Bahaghara or the Odia Hindu wedding is a ceremony which is performed by the Odia Hindu people in the state of Odisha. Odisha is a state of great diversity, marvelous temples and simplicity. The simplicity of the Odia people is reflected in their wedding rituals as well. The wedding ceremonies are a holy affair in the Odia community and various rituals are performed to bless the new couple embarking on a new journey. The wedding rituals are followed according to Vedic Hindu rituals. Religious devotion plays a very important role in the life of Oriya people which is reflected in their wedding customs. In Odia wedding rituals, the mother of the bridegroom does not take part in the ceremony. Let’s take a look at the fascinating rituals of a typical Oriya wedding.
Nirbandh – The Oriya families mostly prefer arranged marriage for their children. Matchmaker plays an important role in finding matches within the community. Inter community matches are not very encouraged among Oriya families. Once a suitable match is found, the horoscope is matched. If the horoscope matches, the two families meet and a date is set for the engagement known as Nirbandh. During an Oriya engagement ceremony, the bride and the groom generally do not attend the ceremony. The elders of the family meet at the bride’s home or a temple and give each other their words or Sankalpa that they will marry their children. This ritual is also known as Vak Nischaya, or word of mouth. Both the families exchange gifts.
Jayee Anukolo – The beginning of the wedding ceremony is marked by the ritual Jayee Anukolo. The families orders and exchanges wedding cards and this distribution marks the formal announcement of the wedding in the community. The first invitation card is placed before Lord Jagannath, the supreme deity for Oriya people. This ritual is known as Deva Nimantrana. The next invitation is sent to the maternal uncle’s families, for both the bride’s and the groom’s sides. One of the members of the family visits personally and presents the invitation card with a betel leaf and betel nut and this custom is known as Moula Nimantrana. The third invitation goes from the bride’s family to the groom’s family. The bride’s father and the other male family members visit the groom’s house with the invitation card and gifts to invite the groom personally. This custom is known as Jwain Nimantrana. The families then distribute the invitation cards to other relatives, friends and acquaintances.
Mangan – Before the wedding day, in the afternoon, the bride and groom performs a ritual which is equivalent to Haldi. A turmeric paste is made which is later applied on the bride/groom’s hands and feet by seven married women, one of which must be the sister-in-law. The bride and groom then take bath in the holy water.
Jairagodo Anukolo – This ceremony marks the lighting of a holy flame that is considered auspicious for the upcoming wedding. The uncooked pulses are ground with the help of pestle and mortar and the paste is then sent for preparing dahl, pitha etc.
Diya Mangula Puja – In this ritual, prayers are offered and a puja is conducted at the local temple. Starting from the bride’s wedding saree to toe rings, bangles and a container of vermillion are offered to the Goddess and her blessings are sought. This ritual is done basically by the local barber’s wife.
Nandimukha – At both the bride’s and the groom’s place a ritual called Nandimukha is observed where the respective fathers pray to the ancestors to shower their blessings on the couple.
Mukuta– Both the bride and the groom wear a crown which is an important wedding costume. Bright and glittery, this crown enhances the entire attire of the couple. These are available both in golden and silver shades.
Baula patta– The bride must wear ‘baula patta’, a yellow saree with red border which is a must during the wedding rituals. She either has to wear it or put it on her shoulder like a shawl during the ceremony.
Alata– Like the mehendi/henna has become an integral of a bride’s make-up, traditionally, alata was used to colour an Odia bride’s hands and feet. The red colour of Alata signifies auspiciousness and fertility.
Wedding Day Ceremonies
Barjaatri – On the wedding day, the groom starts from his home and is accompanied by several members of his family known as Barjaatri. Generally, a car is sent by the bride’s side along with some male members of the family to escort the groom and his family members. The groom along with the Barjaatri are welcomed by the bride’s family once they reach the wedding venue. A traditional arti of the groom is done by either the mother-in-law or a senior female member of the family. A tilak of vermillion paste and unbroken rice is applied on the groom’s forehead. His feet are then washed with tender coconut water and he is fed a concoction of curd, ghee, sugar and honey. He is then welcomed inside along with his companions.
Baadua Pani Gadhua – As the groom enters, the bride is informed of his arrival by the female relatives. She is then taken for a ceremonial bath that is known as Baadua Pani Gadhua.
Hatha Granthi Fita – The father of the bride places her right hand on that of the groom. A garland made of mango leaves is placed around their joined hands. Mango leaves are considered holy in Hindu religious rites. This ritual is known as Hatha Granthi Fita. This marks the transition of the bride from the role of a daughter to that of a wife and daughter-in-law. The ritualistic fire is lit after the Hatha Granthi ritual is completed. The couple makes seven rounds of the fire together by holding hands. These seven rounds symbolize seven sacred promises of a marriage.
Saptapadi –Seven mounds of rice are then placed on the ground and are then sanctified by the priest. These seven mounds represent the seven hills or saptakil parwatas. These are symbolic representations of all the hardships the bride has to face during her married life. The bride decimates these mounds of rice with her right foot aided by the groom. In doing so they take seven steps together that marks the symbolic beginning of their journey together. This ritual is known as Saptapadi.
Kanyadaan – Kanyadaan ritual marks the very first ritual of a Hindu wedding. The father of the bride then gives the bride away to the groom whereby he requests him to take good care of his daughter and treat his daughter with love, respect and loyalty. The groom accepts this responsibility and pledges his intention to do so.
Kaduri Khela – After the wedding rituals are over, the couple is seated in a room and some games are played. They play with small, white, shiny shells called kaduri and the ritual is literally known as Kaduri Khela. The groom holds them in his closed fist and the bride will try to pry them open. This is repeated with the bride holding the shells in her fist and groom trying to retrieve them.
Sasu Dahi-Pakhala Khia – The groom is invited over by his mother-in-law to have some food. According to traditions, he has to sit on the lap of his mother-in-law as she feeds him Pakhala or cooked rice soaked in water with curd along with Baigan poda (mashed grilled eggplants with spices).
Bahuna – The bride prepares to leave her parental home, her mother sings ‘Bahuna’ songs which describe the pains that she has had to endure to give birth and bring up her daughter. Other female relatives also joins.
Gruhaprabesha – The bride reaches her husband’s home and is welcomed grandly by her mother-in-law. She is treated as the incarnate of Goddess Laxmi who is to spread joy and prosperity as represented by overturning a pot of rice placed on the threshold with her right foot.
Chauthi/Basara Raati – On the fourth day from the wedding, a puja is performed at the groom’s house where a coconut is roasted. The couple’s room is decorated with fragrant flowers and a glowing oil lamp is placed beside the bed. The couple is fed charu or the roasted coconut. The groom proceeds to the room and the bride follows him with a glass of kesara dudha or saffron infused milk. The couple spends their first night together as husband and wife. As per Oriya traditions, the marriage is considered complete only after consummation.
Asta Mangala – On the eighth day from the wedding, the bride and the groom visit the bride’s paternal home where they are generally welcomed with a grand feast. The couple spends the night together at the bride’s paternal home. This marks the end of all wedding rituals in Oriya traditions.
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