Weddings among Bengali Hindus are elaborate affairs, stretching over three days, with the preparatory rituals beginning even a week in advance. There are a number of ceremonies and rituals that take place all throughout the wedding, some before the Big Day and some after. Among the various pre-marriage ceremonies, he Hindus of West Bengal have the custom of sending a tatwa or ceremonial gift presentation from the bride`s family to the groom. Although the array of gifts can vary, including clothes, furniture, jewellery or sweets, the centrepiece is always a carp, decorated elaborately with oil and vermilion. The largest fish that the family can afford is acquired for this purpose and the visual totality of the apparition is stunning: gleaming, pinkish-silver scales, the dark fins and tail, the lovingly painted vermilion patterns and the background of green (the banana leaf on which the fish rests). The ideal tattwa includes a saree for the groom`s mother, and fish, sweets, curd, paan, dhaan, and durba. The gifts are carried on a brass plate or a kasar thala and borne by the servants from the home of the bride. On the day of the wedding, late in the morning, the groom`s family sends a whole array of gifts, the tatwa, which includes clothing, jewellery and decorative objects, but whose centrepiece happens to be an imposing carp, its head patterned with turmeric and vermilion paste, its girth encircled by a jasmine garland. The fish is a symbol of plenty, prosperity and fertility; but beyond the symbol, it is intended to be cooked and eaten for lunch by the bride`s family. Aside from the carp, the tatwa also includes lavish supplies of sweets which assembled relatives and guests freely sample; it is one of the pleasures of a wedding in the family.
Thus the tatwa is part of one of the many rituals and customs of a Bengali wedding.
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