The Bengali Bride’s Makeup And Fashion Comes Steeped In Lovely Traditions. We Have All The Deets!
One of the biggest markers of the diverse cultures that flourish in the Indian subcontinent is the vast difference in the way women use fashion and makeup to express themselves. A well-oiled shiny mane draped in fragrant flowers is a known details flaunted by most South Indian women. Similarly, a bride from Assam will always pick a beautiful pair of Mekhla Chaddar as her first saree for her school play. This variation on traditional style and beauty practices is most evident at weddings, where a stunning bride is the keeper of all things customary and they all have a story behind them!
From the stunning kaleerein on a North Indian bride to gorgeous (and functional!) kamarbands from South India, the Bengali bridal ensemble is also made up of statement pieces and looks, all of which serve a purpose. More often than not, we have young Bong brides just handed these signature looks, without having an inkling about the inspiration behind them. The topic might come up during small talk with a neighbour kaki (aunty), but for the most part, these details elude us.
Well, we wanted to fix that and channel the flow of information directly to the clueless bride looking for answers. As an added bonus, this can also serve as a checklist for any bride looking to do a traditional Bengali look and needs a handy reference.
The most popular accessory for a Bengali bride, a topor or mukut is a look everybody is familiar with. Thanks to the countless representations of the Bengali weddings in Bollywood, this crown made up of shola (Indian Cork tree) is a very delicate adornment for both the bride and groom.
According to a mythological legend, Lord Shiva wished to wear a special accessory on his wedding day. This request was fulfilled by a young man named Malakar, who fashioned him a headgear out of shola wood. A sign of auspiciousness and marital bliss, the mukut comes in all kinds of pretty forms and sizes for brides to choose from.
Much like the Pujabi kada, the shakha pola is a signature piece of jewellery for Bengali brides. Made from white conch shells, this pristine shakha bangles are a sign of good health and prosperity. Paired with red pola (red coral bangles) and lohabadhano (iron bangles), the whole set is based on the concept of striking a balance between the positive and negative energies emanating from all of these earthly materials.
Originating in the city of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, Bengalis share a special connection with their silk sarees that dates back to ages. While no Bong will be able to tell you how our obsession with Banarasi sarees began, we do know that they are an unmissable wedding staple. The red Banarasi saree with golden zari work is one of the most sought-after looks from the big day, with other colours like peacock blue and rani pink also being millennial faves.
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Much like the mukut, the chandan paste bindi design on Bengali brides is another statement look which is rooted in both traditional and modern beauty practices. Chandan (sandalwood) is a naturally cooling ingredient and features heavily in homemade ubtans for this reason, making them a wholesome beauty staple. The designs are sometimes replaced with kumkum, made in patterns with special significance. The colour combination of white and red symbolises peace in matrimonial life, with a central big red bindi being the ultimate symbol of a Hindu bride.
There is a reason why Bangla women do not have ticklish feet. As kids, we have been trained to not wiggle them while our didas would put on alta on them. If we ruin the alta once, we’d have to spend the rest of the Pujo without one, and that is the harshest punishment a little Bong girl has to endure!
Originally made from betel leaves, alta is known to resemble blood, which is symbolic of fertility and prosperity. It is also a test of creativity among Bengali women, who pride in their creativity and cleanliness of alta designs, even when putting it on restless children.
Move over clutches because it is the Bengali bride who originated the ultimate accessory that you carry, a sindoor daani. This container made of clay is painted in bright colours and holds vermilion in it and is to be constant possession of the bride. More recently, the sindoor daani has taken the form of more modern containers made of silver, but we still think the traditional ones are the most charming.
No wonder Bong girls do so well with 90s fashion trends, it is part of our traditional wedding garb. The gold choker is a statement bling for Bengali brides, who usually pick their jewellery based around it. This works out perfectly for us since chokers are so versatile and can go with any kind of look we are changing into later!
What are some of the other bridal essentials you would love to explore with us? Let us know!