Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 3, Issue 18, Tuesday December 6, 2005

 

world of weddings

No matter what one's faith or ethnic background is, a wedding is always cause for celebration. The joining of two lives, the union of two families, the fairytale ending to a love story, whichever way you look at it, it's a happy occasion.
There's a character in Mitch Albom's Five people you meet in Heaven whose idea of heaven is to visit weddings all over the world. This week, we're doing the same thing, and visiting weddings across different cultures.

Tying the knot the Buddhist way…

Just like weddings in other faiths, the Buddhist weddings in our country are somewhat influenced by the collective local cultures. Nevertheless, they have their own flair and flavour. Although, with the passage of time, and demands of modern life, some of the features have changed, we have focused on the traditional Buddhist weddings.

Gaye Holud is a very important ritual of the Buddhist wedding. Like in most weddings here, the bride is dressed in a yellow and red sari for the Holud ceremony. During the ceremony, some Durva grass, one mango leaf, one mango seed, some rice, turmeric paste and a diya (traditional lamp) is placed on a Kula (handmade bamboo tray). It is kept in front of the bride during the ceremony. Family members smear the turmeric paste on the bride's forehead and bless her with the smoke of the lamp. No member of the groom's family is allowed in the ceremony. The groom's holud is also celebrated separately by his family members.

The husband of the bride's sister plays a very important role in the wedding ceremony. He is needed for some very important rituals. He is considered as a guardian who formally blesses the bride on behalf of her family. It is a custom that he must be invited with special honour and is given special gifts. He carries the bride to the stage. In fact he performs the duty every time the bride needs to move during the holud rituals.

After the holud the bride is not allowed to leave her parent's home alone. Someone must accompany her even if she goes to the backyard. On the day before the Gaye Holud she takes her last meal at the parent's house. On the day of the ceremony her meal comes from an uncle or aunt's home.

The day after the holud, wise members of the family set the logno (timing) of the wedding. Buddhist weddings take place at the groom's house. On the day of the wedding the groom, along with his family members, goes to the bride's home with wedding gifts. The bride gets dressed there. After a grand feast the groom and his family leaves with the bride. During the farewell, the bride's parents must give her a set of bedcover, mattress and pillows as special gift.

A beautiful stage is set up for the ritual. When the logno comes, the couple sits on the stage accompanied by the family members of both side. The Kula and all the other ingredients mentioned earlier, play an important part in this ritual. A monk specially invited for the ceremony recites wedding chants. The couple repeats the chant. Then one of the wise members (chosen previously) of the bride's family recites the same chant and again the couple repeats. After the recitation the couple exchange garlands. The bride then circles around her newly wed husband for seven times. She pays respect by touching his feet every time she revolves. The couple spends their first night accompanied by family members.

Buddhists cannot marry on the Bengali month of Ashar, Srabon, Kartik and Chaitra. Monks are a very important part of a Buddhist wedding and during these months they are not allowed to leave the temple premise. They only pray and do not take part in social activities during the period.

The Buddhists living in town no longer follow some of the rituals. Those who live in villages still go by the conventional rule. Some of the traditions, however, has altered with the course of time. To avoid hassle, they too prefer community centres these days.

By Shahnaz Parveen
Special thanks to Minu Barua

Vibrant weddings of the indigenous community

Choosing a life partner and tying the knot is a fascinating event in every culture. Marriage ceremonies of the indigenous community are highly traditional and full of vibrant rituals, so a wedding overview would be incomplete without a quick look

Chakma wedding
Chakmas are the largest ethnic group living in the Chittagong hill tracts. With the advent of modern lifestyle in the hills, their wedding ceremonies have taken a new shape. Inter racial marriages are not socially approved of. Parents with the help of a matchmaker called 'Sabala' arrange the ceremony. Chakma people set the wedding date according to the Punjika. They cannot marry during the dark of the moon, full moon, or eclipse.

Most marriages take place during winter. It takes at least three days to finish the ceremony. Major ceremonies including the exchange of vows take place at the house of the groom. The groom and his relatives go to the house of the bride with wedding gifts. He stays there the first night. The next days he brings the bride to his house for the main ceremony. On the first night at his house the Chugulang ceremony (exchange of vows) takes place. However, the couple cannot have their formal Sohag raat yet. They cannot spend the first night alone. One of the relative from the bride's side stays with the couple. The Shohag raat takes place few days after that. During the wedding three days of feast takes place.

The formal dress of the bride is Pinon (piece of clothe wrapped on the lower part) and Khadi (a duppatta type cloth wrapped on the upper part of the body). Chakmas prefer red as their festival colour.

In the villages the Chakma people still follow some rituals that is missing from the modern Chakma weddings. The groom's father meets the bride's at least three times with offerings, before the actual courtship. The first ritual of a conventional Chakma marriage is, on the day of the wedding when the sun peeps at the corner of the hill six young married women go to the river and bring back some water. One of them floats some paan-shupari in the river placed on two pieces of banana leaves. If the two pieces float together it is believed that the match is blessed. Many other rituals follow the wedding ceremony. These rituals are now a matter of the past for most Chakmas, yet traditional values play a significant role in the lives of these people.

Marma wedding
The Marma community is the second largest ethnic group in the Chittagong hill tracts.
The father of the groom along with the wise members of the family goes to meet the father of the bride with marriage proposal. They must take special gifts and a bottle of traditional home made wine for the father of the bride. It is a custom to send an uneven number (three, five or seven etc.) of people to the bride's house. They do not allow any widower men in the group either.
On the day of the wedding, bride and groom sit on a mat. Before them they keep a vessel of water decorated with mango leaves and a white thread tied around the neck of the container. The white thread is considered as a lucky thing. The relatives and the priest shower Binni rice on the head of the bride and groom as blessing. During the final ritual the priest sprinkles the water from the vessel with the mango leaf on the couple's head for five to seven times. Then the little finger of the groom's right hand and the bride's left are joined together. Finally another shower of Binni rice and the main ritual is complete. s

Santal wedding
The main ritual of courtship among the Santal people is: the bride, clad in her wedding sari usually in a yellow and red combination, sits inside a basket. Her relatives lift the basket up on their head and carry it to the yard. They keep the basket up. Groom appears in the scene climbing on the shoulder of his sister's husband. If the groom has no sister they ask cousin's husbands to do the honour. It has to be a brother in law. Women of both sides sing wedding songs. The groom adorns his bride's forehead with Shindur (vermilion).

Oraon wedding
Oraons do not allow child marriage, nor weddings during the months of Chaitra, Bhadra, and Paush. Grooms have to pay a bride price. Oraons set up pandels. Oraons install mangalghat, a vessel of water, as a symbol of divine blessings in the wedding pandal. The groom and the bride smear each other's forehead with vermilion as women of both parties raise uludhvani. The bridal couple go round the pandal to be greeted with paddy and durva grass.

Monipuri wedding
Among the Monipuris the groom is welcomed with the flames of a pradip (oil lamp). Upon his arrival, a young boy washes his feet. Two women from both sides release a pair of taki fish symbolising the groom and the bride into water. It is a good omen if the pair of fish moves side by side in the water. Also among the Monipuris the bridal couple go round the pandal to be greeted with paddy and durva grass.

A Monipuri bride comes to visit her parents for the first time on the fifth day after marriage, providing an occasion for a lavish feast. According to their custom, all members of the clan are invited to this ceremony and they come with presents of rice, meat, fowls, pigs, money or traditional wine.

By Shahnaz Parveen
Some of the information is taken from the book Bangladesher Upajati by Shugoto Chakma and the website of Plus Bangla. Special thanks to Debashis Chakma.
Photo: Munem Wasif, make-up Farzana Shakil, model Suzanna

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Mia Bibi raazi…
Every wedding usually has three components: the religious rites, the cultural rituals, and the legal formalities. This is because the wedding is as much a social and cultural event as it is a religious. Keeping this in mind, let's explore a typical Bangladeshi Muslim wedding as we would a Balinese painting; one detail at a time.

The paperwork…
The legal requirements for a Muslim wedding are pretty straightforward here. On the day of the wedding, the bride and groom sign the kabin-nama (marriage certificate), which is then signed by witnesses, and the Nikah Registrar/Kazi. This is then sent to the court to be certified, and viola! You are now man and wife.

Say a little prayer…
From the religious aspect, the most important part of the marriage ceremony is the akht, where consent of both parties is taken, and the union is blessed through prayer. This prayer may be performed by the Kazi, or a hired maulvi, or any elder member of the family.
Another socio-religious marriage ritual that exists in this Subcontinent is that of the rusammat. Traditionally, Muslims follow a strict system of segregation or purdah, and free mixing between the sexes prior to marriage isn't encouraged, so the rusammat is supposed to be the first time the bride and groom lay eyes on one another! Of course, in today's context, this entire exercise is merely symbolic. The whole 'first-look' ritual is sometimes replaced by a maulvi, or a family elder reading out a prayer, and asking all the invited guests to join in prayer to bless the new couple.

Party People
Being a very fun-loving people, we like to stretch our enjoyment as far as possible, and hence we've made the whole process of getting married into a series of events that span over several days.
There's the engagement ceremony, which is observed in different ways by different families, but traditionally involves the ceremonial exchange of rings between the couple, and gifts between families to establish a kind of bond.
Then comes the gaye-holud ceremony, which is something we borrowed from the Hindu traditions. This is basically a ceremony of purification, where the application of turmeric, which is thought to have astringent properties, is supposed to symbolise physical and spiritual cleansing, so that the couple enter wedlock pure of mind and body.
The wedding or biye, organised by the bride's family, is pretty much a glut-fest involving family, friends, gifts, and tons of food. This is the ceremony that joins the two families together, and observes the bride's transition from her childhood home to her new one.
The fun and festivities culminate with the walima or Wedding Reception. This is a combination of the Hindu chauthi, where on the fourth day of marriage the bride returns for a short while to the home of her birth, and the valima, a grand gala organised by the groom's family where friends and acquaintances bless the new couple.

Enter Bollywood
Little details within this sequence of events do vary from wedding to wedding, as families perform certain rituals and skip certain others. Muslim weddings in Bangladesh today, have been largely influenced by cable television's Bollywood bonanza, and certain elements shown in the films and soaps have been incorporated into the local weddings. The bride's gaye holud is often replaced by a mehendi ceremony or sangeet; no holud is complete without having some young members of the family choreograph popular Hindi numbers, and several weddings sport side attraction like gate-dhora, the stealing of the grooms' shoes and much more. However, that is another story.

This then, is the Bangladeshi Muslim wedding in all its colours and facets. A time for laughter and smiles, emotions and special moments. A time for fairytales to come true.
Sabrina F Ahmad

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