Saturday, March 14, 2015


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


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. 

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 aunt  applies  Henna to child’s hands and feet.

The Mehndiraat singing is still  organised 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 ( salt tea ), Kashmiri Kahwa 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 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 coupled 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 musician 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 Kandhur ), Ghulam Nabi Doolwal, Ali Mohdammad 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,  the  folk musicians musiciansengaged for the function keep singing songs beginning with devotional songs . In Kashmiri Pandt  marriages , generally the singing begins with Lal Vaakhs or ‘ aasai sharan kar tam daya  om shri ganshya  ye namah , a composition of Mahatma Krishen Joo Razdan.
Hikkat form of traditional Kashmiri dance was most popular with women in Mehndiraat functions. Though words may vary in  folk songs of the  Kashmiri Pandits and the Muslims, the sentiments expressed are almost identical. In Pandit and Muslim Mehndiraat some common songs are sung I quote a few :-


‘Tse rostuyi  koh me guv akh pal
Valo mo tsal ba maaraai paan .’

( In your absence, every stone

 is like a insurmountable  mountain ,
Come, don’t move away now.
Here I kill myself otherwise .)


“Jaan vandyo haa ba paan vandyo

Zuv tai jaan vandaai myani peero lo”


“ My Guru ,

 My Peer,

 This life for you

This body too for you  ,”


‘Maaenz hai laajikh kaman kaman
Maaenzi naman mubarak .’

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

‘Rosha vala myaani dilbaro
Poshan bahaar aav yeur vallo .’

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

“Kyah kara vesiye laani nis nyaayas

Yaavan raayas chhana myani maai

Yaavan rayas , be-paravaayas, 

Yaavan raayas  chhana myani maai ”


( O friend , how  can I undo what  fate has stored for me ,

That youthful one has no love for me

That careless one has no love for me  )


“ Hee-ye mey gwod deut baag neirvuniye

Sheyyi Ryei’t draayas bazaar kunaye.

Samkhaan ta samkhyo'm bub panuniye ,

Kharaan ta khaar’nas ku’th panuniye,

Rang kuthi kornam prang vatharuniye,

Zoori pyaath thov’nam sha’maa dazavuniye,

Brontha –kani beuthum *pothi/ *quran Parravuniye,

Zor zor heutmas seer baavuniye,

Loe’ti loe’ti heutmas oush traavuniye ,

Dopnam koori yi chhu tsaaluniye ,

Vaariev gara chhuyi dhyaen bharooniye,

Maalien garie chhuna kenh laaruniye,

Baaey maaleun guv bael maaleuniye,

Gatchhi gatchhi koori garra panuniye”


( A Kashmiri folk song )


( Nursing those jasmine plants ,

I came out of that garden.

And today, after six months ,

I move out of my house towards the market.

Lo ! Among others , I also saw my darling farther .

Affectionately, he drags me to my parental home.

Here he takes me inside that decorated room,

And there he makes me sit comfortably .

There he lights the candle on the lamp stand

And sits before me reading from the Bhagwad Gita / Quran .

Loudly I start narrating my woes ,

Softly do the tears trickle down my eyes .

And he keeps consoling me to endure all this .

He keeps telling me ,

“ You have to spend your days at your inlaw's house.

What shall you get in your parental home?

Worthless turns the parental home

when your brother heads it ,

Proceed back to your inlaw’s house

my darling child ) …

 (This was the most popular and emotional folk song that was sung by Kashmiris . I have heard it from Muslim women/ girls performing Roff dance in slow but measured steps and finally making the steps fast and faster. . I have heard it from Kashmiri Pandit women and girls in Mehndiraat sung on fast Hikkat dance . I have heard it being sung on Tumbaknaari beats in Mehndi raat functions of Pandits and Muslims . *Instead of *Quran in the seventh line above ,Pandits would use word *Poeth ( Pothi or scriptures generally Bhagwad Gita) .Muslims used the word Quran .That was the only difference . Women wept while singing it . It touched the listeners as well. The words echoed the pain and pathos of a married girl who was desperately seeking some support system that did not exist in the then Kashmiri society . From all quarters she was made to believe in one line ,“ you have to bear with it. and endure” .A reconciliation .A compromise at self peril . A small leap to freedom always ended in a hasty retreat to her inlaw’s house .)


 “Jaan Vandyo Yaari jaananaai

Bub Maaleun yeli chhu aasaanai

Raaza Maaleun teli chhu basaanai

Bubba myani zinda roz panaai”


( This life for you .

My love , my bosom friend .

When the father heads the parental home ,

It looks like a King’s house for the daughters to visit,

My Father ,

My darling father,

May you live long life.)


 “Loli lalnovum amaar

Az hai aav paana baalyaar”

 ( I had been carrying this love  hidden in my lap,

today, my  childhood love has come in person )




“Lala lagyo sonna mastas ta  lo lo”

Lala lagyo roppa badnas ta lo lo


( My child , this life  for your golden hair ,

My child, this  life for your silver like body )



 “Maenz  hai  laagoi  paaadan laali

Mubarak chhuyi  heemali ye “

 ( Let us apply Henna to your feet O Laila like girl ,

Let this henna bring fortune  to  you O  Princess Heemal  )



 “Rosha vala myaani dilbaro 

Poshan bahaar aav yeur valo”


( My love , don't sulk any more , 

Come this way , 

the spring is here

And the flowers are in bloom .)




                                                                     ( The dancers )
                                                            ( Sister of bridegroom's mother washes feet )
                                                     (  Sister of the  bridegroom's father comes with the Henna pot )
                                                          ( The Henna  dyed hands and feet )
                                                  ( Kashmiri folk singers in a Mehndiraat Function )                                                                         
                                              (  Girls performing Hikkat dance in a Kashmiri  Mehndiraat function )                                                                      
                                                       ( A Bacha / male  dancer in a Kashmiri Mehndiraat function )

                                                               ( A Kashmiri Pandit Mehndiraat .Source YouTube)
 There were  some songs exclusively sung in Kashmiri Pandit marriages . I quote from my memory :-


‘ Haaer vatchhum natchiney ta saer sonna seanziye
Haari gatchheum dejihur su ti Sonna sundhuye’

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

 ( The ladies would sing it when the unmarried younger sister  of the bride or bridegroom would get up to dance in the Mehndiraat. It was also frequently sung when Kashmiri Pandit ladies performed Veegis Natchun or dancing around and on the Vyoog or  the ritualistic ,auspicious and  colourful  Bhumi-shobha circle  drawn  with colours )


 ‘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 . )

 Of late, DJ system is now being brought into the Mahndiraat function for the younger generation who likes to dance on  music and fast  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 )



Creative Commons License

CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Based on a work at http:\\\.

1 comment:

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.