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Bengali Weddings Rituals

A Bengali Wedding is often referred to as ‘Biye’ and is quite a celebration. A variety of deep and meaningful rituals that are rooted in culture and tradition are performed in front of a large gathering of friends and family; Bengali weddings are celebrations of color, camaraderie, and family above all else.

They are elaborate affairs with celebrations spanning  2 to 3 days, from morning till night. The rituals and their executions are subtly different between the two main subcultures in Bengal; the Bengals (Bengali Hindus originating from modern-day Bangladesh) and the Ghotis (the ones originating in West Bengal). Let’s take a look at some of the standard rituals and customs involved in a Bengali wedding.

Pre-Wedding Rituals

Aiburobhat

This is sort of an Indian version of a bridal shower that takes place on the afternoon or night before the wedding day. Generally, close friends and relatives gather at the bride’s house to shower her with gifts.

She is then treated to an elaborate Bengali feast of rice, fish and several vegetable dishes. This is said to be her last meal as a spinster. A similar ritual is observed at the groom’s place where he takes his last meal as a bachelor.

Jol Sowa

On the morning of the wedding day, the mothers of the bride and groom are accompanied by a few married women of the family to the nearest water body to fill a brass pitcher in their respective neighborhoods. This water is to be used to bathe the bride or groom after their Gaye Holud ceremony.

Birddhi Puja

The father or other male relatives of both the bride and groom perform this ritual in their respective homes. Sanskrit hymns are chanted and offers are made to the past seven generations of the paternal ancestor to appease their souls and seek their blessings.

Gaye Holud and Tattwa

A turmeric paste is made by grinding fresh turmeric with mustard oil and is applied to the groom’s body by his mother and other married female relatives. He is then bathed with the water that was procured in the morning.

The remaining turmeric paste is put in a silver bowl and sent to the bride’s house along with a simple outfit that is to be worn during the Gaye Holud, and a whole Rohu fish. The Gaye Holud is then performed at the bride’s place in a similar fashion. After this ceremony, the bride proceeds to get ready for the wedding day evening.

haldi

Wedding Day Rituals

Bor Jatri and Boron

The groom starts from his house after receiving his mother’s blessings, in a specially decorated car sent by the bride’s family, towards the wedding venue. He is accompanied by few of his friends and elderly male relatives and this wedding party is known as Bor Jatri.

Upon reaching the wedding venue, the wedding party is received with much enthusiasm, amidst blowing of conch shells and ululations. The mother of the bride welcomes the groom with a Baran Dala, a large tray made of cane containing auspicious ingredients like rice, turmeric, betel nuts, bananas, and a lighted diya.

Saat Paak and Subho Drishti

The groom is brought into the wedding mandap-known as Chhadnatolla- and an initial puja is performed by the person who will do the Kanya Sampradan. The groom is then asked to change into his Jor.

After he returns, the bride is placed on a wooden platform known as Piri and is carried by 4-5 young male members of her family to the mandap.

During this journey, she hides her face from view with the help of a couple of betel leaves. The bride is supposed to circle around the groom seven times while being carried. This is known as Saat Paak.

The bride and groom are then placed in front of each other. The bride removes the betel leaves and the two set their eyes on each other, amidst hooting, and sounds of conch shells and ululations. This is known as Subho Drishti.

shubho dristi

Mala Badal

The couple then exchanges their garland in a ritual known as Mala Bodol. A fun element is added when the relatives of both the bride and the groom hoist them up to make it difficult to reach.

Kanya Sampradan

The bride is then brought into the Chhadnatolla, where she is seated opposite the groom. An elderly male member of the bride’s family unites their hands by use of a sacred thread, while the priest chants the customary wedding mantras.

Hom

The bride and the groom then sit beside each other in front of the sacred fire while the priest utters Vedic mantras, which they have to repeat. While doing so, they have to periodically make offerings to the fire.

Saptapadi

The priest ties a knot between the end of the bride’s saree and the grooms’ shawl. The couple then has to go around the fire seven times, while uttering the seven sacred vows.

Lajanjali/Kusumdinge

The bride’s brother puts puffed rice into her hands while the groom joins her hands from behind to pour the offerings into the fire together.

Sindoor Daan

The groom applies Sindoor on the parting of the bride’s hair and covers her head with a new saree known as the Lajjabastra.

Post-Wedding Rituals

Bidaai

Bidaai refers to the departure of the couple from the bride’s place. It is mostly a tearful and emotional event. The bride throws the handful of rice over her shoulder into her mother’s outstretched hands. Among the Ghoti community, the couple departs on the morning time while the Bengal rituals dictate that the couple leaves before evening.

bidaai

Badhu Baran

During this ritual, the bride is welcomed into her in-laws’ place. Water is poured under the vehicle while a vessel containing milk and lac dye or Alta is placed outside the door for the bride to step into it.

The imprint of her feet is then captured on white fabric. She also has to hold a live fish and look into a boiling bowl of milk for prosperity to reign in the house. She is then blessed by the elders of the house with cash and jewelry as gifts.

badhu baran

Kaal Ratri

The night the bride comes into her husband’s house, the couple is not allowed to meet each other and are put up in separate rooms.

Bou Bhaat

The next morning, the bride is officially initiated into the new family during the Bou Bhaat ritual. The husband presents his new wife with clothes and sweets on a platter and promises to take care of her for the rest of their lives. Then she offers the members of the family rice and ghee during mealtime.

Reception

The same evening, the groom’s family invites their relatives for a reception where they get to meet the new bride and offer their best wishes to the couple.

reception

Wedding Attire

The Bengali groom typically wears a Kurta, which is known as Panjabi, with a Dhoti. While the Panjabi may be made from various materials like cotton, silk or tussar, the Dhoti is generally made of Muslin or a Bengal Handloom is known as Tant. The Panjabi features gold or sometimes diamond studded buttons.

The groom wears dots of sandalwood paste on his forehead and also dons a conical head adornment known as the ‘Topor’, made of Shola or Indian Cork. He wears a garland made of tuberoses and roses. During the ceremony, he is required to make an outfit change- he is to change into fine silk two-piece attire known as the ‘Jor’ before he meets the bride. The groom carries a round brass object with long handle known as the ‘Darpan’ at all times.

The attire of the Bengali bride is one of the most regal and elegant wedding outfits. She usually wears a Red Benarasi Saree made of silk, that is heavily embroidered with gold zari threads. It may be draped in different ways, but the ‘aath poured’ style is traditionally what is seen during Bengali weddings.

She wears a veil to cover her head and a is adorned with a lot of jewelry. The quintessential Bengali artistic tendencies are displayed through the unique designs drawn on the bride’s forehead with kumkum and sandalwood paste, around the big red bindi. She also has to wear headgear that compliments the groom’s torpor, known as Mukut. The Bengali bride has to carry an ornate wooden container filled with sindoor and a one rupee coin known as the ‘Gachh Kouto’.

See Also:
Punjabi wedding rituals.

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