A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala

What is a Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala, and why is it unique? A few months ago I photographed a wedding in south India and wrote a post about it, explaining who the Kerala Christians are, and a bit about the wedding traditions of this culture. Mathew and Shilpa, who got married in Trivandrum a couple of weeks ago, had invited me to be their wedding photographer, and gave me another opportunity to witness and document this wonderful traditional event. The difference this time was that the wedding was conducted by a bishop, which meant a very colorful event and some amazing photo opportunities.

Who are the Syrian Christian people?

The Syrian Malabar Christians are the descendants of the natives and those of the Jewish diaspora in Kerala who became Christians in the Malabar coast in the earliest days of Christianity. They follow a unique Hebrew-Syriac Christian tradition which includes several Jewish elements although they have absorbed some Hindu customs. Their heritage is Syriac-Keralite and their language Malyalam. Much of their Jewish tradition has been forgotten, especially after the Portuguese invasion of Kerala in the early 1500s. A friends once said that “some may claim we are more from the traditional namboothiris (brahmins) of kerala than jewish..but who the hell knows really :)”

Popularly known as Syrian Christians in view of the Syriac (classical form of Aramaic) liturgy used in church services since the early days of Christianity in India, they are also known as Syrian-Malabar Christians, Mar Thoma Nasrani, Syrian Malabar Nasrani or Saint Thomas Christians. This is an ethno-religious group from Kerala, India, adhering to the various churches of the Saint Thomas Christian tradition.

What makes a Syrian Christian wedding unique?

The truth is that it was not so easy to photograph this wedding. The couple stood with their backs to the crowd, very close to the bishop, and in such a way that it was practically impossible to take any frontal picture of them together. The altar area is completely off-limits so there was no way I could take a picture from behind the priests and see the couple’s faces.  The bishop himself, dressed in a magnificent gown, wearing a traditional cap and holding a decorated golden staff, was the real show.

For the wedding ceremony, the bride wears an off-white silk sari with a wide border. Her sari ‘pallu’ acts as a veil or she wears a separate veil over her head. She has only very little jewelry on her body. The groom’s outfit would traditionally consist of a white dhoti and a white shirt, but in these modern times not all the traditions are kept. Mathew was actually considering it for a second, but then opted for the relative comfort of a suit. Coming from New York, a suit must have seemed like a good option but I suspect that had he known it would be so hot he might have seriously considered the dhoti option.

As per the tradition, during the wedding the groom presents a new sari to his bride. This sari is called the ‘mantra kodi’. The night before the church ceremony, strands of thread are drawn from this sari by the groom’s sister and twisted to form a cord. On this cord, is tied the ‘taali’, a leaf shaped gold pendant with a cross, inscribed on it. The ‘mantra kodi’ is placed on the bride’s head by the priest and blessed. Not like in a  westerns style christian wedding, in a Syrian Christian wedding it is the priest who puts the rings on the bride and groom’s hands to symbolize the bond made before God, a bond that will not be broken.

Immediately after the church ceremony a reception was held at a nearby hotel were the couple lit the oil lamp and cut the wedding cake. A small pooja was later held at the groom’s home and we all had a good laugh as the local photographer was taking some posed pictures of Mathew and Shilpa in the middle of the living room with all the guests still there. What a lovely day.

Syrian Christian wedding 01 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 02a A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 03 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 04 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 07 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 05 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 06 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 08 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 09 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 10 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 11 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 12 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 13 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 14 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 15 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 16 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 17 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 18 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 19 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala
Syrian Christian wedding 20 A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala

43 Responses to “A Syrian Christian wedding in Kerala”

  1. Sonia says:

    The pictures are wonderful. The 2nd and 4th have captured the bride with such aesthetic clarity. The pictures of the ceremony are also amazing. Good work.

  2. Sonia says:

    The pictures are wonderful. The 2nd and 4th have captured the bride with such aesthetic clarity. The pictures of the ceremony are also amazing. Good work.

  3. Shubh says:

    Awesome pics!!!!! The bride is beautiful!!!!!!!!

  4. Shubh says:

    Awesome pics!!!!! The bride is beautiful!!!!!!!!

  5. mohan says:

    Nice photos. thank u

  6. Interesting, and I really love that second image.

  7. Interesting, and I really love that second image.

  8. Beautiful! The 2nd and 4th pics of the bride are just gorgeous!

  9. Beautiful! The 2nd and 4th pics of the bride are just gorgeous!

  10. Alex George says:

    beautiful pics… good work, sephi.

  11. Alex George says:

    beautiful pics… good work, sephi.

  12. An absolutely wonderful wedding!!!
    Congratulations, dear Mathew & Shilpa!!!
    Our best wishes!!!

  13. An absolutely wonderful wedding!!!
    Congratulations, dear Mathew & Shilpa!!!
    Our best wishes!!!

  14. Madhur Mangal says:

    amazing shots specially 2 and 4 where u have captured the bride beautifully

  15. Madhur Mangal says:

    amazing shots specially 2 and 4 where u have captured the bride beautifully

  16. Sabir Mateen says:

    Hi Sephi,

    This is Mateen from Rsg. The Bride is so cute and your taken photographs are looking absolute gorgeous.

  17. Sabir Mateen says:

    Hi Sephi,

    This is Mateen from Rsg. The Bride is so cute and your taken photographs are looking absolute gorgeous.

  18. Sabir Mateen says:

    Congrats Mathew and Shilpa on your wedding. God bless you guys.

    Congratulation to you too Sephi for taking beautiful pictures of bride n Groom.

  19. Sabir Mateen says:

    Congrats Mathew and Shilpa on your wedding. God bless you guys.

    Congratulation to you too Sephi for taking beautiful pictures of bride n Groom.

  20. Leeann Marie says:

    This wedding has so many great elements – it’s wonderful that you were invited to capture it all! :)

  21. Leeann Marie says:

    This wedding has so many great elements – it’s wonderful that you were invited to capture it all! :)

  22. VpT says:

    Beautiful – simply beautiful. Being a Syrian Christian, I have attended a several like these. None of the albums ever looked as captivating as these.

  23. VpT says:

    Beautiful – simply beautiful. Being a Syrian Christian, I have attended a several like these. None of the albums ever looked as captivating as these.

  24. Qatar Power & Comms says:

    Beautiful pictures, beautiful setting, beautiful couple…..congratulations Mathew & Shilpa, may your collective dreams and wishes come true as you take the next step forward in matrimonial bliss.

    David

  25. Qatar Power & Comms says:

    Beautiful pictures, beautiful setting, beautiful couple…..congratulations Mathew & Shilpa, may your collective dreams and wishes come true as you take the next step forward in matrimonial bliss.

    David

  26. Minju A Thomas says:

    Congrats Shilpa & Mathew on their wedding.

    Bravo Sephi!!! Those are really Great shots.

    Minju

  27. Minju A Thomas says:

    Congrats Shilpa & Mathew on their wedding.

    Bravo Sephi!!! Those are really Great shots.

    Minju

  28. Sunaina says:

    Amazing pictures..
    and lovely couple..
    Potrayls of the Bride are beautiful…

  29. Sunaina says:

    Amazing pictures..
    and lovely couple..
    Potrayls of the Bride are beautiful…

  30. Kishore says:

    You have in so many ways captured the essence of a Syriani mallu wedding. Being a hindu-mallu, and having seen enough of these, I am captivated by your use of angles, unique images, and the dominance of the clergy in such a mundane event.
    I use the term lightly, because the focus that should be on the couple, often, and almost unequivocally shifts to the clergy and the family which play an almost unreasonably prominent role in the process.
    You are a spectacular example of people who will eventually document the entire social vicissitudes of a people that are unique in so many ways.
    I applaud you Sir !
    Do respond when you get a chance.
    Regards,
    Kishore

  31. Kishore says:

    You have in so many ways captured the essence of a Syriani mallu wedding. Being a hindu-mallu, and having seen enough of these, I am captivated by your use of angles, unique images, and the dominance of the clergy in such a mundane event.
    I use the term lightly, because the focus that should be on the couple, often, and almost unequivocally shifts to the clergy and the family which play an almost unreasonably prominent role in the process.
    You are a spectacular example of people who will eventually document the entire social vicissitudes of a people that are unique in so many ways.
    I applaud you Sir !
    Do respond when you get a chance.
    Regards,
    Kishore

  32. Rao says:

    Congrats to Shilpa & Mathew. The couple look great and so are your photographs. Awesome pictures…… photograph Nos. 1, 2 & 4 are spectacular.

  33. Rao says:

    Congrats to Shilpa & Mathew. The couple look great and so are your photographs. Awesome pictures…… photograph Nos. 1, 2 & 4 are spectacular.

  34. Neethu says:

    Those photos are awesome……

  35. Neethu says:

    Those photos are awesome……

  36. Madhu Parameswaran says:

    Awesome pictures

  37. Archana Devi says:

    Beautiful photos Shilpa. Congrats! Wish you a wonderful married life.

  38. Jose Varghese says:

    Very Nice

  39. Donmicky_xavier says:

    great

  40. Pittwed says:

    Great images, you captured such great emotion.

  41. Jijo07 says:

    nice shots


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