Like every other Indian wedding, an Assamese wedding is an occasion of bonhomie and camaraderie. With an attractiveness so subtle and pristine, an Assamese wedding reflects a sobriety that is a rarity in most Indian weddings. In Assamese language, the ceremony is known as Biya. Just like a Hindu wedding, an Assamese wedding also has pre wedding and post wedding rituals. It is simple and yet very elegant.
Pre Wedding Rituals
The pre wedding rituals include many ceremonies which are explained below:
Juroon: Akin to bridal shower, in Juroon ceremony, the groom’s mother visits the house of the bride, usually two days prior to the wedding. Traditional wedding songs (called biya naam) are sung all along the journey. The bride’s mother greets her warmly with a xhorai (brass plate with a stem) containing betel nut and leaves covered with a gamusa (traditional Assamese towel).
The groom’s mother gifts the bride wedding attire (the traditional Assamese two-piece sari called mekhela saador) along with her bridal trousseau (an odd number of clothes). The bride is also presented with a number of jewelry sets and the complete make-up kit.
Tel diya: Tel meain oil. In this ceremony, mother-in-law pours a little oil on a betel nut kept over the bride’s head thrice. This is followed by the mother of the groom applying sindoor on her daughter-in-law’s hair partition. Surprisingly, in an Assamese wedding, the groom does not apply sindoor to his bride. A lavish feast follows, after which the groom’s party departs.
Uluta juroon: This ritual, held in the evening, is similar to the juroon ceremony that takes place earlier in the day at the bride’s place. Here, the bride’s family visits the groom’s side presenting him with gifts and his wedding attire. Interestingly, the items that were gifted to the bride (excluding the clothes, jewelry and make-up kit) are divided into half and given back to the groom, symbolizing the bond between the two families.
Paani tula: The next morning, female members of both the bride’s and groom’s families visit a nearby pond to collect water that is to be used for the ceremonial bath at the respective houses. A coin and a knife are carried by the bride’s/groom’s mother to the pond. Amidst singing of biya naam, the water is collected and brought back, without looking back at the pond. The coin is given to the bride/groom to be kept safely while the knife is tied to a scarf/gamusa which is to be carried everywhere till the wedding gets over.
Nuoni: This ritual refers to the ceremonial bath of the bride and the groom at their respective houses. The ceremony begins with the mother (followed by other ladies) applying oil, curd and a paste of maah-halodhi (urad lentils and turmeric).
Daiyon diya: On the day of the wedding, in the early hours of the morning, curd is sent to the bride’s house from the groom’s place. The bride eats half and sends back the other half to be eaten by the groom. Curd is a symbol of good luck. This ritual also marks the last meal of the day for both the bride and the groom till they are married.
Nau puruxor sarddho: This ritual refers to paying homage to the ancestors of both the bride and the groom by their respective fathers. It is a special ceremony where the last nine generations from the father’s side and the last three generations from the mother’s side of both the bride and the groom are paid obeisance.
Bride’s reception: In an Assamese wedding, the bride’s reception takes place before the actual wedding. The bride is seated with a small bota (a traditional bell metal plate) with saunf ready to greet all the guests all through the evening. As the groom’s party is about to enter, the bride is taken inside where she changes into the bridal attire (a white and golden mekhela saador) given by her in-laws.
Groom’s procession: The groom gets ready in traditional attire given by his in-laws. In an Assamese wedding, the groom’s mother is not allowed to take part in the wedding ceremonies. After taking her blessing, the groom along with his family and friends start the journey to the wedding venue.
Dora aaha: Dora means groom. Amidst a grand show of fireworks, the groom is greeted with a continuous showering of rice by the bride’s side. The bride’s mother welcomes her son-in-law with a traditional aarti. She gives him a kiss on the cheeks amidst sounds of ululation.
Bhori dhuwa: Bhori means leg and dhuwa means wash. The bride’s younger sister washes the groom’s feet as a mark of respect. The groom is not allowed entry till he pays a hefty price.
Biya logno: Biya means wedding. The wedding ceremony starts with the groom and his father-in-law taking part in a host of rituals. The bride, carried by her maternal uncle, is brought out to the altar with sounds of ululation and conch shells. After exchanging the garlands, the ceremony of konyadaan (farewell of bride) takes. Offerings of puffed rice is now made to the fire by the couple jointly, which is first placed on the bride’s hands by her brother.
Xoptopodi: The couple now goes around the fire seven times. Post this, the bride places her right foot on the seven betel leaves kept near the sacred fire.
Aaxirbaad (blessings): The wedding ceremony being over, the bride now takes the blessing of her husband, following which the newlyweds take the blessings from all the elders present.
Khel dhemali: Meaning playing games, the newlyweds are taken inside to engage in some friendly games. One of the most popular games is to find a ring hidden in a bowl filled with rice. The one who finds it first is the one who is believed to have a stronger say in the relationship.
Maan dhora: The groom now touches the feet of every elder from the bride’s family to offer his gratitude
Bidaai: The bride is now given a tearful farewell by her family. She showers a handful of rice thrice over her shoulders to ensure that prosperity continues in her maternal home.
Ghor gosoka: The newlyweds are welcomed warmly by the groom’s mother at the entry. The bride’s feet is washed and she is made to enter her new home by breaking a saaki (an earthen lamp) and finding a ring from a pitcher of water. She is then given a tour of the house, fed a little curd and then escorted back to her own house by her brother and friends.
Khuba khubi: The next morning, the groom arrives at the bride’s place to listen to the tale of two gods Khuba and Khubuni from the priest. The couple takes the blessings from the gods for a successful marriage and get ready for the groom’s reception in the evening. It is after the reception that the bride finally moves into her new home.
Phool xoja: This is the first night together of the couple after their wedding. Their room and bed is well decorated with fresh flowers and scented candles.
Aathmongola: This is the last wedding ritual which happens on the eighth day after marriage. This ritual marks the newlyweds’ first visit to her maternal home. A lavish lunch, comprising of eight dishes is served to the couple along with gifts.