Kashmiris first match the teknis (horoscopes) of the prospective bride and groom. Besides this, the other factors which are taken into consideration while selecting a match are the background, status and moral character of the family of the prospective match and their close relatives. All this and more is taken into consideration before the alliance is finalised. The wedding date is proposed by the bride’s parents. Once the groom’s parents also give their consent, the purohit(priest) fixes the wedding date.
The wedding can take place in the morning or in the night. An auspicious time is fixed by the purohit.
Formal Engagement or Kasamdry
Once the two families agree to the alliance, a formal commitment ceremony takes place in the form of kasamdry. The family purohits fix the date of the engagement ceremony as per the Kashmiri calendar. The ceremony takes place in front of an idol. The elderly persons of both sides meet in a temple and exchange flowers as a sign of celebration of the formalisation of the alliance. The girls’ family lays out a meal comprising of traditional Kashmiri food. Separately in the houses of the bride and the groom, the eldest aunt (of the boy and the girl) prepares var (a special rice pudding) which is distributed among the neighbour and relatives. The girl’s family sends cash, fruits, dry fruits and a pot containing nabad (misri, sugar lumps) to the boy’s house. This is what happened in olden days. Nowadays, the boy and the girl meet in a temple or at boy’s house and exhange golden rings.
Livun: An auspicious day is chosen for the livun, the traditional cleansing of the house before a wedding. The bride’s family and the boy’s family do not necessarily do the livun on the same day. On this day, the floors of the Kashmiri mud houses are cleaned and treated with a mixture of mud and water. All the married female members of the family attend the ceremony. The bua or pof (father’s sister) of the boy and that of the girl prepare var which has to be distributed to all the neighbours and relatives. They are given cash by the respective parents of the bride and the groom as a token of love. This is also the day when thewaza (family cook) arrives and puts together a mud-and-brick oven called wuriin the backyard of the house. This is where the traditional meals will be cooked for the wedding ceremonies. The consumption of meat is traditionally forbidden in Kashmiri weddings. This is how it used to happen in olden days when most of the Kashmiri houses were mud houses that have been replaced with concrete ones these days.
Wanvun: During every evening following livun, up to the marriage ceremony, a sangeet (music) session is held in both the bride’s and the groom’s houses where the participants include neighbours and relatives. The guests are served a salted pink tea (called noon or sheer chai) at the end of such singing sessions.
Maenziraat: The maenzraat ceremony takes place a week prior to the wedding. It begins with krool khaarun, a ceremony which involves decorating the door of the houses of the prospective bride and the groom by their respective aunts (father’s sister). In the evening, the bride-to-be follows an elaborate bathing ritual, during which her feet are washed by her maternal aunt. After the bath, her eldest aunt decorates her hands and feet with maenz (henna). Maenz is also distributed among the relatives and neighbours. The women invited for this occasion are served a delicious Kashmiri meal prepared by the waza. Dinner over, all participate in a lively wanvun or music session. In the groom’s house, a little mehendi is applied on his hands as it is a symbol of auspiciousness.
Thread Ceremony (yagneopavit): If the Janayu or thread ceremony has not been performed earlier for the groom, then it is conducted a few days before the wedding. If the ceremony is conducted post-adolescence he wears a thread of 6 strands as opposed to 3 worn if the ceremony was performed in his younger days.
Divagone: The divagone is a ceremony that marks the transition of the bride and the groom from brahmacharya ashram to grihastha ashram. The bride and the groom worship God Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The ceremony is observed separately by the girl’s family and the boy’s family in their respective homes. Before participating in the rituals, the relatives of the bride and the groom observe a fast. The purohit conducts the ceremony in front of a sacred fire. The ornaments and utensils that will be given to the bride by her family are also placed in front of the fire. An essential part of the rituals is the kanishran. This involves bathing the boy /girl with a mixture of water, rice, milk and curd. Flowers are also showered over the boy/girl. They change into a new set of traditional attire following the kanishran. The parents of the bride give her jewellery, clothes, household items, etc. An essential item of the jewellery is the dejaharu, an ear ornament that has gold tassels strung on a sacred thread that passes through the middle ear cartilage. These holes are pierced in the ears of all Kashmiri girls when they are 2 or 3 years of age. The significance of wearing the dejaharu is that the bride is now ready for matrimony.
Entertaining guests: The ladies invited for the occasion indulge in wanvun(music session) throughout the night. In the more affluent families, traditional singing groups (called bachkots) are invited to entertain the guests. In the groups, the main dancer is called bacha and the musicians accompanying him comprise the sarangi player, the santoor player, the rabab player, the tumbaknari player, the harmonium player and the natoo player besides the lead singer.
The boy’s divagone: The groom is also given a kanishran. His mama(maternal uncle) presents him with a new set of clothing which consists of the following:
1. A pheran with tight, long sleeves, having a triangular neckline called taninaal, the upper lapel of which is tied at the left shoulder with a piping called dov and
2. A waistband made of ruffle / pashmina with the ends embroidered with a golden thread and zarbaf called louing.
Duribat: On the same day, the maternal relatives of both the bride and the groom are invited for lunch at their respective houses. They are served first with milk, followed by kahwa. They are then served a traditional vegetarian lunch, consisting of dumaalo, nadroo yakhni, chock wangun, vyath chaman, nich chaman, nadroo hakh and mujchatni.
Presents: Traditionally , the maternal relatives have to bring presents for the bride’s or the groom’s parents in case of duribat at the groom’s residence. The presents include clothes for either the bride or the groom from their maternal grandparents. The immediate relatives like aunts of the bride or the groom, as the case may be, are presented with the traditional headgear, namely, the tarang.
The bride’s clothes
The traditional wedding attire is the pheran. The groom wears a tweed pheran with a sword in his waistband and jootis in his feet. His headgear is a turban (gordastar) to which a peacock feather has been tied with a golden thread. The bride’s pheran is usually made of raffle, with ari or hook embroidery at the neck, cuff and edges. Over the kalpush, a long piece of starched and ironed snow-white cloth, about three centimeters in width and two to two-and-a-half metres long, is wrapped at the level of the forehead in three to four layers. A white scarf (called zoojh) is wrapped over the kalpush and it covers 50 per cent of the head from behind. This scarf is left hanging on the back of the head over the braid till it reaches just below the shoulders. It is made of fine cotton or silk on two sides and consists of a silk or cotton net in the middle. The edges are elegantly embroidered with golden and silk threads. A snow-white glazed paper is wrapped over this headgear and stitched from behind. Over the glazed paper, a white tranparent sheet of slolite paper, of the same width as that of the inner glazed layer, is placed and stitched on the sides near the back towards the braids. Over this slolite paper is placed another piece of starched muslin cloth (called pooch) which covers 60 per cent of the headgear from behind leaving 40 per cent of the front exposed. This cloth is left loose from behind reaching up to the knee joint or even lower, where the free end is appropriately bifurcated and curled separately. Two all-pins with black and golden heads are fitted into the headgear. (The entire head attire is called tarang.) A belt about two metres along and one-and-a-half metres wide (called haligandun), with its loose ends embroidered, is tied to the waist of the bride.
Ceremony at the groom’s house
The groom’s paternal uncle helps him to tie the gordastar (turban). While the groom’s turban is being tied, a plate of rice containing some money (zung) is touched to his right shoulder. Before marriage procession leaves for the bride’s house, the groom must stand on a vyoog (rangoli, a decorative pattern made of rice flour and colours). He is given nabad to eat, a conch shell is sounded to announce his departure, and two rice pots containing some money are given away as alms to the poor as a gesture of goodwill. The groom and his party (baraat) leave for the bride’s house by car.
On arrival of the marriage procession relatives of the bride greet the procession warmly and is announced by blowing a conch shell. The fathers of the bride and the groom exchange jaiphal or nutmeg symbolising the solemnisation of the relationship with a promise of a life-long friendship. The bride’s maternal uncle has to carry her out to the place where vyoog has been prepared and where the groom is made to stand. The eldest female member of the family or the bride’s mother performs puja with lamps made of wheat flour and feeds nabadto the bride and the groom and kisses them on the forehead. Two rice pots are given away to the poor. The couple is led by the family purohit to the door. He performs a small ceremony here called dwar pooja before leading them to the lagan mandap.
Food served: The relatives and friends of the groom are served kahwafollowed by a vegetarian meal served in earthen kiln-baked pots (called tabhe) As many as 21-25 dishes are prepared for the guests. These dishes include, in addition to the seven basic vegetarian preparations mentioned earlier, delicacies like kangach, which is a rare and expensive dish; marchwangan pokore; madur pulao (a sweet rice prepared on special occasions); and shufta, which is made from paneer, fried with nuts and sweetened with sugar.
The wedding ceremony (Lagan)
The purohit performs the rituals in front of a sacred fire. For the first time the groom and the bride see each other through the images formed in the mirror. This is a custom which is still prevailing. After the groom and the bride see each other they are made to hold hands of each other in a firm grip not to get loosened with the passage of time. The groom holds the left hand of the bride with his right hand and same is being done by the bride. Their hands are covered with a cloth. This in Kashmiri is called Athwas. According to Kashmiri folklore, the first to be able to pull out the engagement ring of the other will be the one to play a dominating role in the relationship. A mananmal, golden thread, is tied to their foreheads. The left foot of the bride and groom are placed on a kajwat or grinding stone. The first phera or round around the sacred fire is made by stepping on seven one rupee coins, putting always her right foot forward and at the end of the walk is being received by the groom’s father. There are a total of seven pheras. The wedding ceremony is followed by a vegetarian dinner with rice. The bride and groom are made to eat from the same plate.
At the end of the ritual of marriage, saptapadi etc. the bride and the groom are made to sit in a comfortable posture. A red cloth is placed on their heads, and then all the people around offer them flowers (posh) in accompaniment of Veda mantras. This is called worshipping the couple with flowers. The rationale behind this custom is that the couple is considered to be Shiva and Parvati and the two are duly worshipped. First there are mantras for the bride and the groom separately followed by those meant for the two jointly. We are of the view that marriage is a spiritual union between a boy and a girl and they have to live this life of Artha (wealth) and Kama (desires) with due regard to Dharma(righteousness) and aspire for Moksha (emancipation). The four together are called Purusharthas. That is why the newly-weds are treated as Shiva and Parvati and worshipped as such at the time of the Posh Puza.
The newly-weds must stand on the vyoog while the eldest female member of the bride’s family offers them nabad thrice and kisses them on the forehead. As the bride leaves her parent’s house, she throws a fistful of raw rice over her shoulder in the direction of that house. This symbolises that prosperity may continue to remain in the home the bride leaves. The bride carries some more rice in her other hand which is scattered at the doorstep of her new home. This symbolises that she brings prosperity to her new home. Her relatives and friends bid her good-bye as she sets off for her new home.
Welcoming the newly-weds
In a playful moment, the groom’s eldest aunt refuses the newly-weds entry into their home until she is given some cash or jewellery. The couple must stand on a specially created vyoog and have nabad, offered by the groom’s eldest aunt or mother. She kisses them on the forehead. The mananmal tied on the forehead of the couple are exchanged. The aunt leads them to the kitchen where they must sit on the mud stove. The waza serves them food and the aunt feeds them.
After the meal, the bride is now made to change into a new sari and jewellery given by her in-laws. Ataharu, which consists of several strands of gold/ silver tassels are strung below the dejaharu which she is already wearing, signifying that she is now a married lady.
The bride goes to visit her parents in the evening. Her husband and a couple of children, probably those of her sister-in-law, accompany her. The parents of the bride give the bride a set of new clothes and some salt and cash. The groom is also presented with new clothes including a dusa (six yard pashmina shawl). The bride and the groom change into new clothes before returning to the groom’s house.
This is the ceremony that takes place when the couple visit the bride’s parents for the second time. Once again, they are given new clothes to mark the occasion.
On a Saturday or Tuesday after the wedding, the bride’s parents send a roth or a traditional, long freshly baked cake (bread decorated with nuts), to their son-in-law’s family. Then she is given salt as shagun.
This is equivalent to the modern-day reception held at the girl’s place. The bride’s brother and sister come to the marital home and escort the bride back to her parent’s home for one day. This ritual is known as the Gar Atchun. The bride wears all the jewellery given to her by her in-laws and proceeds to her parent’s home. The bride’s family prepares a lavish spread of non-vegetarian delicacies for the relatives from both homes. After the grand meal, the bride and groom return to the marital home, carrying with them all the gifts presented to the bride by her parents. It marks off the beginning of a fruitful and happy life for the couple and their families.