Wedding all over the world is a very ceremonious and special occasion, an occasion for a formal get together for the invitees and a big day for the bride, the groom and their families. Different religions have different rituals that are followed in weddings. Across India you will find variations in the customs and rituals of traditional weddings of different communities. Wedding is an auspicious affair all over India. Every community adds a different touch to their wedding ceremonies. The customs that you will see in a Gujarati wedding is not completely same as that of a Bengali wedding or a Kashmiri wedding is not the same as the Assamese wedding. As you travel from east to west and from north to south of whole subcontinent of India the customs will differ vastly though the basic idea and the basic rituals still remain the same.
An Assamese wedding is one such tradition affair to look up to, rich in culture and full of rituals and customs. The people of Assam are very traditional in their outlook and they keep their wedding simple yet magnificent and ceremonious, classy and ethnic. An Assamese wedding can be categorized into two parts, the pre wedding rituals and the wedding rituals.
Pre Wedding Rituals
Pre wedding rituals include the Juran Diya, Tel Diya and Pani Tola and Nauni along with certain small rituals.
Jura Diya – This ritual takes place two days before the actual wedding ceremony. This ceremony includes only the ladies of the family. Here the groom’s mother along with the other relatives such as aunts visits the Bride’s place. They are cordially welcomed there by the Bride’s mother and other women member of the family. The whole welcoming is one big ceremony itself. The Assamese don’t leave a stone unturned to welcome their guests and make them comfortable and when it comes to weddings it goes without saying. The greetings at the bride’s place is done with xhorai which is a brass plate containing betel nuts and betel lease arranged decoratively and the full plate along with its contents is covered with a gamocha. The Indians especially those of the east consider betel to be auspicious and holy and hence they use it in holy ceremonies and rituals such as those in a marriage.
Tel Diya – Tel Diya is one of the main customs that is authentic to an Assamese wedding. In this custom the groom’s mother puts a ring and betel leaves on the partition of the bride’s head. This is like a sign of blessing from the groom’s mother to the bride that is her would be daughter-in-law. Then the groom’s mother pours oil on the betel leaf thrice and applies the vermillion on the parting of the bride’s hair. She also brings the wedding attire along with her and presents it to the bride at the end of this ceremony. Mekhla is the tradition assumes dress for women it looks like a sari but is a two piece.
Pani tola and Nuani – in this custom the groom’s mother fetches the holy water from the holy Ganga and this water is used to bathe the bride. Nuani refers to the anointing of the bride and getting her prepared for the wedding ceremony.
The Wedding Ceremony
Daiyan Diya – this custom is followed by Assamese on the morning of the wedding. A bowl of curd is sent to the Bride from the Groom’s place, of which the bride consumes half and return the rest to the groom’s place. The groom and the bride are given a ceremonious bath after this by the relative respectively.
Ceremonial Bath – the bride and the groom are given a ceremonial bath by the close relatives. The groom’s and the bride’s mother goes to the nearby lake or river and fetches a pot of water which is used for the purpose. The holy ceremony is incomplete without the bathing with the holy water. They are bathed at their respective houses.
The Groom enters the Bride’s home – the entry of the Groom along with his friends and family at the bride’s place is a key to all the fun and frolic along with certain more rituals and customs and the social marriage. According to the Assamese customs the Groom is stopped on his way to the Bride’s place by the relatives mainly the young cousins of the bride and is not allowed to enter until he pays a heavy price in terms of money or gifts to them. This is just to entertain the people present at the ceremony and give a break from the otherwise monotonous customs.
The Actual Wedding Ceremony
The arrival of the groom is followed by a formal ceremony and welcoming ceremony by the bride’s mother who whole heartedly welcomes his would be son-in-law and his party and they are given royal treatment. The bride’s sister washes the groom’s feet at the doorstep and for this she s rewarded by the groom. Assamese mostly reward in terms o money and rarely thoughtful gifts are given. After this the bride’s brother lifts the groom and carries him to the wedding alter or mandap whereas the bride is taken to the alter on the shoulder of her maternal uncle. They are seated facing the sacred fire. Agni is known to be holy by all Indians and so on the auspicious occasion as marriage they ask the god Agni to bless them and give them the strength to take up the new responsibility.
The couple exchange garlands and takes their oaths in front of the sacred fire and amidst the chantings in the presence of all guests. A knot is tied and the groom fills the vermillion on the parting of the bride’s hair. They are blessed by all present at the occasion.
After this they go to the groom’s house where the groom’s mother welcomes the newlyweds with an aarati.
The formal wedding reception where all the relatives, friends and other close people to both the bride and the groom and their families are invited is followed.