Assamese wedding rituals: Unlike other states where weddings are held in a massive affair with great pomp and extravaganza, Assamese weddings are simple, somber yet an elegant affair with rituals being the main attraction during the wedding ceremony. Assam being a diverse state of various tribes, ethnicity, different cultural backgrounds, and social standings follow different rituals in an Assamese wedding ceremony.
Though the main wedding is same all over, yet there are some communities who follow much different customs that usually do not match with the common customs of Assam and to know all those customs about Assamese weddings, you should better read on the following facts on traditional Assamese “Biya”, marriage in native lingual.
1. Juron Diya
Also called the “shagun dena” in most parts of Northern states of India, the juron usually takes place a day or two before the main wedding. The bride’s mother ties strings of mango leaves over every door to absorb negative energy and keep the house pious and peaceful during the wedding ceremonies.
Then the bridegroom’s mother along with some female relatives arrive at the bride’s place while the bride’s mother welcomes the guests with a traditional brass plate covered with a gamocha with betel leaves and nuts placed on it as a symbol of respect. Then, the groom’s mother showers the bride-to-be and her mother with gifts that she has brought for them.
2. Tel Diya
In this custom, the bride-to-be is dressed up like a bride and brought in front of the female guests gathered at her home, meanwhile, the groom’s mother puts a ring and betel nut on the bride’s hair parting and pours oil over her hair thrice and then applies the sacred “sindoor” or the vermillion on her hair parting.
In Assamese tradition, it is the groom’s mother who applies the vermillion on the bride’s hair parting and not the groom. The groom’s mother then presents the bride with the main wedding trousseau she has brought along with her. The Assamese bride does get pampered a lot from the groom’s side at her wedding. Advantage Assam!
Wedding Day Rituals
1. Pani Tula and Nuoni or the ceremonial bathing ritual
This ceremony is observed right early in the morning on the wedding day. The mothers of both the bride and the bridegroom collect water from a nearby stream or a pond for the ceremonial bath later that day observed by both the nuptial families. The mothers are accompanied by other female well-wishers and companions who sing “Biya Naam” while the mothers are collecting water in a brass tumbler.
The mothers also have to carry a brass plate with a stem also called the “Bota” with a knife, coin, and few betel leaves and betel nuts which they have to carry back to their respective homes and prepare for the ceremonial bath. After the bride and the groom are bathed with the water with “maah-halodhi” (a mixture made of urad lentils and raw turmeric paste) brought by their respective mothers, the bride and the bridegroom have to tie the knife and the coin around their waist with a gamosa until the wedding is over.
2. Nau Purushor Shraddha
In this tradition, the respective families of both the bride and the bridegroom pay homage to their ancestors. The bride’s father pays his obeisance to the past nine generations of the paternal family seeking their blessings for their daughter’s newly wedded life.
3. Dora aaha
As the evening arrives, the bride is already taken out to the main venue to welcome the guests who already start arriving at the wedding venue. It is also a kind of pre-wedding reception where the bride is decked up in her traditional wedding finery holding the “bota” with sauf and betel leaves and nuts placed on it, who is then made to sit on the special seat placed for the groom and the bride.
As soon as the bridegroom arrives, the bride is quickly taken in while the guests along with the bride’s family arrive at the gate to receive the Bridegroom and the groom’s companions. The groom’s mother is not allowed to see her son’s wedding hence she stays back at home preparing other Assamese wedding rituals.
4. Dora Dhora
The Groom arrives with his companions in a procession with the groom’s best man holding the ceremonial umbrella for the groom who accompanies the groom throughout the entire wedding ceremony. This ceremony is also called the “Dora Dhora”.
5. Bhori Dhuwa
As the groom’s procession nears the wedding venue, guests, family members, relatives, and companions of the bride reach the gate to welcome the procession. The bride’s mother welcomes the groom with the traditional aarti thali while the bride’s sister washes the feet of the groom. A small healthy altercation takes place between the groom and the bride’s sister regarding the amount to be paid after which the groom is allowed to enter the venue.
6. The main wedding ceremony
The bride is brought to the venue carried on the shoulders by her maternal uncle or brothers. Here the couple exchange garlands followed by the chanting of the Holy Scriptures by the priest. Then after the priest commands the bride and the groom to repeat the Vedic chanting where both the bride and the bridegroom take their ceremonial vows in front of the “kirtan”, the holy book of the Hindus.
The common practice of moving around the sacred fire 7 times is not acknowledged in Assamese weddings. Instead, the wedding is solemnized by a group of a priest who read out the vows for the bride and the groom under the “robha” the ceremonial mandap.
Friends and family members then gather around the bride and the bridegroom and play the conch shells and “urulis” (a sound made by the rolling of the tongue) are made intermittently. The end of the bride’s chador and the groom’s “cheleng” (a piece of garment worn around the shoulders by the bridegroom) is then tied by the priest and the bride’s father does the kanyadaan.
Post-wedding rituals in an Assamese wedding
1. Maan Dhora
After the completion of the wedding vows, the couple then takes the blessings of the elders by touching their feet also called the “Maan Dhora”. The couple is then presented with gifts or money in return.
After all the ceremonies get over, it is now time to bid farewell to the newlywed couple. The tearful farewell is accompanied by the rice throwing ceremony by the bride where the bride leaves the venue throwing handful of rice over her shoulders to pay the debt of her upbringing to her parents. The couple then leaves for the groom’s house.
3. Ghor gosoka
On reaching the groom’s house the bride has to follow some rituals of her in-laws. She enters the house by putting her feet on a flat dish containing milk and enters the housebreaking a saaki or a lamp made of clay. Then after she seeks the blessings of her in-laws and elders present to bless the newly wedded couple.
After spending 8 days in her in-law’s house, the bride’s husband takes his newly wedded wife to her paternal home where family members wait for the arrival of the couple which is then followed by a grand lunch hosted by the bride’s family.
So, this is how the traditional rituals in an Assamese wedding are done.
Images by- Click, Guwahati