So you have bought the Benarasi Saree of your dreams, the Reception’s lehenga has also been customised. The photographer has been booked for all the occasions, the makeup artist has given you quite many last minute tips for the D Day. The wedding venue, florist, priest, marriage registrar and many such important arrangements have been taken care of. However, this blog post will take you through some of the itsy-bitsy things without which a Bengali wedding would be practically incomplete. Also I have shared my take on those details, and how I planned them well ahead in advance to avoid last minute hassles during my wedding. I have put together a list of seven essentials that are an absolute necessity in Bengali weddings. So here they come straight from the horse’s mouth :
Shree is considered as an auspicious part of every Bengali wedding. Married women gather a day or two before the wedding, and make a structure, what is called “Shree”. It is made of flour, oil, turmeric, vermillion, colours and is then put on a plate made of brass. The design varies from home to home. You will easily spot one during the wedding ceremony. It is believed that the Goddess Laxmi showers the newlywed with blessings and they have a happy life ahead. Mine was made by my maternal grandma and she taught me the art of making Shree.
Hand crafted by artisans out of white-sholaa (which is the sponge wood plant or the cork tree), the topor-mukut is supposed to be adorned by the groom and the bride as a sign of good luck. They are extremely fragile, hence must be handled with care. The topor takes the shape of a conical headgear while the mukut is more of a crown like structure. They have intricate designs all over them.
While chosing one for my own wedding, I had kept two things in mind. The topor and mukut must be completely white in colour (without any red designs on them). This gives it a different look altogether. The topor also has two pompoms hanging at the side of the ear (which according to me looks quite silly). I wanted those hangings to be very short in length (so that Mr. Husband does not look sillier).
The gaach kouto is considered to be holy and are supposed to ward off evil. It is given to the bride and is supposed to be carried throughout the ceremony. Made out of wood, it is painted in red with designs all over it.
Initially I wanted to buy a huge one, but then settled for a medium sized one after I learnt that it should be held by the bride during the ceremony at all times.
Shankha is a white bangle made out of conch shells. Pola is a red bangle made out of coral. They are worn in the morning of the wedding. They have a deep significance for a married woman. White signifies purity. It also has scientific value as shell actually contains calcium which is required by a woman’s body. It can provide a protection against osteoporosis. The red bangle, Pola has importance in gemology. It gives protection against blood related ailments.
I opted for the slimmest version of shankha-pola for my wedding as I wanted to wear them all the time, but did not want it to look gaudy. Also I did away with the custom of putting red dots with a nail polish on my shankha. Afterall, the white ones looked so serene! Being married for almost five years now, my tastes have changed, the shankhas have grown fatter, and I keep shuffling between the designs. I pick my shankhas from Hasta Shilpa Melaa (Bengal Handicraft Fair) in Kolkata.
Betel Leaves – Garland
Thanx to Bollywood movies, we all know that the bride and the groom in Bengali weddings first exchange glances during the shubho drishti (holy glance). The bride’s face is covered with betel leaves while she is carried by her brothers being seated on a piri (small wooden stool). She is then carried around the groom seven times (saat paak) before they finally exchange glances. The bride then lowers the betel leaf with which she covers her face while going around the groom. The garlands are exchanged and the brothers play a little game during this time. They lift up the piri so that the bride is at a higher level than the groom. The groom’s friends and family also lift up the groom and they compete in a fun game to see who puts on the garland first.
I opted for medium sized betel leaves so that they are easy to hold, while I put my arm around my brothers shoulder. Trust me, this roller coaster piri ride is quite scary, while I tried to remain calm! A garland made of orchid flowers was one of the best decisions that I ever made. They are bright, colourful and make a pretty sight. And if you are getting married in the winters, you will get them at a reasonable price. They are lightweight, and hence the bride and the groom’s neck is not overburdened. On the other hand, garlands made out of rose petals carry the heaviest weight. Well the photographs will tell you the rest of the story.
A jor (pronounced as “jod”) is a piece of cloth that is tied to the bride’s saree, after which they take seven rounds around the sacred ceremonial fire. The ends of the bride’s and the groom’s garments are knotted together (gathbandhan) in a very symbolic manner.
These days colourful jod make a spectacular sight. The ones in blue and maroon specially look extremely vibrant in the pictures. However, I settled for the traditional white one with a golden border. A little bit of white for the photographs would not be a bad idea afterall!
Lajja vastra (also known as lojja bostro) is a saree given by the groom to the bride to be used as a ghoonghat, immediately after sindurdaan. It is usually the saree that is worn by the bride on her Reception that is used as a Lajja vastra. I had always wondered, what if the vermillion spoils the saree while it is being used to cover the bride’s head.
My mum’s benarasi saree (the saree that she wore for her wedding) was quite beautiful. It was a cobalt blue saree with silver zari work all over it. It had a broad border, and had intricate designs on the pallu. However, it was not in a state to be used as a saree since insects had damaged a part of it. I had always wanted to include Maa’s wedding saree as a part of my wedding. Hence, I used maa’s biyer benarasi as my Lajja vastra. And it made quite a spectacular colour combination I must say.
So that was all about my take on the seven essentials of a Bengali wedding. Please stay tuned to our blog for more such updates and ideas, specifically how I planned my wedding. I welcome your ideas and feedback. You can drop in a comment here or connect to me on my Facebook and Instagram page.
Makeup by Ujjwal Debnath