In Bangladesh, marriage is not just the union of the bride and groom, but also the union of their families and extended relations. A typical Bangladeshi wedding includes several ceremonies that last for several days. Even though religious ceremonies are distinctive for a Hindu and Muslim wedding, there are some ceremonies that are common for weddings in Bangladesh. A Bangladeshi wedding lasts for 3 days, starting from engagement until bou bhaat(reception).
Ghotoks or matchmakers have an important role to play in Bangladeshi weddings. Traditionally, families in rural and urban Bangladesh depend on Ghotoks, who will provide detailed information regarding the background of both bride and groom. Academic qualification, family history, employment and other details are shared. Ghotoks are normally the relatives or friends of the bride or groom.
Bangladeshi wedding has four main parts-
One of the first pre-wedding ceremonies is the engagement, where the future bride and groom exchange the rings. It is a formal announcement of the union of both the future bride and groom. The engagement ceremony is celebrated with family and close friends. The Bangladeshi engagement ceremony is similar to that of engagement parties in the West. A small prayer is often included in the engagement ceremony. A feast for the guests is also arranged.
It is a pre-wedding ceremony where turmeric paste is applied on the face, neck, hand, and feet of the bride. Gaye holud is conducted separately at the bride’s home and the groom’s home. For the bride’s Gaye holud, the groom’s family will go to the bride’s home with the wedding outfit of the bride, sweetmeats, gifts, and the turmeric paste.
They will also carry a pair of rohu fish, dressed as a bride and groom, on the morning of the holud ceremony. In Bangladesh, fish symbolises many things, such as good fortune, fertility and eternity. The number of fish, the time when the fish is taken to the bride’s family, and the ones who cook the fish vary from one region to another.
Traditionally for the Gaye holud, everyone comes dressed in matching clothes, mostly wearing yellow or orange clothes. Gaye holud saree is the outfit of Bangladeshi brides for the holud ceremony. Gaye holud saree made of cotton, silk, half silk, jamdani etc. are more often used for the Holud ceremony. Turmeric paste is applied on the bride’s body by the bride’s friends, and turmeric is normally applied because it softens her skin. Sweets are fed to the bride-to-be, by everyone. A feast for the guests is also arranged. Then comes the groom’s Gaye holud, which is similar to the bride’s Gaye holud.
It is a pre-wedding ceremony where both the bride’s hand and feet are adorned with henna. In Bangladesh, it is believed that if the colour of the henna is deeper, the more the bride will be loved by the groom. It is normally a ladies-only party where the female friends and family members also wear henna. After marriage, when the bride goes to her husband’s house, she is not supposed to do any household chores, until the henna in her hands fades away. Some brides choose mehndi, instead of Gaye holud. Everyone, including the bride, will be wearing green or red clothing or brighter colours for mehndi.
Biye is arranged by the bride’s family. Most Hindu weddings take place in the evening. The Hindu wedding ceremony takes place in an intricately decorated mandap. The Hindu wedding ceremony begins, with the arrival of the groom and his family to the bride’s house. When the groom enters, water is softly sprinkled on the doorstep.
For Hindu wedding ceremony in Bangladesh, the priest asks both the bride and groom to chant mantras that formalise Saat paake ghora and Kanya sampradaan. The bride and the groom exchange garlands and the groom will adorn the bride’s forehead with vermillion.
Saat paake ghora is a ritual where the newlyweds walk around the ceremonial fire seven times. The bride’s father has to give away the bride to the groom. This is known as Kanya sampradaan.
After the Hindu wedding ceremony, on the day of the wedding, the relatives and close friends will remain awake. This ceremony is known as Basor Raat. If the wedding ceremony ends by evening, then the basor raat will start after midnight. Since Hindu weddings take place in the evening, on the next day, before noon, the newlyweds will proceed to the groom’s home.
Normally, for the Biya, the Bangladeshi bride wears a saree or lehenga whereas the groom wears a sherwani or western-style suit.
In a Muslim wedding ceremony, the bride and groom will be seated separately, along with their parents and the witness. The Kazi will preside over the wedding ceremony and asks the consent of the bride and groom. At this time, for Muslim weddings, the signing of the marriage contract takes place where the groom will state the details of the Meher to the bride. The bride, groom and the witnesses will sign the marriage contract. After signing of the marriage contract, the bride and the groom will be seated side by side on the dais. Both the bride and groom, with a veil draped over their head, will look at each other through the mirror placed in front of them. This ceremony is known as Rusmat. The guests will celebrate the wedding with a feast.
It is a highly emotional moment since the bride bids goodbye to her family, and the newly-weds depart to the groom’s home. The bride and the groom will be given blessings by the parents. It will be a joyous moment for the groom’s family and a melancholic moment for the bride’s family. Earlier, the newlyweds will be required to travel far since well to do families that lived far away.
When the newlyweds arrive at the groom’s house, they will be greeted with prayers. The bride’s mother-in-law will take the initiative. Among Muslims, Bou baraan is performed with prayers from the Quran. The bride will be asked to step on a plate containing lac dye and milk and enter the house. A feast is held at the groom’s house, to welcome the bride to the groom’s family. It is known as a bou baraan feast.
Bou bhaat is a post-wedding ceremony, also known as the reception. It is known as Walima among Muslims. Bou bhaat is conducted by the groom’s family, as a response to the wedding ceremony. When compared to the wedding ceremony, bou bhaat is a much more relaxed ceremony, where the bride and groom will look their best in their wedding reception attire. The newlyweds will arrive together to the venue, receive all the guests, where the bride will be introduced to the groom’s extended family, and friends. After bou bhaat, the newlyweds will stay in the bride’s house for two days. On the second day, the bride’s family will invite the groom’s family for a meal, called Firani. After the meal, the groom’s family will leave with the newlyweds.
Bangladeshi weddings are very elaborate, and normally take several days to end. All the ceremonies are conducted on separate days. Similar to many countries around the world, Bangladeshi pre-wedding, wedding and post-wedding ceremonies are celebrated with lots of pomp, zest and colour.
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