Bengali Wedding Rituals

Sindoor Daan

A typical quintessential Bengali wedding is rich in rituals and heritage. Wedding vows are taken by the bride and groom but it is actually an amalgamation of two families. The rituals performed during the ceremony clearly unite both the bride & groom and their families. The rituals involve participation by the oldest and youngest family members making it a beautiful, colourful, joyous moment for one and all.

Aiburo Bhat marks the start of the ceremony. The bride and the groom celebrate the happy ending of their bachelorhood in their own household separately. Usually the mother prepares the meal for her daughter/son. Personal favourites are served, but the must have item is ‘payesh’. It is usually organised a day before the big day. (Payesh is a sweet dish made of milk rice and sugar or jaggery. It is a form of kheer.)

The wedding day commemorates with Dadhimangal, a ritual where the bride and the groom are fed before sun rises. Generally they get up at 3 to 3.30 am to start the ritual. According to the ritual both of them fast during the day (cannot take any food after Dadhi Mangal). Curd, sweets, chidwa (flattened rice) is usually fed. Food items vary according to local culture and heritage.

Dadhimangal

After this ceremony usually seven or nine married women (in odd numbers) visits Ma Ganga and she is invited for the wedding. Most conventionally ‘Mami’ (wife of maternal uncle) stay in this group and she leads the team. This is known as Ganga Nimantran.

Ganga Nimantran

Next comes Holud Kota. The groom is first smeared with turmeric paste mixed with Mustard Oil. A little is kept for thebride. The groom's family sends this holud to the brides place with a lot of gifts and sweets. Dahi, Mustart oil, a Big Fish (generally just taken out from pond) is a must thing in that particular Tattwo. This is popularly known as Tattwo. Decorating twattoo has become very popular in weddings.

Holud Khela

The gifts given to the bride come in different trays. The turmeric paste that comes from the groom's place is now smeared on the bride.

Along with this Briddhi Sraddha is performed. By this ritual the forefathers are invited to be a part of the ceremony and they offer homage to their forefathers. As stated earlier marriage for Bengalis is actually a communion of two families.

In the evening the groom comes to the bride’s place usually in a car decorated with flowers. The mother of the bride along with four or six other married women receive the groom. The ritual is called Jamai boron. 

The groom is taken to chadnatala (place where the marriage function is organized) where an initial puja is performed along with the person who will do the Konyo daan. After he changes into his Jor, the bride is seated in a wooden platform known as piri and carried by some male members of her family / brothers to the mandap. Whilst being carried the bride covers her face with betel leaves. The bride circumambulates around the groom seven times helped by the mail relatives carrying her. This is called Saat Paak.

 

Saat Paak

Next the bride removes the betel leaves – when the four eyes of the bride and groom meet it is known as Subho Dristi.

The garlands are being exchanged as Mala Bodol. After that the bride's father usually gives his daughter’s hand to son-in-law by a ritual called Konya Daan.

After this Hom ceremony takes place. Here the bride and groom sit next to each other in front of the fire whilst the priest chants Vedic mantras which repeat when asked to and make offerings to the fire.

Saptapadi is when the couple go around the fire seven times whilst taking vows. A knot is tied called Gatchora (A virtual bond that never lets them to be separate) and then the couple does the saptapadi.

 

After the Konyadan the ceremony continues in the brides place. The same night usually friends and brothers and sisters of the newly wed celebrate by playing different games like antakshari. It is called BASHOR. That is a big event and most waited time for everyone in the house especially younger people. Now days that essence of Basor has fainted due to shortage of time and lack attraction of younger people. Usually called bashi biye as we shall read in the next para.

After the marriage ceremony gets over the next day a ceremony called Bashi Biye is organized.

The main attraction of the ceremony is Sindoor Daan. Here the groom smears vermillion (sindoor) on the bride's head. The bride then becomes wife. 

 

Note that the bride leaves her father’s place on the second day after marriage unlike say Punjabi weddings where the bride leaves the same night since wedding ceremony gets over in one day.

Amidst all the rituals, fun, frolic comes the saddest ritual is Konya Bidai. The bride leaves the father's abode to enter her new family. Before leaving she throws paddy seeds (chawal) and aloo to mother’s Aanchal (end of a sari). This is a symbolic ritual to tell parents I am leaving after repaying all debts. Kankanjali marks the end of her stay in her father’s home.

The bride and the groom enter their new life. The bride goes to the groom's family where again a Bodhu Boron is done. (Bodhu boron is a ritual done after the newly wedded daughter in law enters her in laws home. It is a welcome gesture for the bride by in her in laws.) This time the groom’s mother receives her Chele and Cheler bou – groom and the bride. The bride enters her new home.

Bodhu boron

A lot of rituals take place. But these vary according to local cultures. For example if the grooms family is ‘ghoti’ (that is of West Bengal origin) the bride enters her in-laws in the morning but if the groom is ‘bangal’ (that is of East Bengal origin) the bride enters her new house after sundown.

Note that the night the bride comes into her husband’s house, the couple are put up in separate rooms according to tradition.

The celebrations comes to an end the next day. In the morning the newly wedded bride serves the family ghee-bhaat popularly known as Bou BhatThe serving of ghee bhat generally starts with eldest member of the family.

The ceremony comes to an end with Full Sojjya where the bed of the newly married couple is decorated with flowers to mark the beginning of a happy married life.

 

Bengalis do not have a tradition of mangalsutra but the mother in law usually gifts the bride with a LOHA BADHANO, a bangle made of iron plastered with gold.

To read all articles on marriage ceremony rituals

Editor – This article is written by a friend who prefers to remain anonymous. Given my name as author so that there is an email id for feedback.

Pictures by Diptangshu Sengupta