Bihari Wedding Rituals

Considered to be one of the most elaborate wedding ceremonies of the country. With the paucity of time, it has been narrowed down but the essence remains the same. A Bihari wedding is an amalgamation of rustic fervor and intrinsic rituals making it one of the most exclusive Indian wedding ceremonies.
Satyanarayan katha: A typical Hindu Bihari wedding commences with the Satyanarayan katha, a prayer service which is performed by the groom’s parents along with the groom. Every relative taking part in the puja is supposed to keep a fast for the entire day. A havan (sacred fire) that is lit during the ceremony is to be kept lighted throughout the wedding proceedings.
Cheka: On an auspicious day chosen for the formal engagement, 7/9/11 members along with the groom visits the bride’s place with gifts. The bride and groom exchanges rings to formalize their relationship. The next day, the similar ritual is repeated by the bride’s side at the groom’s place.
Haldi kutai: This ritual involves the groom’s mother along with other suhasinis (married ladies) grinding whole turmeric into a paste which is later sent to the bride’s house for the ubtan ceremony. While the grinding takes place, the women sing folk songs creating a festive ambiance. The same ceremony also takes place at the bride’s place.
Tilak: This ritual refers to the bride’s brother’s visit to the groom’s house as a mark of acceptance of the alliance. The brother of the bride applies tilak (teeka) on the groom’s forehead and presents him and his family with pleasantries (like silverware, utensils, sweets, jewelry) as a token of good wishes. The groom’s attire for the wedding and the haldi paste (grounded by the bride’s mother) are also offered during this ceremony. Held with much fanfare, the bride’s brother is accompanied by the family’s accountant, barber, washer-man and servants. After a lavish dinner, the brother is given a formal farewell along with gifts for the bride’s family and the bridal attire, nath (nose ring) and maang tika.
Mandappachadan: This ritual refers to the formal establishment of the mandap (pandal) for the wedding. Originally made with bamboos and decorated with banana trees and mango leaves, it is not much in vogue nowadays. Five senior married men establish the harish (a symbol of good agriculture) made of wood in the center of the mandap.
Haldi: On an auspicious day suggested by the priests, the haldi ceremony takes place at both the bride’s and groom’s places. The turmeric paste that comes from the respective in-laws’ houses are smeared on the bride/groom by married ladies amidst a lot of singing and teasing. The haldi ceremony is repeated again on the morning of the wedding day.
Dhritdhaari and matripoojan: Dhritdhaari and matripoojan are two rituals performed to seek forgiveness and blessings from the dead ancestors as well as the living elders respectively at both the bride’s and groom’s places. The parents of the bride/groom offer paun pooji (clothes or cash) to them for coming and blessing the prospective bride/groom.
Silpoha: This ritual is held in the early hours of the day of wedding by the groom’s mother supervised by her mother-in-law (or any other senior married female). They are also accompanied by other female relatives. The groom’s mother along with her mother-in-law grinds akshat (rice) on a flat grinding stone under the cover of a chunni (shawl). As they grind, they seek blessings from the gods and elders for a hassle-free wedding.
Imli ghutai: The ritual of imli ghutai is performed by the groom’s maternal uncle-aunt to ward off any bad omen and to advise the groom to keep away from any vice. The uncle then feeds him a betel nut which the groom holds with his teeth. His mother then takes it away from him and eats it herself, signifying that she shall take away all the bad omens falling upon her son herself. The groom is then gifted clothes as a token of blessing by his uncle-aunt.
Paricchavan: As the groom readies to leave for the wedding venue, his mother performs an aarti, puts a tilak on the groom’s forehead and prays that no evil can harm him. She blesses her son for an auspicious beginning.
Baraat prasthaan: In a decorated car, accompanied by sahwala (best man, usually the younger brother), the groom leaves for the wedding venue with his family and friends. At the wedding venue, the groom’s family members are greeted and garlanded by their counterparts in the bride’s family. The groom, seated in the car, is welcomed by the priest who applies a tilak and helps him out of the car. The bride’s father then escorts him to the wedding venue.
Jaimala: The bride is now brought out to the venue where she performs an aarti of the groom. This is followed by the couple’s exchanging of garlands.
Galsedi: Before the wedding rites begin, the bride’s mother with other married women perform the galsedi ceremony wherein she carries a plate containing a small lighted lamp, betel leaves and small lumps of cow dung. One by one, all the women heat the betel leaves on the lamp and foments the groom’s face, forehead and eyes using their left hands at least five times each. Meanwhile, the rest of the women throw the lumps of cow dung behind the groom.
Kangna bandhana: The bride’s brother/brother-in-law escorts the groom to the altar where he is joined by the bride wearing a yellow silk sari without any jewelry. The priest ties the bracelets made of mango leaves, cotton thread, colored rice, turmeric and money on the couple’s right hands, which they are meant to wear for the next four days. The barber, present in the altar, now cuts the fingernails and toenails of the couple.
Kanyadaan: Following this, the kanyadaan ceremony takes place. The bride’s father stretches out his right hand, on which the bride’s mother places her right hand. Then the groom places his right hand over which finally the bride keeps her right hand, holding a conch. All this while, the priest chants mantras and the bride’s parents give away their beloved daughter to the groom. Post this ceremony, the groom retires to his rest room and the bride changes her sari for the kanya nirakshan when she is formally introduced to the groom’s relatives.
Bhaisur nirakshan: This ritual involves the bride’s father-in-law accompanied by the groom’s elder brother (bhaisur) arriving to adorn the bride with the jewelry sent by her mother-in-law. With head covered in a handkerchief/cap, they bless the bride, gifts her saris and lehengas, and finally adorns her with the jewelry.
Kuldevta ki puja: Adorned in a new sari and jewelry, the bride re-enters the altar for the kuldevta ki puja accompanied by the groom. Taking a series of vows, the priest makes the planetary bodies (the sun, moon, stars, earth and sky) witnesses to this union of the couple.
Pheras: The couple now takes the pheras around the sacred fire. As they encircle, the bride gently throws lave (roasted husked rice) into the fire from a soop (a three-sided conical cane basket) she holds while her brother refills the soop from time to time. After this, the groom applies sindoor on the bride’s forehead, starting from the topmost point of her nose to the parting of her hair. While this is repeated five times, the bride’s eyes remain shut throughout the act. The groom finally puts the mangalsutra/taagpaag around the bride’s neck to formally end the wedding rituals. The newlyweds then retire to the decorated bridal chamber.
Kohwar parikshan: The next morning, the bride and the groom are escorted out to bathe and dress up for the day. Meanwhile, the senior ladies of the family inspect the bed to check for signs of consummation.
Salami: After the morning meal, all elders of the family pay salami (either in the form of cash or gifts) to the groom. Post this, the groom seeks permission for departure with his bride to his house.
Vidaai: The bride’s brother escorts the newlyweds to a bedecked car. As the car moves, the family members shower them with akshat and flowers. The car moves forward and backward thrice, to ward away any evil omen and then finally takes off.
Swagat aarti: As the newlywed couple arrives, the ladies of the groom’s family performs an aarti and showers them with akshat and flowers. The groom’s sister places a copper vessel filled with rice, a plate of alta (a red colored water) and two cane baskets. The bride gently pushes the rice-vessel with her right foot, which she then places on the plate of alta. She then places her left foot on the plate. Finally, she places both her feet in the cane baskets and is led to her kohwar (bedroom). Meanwhile, the groom is made to pay cash to his sister to gain entry to the house with his new bride.
Mooh dikhai: This is for the bride by the groom’s family as to what salami was to the groom at the bride’s place. In particular, the groom’s mother gifts the new bride a pair of gold bangles.
Chauthari: This is to mark the end of the wedding festivities with a Satyanarayan katha. This ceremony is performed to thank the gods and offer them gratitude for the completion of the wedding ceremonies without any hindrance.
Chauka cchulai: The last of the rituals, this ceremony is done mainly for two reasons. One, the groom’s mother hands over the keys of the grocery room (bhandar ki chhabi) to the new bride and second, to test the bride’s cooking skills. Five dishes are usually cooked by the bride, after which she is blessed and gifted by the elders of the family.

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