Monday, December 28, 2020



( Photo of a Hindu marriage kitchen in Kashmir)
( Photo of a Muslim marriage kitchen in Kashmir)



In Kashmir , marriages were labour intensive . The marriage halls and the buffet system were nowhere to be seen .The families  had to collect and store  the foodgrains , spices , edible oil , timber ,cooking utensils ,bedding, flooring and anything and everything needed for the marriage . The relations and the neighbours would  send young volunteers who  were the much needed  workers  for the marriage functions essentially feasts  . These workers would also  help in  the collection of major items like bedding and utensils from relations and neighbours . The neighbours would  readily offer accomodation to the guests of the family marrying their son or daughter. Even Muslim neighbours would readily provide all possible help to Pandits  during such events.This help was reciprocated by Pandits .The  young workers  would  willingly  work as waiters on the feast days. They would be available to the family for any work before and after the marriage .Everything was done without any remuneration. It was the practice . So was the culture and  the tradition .


During marriage functions,  some trusted acquaintance or a close member of the family would be made incharge of the Wura or the marriage kitchen . The person had to be experienced apart from being firm . Custody and control over  provisions ,vegetables, spices, and edible oil would be entrusted to him. He would sit near the Wura as the cooks arrived . Quite often he would sleep on the Voguv (  hay mat) near the Wura.  He would be  there til the cooking and eating was over. He would ensure proper discipline and order in  the cooking and distribution of food to the  invited guests. He would gossip with the cooks and keep them in good humour to ensure that cooking was done to perfection. The cooks or Wazas would go to him for anything and everything they needed. He would be asked to taste dishes once they were ready. The cooks demanded some money from him as Zang ( a sort of Baksheesh) if everything was perfect.

A long hearth was erected with bricks and mud . This hearth was known as Wura  in Kashmiri. Wura or the huge makeshift Chulha ( hearth) was created in open for large-scale cooking during marriages in the Kashmir valley. Timber ,generally from  the willow trees was burnt in Wura for cooking many dishes simultaneously. Wura or the marriage kitchen  was erected on an auspicious day as per Bikrami calender. The cook would come to erect Wura  using mud and bricks. This cook had to be given' Zang ' comprising of rice, salt, and cash.


Cooking was done in big Degchas( brass pots ) that were usually collected from neighbours and relations . Special identification marks of these Degchas were noted in a diary to facilitate return. We would see marks like KN( for Kashi Nath) or MLR ( for Mohan Lal Razdan) or KKK ( Kanwal Krishen Kaul) engraved on the rim of the Degcha. Metal tubs, Kadaais , drums (for storing water) ,Samovars and Dullus  were also collected from neighbours or relations who demonstrated  unprecedented soldarity and support during such functions. Thalis (plates) ,glasses and khasus( bronze tea cups) were available on payment of  nominal  rent .  In Rainawari , we would rent  a boat ( demba naav) for these collections . It meant boating and a great entertainment. This activity would create new friends and newer  bonds amongst the volunteers and workers who would be Mohalla boys and  young relations of the family(  solmenizing the marriage). A spirit of camaraderie was starkly  visible amongst these volunteers and workers.


While procuring provisions for the marriage and storing them, every  Kashmiri Pandit family would buy three or more bottles of Rum for the cooks. This was done  through friends or acquaintances who had some source or link in CSD outlets .


The head cook would always bring three or more assistants for cooking food for the marriage guests .The feasts would have a variety in vegetarian or non vegetarian food . Food was served to guests in a Shamiyana .They were made to sit in rows .Before serving the food , some volunteers would carry water , soap and towels so that guests washed their hands . Therafter plates were laid in all the rows . It was followed by serving the dishes . Rice with some gravy dish was the last item. One could see the wotrkers and volunteers busy inside the Shamiyana carrying dishes and refilling their  serving bowls . On an average 400 to 500 guests were invited . It could be more also


I Knew one Jagan Nath  whom I saw in many marriages . He was always assigned the task of looking after the marriage kitchen. These assignments had created his popularity amongst the cooks ( Wazas ) . I have keenly observed Jagan Nath’s role in many marriages .I quote the communication  between Jagan Nath and the head cook that I heard  once in the marriage of a relation .  In our recent past , we lived this culture and communication  . 


The head  cook:-

 “ Nath Ji ,  cigerrette aav na  kehn.  Aeiss moklaavav ye krai-paak ta aeiss karav nendri ganta . Rum katie  chhe, tseir guv na .  Kyoothh chhus noon. Yathh thav  zang. “

 (  Jagan Nath Ji  , get some  cigarettes . We will finish this deep  frying  work and take rest for an hour or so. Where is the XXX Rum? We are late . Are the dishes tasty ?Put  some Zang (currency notes ) into  the plate .”


Jagan Nath  ( Incharge  Wura) :-

 “  Yim gayi cigerrette .  Chaav me ti akha.  Ye gayi  XXX  Rum. Yin zyada chakh. Vaeni chhuyi kaar aeti.  Baraat iya subhas  saada aath baje. Daftar valen gatchhi tayaar aasun. Akh gilaas thavizi  me  baapat  tal  kun. Noon  ta maza chhukh  zabar . Zang diyi yezman paanai . Ma he gham.“ 

 ( Keep these cigarettes . Light a cigarette for me as well. This is your XXX Rum bottle. Don’t  drink beyond limits . You have to cook  some more dishes .The Baraat will be here at 8.30 in the morning .You have to keep food ready for those Baraatis  who have to attend their offices . Make  a  drink  for me as well and keep it hidden over there .The dishes that I tasted  are well cooked .  The Yajmaan ( family head ) will himself put currency notes in your plate . Why do you  worry ?”


Jahgan Nath , the Wura incharge  also had some sleep after gulping the glass of  XXX Rum. I conclude this write up   with some couplets from a Gazal of modern Urdu poet Zubair Rizvi.


"Hai dhoop kabhi saaya

shola hai kabhi shabnam,

Lagta hai mujhe tum sa
dil ka to har ikk mausam.

Beete  huve lamhon ki

ḳhushboo hai meray  ghar mein,

Book-rack pe rakkhe hain

yaadon ke kayi  album ......" 


( sometime,it feels like sunshine
Sometime like shade ,
sometime i feel it like a fireball,
And sometime it feels like cool dew.
Every season within my heart,
Looks and feels like you only.

The fragrance of time spent ,
lingers in my  house,
And my book shelf is decorated by
Many albums of memories alone .. )

( 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:\\\.

No comments:

Post a Comment

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