A Kashmiri wedding is one made up of traditional and joyful ceremonies and rituals. It is an especially happy occasion for not only the bride and groom, but for anyone who is lucky enough to receive an invitation to be a part of the Kashmiri festivities.
The first step to arranging a Kashmiri wedding involves the matching of the teknis, or the horoscopes, of the bride and groom – to –be. Not only are the horoscopes important, but there is much emphasis placed into making sure that the background, status and reputation of each family are well matched. Once these details are taken care of, a wedding date is proposed by the bride-to-be's parents. If the groom's parents agree with this date, the priest, or purohit, sets the wedding date. A Kashmiri wedding can be performed either in the morning or at night.
After both Kashmiri families agree to the marriage, a vanna, or formal commitment ceremony is conducted. This ceremony makes the engagement official. It is performed before an idol. It is traditional for the senior members of both sides of the family to meet in the temple to exchange flowers with each other. Doing this symbolizes the official nature of the marriage. Following this ceremony, the bride-to-be's family prepares and serves a traditional Kashmiri meal. In addition, the eldest aunts of the prospective bridal couple make var, which is a special rice pudding. This is given to neighbors and relatives. The family of the bride-to-be sends gifts of money, dried fruits, along with a pot of nabad or misri to the groom-to-be's home.
Next, livun is performed. This is the traditional cleansing of the home prior to a Kashmiri wedding. Both families do this, but not necessarily on the same day. The ceremony is attended by all married females of the family. On this day, the family cook, or waza, comes to assemble a mud and brick oven known as a war in the backyard of the home. The traditional meals served at the Kashmiri wedding ceremonies will be prepared and cooked here.
Two to three weeks prior to the Kashmiri wedding, bariyan, which are flat lentil Kashmiri cakes, are prepared. These are used to kick off the wedding preparations in the homes of both the bride-to-be and the groom.
A fun filled Kashmiri tradition that begins a few days before the Kashmiri wedding, music lessons called Wanwun are held each evening in the homes of both the bride and groom-to-be. These lively and fun sessions are attended by both relatives and neighbors. Everyone is on hand to make these quite enjoyable for all.
One week before the Kashmiri wedding, the maanziraat ceremony is performed. This begins with the decorating of the door to the houses of both the bride and groom-to-be in a ceremony known as krool khanun. Later that same evening, the bride is treated to an elaborate ritual of bathing. Following this bath, the bride-to-be's oldest aunt uses henna or maanz to decorate her hands and feet. Women who are invited to take part in this particular Kashmiri ceremony are treated to a tasty Kashmiri meal that has been prepared by the waza. A wanvun, or music session, follows all of these activities.
Two to three days prior to the Kashmiri wedding, there is the ceremony of sending out large plates of both fresh and dried fruit, sweets, ghee, khajur, sugar, and a special mixture called gota. This is prepared only for Kashmiri weddings. During this ritual, 51 thaals are sent to the family of the groom by the bride's family.
Approximately 2 days prior to the Kashmiri wedding, flower jewelry and tinsel are sent to the bride from the groom's family. These gifts are called Phoolon ka Gehna. The bride-to-be decorates this jewelry to symbolize her first shringar, which is an adornment of herself on her wedding day.
The ritual of mehendi typically occurs 1 to 2 days before the Kashmiri wedding. This begins with a puja, which is a religious ceremony to pray and offer respect to God, the Gods, or gurus. In the bride's house, the palms and fingers of her hands as well as her feet are decorated with mehendi, or henna, patterns. At the home of the groom, a small amount of mehendi is put on his hands to serve as a shagun, or good omen for the marriage.
On the morning of the Kashmiri wedding, the ritual of Diugun is performed. This is done separately in the homes of both the bride and groom-to-be. In each home, the elders of the families apply a paste made from curd, besan, or gram flour, and saffron to the heads of both bride and groom. Following the application of the pastes, there is a bathing ritual to be followed by the prospective newlyweds. A pooja is held after the baths, which is followed by the beginning of a fast that will last until the Kashmiri wedding is completed. The bride's parents present her with clothes, jewelry, household things, and other essential items. One of the jewelry items is a dijaru. This is an ear ornament and symbolizes that a Kashmiri woman is married.
A sanzvaru is sent to the bride by the groom's family. This is made up of cosmetics, a small mirror, a shawl called a pamur, sindoor, and a special betel leaf enclosed in foil, or warq, of gold and silver. The cosmetics are used by the bride as she dresses for her wedding.
Next is the devgon ceremony. This is a special ceremony that symbolizes the transition of the bride and groom from the brahmacharya, or student, ashram to the grihastha, or family life, ashram. Observed separately by the bride's family and the groom's family in each of their homes, they worship God Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Then the parents of the prospective bride and groom perform a havan in their homes. For the bride, the kansihran ceremony is performed first. Young girls hold a veil over the bride-to-be's head while her relatives throw a mixture of rice, water, curd, milk, and flowers over her. The bride's maternal uncle gives her a set of new clothes. A kansihran is presented to the groom.
The bride and the groom are helped in dressing for the wedding by relatives. Their Kashmiri wedding clothes are quite elaborate. When it's time for the groom to tie his turban, called a gordastar, his paternal uncle assists him. A peacock feather is attached to the gordastar with a gold thread.
When the marriage procession arrives at the wedding venue, the bride's relatives are on hand to provide a welcome. Jaiphal, or nutmeg, are exchanged by the fathers of the prospective bridal couple. This symbolizes the relationship and offers a vow of a life-long friendship. The bride is escorted to the vyog, created especially for the Kashmiri wedding, by her maternal uncle, where she joins her groom. The happy couple is then fed nabad by the oldest female family member. When she has finished, she kisses them each on their foreheads. Two pots of rice are given to the poor, and the wedding couple is led to the door by the family purohit. Here, he conducts a brief ceremony called dwarpooja, after which he leads them to the lagan mandap.
As in other Hindu weddings, the purohit conducts the rituals of a Kashmiri marriage before a sacred fire. Aathwas is one of the Kashmiri wedding rituals. This requires that the bride and groom cross their arms and hold hands while in this position. A cloth covers their hands. A Kashmiri folktale says that the first one who is able to pull out the engagement ring of the other one is the partner who will control the relationship. A golden thread called a mananmal is tied to the foreheads of the couple. Then the left foot of both the bride and her groom are placed on a grinding stone called a kajwat. The seven pheras, or steps, commence. The first step, or phera, encircling the sacred fire is executed with steps on 7 1-rupee coins. At the conclusion of this ceremony, the wedding couple feed rice to each other. Then they are seated. Their heads are covered with a red cloth, and all of the guests give them flowers, or posh, while reciting the Veda mantras. This is done because the newlyweds are symbolic of Shiva and Parvati and must be shown reverence and worship. First, there is mantra for the bride and then a different one for the groom. These are followed by joint mantras. This is to show what a sacred union that marriage between the bride and groom is. They are to live a life of wealth, or Artha, desires, or Kama, and show reverence to Dharma, or righteousness, and work for emancipation, or Moksha.
An elaborate feast is prepared and set out for the guests after the wedding. Kahwa is served by the bride's family. Following is a vegetarian style meal that is served in tabhe, which are earthen kiln-baked pots. Twenty-one to twenty-five dishes are made for all the guests. These include such dishes as kangach, which is rare and expensive, marchwangan pokore, madur pulao, which is a sweet rice that is made only for special events. There is also shufta, which is made from paneer, then fried with nuts and sugar sweetened.
A post wedding ritual is the welcoming of the newlyweds. This is an interesting custom where the groom's oldest aunt refuses to let the newlyweds enter their home until she is presented with jewelry or money. After she has received her gifts, the couple is allowed to stand on vyog that has been made especially for this. The aunt offers them nabad, and gives each of their foreheads a kiss. In celebration of the newlyweds' arrival, a pair of pigeons is released. The couple then exchanges the mananmal that is tied to their foreheads. Once inside, the couple is led to the kitchen by the aunt, and required to sit on the mud stove. Food is served by the waza and fed to them by the aunt. Following this meal, the bride is presented with new clothes and jewelry, which she changes into.
The ritual of satraat is conducted when the bride visits the home of her parents. She is accompanied by her new husband and a couple of children from his family. Her parents present her with new clothes. These clothes include a 6-yard pashmina shawl called a dusa.
The phirlath is a ceremony that is performed on the second visit by the couple to the bride's parents' home. On this visit, as on the first, they are once again presented with new clothes which are meant to mark this occasion.
The bride's family sends roth khabar to the groom's family on either a Saturday or Tuesday following the wedding. The roth khabar is a cake measuring 1 metre long and 2 ½ metres wide, and that is decorated with nuts. These cakes are sent in odd numbers. Then the bride visits her parents' home accompanied by the person bringing the roth khabar. While the bride visits with her parents, the groom's family sends someone to get her and bring her back home.
As you can see, a Kashmiri wedding is filled with everything that this happy occasion should have. There is love, laughter, fun, and many meaningful rituals involved. The Kashmiri wedding is something that everyone who is a part of highly anticipates. No one turns down an invitation to the many celebrations they can be included in. The food is also something to really look forward to. Good company, great food, loving family connections, colorful and elaborate clothes, and a rousing good time for everyone are all things that make up a Kashmiri wedding. It is rich with customs and family traditions that make this one of the most beautiful ceremonies in existence. Attend it with pride and honor that you were invited. Show the happy couple the best wishes and respect that they so justly deserve. You may well be able to reciprocate one day when you invite these newlyweds to YOUR Kashmiri wedding. So eat, be merry, and raise a glass in honor of the happy couple.