Bengali Beauty

As long as you’re not marrying a relative then a Bengali wedding is calling to you!  Within the Bengali tradition, there are a few ceremonies to attempt before saying, “I do!”  We can break them down into pre-wedding, wedding and post wedding.  The rituals are colorful and this wedding could be attempted in a simple or lavishing way.

The engagement is called Give and Take and this is celebrated by a reading of the ancestral lines just to make sure you’re not marrying your cousin.  I think this could be a good sign or attempt to start off a marriage on the right foot.  I myself have plans to get married to someone outside of the family tree.  Once everything is A-OK, then a date is set and this is called the Pakha-Dekha ceremony.  Say that 5 times in a row and then allow your heart to melt into the beauty of the Bengali traditions.

Let’s start with the Pre-Wedding ceremonies.  The next big ceremony is uniting both families.   I’m sure this can be somewhat intense at times depending on the dynamics of both families.  During this ceremony family members present the bride and groom with wooden stools (piri) that they have lovingly handmade together and are decorated with colorful flowers and flowing fabric.  The piris will tucked away until the wedding day.  On the big day,  the bride and groom will perch on top and spin around in a festive blur of fun and love. glorious circles of everlasting love whilst cooing singsong rythms of Bengali poetry.

The 2nd big ceremony within the pre-wedding celebrations is the Virdhi Puja.  Another word that comes into play is, ‘puja’.  Puja is the remembrance of the groom and brides ancestors.  An uncle conducts this ceremony.  Just a warning within this ceremony, the bride and groom must be on a liquid diet.  However, they have not mentioned what kind of liquid diet so this could be good news for many.  Maybe they mean champagne, wine, beer, tequila or mango daiquiris.  This would make the ‘spinners’ interesting.  Within the ‘puja’ celebration the traditional sand paintings are delicately admired and a small copper jug is placed in the center with mango leaves.  An idol named Bhagwan Narayah is brought by a priest and worshiped with incense and lamps along with a silver platter that has other offerings.  I’m sure you could bring in your own offerings on this platter and worship another God or Goddess.  Next ceremony is the, ‘Dodhi Mangal’, which is organized in the dawn hours of the day.  If you haven’t had a bath in a while, then don’t worry this ceremony includes some sparkling pond water.  Ten married women will escort the bride and groom to their magical pond and invite the goddess, ‘Ganga’ into the ceremony.  Ganga is the river goddess.  During this ceremony the women will use the pond water to bathe the bride and groom and bring traditional food.   No bubbles required for this bathing ceremony.   Next in line is the ‘Snan’ ceremony, this is a ceremony held separately for the bride and groom by the ‘married women’ again.  Another bathing ceremony,  within the Bengali tradition they enjoy the healing of water.  This one includes turmeric oil on the hair and body.  Afterwards the woman will dress the bride and groom in new clothing.  Feeling fresh and groovy in your new clothing will ignite the power of love and invite the celebration in with fullness.

During all of these amazing and colorful ceremonies there is also the ‘Sankha Poravo’ ceremony.  If you’re into bangles (bracelets) that are dipped in turmeric water then your going to love this one or maybe dipped in chocolate would be even better.  Get ready to bangle it up and put a brand new ‘sari’ (a type of dress, robe decorated with intricate design and beautiful fabric) over your body of love.  Another favorite is the placing of the ‘Kaaja Laata’, which is a decorative hairpiece.   I’m really liking this particular ceremony because it’s all about fashion.  Be traditional with the ‘Kaaja Laata’ or get creative within your own decorative hair piece; feathers, beads, fabric, jewels, flowers, branches etc…If your curious what the traditional Kaaja Laata looks like look it up, they are mystical and lavishly beautiful!

Day of the wedding is the, ‘Kubi Puta’ ceremony.  During this ceremony they will invite abundance of wealth and success by worshipping Sant Kuber (Hindu god of money).  Make sure to buy some lotto tickets at your favorite gas station for this ceremony and remember to cook some rice (jasmine would be nice) to present offerings at the altar for Sant Kuber.   Next in line (your going to love this one if you love bananas) is the ‘Mandop’ ceremony.  This is the place where the wedding will be held.  After decorating it with flowers and lights the tradition is to plant two banana trees.  Can you imagine if there is a place that is popular for Bengali weddings and everyone has planted 2 banana trees, it would become a banana farm!

Welcoming the groom is a ceremony in itself.  The best part of this ceremony is the ‘ululation’.  So, the family will ring bells, blow into conch shells and then immerse into ululation, which is wailing, hooting or howling at the top of their lungs.  I would think this would be good for the bride and groom to do before they take the leap of faith or perhaps in the bedroom after the wedding.  Soon after the ‘welcoming’, the eldest female cousin of the bride will bless the groom with a silver platter and touch his forehead lightly.  After the blessing, the groom is gifted sweets and sherbet along with being sprinkled with rose water, how delightful.  As the excitement builds (can you feel it?) the brides uncles will carry her on top of their shoulders to place her carefully for the wedding ceremony.  YES, this is where the ‘spinners’ come in, I love it!  As the bride and groom sit on their ‘spinners’, the Purohit (Priest) will then perform the wedding ceremony by chanting mantras as the bride and groom exchange garlands.  Next, the moment we have all been waiting for, the maternal or paternal uncle of the bride will give her away to the groom.  Yahoooooooo!

It’s time for the post-wedding celebrations to ignite.  With the excitement of love, both families gather at the bride’s home for poems and jokes.  The next morning there is a ceremony called, “Bashi Biye”.  This is where the groom gently paints intricate and beautiful designs on the bride’s forehead.   The tricky part is painting the beautiful brides forehead while looking in a mirror, sounds like fun to me!  Finally, the groom and bride go to the groom’s house to be blessed by the elders (Bidaai).  They then take the celebrated journey to their new home where their families are waiting.  This ceremony is called, “Bou Baran”.  Once they arrive in their vehicle a couple interesting traditions are invited into the celebration; first, the woman pour water under their car, second, the wife of the groom’s elder brother holds a plate with some lac dye (red substance extracted from an insect) and milk under the brides feet.  The bride then proceeds to touch the substance and paints the soul of her feet like a blank canvas.  The women gently walk the bride into her new home while holding her arms.  Once they enter, the sweet whispers and smiles of blessings from the elders dance into the hearts of the bride and groom.

Time for an amazing dinner prepared by the bride in her new home for the first time.  This particular meal is called, “bahubhat” and is yet another celebration or acceptance into their new home of love and family.  Time for a party!

Next is the, “Phool Sajja” or flower decoration ceremony.  This is where the family has decorated the bedroom of love with a zillion flowers.  You know what this means!  However, before they break loose in the love machine, it’s a ceremony that is embraced with the traditional clothing.  The groom will wear a “dhoti” and “kurta”.  The “dhoti” is a beautiful piece of rectangular fabric that is wrapped around the waist and legs.   The “kurta” is a loose fitting shirt that that gracefully falls either above or below the knees.  Now for the bride, the “kurti” is a beautiful piece of fabric (usually a vibrant color) that is decorated with silver or gold thread and embraced with delicate designs.

Finally, there is one more tradition after the wedding before the bride and groom sail off into the Bengali sunset.  This ceremony is called, “Dra Gaman”.  The thread that was tied on the Brides wrist during the wedding ceremony is finally cut.

This was quite a journey into a traditional Bengali wedding.  If this is calling to your heart then step into the magic and bathe yourself in “Bengali Beauty”.!