Cradled amidst the Mighty Himalayas, Kashmir is not just a picturesque destination but also a fusion of rich cultural heritage. Being situated at the crossroads of civilizations, its customs and values are a distinct amalgamation of the best of traditions. Born and bought up in Kashmir, I grew up being cocooned in the valley and its way of life. It was only after I left the valley for my higher education and later having travelled across the length and breadth of the country, exploring the vast canvas of Indian culture, did I realize the value and richness of Kashmiri customs.
Over the centuries, the region has come under strong influences of various civilizations, religions and regimes but a part of our unique cultural identity is still intact and there is no better place to get a glimpse of it than in our very own Kashmiri weddings. No wonder they say that weddings are a reflection of the soul of a society. A great deal of care is taken to preserve it, as it hasn’t changed much over the years and it also reminds us of our roots. With my experience of having travelled extensively across the country, I realize that we are the thread of the same fabric of Indian culture, with Kashmir being the golden adornment in terms of finesse and attention to detail. Kashmiri weddings are as intriguing and unique, akin to its landscape. They are as crazy, fun and bound with time-honored traditions as is the case with any other Indian wedding. If Kashmir is “heaven on earth” then a wedding in Kashmir is more like a “match made in heaven”.
The subtle essence of Sufism can be seen in the traditional dresses, ornaments and customs. Kashmiri weddings also feature a wide range of lip smacking and exotic delicacies. Rice being the staple food is complemented with varied preparations of meat like Rogan-Josh or Yakhni. A variety of Kashmiri breads and tea like Sheer Chai are also popular. Kashmir also has a rich musical heritage that carries forward its cultural legacy. Sufiana Kalam is the classical music of Kashmir which uses its own ragas and a variety of instruments. The Chakri is performed in folk and religious spheres, by both Muslims and Hindus. Rouf or Wanwun is a traditional dance performed by women on certain important occasions like marriage.
So, allow me to take you through an enchanting tale of a typical Kashmiri wedding…
It all starts with the Manzimyor, which is a Kashmiri word for matchmaker. The family hires a Manzimyor to find suitable profiles of eligible brides/grooms in a process called Parche Traavun.
After matching the horoscopes and meeting the respective sides, the family then officially announces the wedding in an event known as Thap Traavun, where the family adorns the bride with a lot of gold Jewelry and ‘Poend’- King Edward stamped coins. After Thap Traavun, both the families arrange a grand ceremony called Nishayn or engagement. It is mostly organized by the bride’s family, where all the close family members and friends are invited. The ceremony is followed by a lavish feast called “Wazwan”. The Nishayn ceremony is followed by Saatnaam wherein the family finalizes and officially announces the wedding dates to family and friends. Saatnaam too is a grand celebration with folk dance and a lavish feast. Then we have the Malmaenz, also known as maun or haldi.
The families start off the main wedding ceremonies with the Malmaenz. Elderly women of both families participate in oiling the bride’s hair, tying them into tiny braids with colorful ribbons and applying haldi to the bride.
In Kashmiri tradition, the night before the wedding istheMaenzraat, where the women of the family apply mehendior henna on the bride’s hands and feet. In the morning of the wedding day, the bride takes a special bridal bath known as the Aab Shehrun to cleanse herself for the new beginnings. She is mostly accompanied by her mother or sisters. After the bath, the bride wears their traditional outfit called Pehran and offers two Rakath Namaaz. Nikah Khwaani – The Nikah (contract of marriage) in Kashmiri tradition is the most modest one. The priest recites holy verses of Quran and prays for the happiness of the bride and groom. Post the wedding, the families, friends and neighbours gather together for lunch known as Yini Wol and bless the couple. Mehraaz Saal in the evening is when the groom and the barat are given a royal treatment where they are served food in beautiful copper plates. And the groom is given an extravagant seat made of silk carpets.
Ruksati is when the bride finally bids goodbye to her family after the dinner, and embarks on a new journey of life with her husband. Muhar Tullun is the welcoming of the bride to her new house and family by the groom’s mother where she lifts the veil from the bride’s face. Family members and relatives give precious gifts to the bride and women sing traditional wedding songs. Walima is a grand reception followed by a feast held by the groom’s family where they invite their friends, family members and their community. Khabri Gasun happens after a few days of the wedding where the bride’s relatives except her parents visit the groom’s house to bless them and give gifts to them, mostly cash.
Phiri Saal – After the wedding, the bride’s family invites the couple and the groom’s family for a meal at their house and are treated with utmost love and honour.
For seven days after the wedding, the bride wears seven different colours everyday or seven days and does no household chores. After the seventh day, the bride’s parents are invited to the groom’s place for dinner and the day is called the Satim Doh, after which the bride goes to her parent’s house for a few days and later returns to her Waeriv (in laws’). After the bride returns to her in-law’s house, her relatives come to visit them to make sure she is doing well. This is referred to as Phirraa Khaber and this marks the end of festivities and the wedding celebrations.
We, as Kashmiris are very fond of our rich culture and rituals and we thoroughly enjoy them.As I continue to travel across the country, experiencing everything that each culture has to offer, numerous parallels come to the fore indicating a greater affinity with our Kashmiri traditions. I feel that it’s our collective responsibility to cherish our uniqueness and showcase it to the rest of the world.
I’ll leave you with the lines of a beautiful Kashmiri wedding song…
“Buh chhassaye khanmoej koor,
Dyuh meh rukhsath myane bouoyjaano”
“I’m your dearest daughter,
Now it’s time to bid me farewell, O my beloved father”
– Faysal Khan