A Four Day Bengali Wedding: Day 2

by Ekua on February 14, 2011 in India,why i travel

Before the Wedding Ceremony

When you wear a sari, you need the correct undergarments. My pre-made petticoat fit well, but the top that was tailored for me did not. After I returned from the flower market, I dashed through the markets in the Sudder Street area until I found a vendor who carried ready made tops. The only one that matched my sari happened to be a gold spandex top Γ  la American Apparel. I bought it. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

The guy who’d sold me the sari had given me a quick tutorial on how to put it on. I attempted to do so in my hotel room and ended up wackily wrapped in cloth. I decided to take up one of the bridesmaids on her offer to help me put it on, and headed over to the Oberoi Grand to meet up with her. As she folded and draped and pinned and spun me around, I realized that there was no way I could’ve gotten it right after one sari lesson. It must take years to become an expert. With my sari on correctly, I felt regal. There was something about wearing it that made me want to stand a little taller and prouder.

They were still setting up for the wedding when we arrived at the Hyatt where the ceremony would take place, and for an hour or so, the overseas guests were the only ones there. We snuck a peek at another wedding that was in progress in another part of the hotel and mingled at the poolside bar until they told us the groom would be arriving shortly.

What followed was the longest, most elaborate wedding ceremony I’ve ever seen. To only give my descriptions of what I saw would not do it justice, so I’m meshing my memories with information from the descriptive wedding program we were given:

Bor Jatri

The bor jatri was the procession of the groom and his family and friends. The groom’s arrival was very festive; he came in on a horse and was accompanied by a brass band we’d driven by on our way to the hotel.

Bor Boron

When the bor jatri arrived at the venue, they were welcomed by the bride’s family). They blessed the groom and prayed for health, wealth, happiness, and prosperity for the couple. Refreshments were served after this.

(After this, the brother of the bride told us to check out tent where the bride was sitting with some elders. It was very quiet and serious compared to the groom’s arrival; the elders were chanting and she was repeating after them.)

The Shaajo Biye

The bride sat down on a piri (a wooden stool) and was carried over to a flower petal covered pedestal by her brother and three of her guy friends. When they reached the groom at the pedestal, they carried her around him seven times. The circles are called saat paak and they represent the seven spheres of the universe. While she was being carried, she held a large leaves in front of her face so the groom couldn’t see her.

Shubho Drishti

When the saat paak were completed, the bride and groom looked at each other for the first time in front of all of their guests. This exchange initiated them into society as a couple.

Mala Badal

After the shubho drishti, the bride was still sitting on the piri and she and groom exchanged flower garlands three times. This demonstrated acceptance of each other and making a commitment to each other.

(Flower petals shot up in the air and showered down on the bride and groom and guests during this ritual. Right after this, there were also fireworks in the distance.)

Sampradan

The bride and groom sat in their respective places at the mandop (the altar) and her uncle gave her hand away to the groom. Ancestors were remembered and blessings were sought from them. Mantras were recited and the couple’s hands were bound by a sacred thread and placed on the mangal/ghot – a brass pitcher filled with water and covered with mango leaves and a green coconut.

The Baashi Biye Jogya

The bride and groom sat in front of the sacred fire and chanted mantras after the priest. Agni, the God of Fire, was the divine witness. Offerings were made to the fire while the couple promised each other a long and happy marriage. They then circled the fire and prayed that they would achieve four goals in life:

Dharma – religious and moral duties
Artha – prosperity
Kama – love and energy
Moksha – spiritual salvation

Laai Homa

More offerings were made to the fire. Khoi (puffed rice) was placed in the bride’s hands. The groom held her hands so they could make the offering of rice into the fire together.

Sindoor Daan

The groom applied sindoor (vermillion) to the bride’s forehead and hair as a mark of their marriage. The bride’s head was then covered by a ghoomta (veil).

Saptapadi

The couple walked around the fire together seven times. It is believed that completing the circles leads to lifelong friendship for the bride and groom. Each circle represents an aspect of life’s journey and prayers were recited for each one.

Bidaai

The farewell. The bride leaves her family and begins a new life with her husband.

After the Wedding

Going back through the program and relaying the wedding rituals was as much for my own understanding as it was for my desire to share the experience. When I try to re-imagine the ceremony experiences, it almost seems surreal. There was so much distinct color and sound and centuries old rituals to take in. But even though what I saw and heard that evening was radically different from any wedding I’ve been to before, the ideas behind the rituals were not. If you rearrange and substitute and add and subtract a few things, you’d find a Western wedding ceremony in there. I think what makes attending weddings around the world so fascinating is that it gives us a joyful opportunity to celebrate our wonderful cultural differences and bask in our binding human similarities.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Sunee February 14, 2011 at 2:08 am

Wow, what an amazing experience, thanks for sharing! I like that they explained the meaning of it all on the wedding programme, otherwise you might have spent hours at this wedding not knowing what was going on and why. And I really like the colours on your sari – so pretty πŸ™‚

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Ekua February 15, 2011 at 9:59 pm

I’m glad they provided the explanations for us. I didn’t always refer to the program when I was at the wedding because there were parts of it that were great to just absorb and enjoy and even when I was looking at it, I wasn’t always sure where we were in the ceremony. So going back through my pictures and the program, I was able to piece it all together πŸ˜‰

I loved that sari as soon as I saw it. Since I have no occasion to wear a sari to anytime soon, I want to get the fabric made into a dress!

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andi February 14, 2011 at 1:48 pm

You look stunning in your sari! What an incredible experience!!!

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Ekua February 15, 2011 at 9:59 pm

Thanks, Andi πŸ™‚

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Phil February 14, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Holy crap, what an elaborate ceremony. You look gorgeous in the Sari!
B well,
Phil

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Ekua February 15, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Thanks, Phil. Wedding ceremonies in India are quite an event!

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Michael Hodson February 14, 2011 at 6:01 pm

wow, those are some great pics. And thanks for the insights.

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Ekua February 15, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Thanks, Michael! I had fun reliving the experience through this post πŸ™‚

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Lola February 22, 2011 at 7:17 am

You totally rocked that sari! Looked like an amazing time.

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Rebecca March 7, 2011 at 3:28 am

Oh I SOOO want to go to an Indian wedding – what an experience! You look gorgeous – love the colour of the sari!

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