Recently I went to Calcutta to attend the last wedding of our generation - my cousin sister Arpita's wedding. The Big Fat Indian Wedding is indeed a very interesting event. Starting from the motley of rituals and customs, most of which will surely go extinct from the next generation, to the non-stop pet-puja (a Bengali slang for hogging which roughly translates to stomach-worship) and the gorgeous ethnic dresses the gala event stretched across three days is just a sensual treat in all aspects. Jhumpa Lahiri & Mira Nair have made the Bengali wedding an international affair in Namesake - something similar to what the Bollywood blockbusters Hum Aapke Nain Koun, DDLJ & Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam have done to Rajasthani, Punjabi & Gujrati marriages. So many people would now know bits and pieces of the Bengali marriage.
It's a big financial burden on the parties involved in the marriage. That's good indeed for the country. Marriages are big revenue generators in any place. More than the economic aspect a marriage is perhaps one of the few occasions where the gen-next get to see some of the cultural and religious heritage of India. Just the ingredients required in the marriage rituals can drive any small kid crazy - just consider this partial list of Durba grass leaves, vermilion, turmeric, khoi (a type of puffed rice typical of Bengal), Ghee, see-through red cotton cloth known as gamchha in Bengali (used as towels after taking bath), bamboo sticks, all needful stuff for a fire alter (fire ritual or yajna is perhaps one of the oldest rituals in India in practice continuously for more than 3000 years), a huge fish (typical of Bengal) and many more. It's interesting to note that each of these items has some significance which mixes local cultures, religious beliefs and sentiments together. I don't think anyone knows precisely the origin of all the rituals, but there's no doubt that people did put enough emotions, philosophies and thoughts in creating these.
Sometimes I wonder how a non Indian would perceive this entire event which can be broken down into the following phases:
- Aiburo Bhat: a very stepped down version of a no-naughty bachelor's party given by the parents to both the girl and the boy at their respective houses the night before the marriage. This event also typically marks the arrival of all the relatives at both the girl's and the guy's place.
- Biye or the actual marriage ceremony at the girl's place. It's something which is enjoyed by everyone except the girl and the guy getting married - They are on a fast and the guy has to wear a see-through cloth for the most part of the function.
- Basor or the night-out immediately after the marriage where the girl and the boy are literally ragged throughout the night by family members and friends and relatives. This also turns out to be elaborate cultural programs participated by the people present. People even practice before the Basor.
- Kone Biday or seeing off the bride - generally in the evening on the day after the marriage. The guy has to stay in the girl's place till this time. It's quite a harassment for the guy throughout the day. The sisters-in-law keep no stones unturned to ensure that their jamai-babu (brother-in-law) thinks million times before contemplating another marriage in life. The most interesting part is the moment when the girl finally leaves her house. The entire population starts crying frantically as if their daughter is being taken to a concentration camp. But within seconds of the departure the same people are again back to the party mode. It's interesting to see people transition from the party-mode to crying mode back to part mode. The transition happens really so fast and drastic that anyone not familiar with the stuff would get seriously shocked.
- Boubhat or the reception at the guy's place on the 3rd day!!
- And finally the Ful Sojja (which translates to Bed of Flowers) - the most awaited Suhag Raat or the first night where the girl and the boy are allowed to have sex!!
Now add to it the months of preparation, planning, and the zillion talks!! For me marriages are the only occasions where I can meet most of my relatives. I think going ahead with more and more people staying away from their home towns marriages would be the only family reunion.