Food, Music Key To Bengali Wedding
Bengali’s have a couple of obsessions. Sweets and fish, music and theatre and gold ornaments. The Bengali wedding has all of them, and in generous dollops served again and again. In the patriarchal society that we live in, a Bengali girl is considered well groomed only if she knows and understands music and can sing Rabindra Sangeet.
Expected To Be Skilled In Performing Arts
Music and theatre is close to the Bengali heart and both the bride groom and the bride are expected to be skilled in such performing arts, Most Bengali girls born and brought up in Bengal consider it a matter of pride to cook well, sing and dance. When the bridegroom’s parents and relatives visit the bride’s home to see the bride, it is customary to show off her culinary skills as well as her musical talents.
Heritage Of Rich Art And Culture
This is true both for the Ghoti (those traditionally settled in West Bengal ) and the Bangal ( those who have migrated from East Bengal or East Pakistan before partition ) communities . The dowry system is largely absent in Bengal except in some rich Ghoti families. Some say it is instead replaced by the musical dowry in which the tradition and heritage of rich art and culture gets carried on through generations.
Just like the Bania parents try to empower their daughters with dowry wealth to have a better say in an unequal patriarchal society, the Bengali parent tries to enrich their daughters by honing their musical talents and are possibly more successful in bridging the gender gap. A Bengali bride is usually considered more liberated and an equal partner in decision making at home, and a large part of this can be attributed to the fact that men look for art and cultural inspiration and not wealth from their wives.
Eating Before Sunrise
The day of wedding starts early as per Bengali custom with the bride and groom getting up before the crow rises. The ceremony called ‘ Ayee Budo Bhaat ‘ is the last meal at the home of parents before the wedding. It is usually of milk, banana, and rice ‘Doodh Kala Bhat ‘ and fruits and is the only whole meal that can be consumed before the marriage. Thereafter during the day it is only fruits and fasting for both the bride and the groom.
Thereafter another ceremony takes place around 9AM in the morning in which respects are paid by the parents of the bride and groom to the ancestors of the family. This is called the ‘ Briddhi Sraddho ‘ usually a prayer ceremony held at the respective homes of the Bride and the Groom and attended by all the family members and relatives from far and near. Normally a priest comes home and recites the mantras but there are families who know the prayers and do it themselves.
The Gayee Halood
The most interesting event of the morning is the ‘ Gaye Halood ‘ ceremony or the Haldi ceremony. After a sumptuous breakfast by all family members at around 11.00 AM you will find a Tatta arriving from the bride grooms family to the brides home with gifts for the entire household especially the ladies of the family. Each of the sisters and cousins, the mother of the bride and the elderly aunts, receive sarees for the occasion.
Importance Of Turmeric Paste
Along with the gifts come a bottle of oil and some turmeric which is the key ingredient of the ‘ Gaye Halood or Haldi’ ceremony. The application of the turmeric paste is a traditional method of keeping an Indian girl fair and radiant and is an age old beautification tool used in India. It is also known to have a soothing effect on the skin as turmeric has great medicinal properties. All the ladies of the family take turns to apply the turmeric paste on the bride.
DRESSING UP THE BENGALI BRIDE
The bride and her dress and jewelry is another important factor much like the food. Bengalis love gold jewelry and pass on the tradition and part of their wealth through jewelry. Though dowry is uncommon in Bengal other than a few business class families, a lot of the jewelry of the mother and the grandmother is gifted to the bride.
Use Of Gems Like Ruby And Emerald
The variety is enormous and the gold used is of a thinner section and the superior craftsmanship of the artisans ensures that they are both beautiful and durable. The gold filigree work of Bengal and Orissa are unique but require a lot of good skilled artisans to produce. It gives a floral touch to the ornaments and help to enhance the spread of the design making it look more voluminous than it actually is. The use of gems like ruby and emerald are very popular as both red and green are auspicious colors and popular in weddings.
The Bridal Dress
The traditional bridal dress is usually an exquisitely embroidered red or scarlet Banarasi Saree though a lot of variations take place in weddings today. Bengal has a tradition of sankha, pola and sindur in which the bride puts vermilion on the central parting of hair that starts from the wedding day till the day her husband is alive. This is accompanied by the exquisitely carved Sankha cut from white conch shells worn as a bangle on the wrist and a specialized red bangle called Pola.
The Bridal Headgear
There are varieties of ornaments for the head but the most popular are the tiki and the hair pins and the hair clasps. Tikli is used across India but this traditional ornament worn by Bengali brides on the central parting of her hair attains special significance because of the tradition of the Sindoor. It is said that the bridegroom removes the Tikli and applies the first vermilion on the central parting. . This is basically because the Tikli starts inches above the forehead and comes down on the forehead.