Bijav

bijav m. (Ind.): wedding, wedding ceremony.

A bijav is not a requirement for confirming the bond of marriage. The consecration of a couple's living together is a mangavipen. A bijav is a social affair. It can be arranged even years after a mangavipen - that is, when the families of the couple have enough money so the wedding party can display their social prestige. While a mangavipen takes place in the narrow family circle, hundreds of guests may be invited to a bijav.

The validity of a bijav was accepted only by Roma, although, even in the past, it was sometimes officially certified in church or at the town hall. Couples had an official ceremony more or less because of social and economic pressure of the official authorities. A marriage on faith ("pre vera") was looked down upon by Gadže, just as they disdained common-law wives in their own society. In the past, common-law wives did not have any rights to the various kinds of financial support afforded to legal wives.

If young Roma had not married in a church or town hall, non-Roma society considered their children illegitimate. It happened – and it still happens today – that children born before an official Gadžo ceremony must have their mother's family name, whereas children born after an officially recognised marriage bear the name of their father.

Both – bijav and mangavipen – are ceremonies which bind partners together until death parts them, as expressed in the saying: "ko kas peske lel, mi leha dživel" – "May those who get married live together" (until they are parted by death).

During the bijav, the wedding ceremony, the couple are married by the čhibalo (the mayor - literally, "the spokesman") who is chosen ad hoc by relatives of the young couple. That person is an older, respected man who speaks well so that his words will be implanted for life in the souls of the newlyweds. The first wish for the newlyweds is that they will grow old together ("te phuron dujdžene") – and that they will remain together all of their lives. They are also wished "as many children as there are stars in the sky – and then one more". ("kaj tumen te aven čhave, keci hin pro ňebos čercheňa a mek jekheha buter").

Among the settled societies of the Servika-Roma, the bijav is accompanied by a series of rituals which differ from locality to locality and are influenced by the regional customs of their Gadžo neighbors. (In the very eastern part of Slovakia, for example, the Roma share the custom of the local Ruthenian minority of spilling a pail of water, which the couple must then wipe up together with one cloth.) An old custom probably having its roots in India is a ritual in which the čhibalo binds together the wrists of bride and groom with a scarf (usually red)– or, earlier, straw. Into each of the two palms he pours some brandy. The bride drinks the brandy out of the groom's palm and the groom drinks the brandy out of the bride's. In northwestern India, instead of brandy, sweets are placed into the palms of the bound wrists and the young couple feed each other.

Image Printable version
Image Roma wedding (Oberwart [Bgld.]/Austria)
Image Wedding ceremony among the Servika-Roma (Czech Republic)
Women dancing at a wedding (Skopje), August 1997
Roma-Wedding (Český Krumlov [Czechia])
Roma-Wedding (Český Krumlov [Czechia]), 1980