Kashmiri Wedding Rituals

A Kashmiri Pandit wedding consists of elaborate rituals. Beautiful clothes, quaint ceremonies and mouth-watering meals prepared by the family cook, mark this happy occasion and make it unforgettable for the couple and all those invited.

Exchange of Gifts Ceremony at The Groom's House
Wanwun Receiving The Marriage Procession
Livun The Wedding Ceremony
Wanwun Vidaai
Maanziraat Welcoming The Newly Weds
Devgon Satraat
Duribat Phirlath
The Bridal Attire Roth Khabar
Exchange of Gifts
The purohit (priest) selects an auspicious day for the engagement. On this day, traditional gifts are exchanged between the two families. Elaborate meals are served and there is much merry-making.
A wanvun is a music session. It is held after the engagement. Kashmiri folk and marriage songs are played during the session.
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 cow dung, mud and water. All the married female members of the family attend the ceremony. This is also the day when the waza or family cook arrives and puts together a mud-and-brick oven called war in the backyard of the house. This is where the traditional meals will be cooked for the wedding ceremonies.
Following the livun, wanwun or music sessions are held every evening at the houses of both, the bride and the groom. Relatives and neighbours participate in these sessions.
The maanziraat ceremony takes place a week prior to the wedding. It begins with krool khanun, a ceremony which involves decorating the door of the houses of the prospective bride and the groom. 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 maanz (henna). Maanz 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.
The devgon is a ceremony that marks the transition of the bride and the groom from brahmacharya ashram (the state of celibacy) to grihastha ashram (life of a married person). 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.
This ceremony is held on the day of the devgon. The maternal relatives of the bride/groom attend it. Gifts are exchanged and a traditional vegetarian lunch served.
The Bridal Attire
Donning the traditional wedding attire is a ritual in itself. Their relatives assist the bride and the groom as they dress for the occasion in elaborate wedding gear. The groom's paternal uncle helps him to tie the gordastar (turban). A gold thread is used to tie a peacock feather to the gordastar.
Ceremony at The Groom's House
Before leaving for the bride's house, the groom must stand on a vyog (a decorative pattern made of rice flour and colours). He is given nabad (sugar lumps) 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. The groom leaves with the marriage procession for the bride's house.
Recieving The Marriage Procession
The arrival of the marriage procession is announced by blowing a conch shell. All the relatives of the bride greet the procession warmly. The groom stands on the vyog that has been specially created for the occasion. The bride's maternal uncle carries her out and she joins the groom on the vyog. The eldest female member of the family 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 (the place where the marriage rites are performed).
The Wedding Ceremony
The purohit performs the rituals in front of a sacred fire. One of the rituals, aathwas, requires the couple to cross their arms and hold hands in this position. Their hands are covered with a cloth. 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. There are a total of seven pheras. The bride and groom feed each other some rice at the end of the ceremony.
The newly-weds must stand on the vyog while the eldest female member of the bride's family offers them nabad thrice and kisses them on the forehead. The bride is seated in a doli or palanquin. Her relatives and friends bid her good-bye as she sets off for her new home.
Welcoming The Newly Weds
The groom's eldest aunt refuses the newly-weds entry into their home until she is given cash or jewellery. The couple must stand on a specially created vyog and have nabad, offered by the groom's eldest aunt. She kisses them on the forehead. A pair of pigeons is set free to celebrate the arrival of the newly-weds. 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 changes into the new set of clothes and jewellery, presented to her by her in-laws.
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 newly-weds are given new clothes on this occasion.
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.
Roth Khabar
On a Saturday or Tuesday after the wedding, the bride's parents send a roth or a traditional, long freshly baked cake, to their son-in-law's family. The bride accompanies the carrier of the roth (usually her brother) back home. She stays over for a few days and returns only when her in-laws send someone to fetch her back.
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