In perhaps one of the most densely populated areas of the world lies a culture so rich in celebrations, festivals and religion. The Bengalis have a long history in their culture and traditions and this is evident in their marriage rituals too. A traditional Bengali wedding is one that can be distinguished from the rest because of its four distinct parts.
The Gaye Holud which translates as the coloring of the body with a turmeric paste is a ceremony that is held for the bride and the groom in their houses respectively. The morning begins with the bride and groom being fed some sweets before a period of fasting until the wedding. This is followed by a prayer performed by the eldest male member of the family towards the deceased male ancestors invoking their blessings. In a typical Holud ceremony, the groom’s family excluding the groom will visit the bride with the wedding outfit, the turmeric paste that has been touched to the groom’s body and some sweets. An important part of this ceremony is the dressing of the Rohu fish as a bride.
This is also taken along with the other elements to the bride’s house. This process happens vice versa for the groom. The paste is prepared by five married woman dressed in traditional orange outfits and is then applied on the body of the bride by her female friends. Known to soften her skin and give her a glow, this paste is later washed away with water from the Ganges, usually brought to the house by female relatives.
The Bibahobashor which is the main wedding ceremony is usually organized by the bride’s family. They send the groom a car in which he is accompanied by two elderly male relatives, one from his side and one from the bride’s side as well as the youngest male member of the family known as the Neet Bor who is dressed as a groom too. In a traditional Bengali wedding, the groom’s mother does not accompany her son to wedding as it is considered a bad omen. Instead she blesses her son on his new journey and stays home to welcome the bride. At the venue, the groom is welcomed by the sounds of conch shells. The bride’s mother washes the wheels of the car with water from the Ganga and feeds the groom some sweets while the rest of the family gift him his wedding attire.
The initial chanting of the mantras begins with the groom and later in the ceremony, the bride is brought seated on a wooden seat, known as a a piri by brothers and friends. Unlike most Indian marriages where the couple encircle the fire, in Bengali weddings the bride first encircles the groom while her face remains covered with Beetel leaves.
Once this ritual has been completed, she can then put down the leaves and the couple see each other which happens amidst the heavy blowing of conch shells. This is followed by the Sindurdaan where the groom puts the vermilion powder on the bride’s head and then covers her forehead with a saree called the Lojja Bostra. The encircling of the fire takes place and the groom’s sister ties the loose ends of the bride and groom’s attire in a knot called the Gat Bandhan which the couple do not open. This ritual is followed by a feast usually amongst the youngsters of the family.
The following morning the couple make their way to the groom’s house after a Kanakanjali has been performed which is the offering of rice. This marks the end of celebrations and the bride’s life in her paternal home and the start of the celebrations in the groom’s house and life in her new home.
At the groom’s house, the bride is welcomed with a ceremony called the Boubron wherein the bride leaves her footprints on a sari following which she is shown the areas of the house marking prosperity and wealth. It is at this point the elders in the house gift the bride with gold.
The Bou-Bhaat is celebrated as the second day of the bride in her husband’s house. The day begins with the bride serving her in laws rice with ghee for lunch. This is followed by an evening reception wherein she is introduced to all relatives, near and far, from her husband’s family. The bride’s family also attend this ceremony with jewelry, clothes and other gifts for their daughter and her in laws. This ceremony is followed by a grand feast known as the Preetibhoj.
The Oshto Mongola marks the finale of the wedding festivities. This is a ceremony wherein the newly wed couple spend three days at the bride’s paternal home. Before they make their way there, a Satyanarayan Puja is performed to bless the couple. The Puja is performed by the groom’s family and the couple dress in their wedding attire. Once the prayer is over, the couple head to the bride’s home and the next three days include feasting and the opening of the Gat Bandhan which was performed on the day of the wedding.