D = Dhodhi Mongol

The custom of Dodhi Mongol or literally ‘curd auspicious’ is followed in West Bengal. On the day of the wedding, the bride is woken up before dawn for the ceremony. After the ritualistic bath, seven (or five, or three) married women slip on a pair of white (shaka) and red (pola) bangle on each hand of the bride. They also feed her a special dish of curd, rice, sweets after which she is not supposed to eat anything for until the wedding is over. Of course liquids, such as buttermilk, coconut water, are allowed.

I was told that custom was undertaken because curd has a cooling effect, which is useful for the usually nervous bride who would otherwise be likely to vomit or be nauseated. But in my case, I felt terribly sick because I was dying of hunger throughout the day 😀

To be fair, even the boy undergoes a similar fate – he is also not supposed to eat anything until the wedding is over. But then men usually do manage to sneak in something or the other – at least my groom did 😉

Even though I am not a fan or exponent, Hinduism strongly promotes and advocates fasting. Abstaining from food is not only believed to be good for the physical body and an essential aid to detoxification but is also believed to create alignment with the Absolute by establishing a harmonious relationship between the body and the soul. Much like meditation, fasting is believed to not only to promote and enhance inner focus but also bring discipline in one’s life. According to Hindu philosophy, food means gratification of the senses and to starve the senses is to elevate them to contemplation.

Hindus are known for their festivals and numerous gods and goddesses and the most common way to propitiate one’s personal favorite god is by fasting. There is a fast for each day of the week, every purnima (full moon) or ekadasi (11th day of a fortnight), navratri (a nine-day long festival that comes twice a year – many fast for all nine days) and the list goes on and on.

With so many fasts, a person may end up fasting on most days of the week. For instance, my mother, keeps a weekly Tuesday fast and a one day fast every navratri (sixth day) and another fast (neel puja) that occurs yearly (among many such) – it has happened that all have fallen one after another – so that means no (or little food) for three days in a row at 80 years of age! Luckily for her this year all three have fallen on Tuesday – though she isn’t quite convinced and is determined to check and double check the dates…

Fasting can mean different things for different people – from absolute abstinence (no food no water – many people do this on Shivratri for Lord Shiva or women on Karwa Chauth for the health of their husbands) to avoidance of salt and cereals (so only fruits and dairy products are consumed) and/or meal only once a day with liquids at other times of the day.

With so many fasting days, could one’s wedding (which is expected to occur once in a lifetime) be exempt? Hence the custom of dodhi mongol amongst Bengalis, but I am not sure about the custom in other parts of the country. How about sharing your knowledge and experiences on this – thanks for reading!

Thought for the day: A fast is better than a bad meal – An Irish proverb