Bengali Muslim wedding
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A Bengali Muslim wedding (Bengali: বাঙালি মুসলমানের বিয়ে Bangali Musolmaner Biye; Sylheti: ꠛꠣꠋꠉꠣꠟꠤ ꠝꠍꠟꠝꠣꠘꠞ ꠛꠤꠀ Bangali Mosolmanor Biya) includes many rituals and ceremonies that can span several days. In most cases, it starts with the nikah ceremony (the official registration of the wedding and presenting Mahr) and ends with the Bou Bhat ceremony (the wedding reception, a day after the marriage, usually arranged by the groom's family).
Arranging the wedding
A traditional wedding is arranged by ghotoks (matchmakers), who are generally friends or relatives of the couple. The ghotoks facilitate the couple's introduction to the wedding guests, and are given special gifts if the alliance is agreed upon and the marriage is realised. Families traditionally seek their children's matches from the same caste, religion and social standing. In the case of an arranged marriage, if the aforementioned 'compatibility' factors are duly matched, only then is the pairing deemed an ideal match. In modern English parlance, such a non-Ghotok-arranged alliance is called a "love marriage" and is based more upon the preferences and wishes of the partners than strict traditional norms.
Once the arrangement is done, the planning of the wedding itself is done by parents. They usually start the planning the wedding venue many months ahead. The bride usually participates actively in shopping for her bridal attire and gifts.
The official engagement must follow from formal consent given by the family elders from both sides. Through a ceremony called paka-dekha or dekha-dekhi, the alliance is formalised so final wedding preparations can proceed in due course with confidence that it is indeed intentional and assured to take place. Paka-dekha is celebrated on a day when both families convene at either side's home to fix the final date and time of day of the marriage, and entertain any demands made by the groom's family in order to ensure that the bride's future is well assured. Sometimes priests may also officiate, documenting the marriage's specifications for legal/government purposes, and setting the details on paper (or in current-day digital form) and signing it from both sides' present eldest guardians.
Following the paka-dekha, public announcements of "the auspicious alliance" are made in the localities of both sides. In modern times, this is normally done using a loudspeaker on a vehicle which drives around the neighbourhood.
Paan chini, chini paan or sinifaan is a tradition to give two betel leaves and areca nuts to the guests at any auspicious occasion. Thus the name was derived from the servings. 'Paan' (betel leaf) being served with silver foil signals festivity and during such propitious occasions it is also common to bring sweets. These gestures friendship and a heartening promise.
This ritual is followed by turmeric ceremonies or gaye holud (Bengali: গায়ে হলুদ gaee holud, lit. "yellowing the body") take place before the wedding ceremony. There is one turmeric ceremony for the bride and another for the groom. For the bride's gaye holud, the groom's family - except the groom himself - travel in procession to the bride's home. They carry with them the bride's wedding dress/outfit, some wedding decorations including turmeric paste (that has lightly touched the groom's body), candy/sweetmeats and gifts. They also take a large Rohu fish decorated as a bride. After the two 'yellowing ceremonies,' the bride and groom are bathed in the water that the women had fetched from the waterway early that morning. There are local variations on this tradition, such as providing a specific number of fish to the party responsible for cooking them, and hence the best time to deliver the fresh fish to the groom's family.
The procession traditionally centers on the female relative and friends of bride, and the paste is prepared by five married women called 'Eyo-stree,' and they traditionally all wear matching clothes, usually orange in colour. The bride is seated on a sheel-nora, and the women walk encircling her, showering Ganga (or other local waterway) water drops upon the bride.
The turmeric paste is applied to the bride's skin by her friends. This is said to soften the skin, but it also colours her in the distinctive yellow hue that gives its name to this ceremony. The sweets are then fed to the bride by all involved, one at a time. Then a feast for the guests is served. Married women present may also stain each other with turmeric paste.
The wedding ceremony (Bengali: বিবাহ or বিয়ে bibaho/bie) follows the Gaye Holud(lit., "turmeric is applied to the skin") ceremonies. The wedding ceremony is arranged by the bride's family. The groom, along with his friends and family (Borjatri), traditionally arrive later in the evening.
The groom is sent a car from the bride's side and he rides inside it with two elder male relatives, one from the bride's side and another from his own family (called his Borkorta), as well as the youngest male member from his family dressed as a groom, (called his Neet bor similar to the "best man" in western traditions). Before leaving for the wedding venue, the groom is blessed by his mother and he formally seeks her permission to begin a new life with his soon-to-be "better half". The groom's mother in a muslim wedding leaves along with the groom and takes him to the Bride's house.
However, in contrast in muslim ceremonies the groom's mother presents the bride with jewellery and sarees and then she goes to change into her wedding saree and jewellery. Later the groom and his father and along with the bride's father then meet to sign the official mahr contract ritually giving the Bride a set amount of money as her dowry.
In a muslim ceremony the bride and groom are seated separately along with family and friends of the same gender each bride and groom with a huzur who asks both if they accept the other as their partners and if they say "qobul" (meaning I accept) then they sign the wedding document and are officially married and then seated next to each other and ask for the blessing of their family and God. Then music begins to play and food is served and women especially from the groom and bride's side of the family dance and take picture and talk with the guests.
The next morning (preferably before noon), a "Bashi Biya" or is held, and the couple leaves for the groom's house after evening. This is known as the bidaay ceremony.
When the bride is greeted by the groom in the morning of "Bou Bhaat", a ritual called "Bhaat Kapor" is initiated by the groom where he gifts the bride with essential accessories of a married woman, sari and other auspicious things on a plate of silver (these items are given by husband only and not by in-laws of bride); nowadays they also use other metals like brass etc. This signifies that the groom would hence be taking care of all the needs and requirements of his bride from that day onwards; this also signifies the domination of the male individual in the old vedic society. After receiving all these items from her husband, the bride takes blessing from her husband and hence begins the rituals of "Bou Bhaat".
The following day, i.e., the second day of the bride at her new home is celebrated as Bou Bhaat as on this day, she serves Rice with Ghee to all her in-laws at lunch. The evening is celebrated as a reception party, where all the distant relatives along with the close ones from the groom's side are invited and introduced to the bride. The bride's family members 'Konyajatri' also attend the reception with 'tatwo' (gifts of clothes, sweetmeats, jewellery, and all other essentials for the bride and her in-laws). A grand feast is carried out called 'Preetibhoj'- It is a gala dinner to introduce the Bride to the society and the whole of the family. In the old days the dinner was all prepared by the family themselves. Sweets were made at home by 'Vien'. Friends and neighbors used to volunteer to distribute the food, which was usually done on banana leaves. But now the Catering Service has taken over the whole initiative.
In the flower bed ceremony (Bengali: ফুল শয্যা ful shôjja, lit. "flower bed"), the bride wears a lot of floral ornaments presented by the bride's family, and their marriage bed is decorated with flowers by the groom's family. This is the night of consummation.
Eight days after marriage, the couple visits the bride's house and spends three nights there. It is accompanied by relentless feasting.
Among the Bengalis of Sylheti origin, this ritual is known as "Fira-zatra".