A Bengali Wedding Tradition

Text: “So in Bengali or Bangladeshi culture, yellow and red are really significant colors. Their significance is exemplified through the ways in which the colors appear in important moments in life, such as how brides usually wear red for their wedding ceremonies. During the Gaye Holud ceremony – one of the many wedding traditions for Bengalis that typically occurs a week or two before the wedding reception – the bride’s and groom’s family and friends create a paste out of turmeric which they then put on the bride’s and groom’s bodies. This is thought of as a way to ward off the evil eye and promote blessings, good fortune, and prosperity for the couple that is soon to be married.”

Context: My informant – a 20-year-old woman from San Diego, California – explained this wedding ritual to me which she said is a very important part of her culture. Her family has cultural and ethnic ties to Bangladesh, and she learned this wedding practice from her family as she has seen it done before every wedding that occurs between a couple who have a connection to the culture. She said that she herself isn’t entirely sure how much she believes in the evil eye and bad spirits, but she feels that the ritual is something that is very important to her identity in the sense that it is something that has been generational in her family. She explained to me that this was something her parents had done before their wedding along with her grandparents and her great-grandparents, and that the ritual serves as a sort of unifying tradition that has been maintained throughout every generation.

Analysis: The significance of colors and rituals in Bengali or Bangladeshi wedding ceremonies reveals the enduring cultural traditions and values deeply rooted in this heritage. The use of yellow and red, especially in pivotal life events like weddings, holds profound symbolic meanings within Bengali culture. The Gaye Holud ceremony, where turmeric paste is applied to the bodies of the bride and groom, serves as a protective ritual believed to ward off the evil eye and invite blessings, prosperity, and good fortune for the couple. This practice reflects a cultural belief in spiritual protection and the importance of invoking positive energies during important life transitions.

My informant’s perspective highlights the intergenerational continuity of this tradition within her family. Despite personal skepticism about the supernatural aspects associated with the ritual, my informant cherishes the ceremony as a foundational aspect of her cultural identity. This ritual’s transmission across generations underscores its role as a unifying force that connects family members through shared heritage and tradition. This folklore embodies broader cultural values of familial continuity, collective identity, and the preservation of ancestral customs. The enduring practice of the Gaye Holud ceremony across generations exemplifies cultural resilience and a deep-rooted attachment to customs that define Bengali identity.