Part 1 - Story of a Kashmiri Wedding - An Affair to Remember
Having attended 3 kashmiri weddings (including my own) in a short span of 4 years and all set in the vibrant city of Jammu, puts me in a fairly comfortable position to write a detailed account of this very complex yet highly co-ordinated event in every Kashmiri Pandit’s life. May God be with you if you happen to be the bride’s father! Now, I am back after attending my brother-in-law’s wedding, all I can do is to start burning the extra fat I must have accumulated by gorging on the dum aloos, chaaman (paneer for the uninitiated), rajma, nadru….. Now you know what I am gonna write about but hold on….it is not about only food…let’s talk!!!
So as it begins with every Indian wedding, exchange of horoscopes (which are known as ‘teknis’ in kashmiri dialect) happens and then the kundalis are calibrated if the girl and boy are a good match. Generally, 18 gunas need to be matched to declare that the kundlis are matching. There are total 36 gunas which are which are calibrated for the match. Even matching of all 36 gunas is not considered good. The same was the case for Ram and Sita from the magnum opus ‘Ramayana’ and almost everybody in India (I am not too sure about Justin Bieber and Hannah Montana fans) knows the fate of this protagonist couple of the Ramayana.
Every event related to wedding has to be done on an auspicious day which beacons the smoothness and seamlessness of all the processes in the future. This particular day amongst the KPs is known as ‘saath’. It has its own significance and will be repetitive in my elaboration of different events of the wedding. The other repetitive term is ‘vaar’ but let us discuss it specifically as it is a common human trait. In Kashmir, or specifically in Srinagar, the elders used to find a ‘saath’ so that all the family members (of course along with the boy and girl) can meet and decide upon the future proceedings. The meetings in Srinagar generally took place in the gardens near the revered shrine of the Kheer Bhawani Temple. I heard that people used to carry tiffins in hot cases and used to make merry at the venue.
Being in Pune, our own couple, Amit (the docile and good looking Bhat and my brother in law) and Meenu (his beautiful and universal friendly wife and the eldest daughter of the Rainas) decided to meet at the Pune’s version of Kheer Bhawani, The Chatushrungi Temple. I was not surprised when I heard that. The talks went well and Amit and my in laws quest for the best girl ended. And here again, I was not surprised.
Boy (and his family) liking the girl (and her family) and vice versa initiates the preparation of the wedding. In my view, Kashmiri wedding is one of the complex weddings I have ever came across. Rather, it is the most complex wedding ceremony. Kashmiri Pandits (at least the generation which is enthusiastically undertaking the responsibility of this ceremony for their kids in late 20’s) don’t believe in outsourcing. They take responsibility of even minute commodities like spices (uh…ohhh…some eyebrows almost touched the scalp hair…did I use the word minute for spices?....Thousand apologies!)
The origin of this trait probably lies here. Most of the KPs have been owners of large farms across Kashmir and preferred to stay near farms. Srinagar could officially be regarded as the city of office goers otherwise not. There was no concept like nuclear families and almost everywhere were joint families in the hinterland of Kashmir. So there were many brains to think and many hands to work. Neighbours were always at disposal for any kind of work and when it came to a wedding, they used to work as if it was the event in their own home. Families of KPs stayed in multi-storied buildings and almost every home had a huge open space in front of the home and fenced. What an ideal arrangement for wedding!
The elders in the home took responsibility of almost everything. The toughest in my view is the purchase and procurement of vegetables. I am sure that McDonald’s or other fast food chain restaurants employees can get a crash course in procurement of vegetables if asked to be the part of the preparations of the wedding. For example, for preparation of dum aloo (which is the king of the ‘saal’), you need to have potatoes of specific variety and of specific size. If dum aloo goes wrong in the wedding then your ‘izzat’ is lost forever (No matter how many ‘firsaals’ you may come up with). Every member of the family had something to do and something to answer for. This trait is still intact in the elder KPs though I see a bleak future for it.
‘Poshpilnavan’ officially marks the beginning of the wedding festivities in both the houses. Poshpilnavan can be roughly translated as the exchange of flowers in a temple by the families of the groom and the bride. I have witnessed a single Poshpilnavan ceremony which was kinda modified as per the circumstances. It happened in the Ganesh Temple of my colony. My parents and relatives were clueless as they were facing it for the first time. My in laws must be heavy hearted as the place where Poshpilnavan took place was not Jammu and probably on account of the counterparty being absolutely clueless of such an important ceremony. J All I can recount was a hearty exchange of two bouquets of gerberas and sweets. My KP friends need not necessary relate their Poshpilnavan with the narrated one. In fact, Poshpilnavan is an event of jubilation. Food is an integral part of the jubilation.
We couldn’t participate in the Poshpilnavan ceremony for Amit and Meenu. So no details on the original kashmiri ceremony. Guess I need to wait for another wedding to happen!
Poshpilnavan is considered to be as good as an engagement. The concept of engagement ceremony though is catching strong grounds after most of the KPs have left the valley. Haven’t heard many though talking about engagement as enthusiastically as Poshpilnavan. J Amit and Meenu though were determined to make it happen. And…well it actually happened on the day of wedding itself. But it happened. The rose trick at the engagement ceremony was interesting though myself and Arvind had arranged for the resources. I will talk in detail about it later.
After Poshpilnavan, people in both the houses get extremely busy. Booking of the wedding hall, shopping for the clothes and gold, making arrangements for the guests and the toughest challenge – food. ‘Saath’ has to be taken for every act mentioned above. You need to make it sure that you don’t start the process on a wrong foot and yes, this is applicable to the close relatives also. I’ll discuss in detail regarding the proceedings in second part.
|Part 2 -Story of a Kashmiri Wedding : An Affair to Remember
Gold, the yellow metal has always been a matter of obsession, possession and frustration for the mankind, especially for the fairer sex. Kashmiri female folks are no exception for this and rather most of them can actually represent an organization smitten with gold. ‘Dyej hur’ is the most important and an interesting ornament worn by married kashmiri pandit women. It is KP answer to ‘mangalsutra’ for the rest of India. So the tradition of wearing Dyej Hur was supposedly started by the Kashmiri Saint, Lalleshwari or popularly known as Lal Ded. It still gives me jitters to see women wearing such a heavy ornament dangling from the ears. The provision for it is generally made in the childhood and well, must have to be done with local anaesthesia. It takes a considerable skill and long time for the women folk on the wedding day to make the bride wear her dyej hur. It must be painful for the bride too. Or is it just a small gesture to signify…welcome girl, welcome to the new world of pain and responsibilities! Whatever!
My sincere advice to the father of an unmarried kashmiri girl – You must start accumulating gold as soon as a daughter is born to you if this crazy obsession with gold is not to see any waning in future. Such an undeterring consciousness amongst the elderly women about what and how much gold the bride is wearing!
Let us come to the main event now. A few days before the wedding the ‘saath’ has to be taken to prepare the mehandi for the maenzraat (Mehandi Raat). This is generally a responsibility of Paternal Aunt of the bride and groom. So she prepares the mehandi for the maenzraat on the day of saath with the womenfolk of the house singing the songs in appreciation of the Ganesh, the god of all auspicious events. The recurrent ‘Om Shree Ganeshay Namah’ sounds like ‘Omshrew Ganeshayen Maha’ after repetitive hearings. The aunt gets handsomely paid for this job though.
Amit’s aunt, Shanno who is probably one of the most enthusiastic persons I have ever come across takes utmost pleasure in these proceedings. And yes, nobody is match for her when it comes to dancing on any kashmiri song. So actually Anita (my better half) and Shanno managed to dance for a while on the tune of Omshrew Ganeshayen Maha! J
Co-operation of womenfolk in relatives and neighbours (and strictly in this order otherwise most of the relatives will be holding grudge which is generally known as ‘vaar’ in Kashmiri) is of prime importance. They play an important role in tasks like cleaning of rice and vegetables. They keep on singing traditional songs while doing the tasks. It all adds to the vibrancy of the atmosphere and beacons that the wedding is approaching.
A ‘Satsang’ was arranged on the evening a day before the shifting. It overlapped with Meenu’s mehandi raat. So me and Anita made a brief appearance for the Mehandi Raat before travelling back to attend the …hold your breath.. (me and..??) Satsang! Before I go ahead, kudos to your ‘Waza’, Raina Camp, the food was fabulous…loved every bite of every item prepared. Initially, I had my reservations for attending the satsang but I attended it and tried my hand at ‘Tumbaknaer’, a typical kashmiri instrument, which was appreciated. For the curious people, please google ‘Tumbaknaer’.
Shifting of people and goods to the venue of wedding remains a challenging task. This emanates from the earlier luxury of availability of resources in Kashmir. Now in Jammu (or anywhere else) few have the privilege of having an open space within the fences of home to conduct a marriage. So it is imminent that you book the marriage hall right in advance. Generally, winter (say November and December) are the preferred months for weddings. Hence, the wedding halls are bound to be booked well in advance and if by luck (good or bad), any hall is available, the management will show all efficiency to loot the customer by charging stratospheric sums. In Jammu, the halls are generally called Resorts/Palaces or Banquet Halls but not just halls. J
Due to the wedding of Amit and Meenu planned in November, my father-in-law and his younger sibling had some sleepless nights over booking of the wedding hall. Some were asking rent of Rs.2 lakh per day and all we wanted was minimal stay of 5 days (Read as a cash outflow of Rs.10 lakh) So somehow good luck prevailed and out of nowhere, my in laws were able to book hall in Kashmiri Pandit Sabha (KPS) in Amphalla in central part of the city at a meager fee.
On Tuesday, 27th November, we started the shifting process in the morning. This is similar to establishing a new house. You carry almost everything with you rendering your house empty and thus, less vulnerable to theft. Three rooms were available with one main hall at the KPS. One was declared as the store room which can be entrusted with a very reliable person only. It is the holy grail for all your requirements during the wedding. The most reliable (as well as slightly unfortunate) souls selected for this task was my better half (actually a better 3/4th), Anita from the Bhats and Meenu’s younger sister (and Amit’s sis-in-law), Neha from the Rainas.
Rainas had camped at Unique Resorts in Barnai (Ahh..those wonderful memories of Barnai…Me in nuptial ties with Anita….at Durga Nag Trust, Barnai….4 years…hello, come back!) which is fairly near from their residence in Patouli. For the uninitiated, Barnai and Patouli are parts of Jammu on Akhnoor Road and the road lined with chilled water from Chinab in the canal (How good of me…I can become a driver of a matador bus in Jammu.. he he he…) On the other hand, Bhats had chosen (or were coerced with this fair option of) KPS which is 22km away from their residence in Jagati Mini Township, near Nagrota (on the way to Srinagar and Katra…yay…qualified as the guide of Jammu now…) But the advantage of being at KPS – it was situated in Amphalla in the central part and hence was accessible easily from everywhere. Guess I was the guy who made the most of it due to its proximity to Kachchi Chavani, Parade and Pucca Danga! (Ahh…Director of Tourism, now!)
In KPS, Amphalla, along with the main hall, we had three rooms to do everything from chatting to relaxing to sleeping to keeping our luggage to changing clothes. No..not three rooms..as I mentioned earlier, one was labeled as store room with restricted entry. Hence, 2 rooms were available, a fairly open space for tents (I don’t know what the thorny tree was doing there and why was it allowed to grow so big?) and a temple with arrangement for Yagna (or holy fire) for the sake of all the ceremonies. And…well no…nothing…that’s it…!
Being the only guy in the Bhat camp who knows four wheeler driving, I automatically got the responsibility of driving the brand new Wagon R vxi on the roads of Jammu. The Wagon R was recently bought by Amit’s uncle and gave me the much needed experience of driving on the roads of Jammu. The vehicle came very handy for all the mornings that we didn’t spend at Amphalla. Oh yes, skills are essential and necessary. We youngsters had the luxury of travelling all the way to Jagti to get ready and other folks fought a hard battle at KPS which I don’t want to describe.
Now the wedding feeling was sinking. The relatives had arrived and all of us were ready for maenzraat (known as Mehandi Raat elsewhere).
To be continued in next issue........
|*Amit Hiremath is an Investment Banking professional living in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
He is a Dreamer, Writer, Reader, Listener, Traveller, Believer, Music Lover, Himalaya Fan . Good Boy. "I still don't know my destination but i'm sure that i have started the journey. It is said that the luckiest is the one who reaches his/her destination. The journey has begun to find the destination...".
His interests are in Travel, Music, Food, Culture, People, Writting, Nature, Mountains, and Life
Copyrights © 2007 Shehjar online and KashmirGroup.com. Any content, including but not limited to text, software, music, sound, photographs, video, graphics or other material contained may not be modified, copied, reproduced, republished, uploaded, posted, or distributed in any form or context without written permission. Terms & Conditions.
The views expressed are solely the author's and not necessarily the views of Shehjar or its owners. Content and posts from such authors are provided "AS IS", with no warranties, and confer no rights. The material and information provided iare for general information only and should not, in any respect, be relied on as professional advice. Neither Shehjar.kashmirgroup.com nor kashmirgroup.com represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement, or other information displayed, uploaded, or distributed through the Service by any user, information provider or any other person or entity. You acknowledge that any reliance upon any such opinion, advice, statement, memorandum, or information shall be at your sole risk.
Archana, why JI? I feel like Aishwarya Rai's father-in-law. :) Thanks a lot for your lovely comments. Nothing beats tha nwashs appreciating zamturs! :):):)
Added By Amit Hiremath
Amit ji....while reading it I almost relived my whole wedding...well it extended for 10 days. For buying masala, we first chk for "stath"....and yes the art of driving is what makes you fav. Of the whole clan.....its always amazing to read about our culture but it's all the more exciting when it is written by a non Kashmiri ....hats off to you for your dedication for understanding your extended family......you are surely the fav. Zamtur
Added By Archana Dhar
Thanks a lot, Pavan!So glad that you liked the write up. It is indeed a function which should not be missed and I am actually pushing all the bachelors from my wife's side to get married ASAP so that I get to enjoy the wedding.:) Herath mubarak to you and your family! :)
Added By Amit Hiremath
I really enjoyed your writing about Kashmiri weddings. Waiting for the 2nd.
Added By Arun Koul
Really Interesting KP Wedding Rituals and most entertaining are the bracketed comments. Keep It up(don't keep us waiting too long for 2nd part).
Added By Vivek vastrad
Super!!! You should probably write a book! Made my day, waiting for the next issue, herath mubarak!!!
Added By Vibhuti Kaul
@Vibhuti, Thanks a lot, Vibhuti. Yes, certainly I will write a book. Writing is my passion and will pursue it. I am happy that it made your day. Though it is late, still, Heyrath Mubarak to you
Added By Amit Hiremath
@Vivek, thanks buddy,all you have to wait is till the date of next issue publishing probably in the first week of April @Koul Saab, the encouragement from readers like you make me go for an extra mile. Thank you! I trust you will love the second part even more! Herath Mubarak!
Added By Amit Hiremath
Interesting story and a good blend of live humour. I happen to stay in Pune and am nonspeaking kashmiri but we are still following certain rituals even if they may be distorted or modified with actual one. Waiting to read the second part.
Added By Pavan Raina