Thursday, October 3, 2013



TARANGA ( headgear being put on the bride's head in a Kashmiri Pandit marriage )
(Photo Avtar Mota .)


Vanvun is the oral literature accumulated over centuries in Kashmir and comprises of songs that have mass appeal. These songs are sung by women during festivities and marriages across the religious divide.  We find ladies,  both the Hindu and the Muslim,  singing these songs in marriage rituals, circumcision of the male child in Muslim families and Mekhla or sacred thread ceremony in Pandit families. This singing lends grace and a holy aura to the ceremony. In Kashmir, Vanvun has survived as a part of the folk literature preserved and protected by women through a simple oral tradition.
Vanvun is a part of Kashmir’s cultural legacy. It is a shared heritage of the  Hindus and the  Muslims of Kashmir though both communities have added distinct religious colour to this style of singing. No musical instruments accompany this singing which is performed by ladies only. If we listen carefully, Kashmiri marriage  Vanvun is a mixture of prayers and good wishes for the well being of the bride and the bridegroom.
Vanvun has been a tool to preserve and carry forward our age-old traditions and customs. Vanvun songs are sung during  Mehndiraat, Dastaarbandi of the bridegroom, the arrival of Baraat and the departure of the bride. Sometimes this Vanvun is accompanied by burning of  Isbandh ( roe ) seeds in a Kangri.

  Kashmiri Pandits used to go for extensive Vanvun in marriages and Mekhla functions  which started from Livun or house cleaning function followed by 'Krool Khaarun' or decorating the main entrance colourfully, Dapun ( starting  invitation to close relations  ), Muss-Mutchrun or hairdressing of the bride, Maeznraat or Mehndiraat, Shraan (bath withmilk and curd ), Devgun (invitation to  to Vedic Gods),Varidan (gifts to the relatives),Dastaar Gandun or covering bridegroom’s head with a decorated  Pagri, Yonya Traavun( sacred thread wearing  ), Taranga Gandun or covering the bride’s head with a decorated headgear, Lagan, Posha Pooza or showering flower petals over the bride and bridegroom, Veegis -Natchun or dancing by women over the marriage Rangoli and  Maharaaza Nernuss or departure of the bridegroom. Kashmiri Pandits would also sing Vanvun songs  for ' Navvis Palavuss Ang Deuun 'or  putting on new clothes, ' Navvis  Gharuss  Atchun' or entering a newly built  house , Vidhya Aarambh or the start of education by the child, Shraan ta Sondhar ( postpartum bath of the woman with herbs ) Zara Kaasaai ( first hair cut of the baby ), etc.

The Vanvun singing performed in Kashmiri marriages has its firm roots and origin in Sama Veda. During  Vedic age, people devotedly chanted verses from Sama Veda to perform religious rituals and ceremonies to invoke the blessings from Agni, Indra and Soma. Prof. P N Pushp ( Sanskrit scholar ) writes:-

 " The conventional rendering of Henzey   ( Vanvun ) in Kashmir is reminiscent of the Sama Vedic legacy which seems to have lingered on in the valley as an interplay of traditional tones accented, unaccented and circumflex. Exactly in high pitch, low pitch and a pitch peculiar to Sama recitation. Obviously, the old Sama chant underwent a series of transformations   during its transmission at the folk level and reached us as an echo of the ancient convention trans-shaped by various pressures of innovation in tune with the changing times. The echo thus preserved in the ‘Henze’ has become a vital link of the flexible present with stratified  past ."

 Kashmiri Pandits would start Vanvun chants with ‘Shoklam ’ or Suklam  derived from the popular Sanskrit Sloka “Suklam Bhardaram Devam”.  This sloka is chanted by Hindus for bliss and happiness and known as Mangal Sloka. So the Kashmiri Pandit Vanvun traditionally begins with Henze ( meaning come ladies assemble or dear ladies chant . It is addressed to a group ) followed by the common verse ‘ Shoklam karithh Heyatov Vanuvunaye ….’ followed by verses meant to be chanted for various ceremonies and occasions.

Word Henzey has  come from the Sanskrit word ‘Henje' meaning ruler of the home.‘Henze……..Shoklam karithh heyatov vanuvunaye .Shub phal deut  maej bhawani ye ’

( Listen, you  ladies, begin with word Suklam
 and start chanting of the Vanvun verses.
Mother Bhawani has granted  a boon to us )

It may be pertinent to mention the original Sanskrit Shloka whereby blessings are sought from Lord Vishnu  goes as under:-

" Shuklam Baradharam Vishnum Shashi Varnam Chatur Bhujam
Prasanna Vadanam Dhyaayet Sarva Vighnopashaantaye "

( O  Lord, he whose dress is the wide white sky, who is all pervading, whose arms are spread to all four sides
One with the blissful face, We meditate on you, nullify all troubles) 

With the the arrival of Islam in Kashmir, Vanvun also underwent some changes to suit the socio-religious aspirations of the section of the Kashmiri society that had adopted the new faith. Muslims discovered ‘ Bismillah ’ as a suitable term and comparable for word Shoklam or Suklam. The ceremonial Vanvun also underwent religious colouring on account of different rituals and religious ceremonies of the native Hindu and Muslim population. Despite these changes, the context and emotions in the verses especially chanted during marriage ceremonies remained almost common. This ensured collective participation of the  Hindus and the Muslims in marriage Vanvun.  Muslim women started their ceremonial Vanvun chants with word Bismillah followed by the common verse equivalent in meaning to ‘Shoklam karithh heyatov vanuvunaye ..Shub phal deut maej bhawani ye ’ followed by verses meant to be chanted for various ceremonies and occasions. This is how the common opening verse finally turned up in the Muslim Vanvun chants:-
 “Bismillah karithh hemov vanuvunaye
saahiban anjaam onuye .”
 (Saying  Bismillah, Let us begin the vanvun chants,
 Lord has finally brought this day for us .)



‘Gutchh havaala karmukh peer e peeraanus

suyee karie raetchh

athh shurya paanus …’

 (Go, I entrust you to the custody of our great Peer,

he alone shall protect your child-like being .)


“Kadal toar maharaaza aabus guv goor goor

assi dhop rang bulbul ma aav..”’

 (The bridegroom crossed the bridge

and set the water underneath in wave motion.

It occurred to us that the colourful Bulbul had arrived .)


 “Laal fallie lajiyo maej dastaarus

kaarus aninum taar nabi”

 ( My pearl-like darling,

 your mother is happy to look at your graceful headgear.

Let our prophet ensure

safe completion of this  task .)


“Monga -makh tsraar tayee Shaah e hamdaanas

Lajiyo maej athh shooer paanas .”


 (I sought you as a boon at tsraar ,the  Ziyarat of  Nund Reshi ,

And also  at  Shah e Hamdaan’s Ziyarat .

Your mother will die for  you baby .)



 “teli kona aayokh saanis bazaras

Yeli assi sonn oss dastaaras “

 (O son-in-law ,why did you not come to our side,

when we had gold on our headgear)


 “Thanna yeli pyohom hamudaah pormai

Kananaai pormaai deen e Islam.”


( When you were born , I prayed in thankfulness,

Into your ears , I read the Kalima  )



 “Bismillah karith zara  kaasayo

Ism e  aazam parayo “

 (Begining with Bismillah , I  cut your hair baby

Let me recite Prophet’s name as well .)


“Vosta-kaar aavai manzime barane

Totas az chhai khatanhaal”

 ( From the middle door ,the cook has entered to prepare dishes

Our little parrot like child has circumcision ceremony today.)



“ Saetimeh doh sondhar karmai

Wazas deutmaai paana farmaash “


 ( On  the seventh day of   the delivery ,

I performed your postpartum bath.

I also engaged the cook to prepare dishes .)




“Meitchi tayee paanis khutch khambeero

Ghambir assi kar ghar naavai” 


( The water and clay have mixed well,

O lord,  help us clean our household now )



‘Muss mutch-raavaai  reshay reshay

Vishwamitrini taath kooriye ..’


( I shall clean tuft after tuft of your hair

O you darling daughter of sage Vishwamitra )



“Yuzmun baayee shamaadaan zaaltai

Maaenz kond vaaltaai devaan-khaan.

Maharaaza laalo paadshaah pasandho

Maenz masanandh ho praaran chhuyee .”

( O you bridegroom’s mother, bring that candlelight.

And bring the Henna pot to the sitting room.

O, dear bridegroom,

 like a king,

come now,

the henna carpet

is waiting for you .)


“Chhus daya guel  gandithh tus  dayavaanus

Chhum ishaanus poshe pooza .

Lakshmi meeth chhuss divaan daamaanus

Chhum Ishaanus poshe pooza.”

 ( I fold my hands to that kind  lord,

my Ishaana( Shiva ) is being showered with flower petals.

 Look Goddess Lakshmi has herself  come to bless him,

my Ishaana ( Shiva )is being showered with flower petals..)

 ( 5)

“Saanie  korie  hael chhayee naabad takanuss

meeth kath vanizeuss yindaraazo..

Saanie korie hael no voakhali paknuss

zaanpaan aniezeuss yinderaazo.”


( Our daughter is used to eating sugar candies,

talk sweetly to her,

 O Indra like  bridegroom.

Our daughter is not used to walking on foot,

bring a palanquin  for her,

O Indra like bridegroom)



“Chhataras  chaanis sonna sundh zoluaai

Yendhraazun yeni-voluaai draav “


(With golden threads  hanging  

 over the decorated  cover ( Umbrella )  over his  head  ,

Here  moves  Lord Indra’s Baraat .)



 “Hae’r  draayi nachiney  sae’r  sonna  seinziye

Haeri gatchheim dejhur  sueti  sonna sundhaye ”


(Wearing   golden jewellery ,

This Mynah like girl is out to dance.

Now she needs a Dejhur ,

But surely made from shining gold.)


 " Me chham bub laalein satha

Rathh ha vandaai maalinyo"

 "(For me , you are the treasured   possession  dear Father ,

O parental home ! here I bleed for you .)



 "Korein rozun rythha pachha

Baayi myaani  lagayo

Koothis  chaanis karun  gachha

Baayi myaani  lagayo"

 ( How Long ?

 A month or a fortnight ,

We girls have  not to  stay   more at  parental home .

My darling  brother ! This life for you .

We are here  to decorate your room tastefully ,

My darling  brother ! This life for you .)


(10 )

“Yoneiss chaanis sona saen teche

Yi kass deyka-baje zaav “


( Your Janew or sacred thread is adorned with gold pieces

To which  lucky mother were you born ?)



 ( Khas agni mandalis beh swarsatiye

Satiye  votuyi  vivaah –kaal)

 ( Come sit near the sacred fire  you  Saraswati  like bride

The auspicious time to perfom your marriage has arrived )

 (  Avtar Mota  )

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