OM PRAJAPATAY NAMAH!

Every bride and groom recites this chant during a wedding. Bengalis believe that it is difficult or rather impossible to disobey, "Prajapati". Many had tried but everyone had failed. Like Srish and Bipin in Tagore's novel "Prajapati Nirbandh". They took the oath of remaining Kumar and unmarried till the end of their life. But Prajapati knows how to take revenge. And so they end up marrying two young, beautiful and educated girls, Nripbala and Nirbala.

Bengali love stories are interesting. But Bengali marriages are both interesting and enjoyable. In Bengali there is a phrase "baro mase tero parbon". It means that a calendar had only twelve months but Bengalis have thirteen festivals. And so people often say that Bengalis are the lazy people. But the Bengalis says that they do not run after time they run with the time. They enjoy every single moments as much as they can. And when it is a wedding, then enjoyment and fun takes place for over a year. But you need reason to celebrate. To enjoy! So Bengalis have some pre-wedding ceremony, which goes on for over a year and give them the reason to celebrate and enjoy. Let’s see what these ceremonies are.

ADAN-PRADAN

Indian weddings are impossible without an auspicious date. So the dates of the wedding have to be fixed. One can say what is there in fixing a date call a priest and fix the dates. But that won't include much enjoyment and fun. So there is a ceremony called ADAN PRADAN. In this ceremony obviously priest is present, who fix the date of the wedding. What is the difference between a live-in relationship and marriage? In a marriage two families become relatives. In this ceremony along with the bride and groom their family is also present, mainly the elders from both the families. They become relatives and share same "gotra" or ancestral lineage. Well, the other things that are there in this ceremony are lots of food, sweets and endless laughter and jokes.

PATI PATRA

Many families now do not have this ritual but once this used to be an important ritual. Here on a coin some vermilions are spread and with that coin a mark is made on the card. And then in the presence of the priest the head of the two families sign the card and agree to the marriage. Along with the heads there were men from that area, who can be called head of the society. They also used to sign the card. This can be called a Bengali registry marriage. But, one of the reason to not to use this as a ceremony now is because of the fact that in this ceremony the amount of dowry that the bride's family will pay the groom's family is also being discussed. But the land of Vidyasagar and Ram Mohan cannot tolerate this so they have done away with ritual.

ASHIRVAD

Engagement! Well that is the right English term for this pre-Bengali wedding ceremony. This ritual takes place two or three days before the marriage. "Ashirvad" this term in English generally means blessings. So in this ceremony elders give blessing to the bride or the groom. But in this ceremony bride cannot come to groom's place and the groom too cannot go to the bride's house. The bride and the grooms are given gifts like gold chain, gold button etc. Dhan or the rice crop and Dubyo or a grass having three leaves is used in this ceremony. The elders give their blessings with these. And after that they give sweets and water to the bride or the groom.

AI BUDDO BHAT

"Ai Buddo" is a colloquial Bengali term which means unmarried. This is the last meal of the boy or the girl as an unmarried person. This partakes in the house of the boy or the girl. There also they are given gifts by their relatives. This is a ritual which takes place just before marriage day.

Though, it is not true that only once the bride or the groom is given Ai Buddo Bhat. Long before the marriage close relatives and friends invite both the bride and the groom, cook their favorite dishes and give gifts. In this way also Ai Buddo Bhat is given to the would-be wife and husband.

DHADI MANGAL AND GANGA NIMTRAN

Both these rituals are performed on the dawn of the day. With the breaking of the dawn, both the bride and the groom and few of their relatives and their mothers had to wake up. The bride or the groom had to eat DOI KHOI (puffed rice and curd). And the mother and few relatives or women go to the river Ganga. They invite river Ganga to the wedding. And bring the Ganges water with which later the bride or the groom bath.

VRIDHI

This ceremony is performed in the morning, on the wedding day. This ceremony has to be performed by the paternal uncle of the family. It is performed to honor the ancestors of the family. This ritual is performed in both the families. It is nothing but a puja and a prayer conducted to honor the ancestor of the family. The place where this ceremony is being performed is being decorated by "alpona". (Many consider it a Bengali Rangoli. It is closer to a rangoli but it is not a rangoli.) Then upon the alpona, a "ghot"(copper jug) is being placed. The ghot contain "amra pallab" or mango leaves, as in Bengali culture they are consider auspicious leaves. Then the baran dala is being prepared. It is usually silver plated where a Sri is being painted. Then the puja is performed placing the idol of Bhagwan Vishnu or Narayana (a common Bengali name for Vishnu) in front of it.

All these are the main pre-wedding rituals in Bengali culture. There is another ritual called GAYE HALUD. But many consider it a ritual from where the wedding starts taking place. The groom bath with the Halud or the Haldi (turmeric) and it is being sent to the bride's house along with the gifts for the bride's family. And then the bride bath and get ready for the wedding and steps into in a new life.

There are also certain things which the Bengalis follow. There are certain months in the Indian calendar when marriages cannot take place. These months are Poush, Chaitra, and Ashwin, in all these months marriages will not take place. The mothers: the bride's mother and the groom's mother will not see the marriage of their daughter and their sons. Among these rules many are followed and many are not. For example, nowadays mother do see their daughters and sons getting married.

All these rules are not baseless. They have their own meaning when they are made. Like the months, Poush is a month when rural Bengal is busy in harvesting and selling the crops, during that time marriage is not only impossible but a dream. Ashwin is the month of Durga Puja. Everyone has to give gifts to their family and near and dear ones, that time marriage is difficult. The month Chaitra is too hot and seeds are sown for Kharif farming during that time. So marriage in Chaitra was not possible then when these rules are made. These rules are still followed may be for the same reason.

Actually all these rituals are nothing but a family get together. A chance to spend time with uncle, aunt, and cousins, with whom one only converse over the phone! A chance to dress up, a chance to forget household tension, office tension, or academic tension! It is the time to meet your old relatives and make new relatives.


Raja Kumar

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