The Indian (read Bengali) wedding is an elaborate ceremony. The preparation time for this day, starts months in advance. From getting a priest to decide upon a ‘Muhrat‘ or perfect date and time of the wedding, to booking the wedding venue weeks in advance; needs a lot of running around to be done. On top of that, one has to print invitation cards; buy the wedding saree and jewellery (which is mostly gold ); book the caterers and fix an elaborate dinner menu; go door to door inviting guests (mostly done by the bride and groom’s parents ); buy clothes for the families of the bride and groom and the list goes on.
As the wedding day comes nearer, the brides family gets really busy in decorating the ‘Totto‘ or items that the bride takes along with her to her new house. Some of these items include clothes, gifts for each of the family members, fruits, food items and sweets. These are decorated in beautiful trays and given to the grooms house.
Thereafter, it becomes a taboo for the bride and the groom to see each other before their wedding hour.
A day before the wedding (or in some cases few days before the wedding) the bride celebrates her ‘Ai Buro Bhaat’ which is a ritual where the bride’s mother cooks delicious food for her. It is basically like a feast that her mother gives to her before giving her away to her husband.
On the wedding day, the custom of applying turmeric to the bride and the groom takes place separately in their houses. The friends and family of the two gather around them and apply turmeric on their face to wish them luck for their future with their better half. This ceremony is called ‘Gaye Holud’ or ‘Haldi’ (Haldi and Holud stands for turmeric in Hindi and Bengali respectively).
The main rituals start with the to-be mother-in-law welcoming the groom . Thereafter the bride is carried on a ‘piri’ (flat wooden bench) by her brothers and uncles. She has to hold betel leaves in both hands to cover her face while she is rotated around her to-be husband. After she is put down (much to the relief of the brothers and uncles 😛 ), the ‘mala bodol’ or the exchange of the garlands takes place.
In some marriages the Registry Marriage takes right after this ceremony or in some cases, Registry Marriage precedes the Social Marriage.
Thereafter, the priest begins chanting the special ‘mantras’ (chants) for the wedding.
To cut a long story short, after the priest has evoked our forefathers and asked for their blessings, in what seems to me like a tedious forty-five minutes to an hour of chanting, the bride has to be given away to the groom. Like most weddings, the parents perform this ritual and in some exceptional cases, an uncle or an older brother performs the ‘Kanyadaan’ – Giving away of the daughter. A symbol of this is the knot tied at the end of the bride’s saree and the groom’s dupatta.
Fire is one of the most powerful elements of Nature.
Fire is Beauty! Fire is Humility !
Fire is Fury! Fire is Illumination!
Fire is the Silent Observer of the Happenings of the Universe!
Thus, it becomes very apt that the wedding vows are taken in front of the holy fire, making it the pure but silent observer of the sacred union. Only after the ‘Saptapadi‘ or the wedding vows have been taken by both the bride and the groom through going around the fire seven times , is a wedding complete. Seven , stands for the seven vows that are taken by the pair . Translating the seven vows into english, they stand as the following:
- I will love, cherish and provide for you and our children. You will support me and offer me food.
- Together we will defend our family and home.
- We will be faithful to each other and lead a spiritual life.
- I declare my good fortune in marrying my wife. We pray for a happy life and good children filled with all health and wealth.
- We for the happiness and wellbeing of our family. May we have righteous and obedient children.
- I will always be by your side in your endeavors.
- With this last Phera we forever belong to each other and will remain friends forever…
Translation Courtesy: http://goo.gl/DDYgsr
After the ‘Saptapadi‘of the ‘Saat Phera‘ the groom applies vermillion on the brides hair-parting. With that they are declared to be in the holy union until death does them apart.
After all the hard work and tension from both the sides and especially the throbbing heart of the bride (and maybe the groom ) the wedding is complete and the pair is declared man and wife. Oh and this is a photo of ‘Kheer er Bor Bou’ which means the bride and the groom made of puffed rice; and yes you can actually eat them after the ceremony is over 😛 ! Just don’t eat their costumes. Those are not edible!
Most of the photographs have been taken by me, except the ones taken with due credit from the Internet. I took these photographs during the wedding of a relative in Glasgow. To maintain the privacy of the people in the photographs , I have not mentioned names and I hope you, as readers, would respect this decision of mine. Thank You. 🙂
Though there are many other rituals after the marriage has taken place, I would not be going into that in my post. Hence, I am ending this post with a very special photograph that I took during a wedding in Glasgow some days back ; and a post about some wonderful sights in Glasgow is coming really soon. Do let me know what you feel about the institution of marriage and the rituals taking place in it, in the Bengali tradition. I would be most happy if you want to leave a comment. Thanks. 🙂