the bride’s family puts together for the bride to wear in her new home. The sarees collected are in odd numbers, you could give 21 or 101! In Coorg, girls go out with the family to buy the sarees, choosing from a wide variety that is available.
Normally, a trousseau will have a larger share of “kambi podiya” as Coorgs call sarees with gold borders or zari borders. A trousseau could have a mix of the heavier sarees in Kanjivaram or Benares silk. To add to the variety and the bride’s taste there could be printed silk and cotton sarees, crepes, chiffons, chanderis, maheswaris, the list is endless! Some will add designer sarees to their box. One could also add a mother’s or grandmother’s old saree which perhaps one is particularly fond of, or is an heirloom piece. A white sari is also put into the box in case the bride has to attend a funeral. Needless to say, sarees will have matching blouses. Nowadays, blouses have identities of their own, with sequins and embroidery and require equal effort to choose. Well, one then adds “vastras” or headscarves that Coorg married women wear to weddings. These ensembles have then to be matched with an array of handbags and footwear. In the first few years of marriage the husband can relax, since his wife will have enough new clothes to last a while!
A trousseau also includes jewellery. In Coorg the bride wears a ‘package’ so to speak. On her wedding day she wears the ‘pathak’, the ‘poulamale’(orange and gold bead chain),the ‘kokkethathi’(crescent shaped ornament),the ‘jomale’(gold beads on black thread)’kartamani’(black beads to denote her married status).She has the different ‘kadagas’(bangles) on her wrists, and Coorg has an interesting array of them. She wears silver jewellery on her feet and head ornaments on her plait. Parents usually make the basic jewellery for the trousseau, depending on what they can afford. Head and leg ornaments are often borrowed from family, since one only wears them as a bride. In addition to the Coorg jewellery the bride chooses other sets with gold or semiprecious stones. Diamond earrings or a set are a coveted part of the trousseau. A brooch is a practical necessity and often more than one is put into the jewel box. In addition to clothes and jewellery, mothers go one step further and will choose bed and table linen in delicate colours and embroidery, towels and sheets so that their precious daughter has everything to start her new home. A trousseau has no restrictions, the sky is the limit. A silver tea set, cutlery, crockery, carpets, paintings, could be part of the largesse. The bride’s luggage is important too. The bride picks her boxes with care. A small sprinkling of pepper and rice is put into the boxes, probably to keep insects away. The sarees are individually wrapped in white muslin and arranged in the boxes. Everything else is carefully packed. The day before the wedding, a practice now quite rare, but prevalent earlier is the showing of the trousseau. The women in the family would gather the night before the wedding in eager anticipation of the viewing of the trousseau. Each saree is held up for display, to appreciation or critical comments and provide enough entertainment for the evening!
When the bride leaves the mantap after the muhurta to go to her husband’s house ,she carries a ‘kachimottu’, which consists of a small Laksmi lamp,a ‘bogni’(a shallow round brass container),a traditional hanging lamp, a ‘chombu’, all basic utensils for prayer and the household. A trousseau can also have kitchen vessels, especially a ‘Noolputtu’ vara (to make Coorg puttu) and a steamer, very crucial in a Coorg kitchen. Traditionally, the bride also carried a mattress wrapped in a palm leaf mat to her husband’s home. As she leaves, at the Sambanda Adukva (settling the couple’s rights), a representative from her side, speaks of all she has been given, to ensure that in case of a dispute, she is entitled to her inheritance. In Coorg there are no ‘absolutes’ in a trousseau. It is given with love to a daughter, put together with care and is what one can afford. Months are spent putting a trousseau together, each one is unique and always a pleasure for the bride.