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A Bengali Wedding – Ritual and importance of Jewellery

Wedding Jewellery From Bengal

Indian weddings are colourful affairs known for the glitz, glamour, colour and sheer opulence. A vast land of diverse communities, cultures, languages and religions, Indian weddings rituals and bridal trousseau too vary from region to region. It therefore stands to reason that bridal jewellery which forms a vital part of the wedding trousseau is also diverse in design and pattern in different parts of the country. WhileChura graces the hands of a Punjabi bride, the Bengali bride walks resplendent decked up in gold "Kaan" and bangles of white ivory and red coral bangle set with gold. A Kashmir bride's trousseau is not complete without the gold filigree wrist ornament band or kada while a Rajasthani bridal ensemble is sure to include the traditional kundanjewellery of the state. It is the diversity that truly makes the Indian weddings such grand and colourful affairs.

Bridal Indian Jewellery: Types of Traditional Gold Jewellery of Bengal

Bollywood movies serve as the perfect platform to showcase conventional designs as the grand and extravagant sets serve as the background for beautiful Kundan, Jadau, Kaan, Bajubandh, Kangans and so on creating a magical aura steeped in nostalgia and romance that proves irresistible particularly to a bride who desires for a fairy tale wedding. Isn't it the secret wish of every Bengali bride to look just as ravishing and sensuous as Aishwairiya Rai in Devdas or Vidya Balan in Parineeta?

Let us take a sneak peak at the traditional gold ornaments worn by a Bengali bride that are once more in favour.

  • Kaan - Hand crafted delicate gold or solve ornament that adorns the entire ear of the Bengali bride are once again in fashion.
  • Hathphool - An intricately crafted gold ornament comprising of five rings interconnected by thin golden chains grace the hands of the bride.
  • Nath - Indian women have always favoured the delicate noise stud but nath or nose ring had become quite rare in recent years. The larger gold loop nose ring connected by a slender gold chain to the Kaan was part of the traditional get up of Bengali brides and is back with a bang this wedding season.
  • Chik - The gold choker studded with diamonds or other jewels is worn around the neck and are only an inch in width.
  • Panch - A necklace with five or Panch layers of precious stones or beads that forms an integral part of the Bengali bride's trousseau.
  • Sapta Lahar - This is similar to Panch but has seven layers instead, hence the name sapta lahari meaning seven layers.
  • Hansuli - Finely crafted silver Hansuli worn tight around the neck is another traditional necklace of Bengal. Although it was originally worn by Muslim women alone, Hansuli has gained popularity among Hindus as well.

Other kinds of jewellery gaining in popularity nowadays include waist rings, hair pins, bangles and wrist bands, amulets etc that had all but vanished from the fashion scene. Thanks to movie magic they are once again in vogue with Bengali brides opting for traditional dress as well as jewellery on her wedding day.

Bengali Marriage Rituals

The Bengali wedding reflects the myriad hues of its vibrant culture and is time for joyous celebration without any ostentation. Marked by great joi de vivre, the umpteenth Bengali marriage rituals lend a special touch to wedding ceremony on the whole. According to the wedding rituals of Bengalis, the marriages don't take place in the Indian calendar months of Bhadra, Ashwini, Paush, Chaitra and Karthik because they are considered inauspicious. Another peculiar feature of Bengali weddings is that the mothers of either the groom and the bride don't watch the wedding due to fear of bad luck.

Pre Wedding Bengali Rituals

Adan Pradan: An antiquated ritual, it involves the prospective groom and bride along with the elders in the family sitting in the presence of the priest who after establishing that the couple are not close relatives or share the same gotra (ancestral lineage) sets the date for the wedding.

Ashirbaad: Equivalent of an engagement ceremony, the Aashirbad ceremony takes place two- three days before the wedding date. For this ceremony, first the groom's family (excluding the groom) visit the bride's home and shower her with blessings as well as with costly presents, usually in the presence of a priest who places an idol of Bhagwan Narayan in the front. Later, the bride's family blesses the groom in his house and gifts him a ring, gold buttons and a watch.

Al Buddo Bhaat: Ai Buddo Bhaat refers to the last meal that the maiden partakes of in her own house before she is married off. A joyous occasion, it calls for a mini-feast where the bride's extended family and close friends join in the celebrations and wish her all the best. The Ai Buddo Bhaat feast consists of typically Bengali fare such as rice, fish, luchis (puri), vegetable preparations and sweets such as payash, rasgullas etc. This ritual takes place in the home of the groom also. Conversely, sometimes close friends and relatives invite the would-be groom/bride to their house for Al Buddo Bhaat where all their favorite dishes are prepared and they usually receive gifts.

Vridhi: The Vriddhi ceremony signifies the puja ceremony conducted to honor all the ancestors of both the bride and the groom. Usually performed by a paternal uncle, it involves decorating the place of the puja with alpona (Bengali rangoli). Upon that alpona, a ghot (copper jug) containing the amra pallab (mango leaves) is placed. Simultaneously the baran dala is prepared that is usually a silver plate with a symbol of Sri painted on it where all the items that will be needed for the puja are placed. Then the priest performs the puja by placing the idol of Bhagwan Narayan in front.

Wedding Day Bengali Rituals

Dodhi Mangal: This ceremony takes place right at the crack of dawn where the bride/groom are fed with an auspicious meal comprising of rice and fish dishes, and chirwa, curd, etc during the period of Brahma Muhurta. In early times, the bride/ groom used to visit a nearby pond, accompanied b 8-10 married women as a symbol of inviting Godess Ganga to their wedding and then returned with a pitcher of water, which was to be used for bathing. But this ritual has been largely dispensed with, due to the constraints of a city life.

Wedding Piris: The piris are the low flat stools on which the couple is seated during the wedding ceremony. Beautifully painted, as they are being brought into the house, the women of the house blow conch shells.

Gae Halud Tattva: Gae Halud ceremony refers to the haldi ceremony where the turmeric paste is applied on the groom at dawn and is attended by all the family members. Then the same paste is sent to the bride' house along with the Tattva or the gifts given to the bride and her immediate family members from the groom's side. The arrival of the tattva is met with the blowing of the conch shells. Then the bride's haldi ceremony begins. Before the gae halud ceremony, the bride had already been fed the Dahi Mangal, after which she is supposed to fast till the marriage is over.

Adhibas Tattva: As the groom's family departs after the haldi ceremony, they are given the Adhibas Tattva, which contains gifts for the groom and his mother along with numerous sweets. The gifts are placed on a brass plate (kasar thala)

Sankha Porana: This ceremony involves the bride putting on the conch shell bangles, known as sankha porana that have been dipped in water. Then, to the accompaniment of priest chanting the sacred verses and seven married women, the bride wears as iron- and silver-entwined bangle that symbolizes a tough and long lasting relationship.

Kubi Patta: A ceremony in the honor of Saint Kuber, it involves placing three metal glasses filled to the brim with dhaan(rice husks), khoi (pulses), and crushed rice in front of his idol.

Snan: This refers to the bathing ceremony and is usually conducted late in the afternoon or early evening. It takes place after 8-10 married women have applied haldi and scented oil to on the groom's/bride's hair and bodies. After the bath, they must wear the clothes that have been gifted to them by their in-laws. Later those clothes are given away to a barber.

Boijotri: Boijotri refers to the ritual where the bride's maternal uncle or brother comes to pick up the groom and escorts him to the wedding venue. The groom's family members follow behind him.

Potto Bastra: As the groom arrives at the wedding venue, women from the bride's side welcome him with ooulu, in which they simultaneously move their tongues and beat their mouths with an open palm. Then the bride's mother receives the groom at the entrance with the boron dala that contains a lamp, honey, yogurt, and betel leaves. She applies a tika of sandalwood on the groom's forehead and then on the ground. After the process is repeated three times, the groom is presented with a shawl and a dhoti and escorted to the mandap.

Post Wedding Bengali Rituals

Bashar Ghar: According to the Bengali tradition, the groom spends the night in the bride's home where night long fun and merriment continues with all the family members and friends joining in.

Bashi Biye: Not much in vogue these days, this ritual entails the groom applying vermilion to his bride after which they again go to the mandap and worship the Sun God.

Bidaai: When the bride finally leaves her parent's home to set out for her new home, it is called the Biddai. Usually, the groom's father/ brother/uncle come to fetch the newlyweds and escort them back home.

Bou Baran: Bou Baran refers to the formal reception accorded to the bride as she steps into her husband's home. As their vehicle comes to a stop in front of the house, the groom's elder brother's wife holds a plate containing dye and milk under the bride's feet. Having imprinted the soles of her feet thus, she leads her by the arm into the house. The elders of the house bless the newlyweds. Amidst loud ringing of bells and blowing of conch shells the groom puts an iron bangle on to his bride's left arm.

Bou Bhaat: Bou Bhat signifies the first time that the bride serves food, usually delicious rice preparations to the family elders and her meal in her new home. At this point, the husband proffers a plate full of food, along with a new sari as an affirmation that from now he is responsible for all her needs- food, shelter and clothing.

Reception: The reception follows the Bou Bhat in the evening. Hosted by the groom's family, it is a chance for the new bride to get acquainted with all the family members and friends.

Phool Sajjaya: It marks the third night after the wedding when the nuptial bedroom is decorated with beautiful flowers and the newly weds too put on new clothes for this special occasion. The flowers, clothes and sweets for the occasion usually arrive as gifts from the bride's house.

Diya Gaman: This is a ceremony that is conducted when the newlyweds visit the bride's house for the first time after the wedding. The thread that was tied by the Purohit (priest) on the bride's wrist during the wedding rituals is cut during this ritual. Conch shells are blown to the accompaniment of ululation to mark the auspicious moment.