Saturday, March 14, 2015



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


Mehndiraat happens to be the most important function preceding 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 Bride / Bridegroom in presence of Relations , Friends , Neighbors and other Guests .A sumptuous dinner is followed by night long singing , dancing and merriment in the bride/ bridegroom’s house. This singing ( Vanvun and Chhakri ) and dancing is purely Traditional that has evolved through many centuries . Quite often Professional Folk singers are also engaged . The professional singers are joined by a BACHAA ( A male who dresses like a female ) who dances on accompanying music. Presently female dancers have started replacing the male Bacha Dancer .The musicians essentially use TUMBAKNAARI, NOATT ( Matkaa ), RABAAB and HARMONIUM . As a matter of fact almost all the top professional singers from valley like Raj Begum, Zoon Begum , Ghulam Hassan Sofi , Ghulam Ahmed sofi ( Amma Kaandhur ) Ghulam Nabi Doolwal , Ali Mohd Sheikh , Pt. Gopi Nath Ji Bhat ( Gupa Bachaa ) and many more were great Mehndiraat entertainers.


                                                                     ( 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 )
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 fully or symbolically .Nowadays , a professional Henna Designer is also brought in who applies Henna artistically to ladies and Girls . The paternal aunt receives ZANG ( rice , salt and some cash) for this service . She is also paid some token money by persons 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 at the moment 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 Finger nails ? )

Maanzi Duullis Aaendh Aaendhi Khaasi
Vothhii vaen Maasi Loll Bharissey …..
(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 aayii paanaaii
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 marriage ceremony , Mehndi Raat function was held by kashmiris Pundits and Muslims on Mundan ( Zarkaasaai) , Mekhla (Yageopavit ) and Khatanhaal ( Circumcision ceremony ) . In all these functions , Paternal aunt would apply 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 the 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 Chaai ( Salted tea ) , kashmiri Kehwa and Lipton Tea throughout the Night . The singers are also offered Cigarettes or the traditional Hubble bubble ( Hukka or Jejeer ).

                                    (  Girls performing Hikkat Dance in a kashmiri  Mehndiraat function )
Apart from the Professional singers who enthrall 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 laws house . A time to meet cousins, friends , relations and childhood neighbors . In some families , the singing and dancing used to be done by ladies from amongst the guests or the relations of the Bride /Bridegroom . HIKKAT form of Traditional kashmiri dance was most popular with women in Mehndiraat functions. Though words may vary in vatchun Folk songs of Kashmiri pandits and Muslims , the sentiments expressed are almost identical . I quote some folk Vatchun ( Lyrical ) songs sung during these festivities …

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 .)
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 )
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 pearls O you looking like the Narcissus flower )
Haaer Vatchhum natchiney Ta saaer sonna Saenziye 
Haarii Gatchheum Dejihurr Su Ti Sonna sundhuye
( Wearing Golden jewelry ,
Here comes our Mynah like daughter to dance ,
Now she needs a Dejihurr but that too made from Gold.)
Rang Yendruss Tossa Kotum 
Tota Vothhum Yaarbal……
( I spun Expensive Tossa Yarn on that coloured Charkhaa
For my parrot like child who is now on way to the river for his Bath )
Sonna Daav Gaendim Taai 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 . )
Hiye me Gwo’d Deu’t Baag Neirvuniye 
( I nursed all those jasmine Plants before I left the garden )
Swarga Munz Khatchakhaai Ta Bargaa Baaejj Buniye 
Laala saebin Koorii Ta Raja Laalien Beniye ..
Shaahzaadus baagiey aayukh Deukaa draayukh Praeniye

( O You Girl ! Emerging from Haven, Like a grand leafed chinar tree ,

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 .)
Vuneukhtaam Soozinum Taem Manzimyaari 
Vaaen haai iyaa Paana baapaariye Lo …

( Uptil Now He had been sending the middlemen , 

Lo! Now he shall be coming over here in person .)

Qaaez sahibuss Zaaviel Athhaa haai
Khat Haai Lekhaan Khaana Maejjay 
( Look ! This Qazi Sahib has delicate hands ,
And here he writes Nikaahnaama of our darling daughter )
Rosha Valla Myaani Dilbaro 
Poshan Bahaar aav Yeur Vallo ..
( O You , Why upset with me ,
Come Love , Come here in these spring Blooms . )
Yaar haai Draam Ponpur Vattey 
Kong Poshan Rott Naalmatiye ….
( My love went towards Pampore ,
And there the Saffron Flower held him in embrace )

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

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

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

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