Assamese wedding ceremonies are referred to as ‘Biya’ in the native language of the state and takes place between two individuals from the community. Assamese weddings are subtle, simple and yet elegant affair, with rituals firmly grounded in the culture. The whole affair spans through about 2-3 days duration. One of the unique and indispensable feature of the wedding celebration are the traditional ‘biya naam’ or ‘biya geet’ songs that the women sing during most pre and post wedding rituals. Most of the wedding rituals are also accompanied by blowing of the conch and uruli, a sound made by the women by rolling the tongue inside the mouth. To know more about the wedding rituals of Assamese marriage, read on.
Juran Diya – The juran ceremony generally takes place the day before the wedding or two days before the wedding. In the morning, strings of mango leaves are tied over every door of the house to absorb negative energy from anyone entering the house. This is known as Aaam dali gatha. During the Juran ceremony the groom’s mother visits the bride’s house with a number of female relatives to perform traditional rituals. The bride’s mother greets her by presenting her with a xorai, a brass plate on a stem which contains betel leaves and nuts (Pan and Tamul) covered with a gamocha (Assamese bathing towels). The bride is brought to the venue with her head covered and there would be mother-in law presents the gifts that she has brought for the bride and her mother.
Tel Diya – In Tel Diya custom, the groom’s mother puts a ring and betel nut on her daughter-in-law’s hair parting. Over this she pours oil thrice which she has brought with her. After this, she applies sindoor or vermillion on the bride’s partition. In Assamese tradition, the groom does not apply vermillion on the bride’s forehead but the mother-in-law does. The bride will carry on wearing the sindoor from now on. She also presents the bride the wedding trousseau.
The traditional wedding attire for Assamese men includes Kurta, Dhoti and Cheleng, an Assamese style shawl that is to be draped around the neck. All these are preferably made of silk, specifically Muga Silk, a specialty of Assam. Apart from a flower garland he has to wear a garland made of Indian Basil (Tulsi) leaves and stems.
The traditional bridal dress in Assam is known as Mekhla Chadar. For weddings it is preferred that the Mekhla Chadar is made of Muga silk and is often woven with Gold and Silver Zari threads. Although a lot of colour variations are available now, the traditional off-white base is preferred. Mekhla is this two piece attire that is draped similarly to a traditional sari; with one part worn skirt with pleats in the front and the other half is draped over the upper body. The bridal Mekhal Chador is generally heavy with the designs with intricate fabric ornamentations with Zari.
The bride also wears a lot of gold jewellery, the traditional handmade ones known as Jun Biri. They also wear gold bangles, armlets, flowers in the hairdo; apply alta on the feet and sometimes on the hand as well.
Wedding Day Rituals
Pani Tula – In Pani Tola tradition, the mothers of the bride and the groom gather water from a nearby pond or river for the ceremonial bath later that day. Both of them must carry a brass stand with lighted diya, placed over a heap of rice along with a pair of betel nut and leaves, a coin and a knife. They collect water from the water body while the companions sing Biya Naam songs and then walk back without looking back at the pond or lake. The coin is given to the bride or groom and the knife is tied to the Gamosa that they have to carry everywhere safely till the wedding is over.
Daiyan diya – The groom’s side must send curd to the bride’s house early in the morning, half of which the bride eats while the other half is sent back for the groom to partake.
Nau purushor sharddho – During this ritual, homage is paid to the ancestors of both families. Generally the fathers of the bride or groom perform this ritual and offer obeisance to the past nine generations of the paternal family.
Nuoni or Ceremonial Bath –Both the bride and the groom receive ceremonial baths with the water collected in the morning. This ritual is known as Nuoni. First the mother applies oil, curd and a paste of maah-halodhi (urad lentils and turmeric) to the bride or groom followed by other elder ladies of the family. Then the water is poured over them to wash away the pastes.
Reception – Assamese celebrate the wedding reception before the actual wedding. The bride is decked up in her wedding finery and made to sit on a special seat. She greets all friends and relative by presenting them with saunf. She is taken back inside once the groom has arrived at the venue.
Arrival of the Groom – The groom gets ready in the wedding attire presented to him by the bride’s family. He then takes blessings from his mother, who according to tradition is not allowed to see the wedding, and leaves the house accompanied by a procession. When he finally reaches the venue, the bride’s family indulges in fun activities.
Dora aaha – The groom’s procession is given entry into the bride’s home only after they pay a certain amount of money. This includes a lot of haggling and negotiations in good humour between the two sides to decide upon the amount.
Bhori dhuwa – The bride’s mother welcomes him with a traditional aarti thali while the bride’s sister washes his feet. The groom is then not allowed to set foot on the ground and the brother of the bride lifts him to take him to the wedding hall. The bride is given panch – amrit, a mixture of ghee, curd, honey, sugar and raw milk, before going to the hall.
Biya or Wedding – The bride makes a grand entry on the shoulders of her maternal uncle or brothers. Here, the wedding ceremony takes place in front of the sacred fire. The couple exchange garlands and the various rituals followed are that of traditional Vedic ceremony. The father of the bride performs Konyadaan or Kanyadaan. The brother places an offering of puffed rice on the bride’s hands. The offering is than sacrificed into the holy fire. This is repeated thrice. During this ceremony, all the relatives and friends gathered around the mandap sing Jura Naam. Conch shells are blown and urulis are made by the women intermittently. The end of the bride’s Chador and the groom’s Cheleng are then tied by the priest.
Saptapadi – The couple is then asked to go around the holy fire seven times while they chant the sacred wedding vows. After this, the bride steps on seven betel leaves with her right foot.
Aashirbaad – Friends and relatives then step forward to bless the newlywed couple.
Khel dhemali – After completion of the wedding the couple is engaged in some traditional wedding games.
Maan dhora – The couple then attends to all the elders present in the house and seeks their blessings by touching their feet. They are also presented with gifts in return.
Bidaai – After the wedding ceremony is over the bride bid a tearful goodbye and throws handfuls of rice over her shoulder to pay the debt of her upbringing to her parents. The couple then moves to groom’s house.
Ghor gosoka –The groom’s mother welcomes the couple. The bride places her feet on a flat dish containing milk and enters the home by breaking a Saaki, or lamp made of clay. She then has to observe certain rituals, shown around the house and then sent back to her paternal home.
Khuba Khubi –The groom arrives at the bride’s house the next morning to practice the ritual of Khuba Khubi. The priest comes and narrates the story of two goddesses, Khuba and Khubani, at the end of which the couple seeks blessings from the Gods. The couple then gets ready for the reception in the evening and the bride finally leaves her father’s house.
Phool Soja – The couple’s bed room is decorated beautifully with flowers for the couple’s first night together.
Aathmangla – On the eighth day of marriage the newlywed visit the bride’s paternal home where relatives gather to welcome the newlywed couple and they are greeted with an elaborate lunch.