The first step or rather ritual towards a Kashmiri Hindu wedding is the matching of the horoscopes of the prospective bride and groom. Once the horoscopes are matched and the alliance is finalized, the announcement of the wedding takes place with mango leaves strung on a strong cotton string and hung at the entrance of the home. This string of mango leaves is called 'bhandawar'. White clay 'multani mitti' is soaked in water and mixed with myriad colors and used to paint floral designs called 'krool' on the walls to mark this special wedding occasion.
Once the alliance is finalized, 'Kasamdary' which is a formal commitment on the part of the boy and girl's families to the marriage takes place. An auspicious date for the marriage is fixed in consultation with a purohit as per the Kashmiri almanac.
'Vazvan' refers to the exclusive traditional meal prepared by special Kashmiri cooks and sent to the boy's house from the girl's family. A Vazvan would consist of about fifty to sixty dishes prepared with delicate herbs and spices. The arrival of the Vazvan dishes signifies to the friends and relatives the announcement of the engagement of the boy.
According to the tradition, the elderly persons from both the sides meet in a temple and exchange flowers symbolizing the celebration and formalization of the marriage alliance. A formal meal comprising traditional Kashmiri food is well laid out by the bride's family. The elderly aunts of the prospective couples prepare 'Var' which is a special rice pudding. A musical evening follows; replete with Kashmiri folk songs.
Kashmiri Hindu wedding: Pre wedding ceremonies
Livun: This refers to the traditional cleansing of the house before the wedding. This is the place the traditional meals for the wedding are to be cooked.
Wanwun: These are music sessions held every evening at the houses of the boy and the girl. Relatives and neighbors participate in these lively and fun filled sessions.
Maanziraat: A traditional ceremony that takes place a week prior to the wedding, Maanziraat begins with Krool Khanun which involves decorating the door of the houses of the prospective bride and groom. An elaborate bathing ritual for the bride follows in the evening. The bride's hands are decorated with henna 'Maanz' and it is distributed among other relatives. Delicious Kashmiri meal is prepared and Wanwun follows.
Bariyan: This takes place two to three weeks prior to the wedding when flat lentil cakes or Bariyan are made to flag the wedding preparations in the houses of both the bride and the groom.
Thaals: The bride's family sends about fifty one thaals to the groom's family two to three days before the wedding. A thaal consist of sweets, fresh and dry fruits, khajur, ghee, sugar and a special mixture called gota made only during Kashmiri weddings.
Phoolan Ka Gehna: Fine jewelry and flowers are sent to the bride from the groom's family a couple of days prior to the wedding. The bride adorns herself with this jewelry as a symbol of her first shringar.
Sanzaru: The boy's family sends sanzaru for the bride - cosmetics, a small mirror, sindoor, a pamur or shawl and a special paan or betel leaf encased in silver and gold foil.
Devgon: This ceremony is carried on separately in both families. A fast is observed before this function begins. A sacred fire is lit and the purohit conducts the rituals. 'Kanishran' is an essential part of the ritual and this involves bathing the boy and girl with mixture of water, rice, milk and curd. Flowers are showered over the bride and groom to be and a new set of traditional attire is given. Dijaru which is an ear ornament and a sign of married woman in Kashmir is an essential item of jewellery in every Kashmiri wedding.
Kashmiri Hindu wedding ceremony
Kashmiri wedding can take place either in the morning or at night. The groom wears the customary pheran and waistband. A plate of rice containing some money is touched to the left shoulder of the groom. He rides a horse in the marriage procession to the bride's house. Shankhs or conch shells are blown and the groom and his family are greeted by the bride's party. The bride is carried near the groom by her maternal uncle and the bride and groom stand near each other on the vyog which has been specially created for the occasion.
The eldest female member of the family feeds nabad to the bride and groom and kisses them on their forehead. Two pots of rice are given away to the poor. The couple is led by the family purohit to the door. The purohit perform the dwar puja before leading the couple to the lagan Mandap.
The wedding ceremony starts with recitation of the slokas by the purohits. The couple is made to cross their arms over one another and hold hands covered with a cloth. This ritual is 'Aathwas'. According to the Kashmiri folklore, the one who manages to pull out the other's engagement ring shall play a dominant role in the married life of the couple. A 'Mananmal' golden thread is tied to the foreheads of the bride and groom. The left foot of the bride and groom are placed on a 'kajwat' grinding stone. The first phera around the sacred firs is made by stepping on a seven one rupee coins. They represent the seven pheras. The next six rounds are done amidst the chanting of mantras. They are considered man and wife now. The bride and the groom feed each other with rice at the end of the ceremony. 'Bidaai' is the time for the bride to leave her parents and go along with her husband to her new home with the in-laws.
On arrival at the groom's house, the groom's eldest aunt play fully refuses the newly weds entry until she is given cash or jewelry. She kisses them on the forehead, a pair of pigeons is set free and the Mananmal tied on their foreheads are exchanged.
On the evening of the wedding the bride accompanied by her groom and two children visit her parent's house for dinner. This ceremony is 'satraat' and the couple is presented new clothes by the bride's parents which they wear before returning home. The groom is specially given a 'dusa' a six yard pashmina shawl. A meter long and half meter wide cake decorated with nuts called 'roth khabar' is sent to the groom's family on a Tuesday or Saturday following the wedding.
Kashmiri Muslim Ceremony
A Kashmiri Nikaah or Muslim wedding ceremony is celebrated on a grand scale and it takes place over a period of three to five days.
Pre Nikaah rituals
Day one and two ceremonies: The bride's party goes to the groom's house carrying mehendi paste followed by the groom's party to the bride's house. Children carry candles which are lit before entering.
Maniha ceremony: The bride is made to be seated in a small square table and haldi (turmeric) provided by the boy's family is anointed on her. The bride bathes with turmeric spread all over her body and dresses in ceremonial yellow clothes but with no jewelry. A celebration of joy and singing begins.
Mehendi ceremony: This takes place at the home of the bride on the eve of the wedding day or sometimes a couple of days earlier. Relatives of the bride apply the turmeric paste over the bride with women singing traditional songs. The bride wears sober clothes on this day. It is customary that the bride remains at home after this and does not go out anywhere.
Baraat: The groom arrives at the venue in a wedding procession 'baraat' consisting of friends and relatives. Musicians strike traditional notes and the groom and bride's brother share a drink of sherbet. Pranks are played by the bride's sisters and they playfully slap the guests with batons made of flowers.
The Kashmiri Muslim wedding can take place either in a convenient venue or at the residence of the bride or groom. It is conducted by the 'Maulvi'. Close friends and relatives are invited. The fathers of the bride and the groom play prominent role in Kashmiri Nikaah.
In orthodox Muslim communities the men and the women are seated separately in Zenana for women and Mardaana for men. The maulvi reads certain verses from the Holy Quran. Thereafter 'liab-e-Qubul', that is proposal and acceptance takes place. For the legality of the marriage, the mutual consent becomes essential and important in Nikaah.
On the wedding day, the elderly members of both families decide on the amount of 'Mehar' nuptial gift - a mandatory price that the groom's family must pay the bride. The couple seeks blessings from elders.
Nikaahnama: The legal document is signed by the bride and the groom, Maulvi and Walis for the marriage to become legalized. It contains a set of terms and conditions that must be accepted by both the parties.
The wedding dinner is a lavish spread. Usually women and men dine separately. The newlyweds sit beside each other for the first time and their heads are covered with dupatta while they read prayers under the direction of the Maulvi. The Quran is placed between the couple and view each other only through mirrors.
The Ruksat is when the bride's family bid her a tearful adieu before she can depart to her groom's home. The father of the bride gives her hand to her husband and requests him to protect his loving daughter. The bride is now welcomed in the in-laws family with the groom's mother holding the holy Quran above the head of the newlywed daughter in law as she enters the new home for the first time.
The Chauthi is the fourth day after the wedding and it is customary for the bride to visit her parents' home. Valimah is the lavish reception that the groom's family hosts after the wedding. Here the relatives and friends of both the families' gather.
Kashmiri Hindu and Muslim wedding recipes:
During the Kashmiri Muslim wedding, the food served is the same as the 'Vazvan' food and it consists of Kashmiri biriyani, halwa and kulfi among other specialties. As many as twenty to twenty five dishes are prepared and served for the guests. These include seven basic vegetarian preparations and delicacies like kangach which is a rare and expensive dish; marchwangan pokare; madur pulao which is a sweet rice prepared on special occasions and shufta which is made of paneer, fried with nuts and sweetened with sugar.
Some of the special dishes prepared for the Kashmiri Hindu wedding are:
Dum aalu, a delicious preparation made from potatoes and cooked with spices; Nadrooyakhni is a delicacy prepared from lotus plant cut across its width into pieces and cooked in milk and curd; Chock wangun comprises of brinjals cooked with spices to give a delicious bitter sweet taste; Vyath chaman is made of cottage cheese or paneer cut into large pieces and cooked with spices; Nich chaman is another paneer preparation where paneer is fried in turmeric and curd to give it a distinct yellow color; Nadroo hakh is a dish made of lotus stem cut in particular diagonal shape along with Kashmiri saag or collard greens; Mujchatni is made of white radish grated and mixed with green chillies and curd.