Overview of a Bengali Wedding
Nomoshkar!!!! Thanks for sneaking in to read my blog on Bengali Wedding. I’m Vedika Dursheti – A makeup artist by profession. I’m very passionate about the different cultures in India, but I think with moving lifestyles people are forgetting their roots.
My blog series will introduce you to various rituals & customs in Indian Weddings and its relevance in our lives. There are various reasons why these customs were established in the first place and why do our ancestors follow them traditionally.
A Bengali Wedding often referred to as ‘Biye ’is quite a visual treat. A host of deep, meaningful rituals seeped in culture and tradition are performed amidst riot of colorfully elegant and immensely creative decorations.
The Bengali weddings are celebrations of color, camaraderie and beauty above all. They forgo the showing off, keeping the roots firmly on traditional elements. They are elaborate affairs with celebrations spanning for 2-3 days from morning till night. The rituals and their executions are subtly different among the two main subcultures in Bengal, the Bangles (Bengali Hindus originating from modern day Bangladesh) and the Ghotis (the ones originating in West Bengal).
Bengali weddings are traditionally in four parts: the Bride’s Gaye Holud, the Groom’s Gaye Holud, the Beeye and the Bou Bhaat. These often take place on separate days. The first event in a wedding is an informal one, the Groom presents the Bride with a ring marking the “Engagement”, a system which is gaining popularity. This can sometimes be considered as Ashirwaad. There can be subtle differences in Bengali Hindu marriages in West Bengal and Bangladesh. The rituals sometimes differ. In Paaka Katha (final talk), the parents of the Bride/Groom, along with one or two very close relatives/friends go to the other party’s house to formally settle the marriage. It may be followed by a lunch / dinner.
Paka Katha or Pati Potro
This ritual refers to a formal meeting between the elders of the Bride and Groom families to formally agree on the different facets of the Marriage. Paka Dekha is the term used by the Ghotis while Pati Potro happens among the Bangles.
This is sort of a version of a Bridal shower which takes place on the afternoon or night before the wedding day. Generally, close friends and relatives gather at the Bride’s house and shower her with gifts. She is then treated with an elaborate feast with Rice, Fish and Several vegetable dishes. This is said to be her last meal as a Spinster. A similar ritual is observed at the Groom’s place where he takes his last meal as a bachelor.
In some traditions, the Bride is made to wear traditional Bengali symbols of marital bliss which is the Sankha – A bangle made from Conch Shells, and Pola – A Bangle made from red Corals, on the evening before the wedding day.
On the morning of the wedding day, the mothers of the Bride/Groom are accompanied by a few married women of the family to the nearest water body to fill a brass pitcher in their respective neighborhood. This water will be used to bathe the Bride/Groom respectively after their Gaye Holud ceremony.
The Bride and the Groom are fed with a mixture made of sweet curd, rice flakes, banana and sweets like Sandesh in copious quantity before sunrise. This is their last meal of the day as they would have to fast until the wedding rituals are complete.
Gaye Holud and Tattwa
A Turmeric paste made from grinding fresh turmeric with mustard oil is applied on the Groom’s body by his mother and other married female relatives. He is then bathed with the water procured in the morning. The remaining turmeric paste is put in a silver bowl and sent to the Bride’s place along with a whole Rohu fish and entire trousseau, which is a simple outfit to be worn by the Bride during the Gaye Holud. The Gaye Holud is then performed at the Bride’s place in a similar fashion to the Grooms. After Gaye Holud, the Bride proceeds to get ready for the Wedding Day evening.
Bor Jatri and Boron
The groom starts from his house after receiving his mother’s blessings, in a specially decorated car sent by the Bride’s family, towards the wedding venue, accompanied by few of his friends and elderly male relatives. These people accompanying the Groom or Bor are known as Bor Jatri.
Upon reaching the wedding venue, the Groom and the Bor Jatri are received with much enthusiasm amidst blowing of conch shells and ululations. The mother of the Bride welcomes the Groom with a Baran Dala which is a large tray made of cane containing auspicious ingredients like Rice, Turmeric, Betel Nuts, a bunch of Bananas and a lighted Diya. She touches it to the groom’s forehead, the shoulders and the chest and repeats this thrice. She then feeds him with sweets and water and ushers him in.
The elders from the Bride’s side take their turns in blessing the Groom and presenting him with expensive gifts of jewelry, cash or even watches. The same procedure is repeated by the elders accompanying the Groom side, by presenting pieces of Jewelry to Bride and blessing her.
Saat Paak and Subho Drishti
The Groom is brought into the wedding Mandap known as “Chhadnatolla” and an initial Puja is performed along with the person who will do the Kanya Sampradan. The Groom is then asked to change into his “Jor”.
After he is back to Mandap, the Bride is seated in a wooden platform known as “Piri” and is carried by 4-5 young male members of her family to the mandap, all the while she hides her face from view with the help of a couple of betel leaves. The Bride is supposed to circumambulate around the Groom seven times aided by the male relatives carrying her. This is known a “Saat Paak”. The Bride and Groom are then placed in front of each other. The Bride removes the betel leaves and the two set their eyes on each other, amidst hooting, and sounds of conch shells and ululations. This is known as “Subho Drishti”.
The couple then exchange their garlands in a ritual known as Mala Bodol. A fun element is added when the relatives of both the Bride and Groom hoist them up to make it difficult to reach. A lot of competitive fun and laughter ensues.
The bride is then brought into the Chhadnatolla, where she is seated opposite to the Groom and an elderly male member of the Bride’s family unites their hands and it is bound by sacred thread, and the priest chants the mantras whereby the Bride is officially given away to the groom.
The Bride and the Groom then sit beside each other in front of the sacred fire while the priest utters Vedic mantras which they dutifully repeat after. All the while they have to periodically make offerings to the fire after the verses end.
The priest ties a knot between the end of the Bride’s saree and the Grooms shawl. The couple then have to go around the fire seven times, while uttering the seven sacred vows. The saptapadi in Bengali wedding is quite different from what is popular (“phere”) in many other parts of India. There are seven betel leaves laid out in a sequence. The Bride steps on these leaves one by one followed by the Groom. The Groom moves a special stone called “Nora” (typically used for crushing and pasting spices) with his foot as they move forward.
The Bride’s brother puts puffed rice into her hands. Then the Groom joins her hands from behind and together they pour the offering in the fire.
After the wedding is completed; the Bride and Groom are seated together along with other members of the Bride’s family and a lot of teasing and laughter ensues. Among the Bengali Community, the “Kusukdinge” and “Sindoor daan” rituals take place on the morning of the day after the wedding. This is known as the “Bashi Biye”. The Bride and the Groom get ready in their wedding finery to participate in the ritual.
Bidaai refers to the departure of the couple from the Bride’s place. It is mostly a tearful and emotional event. The Bride throws handful of rice over her shoulder into her mother’s outstretched hands. Among the Ghoti community the couple departs on the morning time while the Bangal rituals dictate that the couple leave before evening.
The Bride is welcomed into her in-laws’ place. Water is poured under the vehicle, a vessel containing milk and lac dye or alta is placed outside the door and the Bride needs to step into it and the imprint of her feet are put on white fabric.
She has to hold a live fish and look and a boiling bowl of milk for prosperity of the house. She is then blessed by the elders of the house with cash and jewelry as gifts.
The night the Bride comes into her husband’s house, the couple are not allowed to meet each other and are put up in separate rooms.
The next day morning, the Bride is initiated officially into the new family during the “Bou Bhaat” ritual. The husband presents his wife with clothes and sweets on a platters and promises to take care of her for the rest of their lives. Then she offers the members of the family rice and ghee during mealtime.
That evening the Groom’s family invites their relatives for a reception where they get to meet the new Bride and offer their best wishes to the couple. The couple’s bedroom is decorated with colorful flowers and the couple spend their first night together. On the eighth day of the wedding, the couple visits the Bride’s place. A Satyanarayan puja is performed and the thread tied during the wedding is removed by the priest. This concludes the “Bengali Wedding”. If you think there is something missing, then please don’t worry, as I’ve got you covered for the Traditional Dress & Jewelry of a Bengali Bride below. Scroll down to have a look into it.
A Bengali Bride wears a red Banarasi saree with gold zari or butta work. The Bride wears all gold ornaments. With Modernization, many Bengali Brides prefer wearing a red Lehenga choli as well. Just as the old saying goes, “Queens don’t step out without their crown on”, the Bengali Bride never steps out without a “Topor” along with a veil on her wedding day. However, this white colored crown is not just for show, but it is also worn for bringing good luck to the couple. The “Topor” aka “Mukut” or crown is made up of “shola” (Indian Cork), which is a very delicate yet elegant looking material. Once the hair and head of the Bride are done with the “Topor” and the veil, the hair is usually tied back as a graceful bun, occasionally accompanied with a “Gajra” or other hair accessories. After this comes yet another, very distinguishing feature of the Bengali Bride, that is the decorous design made out of Chandan paste (sandalwood) and kumkum. There are numerous design patterns that Brides explore, but my personal favorite has always been a simple one. This pattern of design again is not for some vogue, but has a special significance. The color combination of white and red holds a significant meaning. On one hand the white color stands for peace and tranquility and on the other hand, the red stands for love and matrimony. Brides choses one among the two, either Alta (the red design on hands and feet) or Mehendi (Heena designs on hands and feet).
Every Bride dreams to look her best on her wedding day. While there are countless details that go into making a wedding look memorable, the most important aspect is undoubtedly the jewelry. In Bengali weddings, jewelry is not mere ornamentation. It is a form of investment and a sort of security that is bequeathed on the Bride as she steps into her new life. Below are the references you can see for the type of Jewelry that a Traditional Bengal Bride chooses to wear during the marriage.
This concludes my blog on “Bengali Wedding”. Hope you liked it. You may also be interested in few of my other blogs as well. If Yes, then please go ahead and click on the button below to find all my blogs. Happy Reading!!!!