A traditional Kashmiri Pandit wedding is as beautiful as Kashmir itself is, which is known as paradise on earth in India. Kashmir is undoubtedly the most beautiful location to visit, with breathtaking valleys, snow-clad Himalayan peaks, floral meadows, Kashmir is a quintessential romantic spot. Not just that, Kashmir’s culture and tradition are equally rich and stunning, which can be witnessed by Kashmiri Pandit weddings. They are simple, intimate, loving, and full of unique and fun-filled rituals. A Kashmiri Pandit wedding may go on for many days with a varied number of rituals starting from pre-wedding to the main wedding and the post-wedding rituals. Attending a Kashmiri wedding up close would be an opportunity for grabs!
So, here’s a guide to the traditional rituals seen at a Kashmiri Pandit wedding ceremony in India.
Kasamdry or Vanna Ceremony - Kashmiri Pandit wedding celebrations begin with the formal engagement ceremony called Kasamdry or Vanna Ceremony. Traditionally, the priest consults a date according to the Kashmiri calendar for the two families to meet. Families of both the bride and groom meet at a temple and offer pooja together. The elders exchange good wishes and flowers to welcome each other into their families and also to mark the official beginning of the celebrations. The bride’s family treats the invitees with a traditional vegetarian meal.
51 Thaal - In the days following Kasamdry, the bride’s family sends a total of 51 platters aka thaals consisting of fruits, dry fruits, sweets, and other food items to the groom’s house.
Livun and the Krool Khanun Ritual - Livun ritual is the ceremonial cleansing of the house in both the bride and groom's families. On this day, the houses are cleaned thoroughly. Gifts are distributed among friends and family as a token of appreciation. Later, both the houses are decked up with loads of fresh flowers, which is known as the Krool Khanun ritual. The whole floral arrangement gives the house a colorful and truly festive feel. Also, on this day, the family cook known as waza and sets up a brick and mud oven known as wuvi in the backyard of the house. All the meals for the upcoming wedding ceremonies are to be prepared at wuvi.
Wanvun - Following the Livun ritual, every evening music sessions known as Wanvun are held leading up to the day before the wedding ceremony. Guests arrive at both the bride and groom’s respective houses and stir up great revelry through traditional Kashmiri folk songs, wedding ballads, and dance every evening.
Maenzirat - This is a ceremonial bath ritual where the maternal uncle (mama) and his wife (mami) of the bride wash her feet. The bride then takes her ceremonial bath, after which she gets a beautiful and intricate mehendi or henna paste applied onto her hands and feet. Other members of the family and guests also apply henna designs. This is followed by a sumptuous meal prepared by the waza.
Phoolon ka Gehna and Snazaroo - In the phoolon ka gehna ritual, the groom’s family sends the bride beautiful jewelry made of fresh flowers, which she is to wear on the morning of the wedding. Other gifts items too are sent along with it including bridal cosmetics, make-up kits, mirror, betel leaf covered in gold, or silver foil. This ritual is known as snazaroo.
Divagone - Unique to the Kashmiri pandit wedding, Divagone marks the transition of the bride and groom from singles to man and wife. The bride and the groom offer prayers to God Shiva and his consort Goddess Parvati separately at their respective homes. All close relatives of the couple observe fast on this day. The purohit or the priest conducts the ceremony in front of the sacred fire. All the gifts for the bride including her jewelry are placed in front of the fire.
Kanisharan - This ritual is similar to the haldi ritual in other Indian weddings. The only difference is that instead of haldi (turmeric) paste a mixture of water, milk, rice, and curd is used. This ritual follows immediately after the Divagone ceremony and the bride and groom take a bath with the mixture. Later, both the bride and groom change into new clothes.s
Duribat - On the same day, the Duribat ceremony is held in which the maternal relatives of the bride and groom are invited to lunch at their respective houses. The relatives are supposed to bring presents for the groom’s parents. Traditionally, the guests are served a drink of milk, followed by Kahwa. The lunch consists of traditional vegetarian delicacies.
Ceremony at the groom’s house and his departure for the wedding - The groom’s paternal uncle helps the groom in tying the gordastar (turban). As the groom is getting ready, a female member of the family touches a plate of rice and some money to the groom’s right shoulder. The groom mounts a caparisoned mare and along with his entourage known as baraat he heads towards the bride’s place or the wedding venue. The groom may even travel by car in instances when the distance is far.
The arrival of the baraat and welcome of the groom - On arrival, the groom is given a grand welcome at the bride’s house. The fathers of the bride and groom exchange nutmeg which symbolizes the acceptance of this relationship and hope that it lasts long. Conch shells are blown to announce the groom’s arrival and his stepping into the house or the wedding venue.
Lagan - Lagan is the Kasmiri wedding ceremony. It follows all the normal Vedic rituals and includes Saat Pheras which is known as Lagan in Kashmiri marriages. The priest performs a Mandap Puja followed by the Dwar Puja before ushering in the groom to his seat. Later, the bride enters the wedding mandap carried by her maternal uncles. Until then the bride and groom can’t see each other as their heads are covered. A single large mirror is placed under the veils and the couple can see each other in the reflection.
Now the father places the bride’s hands over the groom’s hands signifying him giving away his daughter to the groom, who in turn obliges and accepts this responsibility. A special cloth named Athwas covers their hands. A golden thread called Mananmal is tied to their foreheads. The sacred Fire or Agni is ignited and the couple takes Saat pheras or seven circles around the fire. After the end of the ceremony, a vegetarian dinner with rice is served. The bride and the groom are supposed to eat from the same plate.
Posh Puza - Immediately after comes the Posh Puza where the bride and groom are made to sit comfortably and red cloth is placed over their heads. Families and friends gather around the couple and offer flowers or posh on them while the priest recites the Vedic mantras. It's the worship of the couple, who are representatives of Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati, with flowers hence the name Posh Puza.
Vidaai - Now comes the most emotional moment for the bride and her family members, the moment of truth, and in this case the bride’s farewell. Before departure, the newly wedded couple are made to stand on a wooden pedestal known as Vyoog. The eldest female member of the family offers them nabad (Misri in Hindi or sugar lumps) or rice thrice and kisses them on the forehead. Then the bride throws a handful of raw rice over her shoulders towards the direction of her parents home praying that the home may prosper forever. She is also supposed to carry some more rice to be scattered over the doorstep of her husband’s home in the next following ritual.
Welcoming of the bride - The bride is given a warm welcome at her in-laws house. The couple must stand on a specially made vyoog and the groom’s eldest aunt feeds them nabad. The mananmal that was tied on their foreheads during the wedding ceremony are exchanged. Two pigeons are set free in the air in honor of the newlywed couple.
Saatraat and Phirlath - The saatraat ceremony takes place when the newlywed couple visit the bride's parents accompanied by one or more kids (probably those of her sister-in-law). The parents of the bride present the couple a new set of clothes to mark the occasion. The bride is also given some salt and cash as custom. The bride and groom change to their new clothes before returning to the groom's house.
Phirlath is again a similar event as Sastraat where the couple visit the bride’s parents house for the second time. Once again, they are given new clothes for the ritual.
Roth Khabar - On a Saturday or Tuesday after the wedding, the bride's parents send a huge traditional cake (called a roth) decorated with nuts to their daughter’s new family. The bride also receives salt as shagun. The bride then goes back to her maternal house along with the person who had brought the cake.
Gar Atchun - Ghar Atchun is a formal reception function hosted by the bride’s family. The bride’s family prepares a lavish spread of non-vegetarian dishes to the guests. After the grand meal, the bride returns back to her new home. This reception concludes all the wedding celebrations.
Kashmiri bridal outfits are colorful, glamorous, and unique. Traditionally, the bride wears a glamorous attire called Pheran, which is similar to a salwar kameez with the addition of a veil. Kashmiri brides mostly prefer popular colors such as red, maroon, and shades of rust or orange. The salwar kameez is heavily embellished with intricate zari thread work of gold and silver combined with traditional Kashmiri thread work. The bride wears an elaborate headgear known as Tarang. It consists of a Kalpush (a long starched and ironed cloth), which is wrapped at the level of the forehead three or four times. A white scarf called zoojh is wrapped over the Kalpush which covers half of the head from behind. A white glace paper is stitched on top of the zoojh. A matching dupatta with salwar kameez is worn over the Tarang to complete the bridal look.
The bride wears a lot of jewelry as well. Heavy necklaces along with ornamental bangles and anklets are used to enhance the bridal look. A typical special ornament known as Dejhoor is worn by the Kashmiri bride. It is a pair of gold pendants adorned with precious stones connected to a gold chain that is strung through the ear piercing. Dejhoor is equivalent to a Mangalsutra in other Hindu cultures. The bride also wears an elaborate waistband called haligandun around her waist.
Kashmiri grooms wear a different variant of pheran, which are long-sleeved kurta-like attire. The Pheran is tied at the waist with a waistband made of pashmina that is embroidered with golden threads called zarbaf. He wears a turban called Gordastar usually tied by one of the male relatives. His shoes are a typical shoe of the region called Paazar. He also wears a special necklace made of gold, pearls, or precious stones around his neck. The final look is of course regal and elegant.