"Shubho Bibaho" - Merry Wedding
First, I would like to wish all the best to my friend Jyotti who's wedding I attended last night. I wish her and her husband the best and hope that they learn to love each other in their lives together.
This post will in part describe the Hindu wedding but is also an exploration into the tradition of marriage in Bangladesh. Hindu weddings as I was told by my friend Ronnie, are night-time affairs, unlike Muslim weddings which take place most often during the day. We arrived at 9 o'clock at the wedding house, a decorated area near Jyotti's house, hemmed in by small tin houses. Neither family is particularly rich, therefore the renting of a hall for the wedding was not a possibility. I am in fact amazed that the family had the money to have the decorations they had, after the payment of dowry. We entered Jyotti's house and there she was in her pre-wedding shari, looking very beautiful yet not joyful, not happy, not excited for this new chapter in her life.
Bangladeshi marriages are a family affair. Not just that the family is involved in the marriage ceremony, the family is involved in every part of the marriage preparation. In fact, the bride and groom have essentially no voice in the arranging of the marriage whatsoever. The bride's family and the groom's family are involved in arranging the marriage. And once the arrangement is set, it is a matter of weeks before the wedding. Once the marriage has been decided upon, then comes the families discussion of dowry. Dowry is paid by the bride to the groom's family upon arrival at their home as the new addition to their family. Dowry is an important part of a marriage here in Bangladesh, but it is also the cause of much strife. I have only second hand information about the actual dowry given in this instance, but I was told that the sum of cash was 50,000 Taka ($750) and on top of that 6 gold nuggets were to be given, each worth over a thousand Taka. That puts the dowry of this low-income family at over $1000. To put this in perspective, a salary of 5000 Taka per month here is a decent salary. This is why I am amazed they had any money left over for food and decoration, and that brings me back to the wedding day.
After we arrived was the ceremony, symbolizing the leaving of the bride from her family. There sat my friend, crying as her father, brothers, and uncles fed her sweets and gave her money as a blessing. As I watched this I felt sorry for this normally happy, bubbly and cheerful friend of mine, sitting there scared and alone, unsure of the future, not knowing the man she is going to spend the rest of her life with.
After the ceremony we helped serve dinner for the guests. Hindu weddings here are small affairs, with this wedding having no more than 50 guests, mostly family, with a few friends. We served and ate dinner between 11 and midnight, then we sat and talked as the bride and groom were prepared for the wedding ceremony. Shortly after 1 o'clock in the morning we visited Jyotti in her room, in a beautiful shari, and ornate bangles, her hands covered in gold henna. We took pictures and joked with the women who were part of the ceremony. Then, at 2am the wedding started.
The wedding took place in a small pagoda-style enclosure decorated with finely cut paper and faux flowers. The dirt floor had been painted in typical Bengali fashion and the many accessories to the wedding were strewn around. The proceedings were interrupted at one point, also in Bengali fashion, when they could not decide whether the bride should walk around the groom to her left or to his left. After they figured that out, the proceedings went smoothly and despite the constant interruptions and the awkward video photographer from somewhere, it was an enjoyable night.
As I think about the marriage customs and rituals of this culture, I see history and and tradition woven into a web, intertwining people and joining them in marriage. I sincerely pray for the future of Jyotti and her husband as they take this new step in their lives.