The entire process of tying the nuptial knot in Bengali matrimony is very beautiful and colorful, involving many traditions and ceremonies. These rituals and ceremonies are not only enjoyable but also they hold deep meaning and history. These rituals span for several days.
Traditional Bengali marriages have multiple rituals that the bride and the groom have to perform before weeding, during the wedding and post wedding. The basic customs that symbolize a Bengali wedding ceremony are the blowing of shank (shell), ululation by the females, shehnai playing at the wedding etc – these making the wedding day bright and more inviting.
Rituals before the wedding:
Ashirbaad the ashirbaad ceremony is when the elders from the Bengali groom side shower the bride with their blessings and likewise the elders from the Bengali bride side bless the groom; ashirbaad (ashirvad) meaning blessing is the prime most ceremony in a Bengali marriage. The ceremony is performed by sprinkling rice and trefoil on the bride and groom and giving them gold ornaments. This ceremony also symbolizes that both the parties accept that the bride and the groom are going to be tied into a holy bond.
Gaye holud this is the ceremony where turmeric (haldi) is grinded and prepared by the ladies and applied on both the bride as well as the groom. In this ceremony, the groom and his family go to the brides house with brides wedding outfit, henna and turmeric to decorate the bride. They also carry with them two fishes decorated, symbolizing the bride and the groom.
Aai budo bhat this is the pre-marriage bachelorette party thrown by the friends and relatives of the bride to shower her with their blessings, acceptance and joy.
Dodhi mongol in this ceremony, about ten to eleven married women go to the nearest pond or river and offer prayers to goddess ganga inviting her for the wedding and asking her blessings for the couple; after which they bring a pitcher filled with the water from that pond. After this, they adorn the hands of the bride with a bangles one pair being red and the other being white also known as shakha and paula.
These are the main pre wedding rituals that are performed in order to bless the bride a groom, followed by the main wedding rituals.
Main wedding rituals:
Bor jatri also known as the grooms arrival, here the groom and all his friends and relatives dress up in their wedding dresses and arrive at the brides house. The groom carries with him a mirror through out the wedding, and the women on the brides side welcome the groom and his family by ringing bells and shells.
Potto bastra – where the groom is seated at the altar (chadnatolla) and only the bride, groom and the priest are present.
Saat paak this is where the bride is made to sit on a low stool and the brothers of the bride carry her and take seven complete circles around the groom (also known as pheras in Hindu marriages) and all along this the bride keeps her eyes covered by beetle leaves. This ceremony signifies that they are now tied to each other from this day onwards.
Mala badal this ceremony signifies that the bride and the groom have accepted each other. Here, they sit on a piri and exchange flower garlands three times. After this, the bride and the groom are suppose to finally look at each other in front of the entire crowd that is witnessing the progression of marriage, which is also known as subho drishti.
Sampradan the bride is then made to sit at the chadnatolla where the elder males on the bride side hand her over to the groom. The bride places her hand on that of the grooms and their hands are tied by the holy thread followed by reciting holy chants given by the priest.
Yagna the bride and groom take holy vows in front of the sacred fire, praying the agni devta (god of fire) to bless them and their marriage. Then, the bride and the groom take seven rounds of the yagna, followed by offering anjali to the fire where the brother of the bride puts rice in her hands and the groom holds her hands from behind and together they offer this to the yagna .
Sindoor dan after the anjali, the bride and groom take their places again, and then the groom puts sindoor (vermilion) on the brides hair parting. After that, the bride is made to cover her head with a new saree gifted by the grooms family as the ghoongat.
These ceremonies mark the completion of the wedding process, tying the bride and the groom as one in the process of holy matrimonial.
Post wedding rituals:
Bidaay as the name suggests its the stage of bidaye i.e. bidding farewell to the bride by her family and friends, blessing her to start a new and happy life with her husband.
Kaal ratri per the Bengalis, this is the night where the bride and groom are kept separate for one entire night, and are not allowed to see each other. Then, the next day, the bride has to prepare a meal for the groom and his family, followed by an elaborate reception party for relatives and friends.
Phool sajja once all the marriage ceremonies are over, the brides family sends a new saree to the bride and a set of dhoti kurta for the groom. The bride and the groom then retire to their nuptial room decorated with a bed full of colorful flowers, concluding the wedding ceremony.
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