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Hindu Rituals Associated With Bengali Women

By and large, Bengali women, as indeed Hindu women all over India, have an important role to play in Hindu rituals. As sahadharmini (partner in life), the wife is supposed to participate in the performance of Vedic or Shastric ritual. However, women, married or otherwise, do perform rituals mostly in the nature of vrata, like observance of fasts.

Rabindranath Tagore, in this Banglar Brata, has broadly divided the rites and rituals of Bengali women into two groups – Shastric and pracalita (in popular usage). There are certain rituals which are handed down from mother to daughter. They are Durga Sashti vrata, Yampukur vrata, Kulkulati vrata, Saubhagya vrata and Jitastami vrata. Suvacari vrata is performed by married women on Sundays or Thursdays in the early hours of the morning. The woman prays to Suvachari for the welfare of her family. She faces east while invoking the Goddess. No priest is required for the performance of this vrata. In the month of Vaishakha (April – May), Haricarana vrata is observed by women.

One very popular ritual observed by unmarried girls is Shivratri vrata. The worship of the deity is intended to secure the epitome of an ideal husband like Shiva. The girls fast during the day and take fruits and milk at the end of the day. There are rituals known as pumsavana that supposedly ensure a male offspring. This is common to all Hindu women, as stated in Dharmashastras. Here pregnant women are a part of the ritual.

There are specified days on which girls listen attentively to elder women of the family relating mythological and folk tales. Women pray both in the morning and evening. Women prepare materials for worship and, while chanting verses, blow the conch shell. The conch shell is blown on all religious occasions and at marriage ceremonies as well. It is also blown during an eclipse.

The lighting lamps at night also have a religious significance. The lamp is carried by the wife to each room.