India is a land of mixed cultures and one of the most colorful of those is the culture of Bengal. Like every state has its own set of marriage customs and rituals, Bengal too has few rituals that the whole of India finds fun and interesting. Like the ritual of holding a paan leaf before the first glance of the bride and the groom there are numerous fun and happening customs that make a Bengali wedding not only ‘larger than life’ but also unique and enjoyable.
Let us today explore the various major customs and rituals of a Bengali wedding. Alongside we will also guide on the outfits for each occasion of this 4-5 day long wedding.
This will help you to conceptualize how a Bengali wedding is immensely colorful and vibrant. It will also tell you how to dress perfectly if you ever get invited to a wedding of a Bengali friend. Let us start with the pre-wedding rituals.
Pre Wedding Customs & rituals in Bengali Wedding
1. Adan Pradan – Finalization of the Date
The extravagant Bengali wedding starts with the custom of Adan Pradan in which both the families of the bride and the groom meet to finalize the date of the wedding. This happens after the bride and the groom have liked each other and agreed to get married. Priests accompany the families as an auspicious date needs to get decided according to the Hindu panjika. Some families also exchange gifts to mark the beginning of the new relationship.
Since this is a very private affair, where usually no guests are invited, the bride and the groom usually opt for simple ethnic outfits. The outfits should not be too plain as it is still an important occasion nor should they be extremely fancy.
2. Ashirbaad – The Blessing
For this ritual, the family of the groom visits the bride to shower her with blessings and gifts as a symbol of her inclusion in their family. The same is done by the bride’s family for the groom too on a different date. The bride and the groom are blessed with dhan or rice with the husk and dubyo or trefoil leaves. The gifts include gold jewellery, family heirlooms etc. The bride is expected to wear this jewellery on the wedding day. On this occasion, close friends and relatives join in and the ritual is followed by a grand lunch.
Dressing up for the occasion can be tricky as you can’t go there as a guest in your casual-wear. You need to wear a saree or a kurta meant for a day-time wedding function. The bride wears a good silk saree or a dhakai jamdani.
Some families prefer not to spend two extra days for the ashirbaad. Those families conduct this ritual on the wedding day itself, right before the rituals of the wedding night are scheduled to commence.
3. Aiburo-bhaat – The Last Meal as Unmarried
This ritual involves a meal comprising of the favourite dishes of the person about to get married. This ritual takes place in the respective households of the bride and the groom on the afternoon of the day before the wedding. Aiburo means not married and bhaat means rice. So it translates as ‘the last rice taken by the person while the person is still not married’. This is usually a big affair and marks the start of the celebrations of a Bengali wedding. The Bengali bride and groom need to designate specific outfits for this occasion. Most preferred colors involve red, pink, gold etc for the bride. The groom wears a kurta and pajama. If you are a guest at an aiburo-bhaat, you may opt for a Bengal cotton sareewith zari border and motifs. Men should dress up in kurta-pajama.
4. Nitbor & Nitkone – Companions to the Bor and Kone
This is a unique custom associated with the Bengali wedding. Bor means groom and kone means bride. The nitbor is a boy child who shall accompany the groom from the aiburo-bhaat till the wedding. The same is done for the bride by a little girl from the bride’s family. She is called the nitkone.
There is no known religious significance behind this custom but it becomes a source of immense joy for the girl and the boy who get chosen for these roles. Not only do they get to accompany the two most important people during the whole affair but are also showered with gifts.
5. Shankha-Pola – Sign of Marriage
Apart from sindoor, a Bengali married woman usually wears bangles on both wrists made up of conch shell – shankha – and red coral –pala. A bride usually starts wearing these from the eve of the wedding. The custom is a homely one where her close family is only present.