One fine morning barber Velu and his son were seen on the road walking briskly. People gaped at them. They were amused as the father and his son were clad in bizarre attires; especially the son. The boy was wearing a gold colour headgear, a sleeveless vest, and a golden cloth was tied around his waist. Across his shoulder, he put on a half-dhoti and below the waist he had put on a kasavu mundu.
The barber was seen wearing a white shirt and mundu. Both of them had smeared ashes. It was the first time the locals saw barber and his son in such a get-up. Don’t think they were going to participate in a fancy dress competition. They were heading to a marriage function where they had been assigned as the barber in the ritual called Chantham Charthal, which is associated with Christian Knanaya weddings.
On the eve of the marriage, the groom’s face is ceremoniously shaved by the barber on the stage/ pandal in the presence of the gathering. It is called Chantham Charthal which means purifying or beautifying. Barber Velu and his associate (Velu likes to call his son as a helper in the function) lead the ceremony and give instructions. The barber asks formal permission from the guests presents there, reminding them of their protective rights over seventeen castes, a privilege granted by King Cheraman Perumal.
“I ask the gentlemen here who are protectors of 17 castes: May I shave the bridegroom?” the barber will recite. He has to repeat this three times. After getting the consent of the assembled people the barber shaves the groom’s face and takes him out to apply oil on his head and give him a bath. All through the ceremony, the people who gathered there keep on singing the ancient songs related to this ritual.
Photo courtesy: Josemon Erikatt Digital Studio