Kashmiri wedding just like any other wedding ceremony is full of fun & emotions. It is a blessed occasion where family, friends and food comes together. Kashmiri weddings are unique. They are enjoyable. They are memorable. Most importantly, kashmiri weddings are known for bringing about distant relatives and old friends together. It is a time when old grievances are forgiven and all malice kept aside.
A mix of traditional Indian, Persian, Arab and Pakistani ceremonies make Kashmir weddings a mixed experience. The biggest part of the kashmiri wedding ceremony is the wedding feast. With mystic festivities, colorful attires, folk songs and wazwan, here I am going to narrate to you what a kashmiri wedding is like.
A traditional Kashmiri wedding showcases different ceremonies and rituals taken from the Muslim as well as the sub-continental culture. Every ceremony that’s a part of the greater wedding blends seamlessly with the other ceremonies making it a magnificent experience.
Something is important to mention though, the Kashmiri culture is derived enormously from the Persian and the Central Asian mannerism. That’s because a large population of Kashmiris are migrants from the Central Asian belt. They came to Kashmir with the advent of Islam and brought with them various arts and crafts such as pashmina, paper mache, carpet weaving etc. That is when and why Kashmir flourished became a world renowned valley despite being seated deep among the Himalayas.
Coming back to the topic of the majestic kashmiri wedding, let me get started by talking about its ceremonies.
The Kashmiri Wedding Traditions
A Kashmiri wedding is not too different from any other Muslim wedding. The essential activities which deem a couple to be ‘husband and wife’ go by Muslim ethics. The couple should be of two separate genders, must have a judge or a contract writer in front of them. There should be a couple of witnesses present and importantly, the girl and boy must accept each other as their partner. Something important that occurs alongside is the payment of mahr or dowry.
The Mehendi – Applying the Henna
The mehndi ceremony is the most exciting and energetic ceremony among all the ceremonies. It is filled with non-stop folk music, folk dance performances and folk singing. Believe me when I say that it is the most exciting thing, it really is.
People are at their best during this ceremony and the fun and excitement is all the rage. It is the same whether on the groom’s side or the bride’s side. This is the last day which a girl/boy spends with her/his first family before they are a part of an extended family and begin a new chapter in their life.
Some girls of the groom’s family such as the sisters, cousins, sisters-in-law and friends go to the bride’s place with henna/mehndi for the bride which is applied to her one by one by every girl, although now a days boys are also seen to be a part of this ceremony. The henna signifies the in-laws wishing good health, happiness and prosperity to the bride as she starts her new journey in life.
The guests are in turn given gifts packs containing items like silver jewelry, personal care products, sweets and dry fruits. This ceremony usually has a close knitted guest list and only involves close family and friends.
The Baraat – Groom Gets the Bride Home
This is the day where the actual marriage ceremony takes place and the girl leaves for her in-laws house. The Nikkah traditionally takes place in a Waqalatan Style where the ceremony first begins at the groom’s house. An Imam/Judge and some witnesses carry out the Nikkah ceremony. The groom is first asked about his consent in marrying the bride in a formal setting. Once the groom gives his consent, the delegation goes to the bride’s place to seek her consent as well.
Once an agreement is reached, all the details such as the mahr/dowry etc are registered on the Nikkah Nama/Marriage Contract which is then signed by the copule, the imam, the witnesses and the guarantors.
On the other hand in the Asalatan Style the girl and the boy are married in front of each other with a veil in front of them, this method is popular everywhere else in the Muslim world outside Kashmir.
After the nikah is done, a delegation from the groom’s side go to the bride’s place to bring her to her new home. The delegation is treated with traditional packets of dry fruits, wazwan, and some desserts. Actually, if you talk to anyone about a Kashmiri wedding, they will start speaking about the kashmiri wedding food. Kashmiri wedding traditions are full of food. Kashmiris just love their food.
All male family members and friends of the groom accompany him to bring his better half home. The arrival is welcomed with traditional songs, flower petals, flowers and beaded garlands, and in some cases, lots of fireworks.
Then the most emotional and heart breaking moment of a girl’s life comes when she has to bid farewell to some important relations and bring an end to an entire era of her life, but crying is not just limited to the bride. A dent in the pocket in the name of Kadal Taar/ Passing a Bridge bring tears in the eyes of the groom. It is a small mischievous tradition where the groom’s friends stop the procession on a bridge and ask for money in exchange for letting the couple go home.
The bride after reaching her new home home is given a great welcome. Her mother in law unveils her (Mohor Tulin) in front of the family and gives her a gift. The veil is usually made up of pashmina, and the attire of the bride is a perfect kashmiri wedding dress. So in the end lots of flowers, singing, food, emotions, pockets dents bring an end to this day.
Saying this, there are many people who do not wish to celebrate their weddings in a fancy big way. They keep it rather austere. The money saved is given to an orphanage or is used in some other humane concern. This is done as the Prophet Muhammad had said, “The best Nikah is with the least expenses”.
The Walima – The Wedding Feast
This ceremony is equivalent to the reception party held in other wedding cultures. It a huge reception party hosted by the groom’s family where everybody related to or friends with the groom’s family is invited. Held during the day, after some light refreshments such as Kahwa, traditional wazwan is served followed by a delicious dessert.
Some Other Ceremonies of a Kashmiri Wedding Include
- Malmaenz – Small get together involving only close friends and family.
- Aab Sherun/Mas Sherun – Aab Sherun is done by the bride where her hair is braided and decorated whereas Mas Sherun is done by the Groom where he is groomed for the baraat ceremony.
- Phirsaal – Party for the Groom’s family some days after the walima hosted by the bride’s family.
- Satium Doh – Party at the groom’s family 7 days after the marriage and the first time the bride goes to back to her parent’s home to live for a day or two.
The Kashmiri Wedding Food
The food includes a full course meal with 36 mouth-watering and delicious food items ready to leave you wanting for more. Even after eating the whole thing, the impact remains in your mouth for a long time and the taste remains forever. People living in Kashmir are avid meat-eaters and the Wazwaan is reason for that, the flavor of every item on the Trami (platter) is induced in our veins and the Kashmiri people would eat nothing else for the rest of our lives if given the choice.
The Trami is served with heavenly dishes like seekh kabab, chicken, tabak-maaz, and shami-kabab etc. and after every 5 mins the waza (server) brings in rest of the items starting from rista (red meatballs), rogan josh, martsewangun korma, paneer, some veggies like spinach and mushrooms, more meaty flavors like daniwal korma, doodh ras and many more finally ending with the all-time favorite yakhni and goshtaba (white meatball).
The wazwan is served throughout the wedding during every ceremony and on a funnier note the success or a failure of a party is usually judged by the guests by how good the wazwan was.
The Music – Folk Songs Galore
Music is another important aspect of the wedding without which the wedding cannot be a success. There is music for every occasion with every range and tempo, there are nasheeds, wanwun and dance songs and even mashups of Hindi and Kashmiri mix songs.
The mehndi ceremony showcases the most variety of music in the whole wedding, it starts with the mellow wanwun (slow songs) and escalates into the funky gyawun (popular wedding songs), popular Kashmir singers like Reshma Rashid and Frankie Kashmiri specialize in this genre and are joined with the ladies of the house with dumbeks, tambourines and matkas into making the night into a musical gem.
The baraat is received by the slow and rhythmic wanwun and even leaves being serenaded by the same, the music sets the emotional mood and makes the moment more sensitive and passionate.
Kashmiri Wedding Dress
The traditional Kashmiri wedding dress has inspiration from the Central Asian couture when it comes to bridal wear and ethnic pathan style designing for the groom. Conventionally seen in a red suit, but more recently the brides have experimented a lot with colors and gone for all kinds of shades like pink, green, purple, blue and even golden.
The Kashmiri wedding jewelry and make up in the past used to be pretty but heavy making the bride look nothing less like the queen she deserves to be. However, in recent times, brides have broken the traditional wedding look and gone for make-up suiting their age and face and made subtle jewelry pieces that look in accordance with the dress, the makeup and the ceremonies and not look like she is wearing daddy’s bank balance.
The Kashmiri wedding dress for the groom has also evolved over the years, the traditional white sherwani with a white turban has been jazzed up with a lot more colors and designs with men becoming more exposed to the trending fashions and suitable styles and hence experimenting much more with the attire. Instead of simply blending in with the traditional style, Grooms today take the job much more seriously and make sure they fit into the role and play the part convincingly. The styling and the grooming starts much earlier in the gym and the salons and ends with the perfect picture in the album.
The Set up of a Kashmiri Wedding
The wedding is mostly outdoors with tents and gazebos built for guests to sit in and eat as the Trami system requires for people to be seated on the floor. The gazebos are usually made in case there are any buffet arrangements. The tent has a small beautifully decorated stage for the bride and the groom to sit in during functions and has all the arrangement required to go in accordance with the weather.
Over to You
A Kashmiri wedding is much more than described above. If I wrote about all of it then I guess this whole website will be dedicated to that. It’s a celebrations of not just of the union of two souls but the union of two families and two generations who promise each other to have and to hold from this day forward, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse till death does them apart, and in the process people are dancing, eating, gossiping, fighting, mending lost bonds but more importantly they are happy and united. And this is all you need to know about a traditional Kashmiri wedding in my estimation.