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 Sri Nagar, 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 Sri Nagar 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. J
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. Sri Nagar 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.