Celebrating the colours and virtues of marriage

Shihab Sarkar | Thursday, 26 January 2017

Festivities centring wedding events are universal. They are placed among the most widely participated socio-familial events effusing pure jubilation. Sociologists consider marriage to be one of the ancient institutions still working effectively.  However, fun-filled marriages ought to be formal. In almost all societies, a marriage has to be in conformity with religious edicts. It also accompanies necessary socio-cultural rituals. Marriage at courts or one that follows unconventional customs does not normally see merrymakings. In order to see fun and fanfare to be parts of a wedding event, the prime imperative is its indisputable acceptance, especially by the parents of the two sides involved.
In Bangladesh, irrespective of religious belief and tradition and social status, marriage enjoys a special place in social life. When it comes to festivity, this nation emerges as being at par with any others elsewhere in the world. Even the most withdrawn and morose sections of people try to felicitate heartily the newly-wed brides and bridegrooms. To Bangladesh womenfolk in both urban and rural areas, marriage offers an opportunity to take some break from their grinding chores. The functions offer the opportunity to pass a few days in socialising, the rituals mostly originating in Bengali folk heritage, and the culture of sharing joy. The preparatory events eventually meet the final occasion, the wedding ceremony. In most cases, the marriage ceremonies are followed by wedding receptions, featuring a dinner organised by the groom's family. It's normally held a day after the wedding ceremony and the bridal dinner.
Through the ages, lots of long-dormant local traditions and those alien have merged with Bangladesh marriage events. Except the specially made bridal saris, the main entrance erected for the groom's party and guests and a few formalities, the overall décor has undergone many changes. The new additions add to the exquisiteness of the weddings. All these aspects and the necessary articles linked to Bangladeshi marriage were put on display at an exhibition called Wedding Festival in Dhaka on January 20- 21.  Held at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) in the capital, the unique event was jointly organised by a consumer goods company and the weekly pullout of a Bangla daily. In October last year, another 2-day wedding festival took place at an upscale hotel in the capital. The recent festival has apparently intended to present glimpses of the evolution of Bengali marriage through different times, along with the changes in the design of wedding dresses and the style of wearing. Jewellery items have also taken up newer looks. Exhibitions focused on marriage are fast becoming popular. They have the prospects for seeing an increase in visitors which has already become evident. Apart from the ceremonial aspects featuring stage performance, these wedding festivals also generate commercial interest. At the BICC Wedding Festival stalls were set up to sell essential objects required for a Bengali marriage.  
For two days, the venue wore the look of a mega wedding ceremony with one or another wedding function taking place. The 2-day programme's inaugural day saw the arrival of a lavishly dressed bride and her groom. They were greeted by traditional Bengali ways of welcome-rituals conducted by the bride's relatives and invited guests. The whole lot at the wedding ceremony was acting like in a stage show or movie. They comprised popular new-generation and older film actresses and actors, as well as models. The sprawling premises of the conference centre were pulsating with the beats of the pageant being held in every part of it. Besides marriage rituals, a cornucopia of wedding articles was on display. Those, understandably, were meant for future brides and grooms and their families. Ranging from palm and hand-cololuring herb of henna and its paste, cosmetics and attire to information about honeymoon trips, the varied paraphernalia ensured the smooth completion of a marriage ceremony. The presence of fashion designers and beauticians has added to the lustre of the occasion.  For two long days, the venue remained vibrant with traditional wedding songs and dance numbers performed by young movie artistes attired in dresses worn during marriage. This apart, models clad in wedding costumes produced by different fashion houses cat-walked on the ramp. They helped the sprawling venue turn into one filled with the time-honoured festivities related to Bengali weddings. Some rituals are common to all religious communities. Music enjoys a dominant place among the scores of cultural components. So do sweetmeats and the wedding feasts. Barring the all-important knot tying segments as prescribed by different religions, the mundane formalities do not differ much. What's common in these festivities is the dominance of pomp and panoply.
In offering the interested people a detailed picture of Bangladesh wedding ceremonies, and helping others avail necessary items for the events, these festivals play a critical role. True, weddings have been taking place in the country for ages. In the past, there have been no consulting agencies to guide the parties of the bride or the groom. These happy events used to take place with people adhering to the traditionally followed customs. It's only the urban areas that first saw the use of community centres or halls for wedding ceremonies. This trend came into vogue widely in the 1970s. In the earlier days, nuptial functions used to be organised at residential gardens, nearby fields or the building roofs. In villages, 'Uthans' or courtyards would serve as the most ideal place for marriage ceremonies. Due to its being a nation with rich heritage, the county boasts of a folk tradition filled with rituals and festivities. The wedding ceremonies have their own. They make up typical wedding songs and dances and other social customs. In the predominantly Muslim population in the country's villages, with little space for music and women's free movement, the marriage ceremonies come to them with a great relief. Maybe this is the reason the rural women are found squeezing out the joyous moments from every moment beginning from 'Tatta' (proposal), 'Paanchini' (engagement), 'Telhai' or 'Gaye Holood' (a pre-wedding ritual) to the wedding fiesta. The marriage ceremony ends in 'Firani' (return of the bride after a day from the groom's residence). In rural Bangladesh, 'naiyor' (visiting parental home a couple of weeks after marriage), is still prevalent in many areas. Visual representations of some of these segments of wedding were on show at the festival venue through songs and dances. The chiefly rural wedding practices these days are followed in the cities as well.
Visitors kept thronging the BICC events for two days to have a look at the different fading and obscure aspects of a Bengali marriage. Many came to the venue to sate their curiosities, as they were not fully familiar with the wedding formalities in Bangladesh. A lot of others visited the festival to fondly remember the long-forgotten sweet old days of their marriage and honeymoon.
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