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We continue from our previous post on Bengali Pre-Wedding Program
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This is a simple ceremony in honour of Kuber, the god of wealth. The ritual takes place in the groom and the bride’s houses. On the wedding day, each of the families places three metal glasses brimming with crushed rice, dhaan (wheat), and khoi (pulses) at the altar of this god.
This ritual happens at the break of dawn on the wedding day. Seven married women adorn the bride’s wrists with the shankha (shell) and paula (coral), traditional bangles that married Bengali women wear. The shell symbolises the serene qualities of the moon, traits that the girl is supposed to imbibe, while the coral signifies health. After this, she is served a meal of rice and curd, the only meal that the bride is supposed to have on this day.
Shringar or Dressing up the bride
On the day of the wedding, hours before the ceremony, the bride is helped to dress up and look her best. She drapes a rich burgundy and gold silk sari and is bedecked with exquisite gold jewellery. Her head is covered with a gauzy veil on which a mukut (crown) is secured. Intricate patterns are painted on her face with sandalwood paste. She is then handed the kaajal laata (a hair decoration) and gaach kouto (a pot with sindoor) that she has to hold on to through the wedding ceremony. Here’s a beautiful Bengali bride with intricate facial motifs.
At the wedding venue, the bride’s female relatives welcome him with bell ringing, ‘ooulu’, and blowing of the conch. The bride’s mother welcomes him with a straw colander or boron dala containing betel leaves, yoghurt, honey and a lamp. Thrice,she applies a sandalwood tika on his forehead, and then on the ground. Next, the groom is served sweets and sherbet.When he steps into the wedding venue, water is sprinkled on the ground to mark the special moment. He is gifted a dhoti and a shawl and taken to the chadnatolla or the wedding altar, which has been decorated with two banana trees and an intricate alpona.
Bengali weddings begin in the evening. The bride comes to the altar seated on the painted piri, which is lifted by her uncles and brothers. There is much clapping and conch blowing. Holding a bunch of betel leaves that cover her face, she is taken around the groom seven times, while sitting on the piri. After the seventh round, she uncovers her face and looks at the groom for the first time. This auspicious first glance is known as Shubho Drishti. The couple exchange floral garlands thrice – Mala Bodol – while the purohit chants mantras. After this, they proceed to the mandap.
In this ritual, the bride is given away to the groom by the paternal or maternal uncle. To the chant of mantras, the couple’s hands are tied together with a sacred thread and placed on a kalash. It is considered inauspicious for the couple’s respective mothers to watch this ceremony.
Fire or Agni is auspicious in the Hindu tradition, and all Hindu marriages are solemnized around the sacred fire. The bride and the groom are seated around the fire, while the purohit chants mantras. The Fire God, Agni, is the divine witness at the wedding and his blessings are sought for the occasion.
Saat Paak and Anjali
The couple walk seven times around the fire to solemnize the union. An offering of khoi or puffed rice is made to the fire. The ritual happens like this – the bride is handed fistfuls of puffed rice by her brother, and the groom stands behind her and holds her hands, while she sprinkles it onto the fire. The anjali is a joint effort.
Sindoor Daan and Ghomta
After the anjali, when they sit down before the fire again, the groom applies vermilion or sindoor on the parting of the bride’s hair. Sindoor is the symbol of a married Hindu woman. The groom offers her a new sari, with which the bride covers her head or drapes like a ghomta(veil). They are now officially married and seek the blessings of elders. Here is a set of photos of a Bengali wedding.
After the bride has been welcomed by the groom’s family, the couple is separated for the night and not even supposed to meet or look at each other. The logic behind this ritual is that both of them should get a good night’s sleep, so that they are rejuvenated for the next day’s ceremonies. While it might be an extraordinarily long night for the couple, it is also a lot of fun, because they can pass notes to each other through younger relatives. An intriguing way for the bride to get close to her new family!
The new bride serves a meal to the entire family for the first time. It’s also another way to get to know the in-laws and relatives. Another facet of the ritual is that the husband presents his wife with a sari and a platter of food, which symbolizes his duty to look after her and fulfil all her needs. This is followed by a reception in the evening.
Phool Sajja or Flower Decoration
The bride’s family sends new clothes for the couple – a sari for the bride and dhoti-kurta or trousers and shirt for the groom. Flowers as well sweets are also sent in the package. The bridal chamber is decorated with these blossoms and the new couple spend their first night in this fragrant bower.
The last of the ceremonies, Dira Gaman, is in honour of the newly married couple, held when they visit the bride’s house for the first time after marriage. A priest snips off the thread on the bride’s wrist amidst ululation and blowing of conch shells. This ritual officially declares the bride to be a wife, who belongs with her husband!
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