Kashmiri Weddings are full of joyful and traditional ceremonies. First step towards a Kashmiri wedding is the matching of the horoscopes or teknis of the prospective bride and groom. Emphasis is also laid into matching the background, status and the reputation of the family of the prospective match. Once the alliance is finalized, the bride's parents propose the wedding date. When the groom's parents also give their consent, the purohit fixes the wedding date. The wedding can take place in the morning or in the night.
Several interesting and colorful ceremonies are observed as a part of the pre-wedding rituals in a traditional Kashmiri wedding.
- Vanna or Formal Engagement :Vanna or a formal commitment ceremony takes place once the two families agree to the alliance. The vanna ceremony takes place in front of an idol. Following the tradition, the elderly persons of both sides meet in temple and exchange flowers as a sign of celebration of the formalization of the alliance. The girls' family lays out a meal comprising of traditional Kashmiri food. Besides, in the respective houses of the bride and the groom, the eldest aunt (of the boy and the girl) prepares var (a special rice pudding) which is distributed among the neighbors and relatives. The girl's family sends cash, dry fruits and a pot containing nabad (misri) to the boy's house.
- Livun : Livun is 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. 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.
- Wanwun : Few days before the wedding, 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 and make them lively and fun-filled.
- Maanziraat: 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. Later, in the evening, the bride follows an elaborate bathing ritual. After the bath, her eldest aunt decorates her hands and feet with maanz or henna. The women invited for this occasion are served a delicious Kashmiri meal prepared by the waza. This is followed by a lively wanvun or music session.
- Bariyan : Usually around two to three weeks before the wedding, flat lentil cakes or bariyan are made to flag off the wedding preparations in the houses of both the bride and the groom.
- Sending of Thaals: This ceremony takes place two to three days before the wedding. Bride's family sends out 51 thaals to the groom's family. The thaals are large plates of sweets, fresh and dry fruit, khajur, ghee, sugar and gota (special mixture made only during Kashmiri weddings).
- Phoolon ka Gehna : Around two days before the wedding, groom's family sends flower jewelry and tinsel to the bride. The girl adorns this jewellery as a symbol of her first shringar.
- Mehendi : Mehendi generally takes place one or two days before the wedding. First there is a puja. Then the girl's hands (palms and fingers) and feet are adorned with mehendi (henna) patterns. In the groom's house, a little mehendi is applied on his hands as a shagun.
- Diugun : Diugun takes place on the morning of the wedding day separately in the houses of the bride and the groom. The elders in the respective families apply a paste of curd, gram flour (besan) and saffron to the bride and groom's heads. Then the bride and the groom take a bath (separately in their own houses). This is followed by a pooja. After this puja, the bride, the groom and their parents observe a fast till the wedding is over. The parents of the bride give her jewelry, clothes, household items, etc. An essential item of the jewelry is the dijaru, an ear ornament, which is the sign of a married Kashmiri woman
- Sanzvaru : The boy's family sends sanzvaru for the bride. This essentially consists of cosmetics, a small mirror, sindoor, a pamur or a shawl and also special paan or betel leaf encased in silver and gold warq or foil. The bride dresses for the wedding using these cosmetics.
- Devgon : The devgon is a ceremony that marks the transition of the bride and the groom from brahmacharya ashram to grihastha ashram. The ceremony is observed separately by the girl's family and the boy's family in their respective homes. The bride and the groom worship God Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The parents of the bride and the groom perform a havan in their respective houses. In the case of the bride, first there is the kansihran ceremony. Young girls hold a veil over the bride's head and relatives shower a mixture of water, rice, milk, curd and flowers. The maternal uncle of the bride gifts her a new set of clothes. The boy is also given a kansihran.
- Dressing of the Bride and the Groom : 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.
- Welcoming the Marriage Procession : Relatives of the bride greet the procession warmly as it arrives to the wedding venue. The fathers of the bride and the groom exchange jaiphal or nutmeg symbolizing the solemnization of the relationship with a promise of a life-long friendship. The groom and bride escorted by her maternal uncle stand on the vyog that has been specially created for the occasion. 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.
Just an in other Hindu marriages, in Kashmiri marriages too 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 an interesting 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 or 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 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. This is followed by a vidai ceremony.
Given below is the short description of the traditional post-wedding rituals of a Kashmiri Wedding.
- Welcoming the Newly-Weds : The groom's eldest aunt refuses the newly-weds entry into their home until she is given cash or jewelry. 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.
- Satraat : Accompanied by her husband and a couple of children from the husband's family, the bride goes to her parents' house. The parents of the bride give the bride a set of new clothes and some salt and cash. The groom is also presented with new clothes including a dusa - a six-yard pashmina shawl.
- Phirlath : 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 family sends roth khabar to the groom's family. Roth is a one metre long and two and a half metres wide cake which is descorated with nuts. Usually an odd number of these cakes is sent. The bride then goes to her parents' house, accompanied by the person who brought the roth khabar. Then the groom's family sends someone to fetch the bride.