No matter where you go in India, you will find traditions that are vastly different from the rest of the country. So it is with festivals, so it is with weddings.
As we travel to the east of this colourful country, we take a peek at their wedding traditions, studded expectedly with customs and rituals as diverse as language, as beautiful as heritage. However, common threads do come into sight, and it is at these threads that we pull to unravel the glorious traditions that grace the weddings of Bengal.
It starts with a simple ‘Ashirbaad’. In a Bengali style engagement, the groom’s parents and the groom himself visit the bride, and shower the to-be-weds with fresh rice grain and trefoil. As a custom in the more affluent section of society, gold is also given as a gift to the couple.
Following this, the wedding customs follow in quick succession, starting with the ‘Gaye Holud’, a ceremony that is observed under different names across the country. Here, the bride and groom are bathed with water and smeared with turmeric paste in their respective places of residence. The elder ladies of the families perform this ritual, heralding blessings and new beginnings for the couple.
Before the wedding, the bride’s face is smeared with turmeric,
in a tradition that is known to make holy and purify
The first real glimpse of Bengali tradition comes into picture with the ‘DodhiMonogol’ wherein, on the day of the wedding, seven married women of the bride’s family place the quintessentially Bengali red-and-white bangles on the bride’s wrists.
The bride’s wrists are adorned with the trademark Bengali red-and-white bangles on the day of her wedding.
On the day of the wedding, the groom is ushered into the hall and showered with flowers and new clothes by the parents of the bride. Then, it is time for the bride to make her regal entrance on a raised stool known as a pidi.
A small platform, embellished with soft stones and draperies is used to usher the bride into the hall.
What is fascinating and unique about her entrance is that it is done by her brothers, who carry the bride to her husband-to-be, as she covers her face with a pair of betel leaves. The ritual that follows – ‘Shubho Drishti’ – then allows for the couple to catch their first glimpse of each other, as the bride lowers the betel leaves.
The bride lowers the betel leaves, and casts her gaze upon the man she is destined to marry, for the very first time on the day of her wedding.
The bride and groom then exchange garlands strung with fresh blooms, with the bride still seated on the pidi. While the custom of brides and grooms throwing garlands around each other’s necks is prevalent across the country, it is only in the Bengali wedding ceremony that we witness the bride doing it from her perch on a bedecked platform!
Soon after the garlands have exchanged sides, the father of the blushing bride offers his daughter’s hand to the groom, asking for his undying devotion to her in return. The groom accepts the responsibility of a family man in this ceremony, known in Bengali tradition as the ‘Sampradan’.
The Sampradanmarks the moment when a bride’s father offers the groom his daughter’s hand in exchange for a lifetime of love and loyalty.
Amid chants and solemn hymns that follow the emotional Sampradan, the bride and groom begin their journey as a married couple, by taking seven sacred steps around the ritualistic fire. With each step they take, they promise to cherish each other and stay devote to each other for an eternity.
The newly-weds take their first steps as a couple around a sacred fire.
A traditional Bengali wedding culminates in a moment of unique significance, when the groom smears vermillion or sindooron the bride’s forehead, marking their union. He then places a traditional white-and-red saree on her head, a custom that sees the wedding to its blessed end.
It is their uniqueness that makes Bengali weddings a picture of perfection.
Bengali weddings are full of fun and uniqueness. They are one-of-a-kind in appearance and customs, right from the bride’s attire to the groom’s glistening crown, from the bride’s entrance to the final journey as a couple. The food is heavy with sweets and snacks, and the wedding itself is a celebration of divinity more than anything else. It is truly an event to witness and embrace as one of the finest cultural experiences that Indian weddings have to offer!