Thursday, October 3, 2013



TARANGA ( Headgear being put on the bride's head in a Kashmiri Pandit Marriage )
(Photo Autar 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 Yageopavit 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 seeds in a Kangri.

  Kashmiri Pandits used to go for extensive Vanvun in marriages which started from Livun or house cleaning function followed by 'Krool Khaarun' or decorating the main entrance colourfully, Muss-Mutchrun or hairdressing of the bride, Maeznraat or Mehndiraat, Dastaar Gandun or covering bridegroom’s head with a decorated  Pagri,   Yagneopavit, 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 Aang Deuun 'or  putting on new clothes, ' Navvis  Gharuss  Atchun' or entering a newly built  house  and  Vidhya Aarambh or the start of education by the child.
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:-

" ShuklaAmbara Dharam 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 .)

“Mong  makh tsraar tayee Shaah e hamdaanus
Lajiyo maej athh shooer paanus .”

 (I sought you at tsraar ,the  ziyarat of  Nund Reshi ,
And at  Shah e Hamdaan’s ziyarat .
Your mother will die for  you baby .)


“Meitchi tayee paanis khutch khambeero
Ghambir assi kar ghar baavaai” 
( The water and clay has mixed well now
O lord, 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 saint 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)

 (  Avtar Mota  )

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