We all know Bengalis for their rich culture and heritage, and especially how they pass it down through generations. One of the biggest markers of Bengali grandeur is the Bengali wedding which is typical of certain traditions and customs. In the heart of the City of Joy lie these everlasting customs that all the best wedding photographers in Kolkata try to capture.
Irrespective of whether you are a Bengali or not, these interesting customs are enjoyed by everyone alike. Let us look at some of the quintessential Bengali wedding traditions and customs you cannot miss!
The Bengali term ashirbaad means “to bless”. This ritual takes place early in the day of the wedding where the bride-groom’s family visit each other to convey their blessings to the couple. The bride and groom are blessed by their to-be in-laws with ritualistic dhan-dubyo (rice in husk and trefoil leaves). They are also showered with gifts, jewelry, family heirlooms, and a lot of cheers from friends and family. As the bride-groom touches the feet of their elders, blessings are passed onto them praying for a happy married life. While some families conduct this tradition on the day of the wedding itself, some prefer to do it a day or two before the wedding.
Typically used for a wedding, the Bengali term “Aiburo Bhaat” is used to denote the last meal as unmarried. In this ritual, respective households of the couple arrange a grand lunch before the wedding day. The meal consists of all the favorite dishes of the person to be married. They are treated with specialty by family and friends. Hoaxed under laughter and delicacies, this ritual basically screams “Your bachelor days are over!”
Finally arrives the dawn of the wedding. “Dodhi Mangal” is the meal offered to the bride and groom by their respective families before the break of the day. They are fed with a meal of flattened rice mixed with some sweet yogurt. The couple cannot consume anything else after this throughout the day. The meal offered in this ritual is the only proper meal they must have till they get married.
The best part of the pre-wedding rituals is hands down “Gaye Holud”. It is similar to the performance of “haldi” in North Indian weddings where turmeric is smeared on the bride-groom’s skin. This ritual is performed at respective households of the bride-groom at a specific auspicious time. Seven women gather together and start smearing purified turmeric paste on the skin of the bride or groom. After this, the bride-groom is poured with water from a brass pitcher as the rich yellow turmeric flows down their skin. This ritual is a very celebrated one where everyone dresses up in yellow and often ends up smearing turmeric on each other.
The arrival of “Tatta” or gifts in the evening marks the arrival of the groom and his family. This ritual typically shows how Bengalis love to exchange gifts. The groom’s family remembers each member of the bride’s family and sends lavish gifts for everyone. These are exchanged in beautifully decorated trays arranged in creative ways.
6. Bor Boron
The groom finally arrives with his family called the “bor jatri”. “Bor Boron” is the ritual where the bride’s mother and her entire family greet their grand arrival. Conches are blown and aarti is performed. The bor or groom is given a warm welcome with lots of sweets. The ritual signifies the blessing of the bride’s family showered upon the groom to the sacred wedding place.
This is one of the most celebrated rituals during the wedding when the bride and groom see each other for the first time in the entire day. As the groom waits for her arrival at the wedding spot, the bride is carried by her brothers on a low wooden slab. She holds a betel leaf to cover her face. After circling seven times around the groom, the bride finally reveals her face. Thus, “Shubho Drishti” or quite literally the first auspicious glance is made.
8. Mala Bodol
This Bengali tradition is a very common wedding ritual where garlands are exchanged between the bride and groom. The garlands are exchanged thrice while friends keep lifting the bride up making the task more fun.
Quite similar to the North Indian ritual of the “Saat Phere”, the Bengali wedding ritual “Saptapadi” refers to the custom where the bride and groom circle around the sacred fire of Yagna. In this ritual, the bride steps on seven betel leaves placed one after another on the ground, while the groom follows moving a nora or spice grinder behind her.
10. Sindoor Daan
The most important signifier of a Bengali wedding is the “Sindoor Daan”, which is, smearing vermilion on the bride’s forehead. Depending on the family customs, the groom takes a coin, or a finger ring and places vermillion on the bride’s hair parting. The bride’s face is covered with a new saree offered by the groom’s family right after the smearing is performed. The vermillion stays on the bride’s hair parting and forehead through her entire married life and marks the woman as a newlywed.
A goodbye and a farewell is what “Bidai” means. As the wedding is over, now comes the time for the bride to leave her paternal home. She is blessed along with her new husband, by all her elders in the family. The couple is offered sweets and good prayers. With bittersweet emotions. the newlyweds take adieu.
12. Bodhu Baran
As the newlywed bride arrives at her husband’s home, she is offered a warm welcome. The mother-in-law greets her with an aarti. This ritual differs from family to family. Usually, the bride has to topple down a pitcher full of rice. She may also have to step on a vessel filled with a red-pigmented alta and then walk on a white cloth, leaving behind red footprints. All of these symbolize the entrance of Goddess Lakshmi into the household.
13. Bou Bhaat
The second day of celebration begins with the “Bou Bhaat”. Typically, the newly wed bride of the house cooks rice while the groom offers her rice and other food items. In the evening, a reception party is arranged by the groom’s family where the “kone jatri” or the bride’s family comes as guests. This time, they bring “tatta” from their side arranged extravagantly in decorative trays. A huge feast is done and the occasion is celebrated with as much enthusiasm as the day of the wedding.
14. Phool Shojja
With the end of the reception party, the day gives way to the “Phool Shojja” or the night of union between the newlyweds. The Bengali term literally means “a bed of flowers”. Quite customarily, the groom’s family arranges a room where a bed full of flowers awaits the couple’s first night of togetherness. This marks the unity not just between the newlyweds but also between two families who shall now continue their lineage and traditions through generations to come.
A Bengali wedding visualizes the epitome of grandiose amongst all cultures throughout India. Although the way these traditions are carried out may differ from family to family, their roots remain the same in all of Bengali community. One may find all the best wedding photographers in Kolkata capturing these beautiful moments. These traditions and customs truly define the immense beauty and vibrance of any Bengali wedding.