Saturday, March 14, 2015

KASHMIRI MEHNDIRAAT ...A SPECTACLE OF HENNA , SINGING AND DANCE


                                                                              
                                                                           


( Mehndi or Henna being offered to guests  during Mehndiraat function in a Kashmiri  Pandit family )
(Photo Autar Mota )

(KASHMIRI MEHNDIRAAT ...A SPECTACLE OF HENNA, SINGING AND DANCE)

Mehndiraat happens to be the most important function preceding the actual wedding in a Kashmiri marriage ceremony. Mehndiraat function of Pandits and Muslims of Kashmir has a profound similarity of sentiment that runs over and above the religious divide. It is a symbol of shared culture, tradition and mother tongue.

The function revolves around applying Henna ( Mehndi ) to palms and feet of the bride/bridegroom in presence of relations, friends, neighbours and other guests. A sumptuous dinner is followed by night-long singing, dancing and merriment in the bride/ bridegroom’s house. This singing in Vanvun and Chhakri style couped with dancing is purely traditional that has evolved over many centuries. Quite often professional folk singers are also engaged. The professional singers are joined by a Bacha ( a male dancer who dresses like a female ) who dances on accompanying music. Presently female dancers have started replacing the male Bacha dancer. The musicians, use Tumbakhnaari, Nott ( Matkaa ), Sarangi and Harmonium. Almost all the top professional singers from the valley like Raj Begum, Zoon Begum, Ghulam Hassan Sofi, Ghulam Ahmed Sofi ( Amma Kaandhur ) Ghulam Nabi Doolwal, Ali Mohd Sheikh,  Gopi Nath  Bhat ( Gupa Bacha ) and many more were great Mehndiraat entertainers.                               

Joined by girls, ladies and other female guests, the sister of the bride/bride groom’s father or the paternal aunt brings Mehndi ( wet Henna )in an open pot called Duull ( earthenware, Bronze or copper pot ). She applies the Henna first to bride/ bridegroom while women sing the traditional Vanvun. Thereafter she offers it to all ladies and guests who apply it to hands or symbolically at some spot on the skin. Nowadays, a professional Henna designer is also brought in who applies Henna artistically to ladies and girls. In so far as Kashmiri Pandits are concerned, the paternal aunt receives Zang  ( rice, salt and some cash) for this service. She is supposed to carry the Henna pot and distribute it among the ladies and girls. She is also paid some token money ( Maenz Haara ) by the ladies who accept Henna from her. While this Henna function continues, women keep singing the traditional Vanvun ( Folk songs sung in a group by women without musical instruments ). The Vanvun that comes to my mind goes as under:-

‘Maaenz hai laajikh kaman kaman
Maaenzi naman mubarak .’

( Who is there who has not been dyed with Henna?
Blessed be your Henna dyed fingernails ? )

‘Maanzi `duullis aendh aendhi khaasi
 Vothhii vaen maasi loll bharissie .’

 (The Mehndi pot has many bronze cups around it,
 Get up you Massi ( maternal aunt ) and
 bless the bride /bridegroom with your love)

‘Kaamraaz shaharik kaamdeevo
 Aaakho shaamaai sondhariye.’

( O kaamdeva of Kaamraaz town ,
 How nice that you have come to our beautiful lass )


‘Maaenz aayii swarga ta beyii aayi paanai
 Maaejji  kar meharbaaniye .’

( The Henna has come from heaven and has come of its own,
 How kind has been the goddess to us ?)

Walter Lawrence in his book ‘THE VALLEY OF KASHMIR “ mentions that apart from the marriage ceremony, Mehndi Raat function was held by Kashmiris Pandits and Muslims on Mundan ( Zarkaasaai), Mekhla (Yageopavit ) and Khatanhaal ( circumcision ceremony ). In all these functions, the paternal applies  Henna to child’s hands and feet.
The Mehndiraat singing is organized in a separate hall or inside an exclusive Shamiyaana wherein a separate enclosure is made for the folk singers. The guests and listeners are made to sit comfortably. Adequate beddings, pillows and quilts, sheets or blankets are arranged for the guests depending upon the type of weather and season. Guests are served Sheer Chai ( Salted tea ), Kashmiri Kehwa and Lipton tea throughout the night. The singers are also offered cigarettes or the traditional  Hukaah or Jejeer.

Apart from the professional singers who enthral the guests with numerous Chhakri songs, Gazals, Naats and Leelas, it is an occasion for women and married girls of the family to sing and dance. For married girls, it used to be an enjoyable function at parental house. A pleasant change from the daily chores of life at her in-law's house. A time to meet cousins, friends, relations and childhood neighbours. In some families, the singing and dancing used to be done by ladies from amongst the guests or the relations of the bride /bridegroom.




                                    



                                                                     ( The Dancers )
                                            ( Sister of Bridegroom's Mother washes feet )
                               (  Sister of Bridegroom's Father comes with the Henna Pot )

                                                 ( The Henna  Dyed Hands and Feet )



                                       ( Kashmiri Folk Singers in a Mehndi Raat Function )


                                                          


                                                                           

                                    (  Girls performing Hikkat Dance in a Kashmiri  Mehndiraat function )

                                                                           
                                       ( A Bacha / Male  Dancer in a Kashmiri Mehndiraat function )


                 ( A Kashmiri Pandit Mehndi Raat .Source YouTube)

                                                                                      
  ( A Mehndi Raat in Kashmiri Muslim family. Source YouTube)

Hikkat form of traditional Kashmiri dance was most popular with women in Mehndiraat functions. Though words may vary in Vatchun folk songs of the  Kashmiri Pandits and the Muslims, the sentiments expressed are almost identical. I quote some folk Vatchun ( Lyrical ) songs sung during these festivities:-

(1)

‘Tche rostuyii koh me guv akh pal
Valo mo tchall ba maaraai paan .’

( In your absence, every moment is like a giant mountain
Come, don’t move away now.
Here I kill myself otherwise .)

(2)
‘Az chum maaenzraathh pagaah yenivoll
Kukilav poatt guli voliye .’

( Today is Mehndiraat and tomorrow the Baraat time.
This bird-like girl has put silken thread around her arm )

(3)
‘Az haai vaaeti maenz tche chandan kullie talaiye
Dandhan kar mokhtaa haar yemberzalliye .’

( Today you shall receive Henna underneath the sandalwood tree,
brighten your teeth like the  pearls,
 O you looking like the narcissus flower )

(4)

‘ Haaer vatchhum natchiney ta saaer sonna seanziye
Haari gatchheum dejihurr su ti Sonna sundhuye’

( Wearing  golden jewellery,
here comes our Mynah like daughter to dance.
Now she needs a Dejihurr but that too made from Gold.)

(5)
‘Rang yendruss tossa kotum
Tota vothhum Yaarbal.’
( I spun expensive Tossa yarn on that coloured Charkhaa
for my parrot-like the child who is now on way to the river for his bath )
(6)
‘Sonna daav gaendim ta dil gom taazaai
Maenz anni poffi maharaazus lo .’

( Here I tie the golden thread to myself
bring that Henna for the groom O parental aunt . )
(7)

‘Hiye me gwo’d deu’t baag neirvuniye ’
( I nursed all those jasmine plants before I left the garden )

(8)

‘Swarga munz khatchakhaai ta bargaa baejj buniye,
Laala saebin koorii ta raja laalien beniye ,
Shaahzaadus baagiey aayukh dekaa draayakh praeniye.’

( O you girl! emerging from heaven, like a  chinar tree with grand leaves,
you a darling of your father and a blessed sister of a brother.
Destiny betrothed you now to a prince,
a prince who is fair and handsome .)

(9)
‘Vuneukhtaam soozinum taem manzimyaari
Vaen haai iyaa paana baapaariye Lo .’

( Until now, he had been sending the middlemen,
now he shall be coming over here in person .)

(10)
‘Qaaez sahibuss zaaviel athhaa haai
Khat hai lekhaan khaana maejjay’

( Look! this Qazi Sahib has delicate hands,
and here he writes Nikaahnaama of our darling daughter )
(11)
‘Rosha Vvalla myaani dilbaro
Poshan bahaar aav yeur vallo .’

( O you,
why upset with me?
 The spring flowers are in full bloom,
come this way love )

(12)

‘Yaar hai draam Ponpur vattey
Kong poshan rott naalmatiye ,’

( My love went towards Pampore,
and there the Saffron flower held him in an embrace )

(13)



“Lolli lalnovum amaar
Az hai aav paana baalyaar”

( I had been carrying this love  hidden in my lap,
today, my love has come in person )




The above Vatchun songs were also sung in various other functions during a marriage festivity and not restricted to Mehndiraat alone.

Of late, DJ system is now being brought into the Mahndiraat function for the younger generation who likes to dance on fast music and beats. The traditional musicians also play a fast number or sing on a faster tempo to create a mood for the younger generation to get up and dance. The dancer is showered token money by guests and the singing continues till wee hours.

( Avtar Mota )


                

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