Bengali weddings are a very loud affairs that include blowing of cunch shells and the sound of Ooli.
Bengalis take pride in being the intellectual community of India. The rituals of their rich and warm weddings bring out their intellectual dignity. One of the salient features of Bengali weddings is blowing of conch shell, which is also blown during any religious or holy ceremonies. Another pious sound is Ooli, made by women with their tongues and by beating the palms on the mouth. This is carried out throughout the ceremony. Symbolically it is meant for ensuring that everyone`s attention is drawn to main ceremony.
Costumes in Bengalee Wedding
Bridal attire: This is a ritual in itself. The bride adorns herself in all her bridal finery. Her hair is tied into a bun and covered with a veil. The mukut is placed on her head and secured in place by pinning it to the veil. After her bridal makeover, a design of the mukut is traced on her face using the chandan paste. The bride must sit with the gaach kouto and kaajal laata for the ceremonies that follow.
Groom`s attire: The bridegrooms in Bengali wedding wear a silk dhoti and punjabi. However, while performing the marriage rituals the groom drapes a silk cloth around his body known as the “jor”. The end of this cloth is tied to the anchal of the bride`s saree. The groom is well dressed in Dhoti and Kurta, along with topor, which is a paper and shoal conical hat.
Pre -Wedding Customs
The pre wedding rituals of the Bengali wedding marks the beginning of the grand wedding ceremony.
Aashirwad: Literal meaning of Aashirwad is blessings. This ritual is the conformation of marriage alliance that is performed few days prior to the wedding. This marks the beginning of the festivities. It can be conducted either at the groom`s or at the Bride`s house. The ceremony starts with offering of a Sandalwood Tilak with gifts including a piece of gold jewellery along with some `daan` (Rice husk signifying plenitude) and darba grass (symbolizing that he will treat the bride with tenderness). Later as per Hindu tradition, mishti (sweets) are offered to celebrate the occasion.
Decoration: An alpana (rangoli) with designs like lotus plant, fish, which are considered as auspicious elements of the wedding, is drawn. Along with that small banana tree is placed at the entrance of the house. Under the tree a copper vessel called mangol ghot is placed .The door is decorated with a string of mango leaves which stays on for a period of one year after the Wedding ceremony.
Vridhi: This ceremony is about offering worship to the ancestors of Bride and Groom. All the samagri (items) for puja are arranged in `baran dola`(silver plate) with sign of `sri` made on it. The priest brings an idol of Bhagwan Narayan that is worshipped by lighting agarbattis (incense) and diyas (lamps). Paternal uncle generally performs the vridhi. According to their tradition the paternal uncle performing the puja has to be on liquid diet whole day.
Ai Buro Bhaat: The bride`s family gives a grand rich supper the night before the wedding at their home.
Wedding Piris: Piris are artistically designed and painted wooden planks usually done by a close relative. These are brought to the bride`s house the day prior to wedding day and are used to seat the bride and groom during the wedding ceremony. During the wedding, conch shells are blown and ululation taken up.
Dhodhi Mangal: This ceremony is performed at both bride and groom`s houses at the crack of dawn. About ten married women accompany bride/groom to a nearby pond. They invite the Goddess Ganga for the wedding at return with a pitcher of water from pond to bathe bride/groom. Then they serve food to bride/groom, which consists of macher laija bhaja (fried fish) followed by jal dhana bhaja (rice cooked in water), curd and chiruya.
Haldi Uptan: In this ceremony the bride is made to sit in midst of four plantain trees, which are considered auspicious, kept at four corners of the room. The paste of turmeric mixed with mustard oil is applied to her body, which is symbolic of making bride`s skin glow. It is followed by Totto ceremony that consists of giving of gifts to the bride. The bride`s father side sends a whole raw fish to the bride along with other sweets, turmeric, saris and pumpkins.
Shakha Paula: While priest says Vedic chants, seven married women embellish the bride`s hands with the traditional bangles made of Shankha (shell) and Paula (coral). The shell is supposed to mirror the qualities of moon-serene and calm, on the bride. The coral is supposed to be beneficial for health.
Tattvas: Tattvas are gifts that are exchanged between the bride and groom`s family before and after the wedding. The gifts that are sent to bride`s house are called Gae hallud tattva and the ones sent to groom`s house are known as Adhibas Tattva.
Kubbi patta: A short ceremony to revere Saint Kuber in the houses of bride and groom. On the day of marriage, family members place three metal glasses filled to the brim with dhaan, khoi(pulses),and crushed rice at the altar of the Saint.
Snan: The snan takes place in the late afternoon or evening, the bride and groom must individually follow on the day of the wedding. A few married women apply turmeric and oil on the hair and body of the bride/groom. After bathing, the bride and groom must wear the new set of clothes that have been presented to them by their in-laws. The worn clothes are later given away to a napti (barber).
Mandap: The mandap is the place where the wedding ceremony is conducted, two banana trees are planted at the mandap and a large alpana is made with rice paste. The mandap is decorated for the event with flowers and lights.
The wedding day starts at 4.00 am for the bride. She bathes and gets dressed in a white sari with a red border. The significance of white being purity and chastity and red being purity. She wears all her jwellery and is made to eat a mixture of puffed rice, curd and sweets before dawn. The whole throughout the day she can only have sweets, water and sharbat. The men folk of the bride`s side perform a vridhi ceremony mid-morning in which they offer water to the souls of their ancestors to invoke their blessings.
The groom well dressed in Dhoti and Kurta, along with topor (paper and shoal conical hat) leaves the house with the permission of his mother to go and fetch her life partner. Mother gives the permission and feeds the groom sweet and glass of milk. The groom along with a relative or friend leaves the house to go to bride`s house. The decorated car is sent by the bride`s house and a relative of the bride comes to take the groom. The relatives and friends of groom usually leave after this. As per customs, groom`s mother stays back. The groom has to carry a darpan (mirror) all the time. Along-with the groom, a small boy also goes to the bride`s place, with the similar dress as the groom has worn. He is known as neet-bar.
Welcoming the Groom
The groom and his relative arrive at the bride`s house to the ringing bells, blowing of conch shells and ululation. The silver plate is held by an elder female relative of the bride and is touched from the groom`s forehead to the ground to back again on his forehead. This is done in gesture of part blessing and part reverence. Then he is offered sweets and sharbhat. Water is then sprinkled on the doorsteps as the groom enters the house to mark the auspicious moment. Both mother of the bride and the groom do not attend this ceremony, as it is believed that this will protect the couple from the `evil eye`.
The Bengali Wedding Ceremony
Both bride and groom meet with a ritual of exchanging garlands while the priest chants Mantras. Their hands are then joined with a sacred thread and couple is blessed in Sampradan ceremony. After the puja, the groom is given a fresh set of Dhoti and Kurta from the bride`s side. The groom has to change his dhoti-kurta and wear the new set and the ring. After this the bride is brought to the Mandap. The bride is usually carried in a piri and four of her friends carry her in the Mandap. She keeps her eyes hidden with a beetle leaf. She is rotated seven times around the groom. Once this is over, the bride and groom are placed face to face and the bride removes her beetle leaf. The bride and groom look at each other for the first time. This is known as Shubha-Drishti.
The couple is then seated on special piris (stools) in front of Agni (sacred fire) in the Yajna ceremony. This is followed by the traditional pheras. The grinding stone, on which spices are grounded, is placed upside down. Seven circular rangolis are drawn near it and one paan is placed on each of them. The girl stands in front and as she takes her first step on the stone, the boy gently nudges her left foot with his right. She then places her foot on the first alpana. These seven rounds are known as Saat Pheras, signifying the sanctity and solemnity of marriage. Sindoor Daan – Most of the Hindu weddings involve fire offerings.
Bengali`s name the ceremony as Anjali. The groom takes the bride`s palms in his and the girl`s brother fills them with Khoi (popped rice) that is offered to the sacred fire. A traditional Bengali wedding gets completed with the Sindoor Daan. The bride covers her head with a new sari offered by the groom. He dips a ring into sindoor and traces a line of it from between the girl`s eyebrows through the parting in her hair. Now the couple is considered officially married. A lavish wedding feast follows this where a number of varieties of fish are served along with a variety of other non-vegetarian dishes and sweets.
Post Wedding Ceremonies
The post wedding rituals of a Bengali wedding are also colorful. Manpan: The bride`s mother does oti bharane and gives saris to the groom`s mother, sisters/sister-in-laws. Bride`s father gives gifts to the groom`s father and brothers/brother-in-laws. Similarly, groom`s parents give gifts to the bride`s family.
Basar Ghar: The bride and groom are welcomed inside the bride`s home. Jokes and poetry recitals by friends and relatives keep the couple awake all through the night. However, for the Bengalis from East Bengal this ritual is not there. The bride and groom take rest for the night along with the other friends.
Bashi Biye: The next morning, the groom adorns the forehead of his bride with Vermillion. He does this by looking into a mirror. The newly-weds visits the mandap, and worship the Sun God in the presence of the priest.
Bidaai: This ceremony marks the departure of the bride and groom. The groom picks up the silver idol of parvati that is still sitting on gaurihar. The couple touches the feet of elders and the bride meets with all family members to bid a farewell. The couple sits in a vehicle and the procession, with a band and fireworks, goes to the groom`s place. Grihpravesh: The couple comes to the doorstep and the groom`s mother does aarti of the couple. The bride topples a measuring vessel filled with rice. It signifies that this bride will bring luck and prosperity. The couple sits and the groom places the silver idol of Parvati in a plate of rice and writes the bride`s new name. The groom`s mother sits between the couple and sees the bride`s face in the mirror – this is called soonmukh baghane. The couple gives sugar to all present and they have to take names in verses several times.