She Had Finally Become A Woman And The Whole Village Stood By Her Side

Shaline  Choudhury Shaline Choudhury in Culture Shock on 28 January, 2018

Tuloni Biya. 

This might sound a bit confusing to many of you people, but let me give a quick brief introduction to this ritual.

There is one such custom followed in our country that actually puts many questions in everyone’s mind, which is PUBERTY CEREMONY in Assam. This puberty ceremony is a celebration done exclusively for girls after they have their first period. Puberty indicates that the girl's body is now capable of reproduction. The girl attains maturity when she gets her first menstruation cycle.

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This tradition is mainly followed in Assam, where a huge celebration is carried out when the girl reaches her sexual maturity. This tradition is an age-old one which is being followed for years now. In Assam, the same custom is followed by all the Assamese family for years now.

Here in Assam, a traditional ritual called Tuloni Biya is still performed to pay tribute to the completion of womanhood status to a girl. Tuloni Biya is a ritual wedding which is performed a few days after the girl has her first menstruation cycle. It’s a ritual distinct to the Hindu community “Tai Ahoms” and many other Assamese groups.

The mock marriage of one’s daughter to the banana tree signifies the girl attaining adulthood and her ability to bear a child. In this ritual, the girl is not allowed to eat anything until the 4th day- she is only allowed to eat healthy food like fruits, juice, boiled vegetables, or dry fruits.

For these 4-5 days, the girl is restricted from leaving the room and is advised to take complete bed rest. No men will be allowed in, or anywhere in sight. The girl is not allowed to be touched by anyone.
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Usually, on the 4th day, the girl is bathed with proper wedding rituals, using “Halodhi”(turmeric). In the meanwhile, a banana tree is planted at the site where the girl is to be bathed. On the day which the priest deems suitable for the “wedding”, groups of women from a different part of the village pretend to be from the supposed groom's side and travels to the girl's house singing “Biya Naam” (wedding song) all the way like a real wedding.

The bride’s mother welcomes the group and rituals similar to an actual wedding then takes place. The wedding is generally celebrated on a large scale with all the members of the community participating in large numbers to bless the girl into her new life and give gifts to the girl. They even pray while the girl is going to the banana tree.

The celebration involves inviting all relatives and this means more young girls, even the girls who have gone through a similar celebration are invited and will be with the newly-pubescent girl. This will encourage discussions and sharing of knowledge between the girls. It will also help prepubescent girls to know what to expect. The celebration allows the girl an opportunity to talk to others of her age about the changes in her body. Without this, she will have only her mother or sisters to talk to.

When more people are involved, more knowledge is shared. This is how sex education is exchanged. This marriage is considered to be the biggest ritual for Assamese people.
Womanhood is not a taboo but a reason to rejoice.
Editor's Note:

Share this story if you too believe that keeping the dialogue open about a woman's body is healthy for the whole community.