She was beautiful in a dark green silk saree and he was resplendent in a gold bordered Kerala mundu. The temple priest began the rituals and poojas at 12.50 pm. The ceremony started with the traditional instrumental music played at weddings and people gathered around the fire (agni sakshi) and para (a copper vessel filled with rice). By 1 pm he tied the thali on the bride.
Hundreds of people had arrived to bless the couple on their special wedding held in the campus of VS UP School of Chirakkadavu in Kanjirappally of Kottayam district. The rituals were followed by a delicious sadhya.
The visitors were visibly pleased but the bride and the groom remained wooden.
Why? Were they unhappy? Probably not.
For, on that day, the 100-year-old banyan tree and the 100-year-old mango tree were being honored in the school compound where they had been living together for a century.
Both the trees are huge but are situated very close to each other.
Their wedding invitation read, âArayal (the banyan tree) son of Nalpamaram (four ficus trees) from Moresi royal family weds Thenmavu (mango tree), queen of fruits in the auspicious time between 12.50 pm to 1.20 pm on Friday.â
The priest handed over the thali to school manager MN Rajarathnam, who represented the banyan tree, and he tied the knot around the mango tree, while all who gathered there did kurava (ululation).
When Rajaratnam offered a flower garland to the mango tree, school principal NP Sreekumar received it on the banyan tree's behalf.
A group of travellers from Germany also attended the event.
Around 300 people, including natives, school students and local political leaders had come for this "wedding".
But is all this just tomfoolery? Before the rationalists question the validity of holding such ceremonies, it's necessary to look at its origins.
Environmental activist, wildlife protection council member and Vanamitra award winner Binu Kottayam who lead the event, told The News Minute that apart from propagating environmental protection ideas, the ritual has its own history.
âEarlier in Palakkad district, there was this tradition of conducting the marriage of banyan trees and mango trees next to every paddy field. Farmers believed that the ritual would bring them good yield. But the actual fact is that a mango and banyan tree will attract a lot of birds. These birds would eat up the insects in the fields, and that would lead to a good yield,â Binu explains.
âBy carrying out this interesting ritual we also want to say that trees are living beings who have feelings. Awareness on the need to protect trees can also be created through such traditions,â he adds.
He said that the school management, which was planning to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the school, had asked what could be done to pay respect to the trees, which are also of the same age as that of the school.
âThen I told them to conduct the marriage as a sign of respect,â Binu says.
A tree protection group under the leadership of Binu has also treated damaged trees.
âIt is called Vriksha Ayurveda and is about treating trees with diseases. Many puranas have references to this practice. A person named Unnithiri had published a book compiling the tree treatment information from various puranas. I, along with my group, first treated a jackfruit tree in Ponkunnam town. It was hit by lightning and had burnt branches,â Binu says.
He said after they treated the tree using a special âmedicine mixâ, the tree has now recovered and is full of jackfruits.
The concoction they used includes ghee, milk, a type of clay, banana, and sesame seeds. The mix is applied on the tree and the area is tied with a cloth.
Since their first attempt was a success, Binu and his group have received calls from across Kerala to treat damaged trees. And of course, they also look forward to conducting many more weddings with wooden brides and grooms!