It’s the mid of November and the beginning of the wedding season in India, especially amongst Bengalis. A wedding is not only an occasion to celebrate the bride and the groom but in India a wedding is about many methods and rituals which are followed almost religiously to ensure happiness and prosperity in the marital life of the newly married couple. Like many others, eh rituals of a Bengali wedding start as early as a few days before the actual wedding.
The first pre-wedding ritual is the Aashirbaad where the elders of the family gather together to go to the bride’s house and vice versa, to bless them by sprinkling husked rice and trefoil on their heads and giving them gifts such as gold ornaments and clothes. It is a kind of acceptance of the boy and the girl on both sides.
The second ritual is the Aai Budo Bhaat – a bachelorette party for the bride before the D-day thrown by relatives or friends. Normally, it happens over a period of many days and not necessarily before the D-day, as the bride to-be makes her way to houses of all those family, friends, and relatives who invite her for the same.
The next in line is the Holud Kota ceremony in which five or seven married women of the household grind turmeric with mortar and pestle and anoint the bride with turmeric paste to brighten up her complexion and make her skin glow.
And, finally the Dodhi Mongol ceremony which takes place at the dawn on the day of marriage when seven married ladies embellish the bride’s hands with the traditional bangles Shakha and Paula – one pair of red and one pair of white bangles, and feed her a meal of curd and rice – her only meal for the day.
After the pre-wedding comes the wedding – the most important day in the lives of the bride, the groom, and their respective families. Though there are hundreds of rituals associated with all Hindu wedding but there are a few specific to the Bengali culture, and you may have seen most of them in movies like Devdas, Vicky Donor, Barfi, and Gunday.
The most interesting of all is the series of these three rituals – Saat Paak, Mala Badal, and Shubho Drishti.
Saat Paak requires the bride’s brothers to lift the bride who sits on a low wooden stool covering her face which she holds in her hands, and is taken around the groom in seven complete circles.
Up next is Mala Badal in which the bride still seating on the stool and lifted by her brothers exchanges garlands with the groom…. Thrice!
And, last but not the least Shubho Drishti is when the the bride and the groom finally look at each other in front of the entire crowd gathered at the wedding.. This is to solemnize their relationship in public and in front of the society.
After the enjoyment and happiness of the wedding ceremonies are successfully completes, there comes the farewell of the bride also known as Bidaayi. This is a mixed moment of joy and sorrow as the bride bids adieu to her parental home with blessings of her parents and relatives and ventures into new life with the groom and his family.
Though Bidaayi is a very common ritual of almost all weddings, the next ritual – Kaal Ratri, is very particular to the Bengali community. After the couple reaches the groom’s house and the initial welcome ceremony is over they are separated for the night, probably to get a refreshing sleep and prepare for the next day’s final wedding ceremony.
The third and the second last ceremony in a Bengali wedding is the Bou Bhaat. Ideally, the new bride cooks and serves all the members of her husband’s family. However, depending upon the number of guests, a cook or caterer can be arranged to prepare the meal and the bride only touches the cooking spoon as a part of fulfilling the ritual. A banquet is held to treat the guests who shower gifts on the new bride.
With this ritual the post wedding ceremonies finally come to an end (well, almost). It’s the night of Phool Shajja in which the bride is adorned with jewelry made out of flowers (tuberose and roses, and the newlywed couple room and the bed is decorated with strings of colorful and fragrant flowers. And, finally after the dinner is over for the day, the bride and the groom is left in their room in privacy to commemorate the conjugal bliss.
With Indians and in India, there is one common concern. The occasions and festivals never end even when they say it is over. Though most people (only the unmarried ones we guess) that marriage itself is a celebration (huh! ask the married ones), there are yet several rituals and ceremonies for at least the first year to keep reminding the bride and the groom of their sacred vows.
Eight days after the wedding day, the groom’s family organizes a prayer meet, known as Satyanarayana Puja, in which the newlywed couple, in their wedding attires, is blessed by the purohit and prayers are offered to bless the couple with a happy marital life. The couple then leaves for Oshtomongola.
Oshtomongola is the final ceremony (there, we said it again) in which the couple visits the bride’s family home and spends three nights accompanied by relentless feasting, and opening of the Gatbandhan that had been tied on their day of marriage.
Among the Bengali Hindus of Sylheti origin, this ritual is known as “Fira-jatra”.
So, with all this knowledge buzzing your head, Team Sareez wishes you a very happy marital life, if you are getting hitched this year, or in the near future.