Like all things Bengali, even our weddings are not for the faint-hearted. There is a reason why Bollywood goes gaga over the Bong bride peeking mischievously from behind those betel leaves. A beautiful bride, formidable and fierce mashis and pishis, fish, lots of mishti and total chaos - a Bong wedding can give the best masala flicks serious competition. Here are ten things that will definitely happen at a Bengali wedding.
1. It will begin with food
The wedding will begin with aiburo bhaat. This is the Bengali equivalent of a bridal shower or bachelor party, only that it’s thrown by your relatives and primarily involves being fed until the gut bursts. The lavish meals consist of the best of the best - fish, mutton, daal, vegetables, doi, and mishti. Yum!
2. Your skin is everyone’s business
The married women will come together for the Gaye Holud and rub the skin of the bride with turmeric paste to make their skin glow. Mantras will be recited, jokes will be cracked, the bride will look sheepishly uncomfortable and a good time will be had by everyone.
3. Tattwa: Because Bongs do it in style
Have you ever come across an intricately decorated fish that turned out to be a sweet made out of khoya? That fish is a part of tattwa or gift exchange where the two sides exchange clothes to sandesh shaped liked fishes. The attraction of the tattwa is in the wrapping and designing of the packages because we Bengalis like to do it in style.
4. A bride’s got to have alta and chondon shojja
The Bengali bride becomes a bride only with alta. This and the intricate sandalwood paste designs on her forehead called chondon shojja are absolute musts for her look.
5. Ustad Bismillah Khan
A Bengali wedding without Ustad Bismillah Khan’s shehnai recordings played at least once is an incomplete Bengali wedding.
6. Overdose on fish and mishti
I wish I was exaggerating but I am not. Weddings are all about ornately decorated freshwater fishes, carefully planned fish dishes, and sweets shaped like fishes. As for mishti, everyone knows that if you take mishti away from a Bong, he/she will probably die, let alone attend a wedding. Your sugar levels will hit an all time high.
7. Ululation will overcome every other sound
Accompanied with blowing the conch shell, ulu protects the loved ones from evil. During weddings it is done by women to mark an auspicious beginning. That’s when you know the show is on!
8. Part II and Part III
Much like the Godfather movies, Bengali weddings have a part second and part third - Bashi Biye and Bou Bhaat. Bashi Biye translates to stale wedding that happens the next day, while Bou Bhaat is basically a bash thrown for the bride by her in-laws with a healthy dose of rituals.
9. Mashis vs Pishis
An ancient rivalry is revived during Bengali weddings when the two factions of the bride’s relatives battle it out for the last say. The maternal and the paternal can often be seen at loggerheads with the planning and execution but it’s all temporary. They will be weeping on each other’s shoulders by the time of the bidaai.
10. Chaa and adda
So you thought we Bongs would not debate politics during a wedding? Ha! Throw in a few Bengalis and rounds of piping hot tea will materialize along with steamy adda. Don’t be surprised to see everyone joining in - the young and the old - including the bride herself!