An insight into the Kashmiri Muslim wedding ceremony
Weddings in Kashmir have always been elaborate affairs. They are occasions to get together, celebrate and rejoice for the community that thrives on social interactions. The Muslim and the Pandit wedding rituals differ in many ways, but the common thread is the bonding between families and individuals, a relationship that grows by the day and is life-long.
In the age of love marriages, the consent of the parents is still given top priority when tying the knot. Marriages are thus mostly ‘arranged’. There is a mini industry of matchmakers- mostly eunuchs- who give their advice on the positive side of the alliance. The matchmaker or monzimuor is an important person who will be seen often making the rounds of each prospective family.
The alliance, which has finally got the go ahead by the entire family, is given a formal sanction. The groom’s family visits the bride’s home, bringing a nabud nut (a pot made of unrefined sugar), jewellery for the bride and tramis (copper trays) laden with dry fruits. Haziri (gifts of clothes and jewellery) follows and bride’s family too sends gifts for the groom.
The Nikaah ceremony, which is a contract decreeing the boy and girl as a married couple, may take place on the wedding day or months before. The night before the Nikaah is the Maenj Raat, when the bride’s hands and feet are adorned with henna sent by the groom’s family. Little girls carrying baskets and trays decorated with mehendi and dry fruits are given a warm welcome at the bride’s house. The bride’s hair is tied in many tiny braids. In a ritual called Mas Muchrawun, her friends and family members start to open the braids and comb her hair. The Mas (maternal aunt) takes the initiative. It is accompanied by wanwun or songs by the ladies who sing songs of love and blessings for the bride. The bride’s family distributes gifts in the form of trinkets, mehendi packets, surma daani (kohl) to all the girls present.
The manzimuor is seen bringing in trays laden with dry fruits and coins which are then showered on the bride and all the people present. The preferred colour for the bride to wear is green. Lehengas and salwar kameez are very popular. Intricate designs of mehendi are applied on the hands and feet of the bride. There is celebration at the groom’s house too. Mehendi is also applied to his little finger.
An elaborate bath ritual takes place at the bride’s place. Accompanied by wanwun, (singing), the maternal uncle than has the privilege of lifting the bride and taking her to the chamber where the Nikaah ceremony will take place. The bride is make-up free and has a straight parting in her hair. Meanwhile, a barber gives the groom an elaborate shave.
The Nikaahnaama is read out to the bride by four witnessess. It also includes the amount of meher (maintenance) for her. Only after the bride’s acceptance of the Nikaahnaama and her signature on it, it is sent to the groom who has to sign on it too.
Womenfolk get together at the groom’s and bride’s house to help in the preparation of the feast. There is a sense of bonhomie and joy in the singing and laughter.
A complete set of wedding finery and jewellery is sent to the bride through the groom’s maternal uncle. These clothes will be worn by her on the wedding day.
The bride’s family and relatives give the groom a welcome fit for a prince. He is garlanded and seated on a masnand- a platform made of the finest silk carpets. The bride is decked in the wedding finery, usually a lehenga or salwar kameez. The feast is the wazwan, which will excel itself tonight. Guests are seated in groups of four and are served in large platters or tramis piled with rice, dum kokur, alu bukhara, kababs, tabak maaz, etc. A selection of at least 15-dishes follows. Accompanied by dry fruit chutneys it is a feast fit for royalty.
Rukhsati, the bride’s sendoff, is an emotional moment. Her face covered, she is escorted to the car where the groom awaits, by her uncle. Her farewell is marked by songs sung to bid the couple luck and success. The groom’s brothers try to create hurdles on the way by stopping the car at every bridge and only letting them go once they get money- a tradition called pul-taar.
At the groom’s house, it is the prerogative of the mother-in-law to welcome the bride. A goat is slaughtered in her honour and she enters 6 her new household after touching the holy Koran. The mother-in-law lifts her veil (muhar tullun) and gifts her a set of gold bangles (tokka ker hur). In return the bride gifts her mother-in-law a gold ornament called hash kanth.
The festivities continue at the groom’s house for the next seven days. The walima or the reception is when the entire family of the bride is invited to her new home. It is also a chance for all the relatives of the groom to give her gifts and be introduced to her. During the next week several of the bride’s relatives visit her (khabar). During the bokcha muchrun ceremony, the bride’s dowry is displayed and gifts are distributed. The Manzimuor who was instrumental in getting the two families together is given cash and gifts. On the seventh day, (satium) the groom has dinner with the bride’s family. The bride spends a few days in her parental home, and only goes back after Phirsaal, when the groom comes to fetch her. The significance of the occasion is that now the groom is free to visit his in-law’s home.
About the author
Rubina has over a decade and half of extensive journalistic experience in the media and PR industry. She has held various senior positions which the leading publication , ANI, Indian Express, The Statesman and GOWO Giveback, Worldroom India Pvt. Ltd, DLF City News magazine, National Realty magazine, Wedding Affair and Good Housekeeping. She is also author of “Under my Blue Sky” (to be published), a Coffee Table Book on Kashmir.
She holds a degree in MA (Journalism & Mass Communication), University of Kashmir and done comprehensive writing course from Writers Bureau, UK. Rubina is Consultant with AbsoluteFactor and is Editor with www.thecherrytree.in.
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