A Typical Kashmiri
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
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 the
waza (family cook) arrives and puts
together a mud-and-brick oven called wuri in 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
Wanvun: During every evening following
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
or sheer chai) at the end of such singing sessions.
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
The divagone is a ceremony that marks the
transition of the bride and the groom from brahmacharya ashram to
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
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 (click
here), 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.
Food served: The women present among the
relatives and neighbours are invited for dinner which is served in traditional
kiln-baked pots called tabche. The food prepared by the waza
consists of the following (click
here for Kashmiri recipes):
Dumaalu: This is a delicious preparation
made from potatoes cooked in spices.
Nadrooyakhni: This dish consists of the
lotus plant cut across its width into pieces and cooked in milk and curd.
Chock wangun: This dish comprises brinjals
cooked with spices to give a delicious bitter-sweet taste.
Vyath chaman: This dish consists of paneer
(cottage cheese) cut into large pieces and cooked with spices.
Nich chaman: This dish also consists of
paneer cut into small pieces but cooked in turmeric and curd to give a
Nadroo hakh: This dish contains a lotus
stem cut in a particular diagonal shape along with Kashmiri saag
Mujchatni: This dish consists of white
radish, grated and mixed with green chillies and curd.
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
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
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,
vyath chaman, nich chaman,
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 Wedding Rituals
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
(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 nabad
to 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 kahwa followed 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.
Excerpts: "The Festivals of the Kashmiri Pandits" by T. N. Dhar, 'Kundan'
Posh Puza: Blessing the couple with flowers
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
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
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.