My grandfather Tarachand Tikoo married my grandmother Tara in 1900, with pomp and ritual lasting over a month. Relatives, close and distant, came to stay in the house two months in advance. The women got busy cleaning enormous quantities of grain, pounding paddy and grinding chillies and other condiments with grinding stones and hand pounders. A month before the function, the house was ritualistically cleaned, a ‘yagna’ (homam) was performed and the whole house was replastered with fresh clay and cow dung. After this ‘Livun’, the family could start visiting people to invite them for the wedding. The whole exercise was actually a series of feasts. The first visit was to the maternal grandparents, parents and the uncles; as the paternal side was supposed to be conducting the function. Everywhere they went, they were served a big feast and came back loaded with gifts and money (Dhapan Bhat).[ad name=”HTML-1″]
Next was the ‘Krur Kharu’, 15 days before the marriage, a function to avert the evil eye and welcome the gods and the benign forces of nature to reside in the house. To the ritualistic singing of ‘Hainjee’ by older women, the younger ones decorated the main doorway of the house and painted auspicious signs and motifs, flowers, leaves, the sun, moon and the sacred Sanskrit letter Om on the outer walls and tied auspicious leaves to the gate. Big ‘rangolis’ were drawn outside the main gate and in the compound. A kind of ‘khichdi’ of rice and walnut was cooked in huge pots and distributed to relatives and the entire neighbourhood. This was a signal that the public festivities had begun and everyone should take part. Every night, a ‘ladies sangeet’ was held after dinner from eight till midnight. Men were barred, but anyway they managed to peep through the grills.
Women acted in a very free and liberated manner. They dressed like men, made fun of their male relatives and sang satirical songs. There also sang love songs and Bhajans. For them, it was like a catharsis in the otherwise restrictive society. On two nights, professional singers were invited. Tea and snacks were served continuously to the audience by the daughters-in-laws, who went around with large samovars. Thenceforth, Tara could not leave the house. She had to be protected from the evil eye and from any chance mishap. Ritual anointing of her body (ubatana) daily with sandalwood paste, saffron, turmeric, milk, fragrant oils started. Special attention was paid to the feet. A bride’s feet had to be as beautiful as her face. Chaffed or cracked feet (common in Kashmir due to the cold climate) just would not do.[ad name=”HTML-1″]
Three days before the marriage was the great feast of ‘Mehndi Rat’ for all relatives, friends and neighbours. Since women did not form part of the marriage party, the ‘Mehndi Rat’ feast was very important for them. After the feast, Tara’s aunt (father’s sister) applied mehndi or henna first to her feet and then to her hands. In turn, she received gifts from the family. Then she distributed mehndi to the guests, each of whom gave her a small gift in cash. By the end, she was a rich woman. That day, the ladies sangeet lasted the whole night and was the happiest part of the marriage.[ad name=”HTML-1″]
A day before the marriage was the ‘Devgoan’ ceremony – a ritualistic bath for the bride, followed by a purifying and sanctifying ‘yagna’. It included sanctifying the jewels and vessels being given to the bride. All these articles were worshipped and the family priest invoked the gods to bless the young bride and her dowry. As is the general custom in Kashmir, the marriage (lagan) was performed in the night and in the morning the five-year-old bride was carried to the waiting palanquin by her maternal uncle to be taken to her husband’s house. She wore an Arabian style head-to-toe ‘burka’. Islamic influence could also be seen from the fact that Kashmiri Hindu upper caste women observed ‘pardah’ (the veil) and wore a ‘burka’ similar to that worn by the Muslim upper class women. The bride returned the same day and continued to stay in her parental home till she attained puberty.[ad name=”HTML-3″][ad name=”HTML-3″][ad name=”HTML-3″]