Bangalee marriages are a mixture of pure custom, tradition and religious beliefs. It is an occasion where the entire family gather, take part in the typical Bangalee Adda, regale in fanfare and remain busy in making the necessary arrangements for the invitees. The willingness to take responsibilities, to carry out the chores or the last tidbit marketing is met with pleasure. There is a scenario of togetherness spread at every corner. Bangalee marriage is a mixture of culture, tradition and rituals.
It consists of numerous customs, mainly traditional, performed by the women of the house, for the new couple. The actual marriage ceremony, comprising of Baidik (Vedic) rituals is performed with devotion for the young couple about to set up a new life. It only takes a few hours to be completed. The social customs are certain practices which are mainly guided by the women-folk and are aptly called ‘Stri Achars'.
The Bangalee marriage ceremony like all other marriages are dependant upon numerous symbols that signifies good and evil, purity and sanctity, sexuality and other aspects of life. For instance, the color black is not used as it indicates triste and hopelessness, while red is considered to be a sign of luck, emotion, fortune and copulation and is widely used in decor. Banana trees are used to decorate the ‘mandap’ or the place of marriage. A banana tree produces huge number of fruits at a time. The comparison is drawn with the bride, who is also supposed to be blessed with many children. The ‘ghat’, the coconut, these all represent child bearing or pregnancy. All these customs are meant to guide the new couple to a prosperous and fruitful life. These customs were more prevalent in the bygone days especially to break the unfamiliarity between the couples and help them overcome their reservations.
The actual ritual of a Bangalee marriage ceremony begins with the adhibas. It is a gathering held in both the homes of the bride and the groom. It is either held on the evening before or on the day of the marriage. The elderly women of the family take an active part here. The baran dala or a koola (a container made of bamboo) is decorated with lines drawn with sindoor (vermilion). The ingredients of the baran dala are paddy, grass, sandalwood, turmeric, flowers, fruits, curd, ghee, gold, silver, copper, conch shell, chamor (fans) and cloth. The baran dala also consists of seven betel leaves, seven supari (betel nuts) and seven kori (shell) at the bride's place while the numbers increase to nine at the groom's place.
According to the West Bangla tradition, in a different platter a 'Sri' with rice and mashkalai (variety of whole black leguminous seed yielding gram) is made. With all these the elderly folks bless the bride and the groom. The grass (durba) mixed with oil and turmeric is tied on the left hand of the bride and the right hand of the groom. According to East Bangla tradition the adhibus tatta or marriage items for the bride, are sent to the bride from the groom's.
Dadhimangal or Churakaran
On the day of the marriage, before the sunrise, in both the homes of the bride and the groom, their respective mothers, along with the other five ladies, bless the bride and the groom and treat them with curd and chira (crushed rice). The bride and the groom and their respective mothers and fathers have to fast till the marriage is over. If the sampradan (giving) is done by someone else other than the father, he or she has to fast through out the day too. According to the Hindu traditions fasting is common in all occasions and is a wonderful process of cleansing the body and the soul.
Nandimookh or Briddhashrddha
In the morning of the marriage, the eldest male relations of both the bride and the groom have to perform certain rituals to please the souls of the long gone forefathers.
It is the arrangement for the water to be used by the bride and the groom to take a bath after the gaye holud (painting the bodies of both the bride and the groom with turmeric). This water taken from the nearby reservoir is made to drip from the urn all along the path, till the person carrying it reaches the temple. Here water is collected from a married woman who is given alta (lac dye) and sindoor (vermillion). From the temple the married female relative goes around the neighborhood to collect water. Later the bride and the groom in their respective houses are made to sit in the midst of four banana plants arranged at the four corners of a square plot. The ritual gaye holud is performed and later are bathed with the water collected.
This is the main stri-achar. According to the West Bangla tradition gaye holud tatta is sent to the bride from the groom's place. In this Tatta, or gift package, the turmeric used by the groom is sent. This turmeric paste along with the turmeric paste of the bride's place is applied on the bride and other relatives after the barber/beautician shapes their nails. Then the bride and the groom are bathed. The bride has to carry a kajol lata (corrilium container) while the groom has to carry 'janti' (betel nut cracker). Scientifically, turmeric drives away germs and the color represents splendor.
According to Bangalee customs the groom travels to the bride's home in order to marry her. Many stri-achars are performed when the groom sets for the bride's place. A little boy, preferably a relative, would be the nit bar (little groom) and accompany the groom. This is basically done to outwit the evil eyes, which is said to harm the groom when he travels alone. In the yester years the groom used to travel in a palanquin alone, with the rest of the family following, to the bride's place. The bride and the groom are made to dress up like Lakhshmi-Narayan.
The shola mukut is worn by the bride and the groom wears the topor both representing the men and the women race respectively. When the groom reaches the home of the bride, the female relatives perform a ritual called baran (reception) which is performed in the Chadnatala. This is traditionally welcoming the groom with a 'dala', a platter made of bamboo containing a holy oil lamp and other items on it. These items taken from the dala, are touched on the groom's forehead and are then thrown on the either side of the groom. The groom, accompanied by the nit bar, the priest and the bar-karta reach the bride's house first, shortly followed by the bar yatri, the friends and relatives of the groom.
The Bangalee marriage is totally focused on the age-old Baidik (Vedic) customs, complete with chants and the 'yagna' or the holy fire. It is also accompanied with some social customs. The 'Chhadnatala', bounded by banana plants, is decorated with alpana or designs. The groom is brought here and is made to wear a new dhoti by the relative of the bride who gives the bride away to the groom. He is made to stand on a piri (a very low wooden stool). The bride is then brought, sitting in another piri, carried by her relatives, and is circled clockwise around the standing groom for seven times, seven being an auspicious number for the Hindus. Hence shat paake bandha (seven fold bondage). All along, the bride keeps her face hidden with a betel leaf. Then she is brought tete a tete with the groom for the shubho drishti where the bride and the groom look at each other. Before that, she covers her face with betel leaves.
Just after the 'shubho drishti' the bride and the groom exchange the garlands they had been wearing. This is called malabodol. The origin of malabodal comes from the swayambhar sabha' which was a common practice among the princesses who chose to garland the princes they wanted as their husbands. In the Chadnatala the barber plays an important role. He recites poems to drive away evil spirits from the place of the marriage. This is known as gaurabachan.
All through the ceremony a white cloth is held over the couples. The bride and the groom are made to sit together in front of the priest. The groom is given bistor. It is a collection of fourteen kush (types of grass). A puja is performed with 'padyo', 'argho', 'modhuparko' and 'aachomonio'. On the groom's right palm the bride's right palm is placed. The priest then places a cloth, five fruits and 'kush' and ties around with a garland of flowers. To keep this relationship intact, slokes are chanted. This is the sampradan, when the bride is given away to the groom. The groom accepts the bride and the gifts. The five fruits and 'kush' are tied in the cloth provided. The corners of this bundle are tied to the groom's uttario (a decorative piece of cloth kept on the shoulders of the groom) and the anchal of the bride's saari. This is the tying of gat chhora (eternal tie). Then 'yagnas', 'kusumdika homn' and 'laaj homn' are performed. Keeping Agni, the fire god as a witness, the bride and the groom move around the holy fire while the priest chants shlokas. Then the groom holds the right palm of the bride on his to perform the ritual known as panigrahan. In Bangaee marriages the groom puts 'shindoor' on the bride's forehead with a ring or a koonke (a bamboo made utensil to measure rice). A saari is then placed on the forehead of the bride. This is the 'Laj Bastra'. Then the bride and the groom are pronounced man and wife.
Basor Ghar (Marriage Chamber)
On the wedding night the bride and groom stay awake the whole night and are accompanied by young people who spend the night playing games, singing and dancing and performing Stri Achar. Traditionally marriage is not consummated in Basor Ghar.
The morning after the marriage is also considered important for some places. The sindur ceremony is performed and the bride and the groom offer prayers to the Sun god. Another ritual known as Konokanjoli is performed where the bride throws a handful of rice grains behind her indicating the clearance of her debts to her parents. This ritual is of course obsolete.
The groom returns home with the bride, the day after the marriage. The mother-in-law welcomes the bride while she sets her feet in her new home in a traditional Bangalee style. The alpana or the design which is applied to decorate the grooms's place is known as Bouchatra. The bride sets her feet on the alpona holding a fish in one hand and a pot of water on the other. These outdated rituals were tests to gauge the bride's capability to perform household chores and hold the husband's attention with an underline tone of sexuality. Then the bride and the groom both are blessed by the elders in the family and sweets are given to eat.
The next day the groom offers new garments and food in new utensils to the bride. The groom promises to take care of his better half till death through this ceremony.
A day after the marriage day is the Bou Bhat. This is the day when the new bride serves the guests a delicacy called ghee bhat (a mixture of rice with ghee). In the evening there is a get together of the two newly related families and guests.
At night the ful sajya is held in the house of the groom. The bride and the groom spend their first night together in a bed of flowers. From this day, the bride and the groom are truly man and wife.
Eight days after the marriage, the bride returns to her father’s home, accompanied by her husband. This is also known as ashtomongola or dwiragaman. On this day the (gat chhara) is unknotted. The newly wed couple spends the night at the home of the bride. The ashtomongola marks the end of the Bangalee marriage ceremony.
To be completed....
Home| Contents | Best Bangalees | Myths | Music | Literature | Arts & Crafts |
| History |Ekushe | Tagore| Ray | Dance | Festivals |
Copyright© Muktadhara.net 9 May 2001. All rights reserved.