Kashmiri Pandits, no doubt a small community of the paradise on Earth, has beautiful customs when it comes to their wedding. A Kashmiri Pandit wedding has many rituals that are unique to the region. Pristine and quaint are some adjectives that come to mind while describing a traditional authentic Kashmiri Pandit wedding. Let's unravel these wonders...

Kasamdry: This refers to the formal engagement once the families agree to the alliance. As per the Kashmiri calendar, the priest fixes the auspicious date when both the families meet at a temple and exchange flowers as a sign of celebration. The bride's family lays out a meal comprising of authentic Kashmiri cuisine. Simultaneously, the eldest aunt (of both the bride and groom) prepares var (rice pudding) which is distributed amongst family and friends. The girl's family also sends cash, fruits, dry fruits and a pot containing nabad (lumps of sugar) to the groom's place.

Livun: Livun refers to the ceremony when the houses of both the bride and groom are traditionally cleansed. It does not necessarily mean that the same day is chosen by both the families. The Kashmiri mud houses are cleaned and treated with a mixture of cow dung, mud and water. All the female relatives take part in this ceremony. Livun also marks the day when the waza (family cook) sets up war (mud-and-brick oven) in the backyard of the house. From now on, all meals for the wedding ceremonies are cooked here.

Wanwun: Following the livun, wanwun (music sessions) are held every evening at the bride's and groom's houses. Relatives, friends and neighbors participate in these sessions where traditional Kashmiri folk and marriage songs are sung with great revelry. The guests are served noon/sheer chai (a salted pink tea) at the end of each session.

Krool khanun: This ceremony refers to the decoration of the doors of the houses of the bride and the groom with traditional imagery and symbols.

Maanziraat: A week prior to the wedding, the ceremony of maanziraat takes place. The bride takes part in an elaborate bathing ritual in the evening, in which her feet are washed by her maternal aunt. After her bath, her eldest aunt decorates her hands and feet with maanz (henna). Maanz is also distributed amongst all the female relatives, friends and neighbors. A delicious Kashmiri meal prepared by the waza is then served to the guests, post which everyone takes part in a lively wanwun session. In the groom's house, a little mehendi is applied in his hands as a symbol of auspiciousness.

Yagneopavit: This refers to the thread ceremony for the groom if it had not taken place during his younger days.

Devgon: The devgon ceremony marks the transition of the bride and the groom from brahmacharya ashram (the state of celibacy) to grihastha ashram (life of a married person). Held separately by both the families, all the relatives taking part in the ceremony need to observe a fast. The ceremony takes place in front of the sacred fire. The jewelry and utensils that would be given to the bride are also placed in front of the fire for their purification.

Kanishran: Immediately after devgon, the bride and the groom are taken for an elaborate bath with a mixture of water, rice, milk and curd at their respective houses. Flowers are showered over the bride/groom and they change into a new set of traditional attire. Following this, the bride's parents give her clothes, household items and jewelry. An essential piece of jewelry item is the dejaharu, an ear ornament with gold tassels strung on a sacred thread that passes through the middle ear cartilage. The significance of wearing the dejaharu is that the bride is now ready for matrimony. Similarly, at the groom's place, his maternal uncle presents him with new clothes (that includes a pheran and a waistband).

Duribat: Duribat refers to the formal lunch in which the maternal relatives of the bride/groom take part in. They are first served milk, followed by kahwa and finally a traditional vegetarian fare. Meanwhile, traditional singing groups (called bachkots) are invited to entertain the guests. The ceremony concludes with the exchange of gifts.

Ceremony at the groom's house: The groom's paternal uncle helps him to get ready tying the gordastar (turban). While the turban is put to place, a plateful of rice containing zung (money) is touched to his right shoulder. Before the marriage procession starts for the bride's place, the groom is made to stand on a vyoog (a decorative pattern made of flour and colors) and given nabad to eat. While a conch shell is sounded to mark his departure, two rice pots containing some money is donated to the poor as a gesture of goodwill.

Receiving the marriage procession: The arrival of the marriage procession is announced by blowing a conch shell who is then greeted warmly by the members of the bride's family. Both the fathers exchange jaiphal (nutmeg) as a mark of formalizing their life-long friendship. The groom is now made to stand on a vyoog wherein the bride is brought, carried by her maternal uncle. The bride's mother (or the eldest female member) performs a puja with lamps made of flour, feeds nabad to the couple and kisses them on the forehead. Two rice pots are given away to the poor. The couple is now taken to the decorated door by the priest. A small ceremony called dwaar puja is performed following which the couple makes their way to the mandap.

Lagan: After the holy fire is lit, the couple is made to see each other through the images formed in the mirror. They are then made to hold hands firmly post which their hands are covered with a cloth. This is called athwas. According to Kashmiri belief, the first who is able to pull out the engagement ring from the other will play a dominating role in the relationship. After this playful ritual, a golden thread called mananmal is tied to their foreheads. The left foot of both the bride and the groom are placed on a kajwat (grinding stone) praying for a rock-solid future ahead. This is followed by the pheras around the fire. The first phera is made by stepping on seven one-rupee coins. After the completion of the seven pheras, the couple is received by the groom's father who blesses the newlyweds.
Posh puza: The posh puza is a significant ceremony that formally ends the wedding ceremony. A red cloth is placed on the newlyweds' heads, following which everyone present showers them with posh (flowers) accompanied by Vedic mantras. The couple, considered to be the embodiment of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, are duly worshiped. The wedding ceremony over, all the guests including the newlyweds head for dinner (a vegetarian fare) where they are made to eat from the same plate.

Vidaai: The newlywed couple now stands on a vyoog while the eldest female member of the bride's family feeds them nabad thrice and kisses them on the forehead. As the bride leaves her maternal home, she throws a fistful of rice over her shoulder towards her house, wishing for its prosperity. She also carries a handful of rice for her new home. The bride is then bid a farewell by her family and friends.

Welcoming the newlyweds: The newlyweds are refused entry by the groom's eldest aunt until she is given some cash or jewelry. They are then made to stand on a vyoog, offered nabad, and kissed on the forehead. The mananmal tied on their foreheads are now exchanged. The aunt then leads the couple to the kitchen where the waza serves them food and the aunt feeds them. After the meal, the bride is made to change into a new sari and jewelry given by her in-laws. Ataharu which consists of several strands of gold/silver tassels are strung below the dejaharu, signifying that the bride is now a married lady.

Satraat: In the evening, the bride accompanied by her husband and a couple of children (those of her sister-in-law) visits her parents. She is gifted a set of new clothes, cash and a little salt. The groom is also presented with new clothes including a dusa (six yard pashmina shawl). The couple changes into their new clothes before returning to the groom's house.

Phirlath: This ceremony marks the couple's second visit to the bride's parents. Once again, they are given new clothes to mark the occasion.

Roth khabar: On a Saturday/Tuesday after the wedding, the bride's parents send a roth (a traditional freshly baked cake decorated with nuts) to their son-in-law's house. The bride is presented with a little salt as shagun.

Gar atchun: This ceremony brings to end the wedding festivities. The bride, decked in jewelry gifted by her in-laws, is escorted back to her maternal home for one day by her siblings. A lavish feast (of non-vegetarian delicacies) is organized by the bride's family for relatives of both the families. After the meal, the couple returns back along with all the gifts presented to the bride by her parents.