Marriages in India are huge affairs, with each area and state holding them in their distinctive way. Weddings in India are celebrated with tremendous enthusiasm and intensity, regardless of whether they are held in the north, south, east, or west. Wedding rituals and celebrations are important in uniting two families under one roof to celebrate love and happiness!
Bengali culture defines the cultural legacy of the Bengali people, who are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent's eastern parts, primarily what is now Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, and Assam's Barak Valley, where Bengali is the official and major language. Bengal has a history dating back 1,400 years and has one of Asia's most established literary traditions.
Bengali ladies often wear Saris, which are often distinctively made to reflect local cultural norms. Many ladies and men in metropolitan regions dress in Western-style clothing. Traditional clothes for men include the Dhoti or Lungi and the Panjabi or Genji.
There are so many major and minor parts of a Bengali wedding ceremony that makes it distinct, memorable, and picturesque, from the attire to the pre-wedding and post-wedding festivities. Ghotoks (matchmakers), who are usually friends or relatives of the couple, plan traditional weddings. The matchmakers create introductions between the family and the potential bride and groom. Bengali Hindu weddings are not limited to one or two days, but can go up to a week. Friends and family members are commonly seen visiting the bride's or groom's residence throughout the whole week leading up to the wedding day. The visits are made not only with the aim of coming together, having nice conversations and laughs, and eating delicious food, but they are also for the purpose of completing various rites. Bengali weddings are all about traditions, excitement, and are a visual feast.
Mochar chop, macher chop, begun bhaja, koraishutir kochuri with aloo dum, potoler dolma, dhokar dalna, mishti pulao, macher/fish paturi, kosha mangsho, chingri malaikari, kolkata style biryani, chicken chaap, rosogolla, sandesh, and mishti doi are some famous and very delicious dishes that are served in Bengali weddings. The bride is dressed in a Benarasi saree, Shakha & Pola, ruli, moyur mukh bala, pashar bala, and meenar bala bangles, alta, bindi, and topor bracelets. The groom is dressed in a silk dhoti, a Punjabi (kurta), a silk dhoti, and a topor.
The lavish Bengali wedding begins with the ritual of Adan Pradan, in which both the bride's and groom's families gather to confirm their wedding date. This occurs after the bride and groom have maintained a good relationship and agreed to marry. Priests accompany the family since an auspicious date must be determined according to Hindu panjika. Some families also share presents to honour the start of a new relationship. As this is a very intimate event to which not a lot of guests are generally invited, the bride and groom usually dress in modest ethnic attire. The clothes should not be too simple, given this is still a formal affair, nor should they be very extravagant.
For this rite, the groom's family pays a visit to the bride and showers her with blessings and presents as a symbol of her acceptance into their family. On a different occasion, the bride's family does the same for the groom. The bride and groom are gifted with dhaan, or husked rice, and dubyo, or trefoil leaves. Gold jewellery, family heirlooms, and other items are among the offerings. On the wedding day, the woman is required to wear this jewellery. On this occasion, intimate friends and family participate in the ceremony, which is followed by a lavish meal. Dressing up for the occasion might be difficult because you cannot go as a guest in your regular attire. You must wear a saree or a kurta appropriate for a daytime wedding. The bride dresses elegantly in a silk saree or a dhakai jamdani. Some families would rather not spend two extra days on Ashirbad. This ceremony is performed by those families on the wedding day itself, just before the wedding night rituals begin.
This is comparable to the bridal shower or bachelor party tradition connected with Christian marriages. On the day before the formal marriage ceremony, friends, neighbours, and close relatives usually gather at the bride's or groom's home. This tradition entails a dinner consisting of the individual's (who is about to be married) favourite cuisine. This ceremony is performed at the bride's and groom's respective houses on the afternoon of the wedding day. Aiburo means "not married", and bhaat is a Hindi word that means "rice". As a result, it translates as "the final rice consumed by a person while the individual is still unmarried". This is generally a large event that kicks off the celebrations for a Bengali wedding. The Bengali bride and groom must wear special attire for this event. For the bride, the most popular hues are red, pink, purple, gold, and so on. The groom is dressed in a kurta and pyjamas. If you're attending an aiburo-bhaat, you might wear a Bengal cotton saree with a zari border and patterns. Men should wear kurta-pajamas. This Bengali wedding tradition, similar to a north Indian Sangeet, includes a lot of dancing and singing, which adds to the enjoyment!
This is a one-of-a-kind ritual connected with Bengali weddings. Bor is the groom, while Kone is the bride. The groom's nitbor is a male child who will follow him from the aiburo-bhaat till the wedding. A small girl from the bride's family does the same for her. She is known as the nitkone. There is no known religious meaning to this ritual, but it brings tremendous delight to the girl and boy who are chosen for these roles. They not only get to accompany the two most important persons during the event but they are also showered with presents.
Apart from sindoor, a Bengali married lady generally wears conch shell bangles on both wrists. The white ones are known as Sankha, while the red ones are known as Pola. A woman will often begin wearing them on the eve of her wedding. The ritual is simple, with only her immediate relatives present. In essence, these bangles are identical to the 'mangalsutra' that married North Indian women wear. Shakha Pola is a gift from the bride's mother. It is recommended to wear the bangles for a year after marriage since they are not meant to break. Shakha is fragile, thus it represents the care that the bride must take to develop the new relationship, along with the warmth of the coral's red colour. Bengali farmers used to gather conch shells and give them to their wives back in the day. After a while, they began powdering the shells and making bangles out of them. They were also quite skilled at creating red bangles called Pola, which were made of red coral. Because they couldn't afford to wear ivory jewellery, the women loved this gift, and it became an essential part of Bengali wedding customs. A wedding would be incomplete without a Shakha Pola ceremony. It is also important to ensure that the bangles do not shatter during the first year of marriage, as this represents exceedingly ill luck for the bride. The Shakha Pola ritual is one of a kind. It begins early in the morning with both bangles being immersed in turmeric water. The bride's hands are then adorned with these bangles by seven married ladies in the household. Shakha Pola represents good health and wealth. Women should wear them on both hands, and the Pola should be worn between the lohabadhano, which is an iron bangle. This is offered by the groom and represents the marriage's strength and togetherness. Because iron represents the flow of positive energy, the notion of Shankha also implies that there is no friction between positive and negative energies.
Another distinctive custom in a Bengali wedding is the invitation to the River Ganga. The Mother of the Bride rises prior to actual sunrise and heads to the Ganga or a nearby water body to request the Goddess Ganga to grace the couple and attend their marriage ceremony. Some family members, along with the mother, march towards the river while blowing conch shells. They carry auspicious things such as a betel leaf, betel nut, Haldi, as well as a Diya. Those who live far from the Ganga can do the same ritual at a local pond or lake. Customs may vary from one household to the next. On the eve of the wedding, some families perform the odhibash rite, in which the groom's mother receives symbolic presents from the bride's family. Others observe pati-patra, a variant of adan pradan in which families write the wedding date and other significant choices on two sheets of paper, one for each household. They bring a brass pot (Kolshi) and fill it with water from a pond or river before returning home.
The girl is generally dressed in a fresh white saree with crimson borders and is served the meal before daybreak, which usually consists of Dodhi (yogurt) and Khoi (a kind of puffed rice). If their culture and family customs allow, some may even eat entire meals. This is the only decent meal that the groom and bride will eat until their wedding. They are not permitted to ingest anything other than sweets and water. When the mother gives this food to the bride or groom, it is an 'aww' moment in the Bengali wedding ceremonies.
Nandi Mukh is a ceremony that seeks the blessings of ancestors. It is a Bengali-specific ceremony. Nandi is the name given to the bull that serves as the deity Shiva's ride (Sanskrit: Vahana) and as his gatekeeper. Stone statues of a sitting Nandi, typically facing the main shrine, are maintained in Shiva temples, usually outside the temple. As a result, before entering the temple, worshippers must first touch the bull (which represents the act of granting permission). A priest performs Vedic incantations at the bride and groom's homes on the morning of the wedding, as the families pay their homage to their forebears. This is a rite that is done on the morning of the wedding, shortly before the bride's or groom's 'Gaye Holud' ceremony. During this modest puja in Bengali wedding customs, families pray for the well-being of their ancestors while also requesting their blessings for the bride and groom as they embark on their journey into the future. To execute the ceremony, the bride and groom sit with the eldest male member of their respective families. For this ceremony, the bride dresses in a fresh cotton saree.
This Bengali wedding custom is equivalent to the Haldi ritual done in northern India, however, there are notable variations. Gaye Holud is initially done at the groom's house at an auspicious moment. Some members of the groom's family bring some of the pasted turmeric that had been applied on the groom's skin to the bride's residence. The bride must perform several rites, including having her mother bless her and break four tiny earthen symbolic miniatures by her feet. The bride's friends and the married women apply Haldi on her. Along with it, a new saree, generally in yellow and red cotton, is brought for the bride. She dresses in this saree, and only then would the Gaye Holud ceremony begin at the bride's residence. The fun part is when the family members begin applying Haldi on each other! On the morning before the wedding, most Bengali ladies wear similar sarees. They also wear Alta, a crimson liquid used to decorate their feet. The bride also has Alta on her palms. Bengali Hindus do not have the Mehendi tradition, although many brides nowadays prefer to wear mehndi over Alta on their hands. Following Gaye Holud, the bride or groom bathes in water carried from a local river or waterbody by a recently married couple from the respective families early in the morning.
Bengalis share wedding presents. These presents include ethnic clothing, cosmetics, toiletries, and accessories for the bride and groom, clothing for family members, clothing and toiletries for the nitbor and nitkone, sweets, and a whole fish, among other things. These are generally served on adorned platters.
It is common for friends and family to load and decorate these trays for days before the wedding. Along with the Haldi, the groom's family presents these gifts to the bride's family. As a result, this is known as the 'Gaye Holud er tatta'.On the day of the Boubhaat, the bride's family gives these presents. They are also a means of showing respect for the relations on either side.
Bengali Hindu marriages have a certain time range that is regarded as most auspicious, and the wedding ceremony takes place during that time span. It's known as the Lagna. The wedding procession is generally headed by the groom and departs for the wedding location in a luxury caravan provided by the bride's family. This tribe is known as the 'bor jatri'. The procession is led by a vehicle that was provided separately for the groom. The mother of the bride and other family elders await the group at the venue's entrance. In some weddings, the bride's mother first polishes the wheels of the car in which the groom comes. She then applies tilak from the baran dala (Boron Dala is an integral part of Bengali weddings. It is primarily used to bless and greet the newly-weds. Typically it consists of a Kulo, a cane plate painted and woven, honey, ghee, rice with husk, bananas, earthen lamps etc.) to the groom and performs an aarti before greeting him. The other guests are likewise welcomed with open arms. After that, they are seated and offered refreshments.
The groom is dressed in traditional Bengali clothing, including a pleated dhoti and kurta. However, after he is seated at the chadnatala, which is essentially the sanctum sanctorum of the mandap where the rites will be performed, an elderly member, usually the bride's maternal uncle, who will later perform the 'Kanya sampradan', gifts the groom new clothes to wear during the wedding rituals. These outfits are referred to as 'potto bostro'. The canopy tent (Mandap) is given a unique appearance particularly at Sylheti Bengali weddings. It's called kunja, and it's stunning.
The ritual that strongly signifies a Bengali wedding is the 'Shubho Drishti' in which the bride covers her face with one or two beetle leaves and her brothers carry her in the 'peeri' (similar to a small wooden plank). The bride then is circled seven times around her groom before coming face to face. Then the couple is draped in a piece of white sacred fabric and instructed to look at each other, where their eyes should connect. It's the propitious gaze, an ancient rite that involves not just eye contact but also the interaction of two souls and the intimate connection of two lovers. According to psychology, if the bride and groom stare into each other's eyes for 7 seconds continuously while conducting the Subho Drishti ceremony, their heartbeats are in sync. "Subho Drishti" is one of the most beautiful, elegant, meaningful, and intriguing rituals, as well as one of the most thrilling. It is via this that the lovely relationship between the two lovers is depicted in a beautiful frame of life. The Shubho Drishti is an essential ceremony at a Bengali wedding. Traditionally, it was at this ritual that the bride and groom would gaze at each other for the first time.
Mala bodol is a traditional Bengali wedding ritual that involves the exchange of flower garlands between the bride and groom and is meant to symbolise the first moment the bride and groom lay eyes on each other. It is equivalent to the Varmala or the Jaimala ceremony in the North Indian wedding customs. It is a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation, while the habit of not seeing each other before is rarely practised these days. Nonetheless, the mala bodol is the first time the bride and groom are permitted to see each other throughout the wedding. A varmala or jaimala is required for a Hindu wedding ceremony. On the day of their wedding, both the bride and groom are required to wear this varmala or jaimala (a garland composed of fresh flowers). The jaimala represents acceptance. When the bride and groom exchange the garland, it represents the acceptance of the would-be man as her life partner by the would-be wife. Typically, the bride is the one who places the garland on the groom first. As a result, she demonstrates her acceptance of the marriage proposal. As a result, the wedding ceremony begins. This custom dates back to the time of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
During Sampradan, an elder male member of the bride's family would give her over to the groom after Mala Badal. Sampradan is the Bengali equivalent of Kanyadaan. They will use a holy thread to bind the bride and groom's hands together as the priest recites Vedic hymns. The pair will next be required to lay their hands on the Mangal Ghot. It is a metal pitcher filled with water that will be covered with mango leaves tied to a twig and topped with green coconut. It also represents a formal acceptance into the groom's family and gotra.
For this custom, the bride and the groom are seated next to each other while the priest assists them in performing the yagna in front of the sacred fire. A Bengali wedding ceremony is done to make the God of Fire, Agni, a witness to the holy union. This ceremony may sound similar to Saat Phere, but it is not! The bride performs this rite by stepping on seven betel leaves put on the ground one after the other. As they go forward, the groom follows, moving a nora with his feet. A nora is a cylinder-shaped stone that is used to grind spices. Before this ceremony, the bride's saree pallu is attached to the groom's Patta Bastra. This is known as gatchhora.
In a few weddings, the bride's brother places puffed rice or Khoi in her hands, which the pair subsequently offers to the sacred fire. Most brides stand in front of the fire with a chaff in hand at their wedding ceremony. The groom stands directly behind her, their bodies touching, and he then takes the bride's hands in his. The Khoi is placed on the chaff, and the Khoi is tossed into the fire utilising the idea of winnowing. This is referred to as Kusumdinge. Additionally, in Sylheti Bengali Bengali weddings, the bride must crush the Khoi with a pestle every time her brother gives her some Khoi to offer to the fire.
The Sindoor, also known as Kumkum, is said to be a marital sign. Sindoor is used in the parting of married women's hair from the top of their forehead to the centre of the head. And the tradition of wearing the sindoor begins on the day of the wedding. During the wedding ritual, the man places sindoor on his bride's hair parting, thereby formalising his sacramental connection and making her his life partner. The groom finishes the wedding ceremonies by putting vermillion or sindoor on the bride's hair parting. Depending on his family's customs, the groom may use a kunke or rice measurement tool, a darpan or mirror, a coin or a finger ring for the purpose. The bride's head and face are covered with a fresh saree from the groom's family immediately following the sindoor daan. This saree is known as a lajja-bastra. It goes without saying that getting ready for a wedding would be a difficult undertaking for anyone. A Bengali bride usually wears a crimson Benarasi brocade saree, gold jewellery, and a golden veil. Her hair is styled in a flower-adorned bun. Before changing into the patta bastra, the groom wears tussar dhoti and kurta. Bengali men generally attend the wedding in kurtas with pyjamas or dhotis. A sherwani is a rare sight. Sarees are worn by all Bengali women, whether they are the bride's mother or sister or a wedding guest. A lehenga is nearly non-existent.
Following the Bengali wedding ritual, the bride and groom dine with close relatives. They then enter a chamber known as the Bashor Ghor. The bride's sisters stand to watch at the door of the Bashor Ghor, demanding money from their new brother-in-law in exchange for allowing him to enter the room. Only once he agrees and a sum is agreed upon does he have the option to enter the Bashor Ghor. Then an interactive session begins, followed by cultural events such as song singing, etc. The bride, groom, and his friends sit on one side, while the bride's family and friends sit on the other. A variety of games are also played.
The timing of the biday or the bidaai is determined by family customs. While some brides depart the parental house the next morning after the wedding, others do not return home until after nightfall. When the bride bids farewell to her home and family, it is a sad event. The bride and groom touch the feet of all the bride's elderly family members. Just before leaving, the bride places some grains of rice on her mother's pallu, which is a very important custom. This is how she attempts to return her family's obligation for raising her. The newlywed couple arrives in a car at the groom's house, where his mother waits at the doorway to greet them. The bride is escorted in by her mother-in-law, who wipes the car tyres. This is known as bodhu baran. Her foot is imprinted on a piece of white fabric with lac dye, which is red in hue. The bride and groom engage in some enjoyable games while being watched by bystanders made up of close friends, family, and neighbours. They encourage the 'competitors' to win at any cost, and everything is done in jest. In addition, the bride is taken around the home and is asked to mingle with the gathering of guests. When the bride enters her new house, she is expected to notice milk being cooked in the kitchen. The rising milk that flows from the vessel represents a family where everything is in abundance.
This is the first night that the bride spends at her in-laws' house. The bride and groom sleep in separate rooms on that night because it is believed, based on a story or tradition, that if the pair sleeps together on the first night, their married life would be unsatisfactory. The bride eats rice made in her new home. Following the bride's welcome into the family, she and the husband seek blessings from the elders who give them lavish presents. The loha, a type of iron bangle, is given to her by her mother-in-law as a unique present. This is meant to be worn on her left wrist at all times. In the Bengali Hindu culture, the loha is a very important symbol of marriage.
The bride eats rice made in her new home the next day. The groom presents the bride with a platter of rice and other culinary items. He also provides her with a new saree and informs her that he would be responsible for her food and clothing from now on. The bride then serves payesh, which is kheer or ghee-rice, to the rest of the family. On the evening of the bou-bhaat, the groom's family throws a huge reception party to which all of their friends and relatives are invited. The bride's family are the honoured guests during the reception. They arrive as a group known as the kone jatri. They bring the tatta (gifts) from their side at this point. The bride's family is also expected to provide a tray of floral decorations for the bride as well as a bowl of Khoi or puffed rice and delicious yogurt. The bride also dresses in sarees for this event, however, today brides are violating the traditions and dressing in lehengas as well. As a guest, you can try on several outfits for the reception. While the bulk of the visitors are dressed in traditional attire, some also wear western outfits or ethnic gowns, etc. Because there was no electricity in the earlier times, Bou-Bhaat was served as a lunch rather than a dinner. However, many millennials have also organized bou-bhaat in addition to the traditional reception party at night.
Shubo Chandi is a puja dedicated to Lord Satyanarayan for the well-being of the newly married couple and their family. A priest conducts the Puja and then blesses the couple. This might happen on the eighth day after marriage or even sooner. Oshto Mangal occurs on the eighth day after the marriage when the pair returns to the bride's house. It is a happy day for the family, and occasionally other people are invited to join in on the fun, and the family plans a lunch. This concludes the wedding ceremonies in Bengali Hindu culture. Bengali marriages are lovely, but they are also time consuming and exhausting. Rather than dedicating your whole focus to wedding preparations, you might want to spare as much time as possible for your family and guests,
It goes without saying that Bengali weddings are a visual feast. They are without a doubt one of the most lavish events, from the decor with the colourful flower garlands to the food selection, and believe us or not, being a part of it is an experience of a lifetime. Bengali marriages are both romantic and entertaining. You must experience it yourself. You will unquestionably fall in love with the tradition and ambiance of the most spectacular, yet breathtaking festivities.