The land of pure has always been brimming with cultural heritage, traditions, commemorations and carnivals. We, the Pakistanis are fortunate to possess such a prosperous and matchless legacy. From cultural mellas to social gatherings, from religious occasions to national commemorations; all these festivals and galas are marked resplendently.
Among all of these, the traditional style of our weddings is also of great significance. It depicts its own beauty, its own style and its own fascination. The marking of this vibrant and sparkling event is the essence of both, religious and cultural tenets. Knotting the Dulha (bridegroom) and Dulhan (bride) into the sacred relation of marriage is not only the accomplishment of a religious obligation but also an occasion of cultural merriment. The various enlivening occasions in our marriages have a unique charm. Today let’s have a look at some of the most pertinent colourful events of our marriages that are commemorated by all of us…
By and large, it’s the very first event of wedding ceremony, when wearing yellowish joras, the kith and kin of Dulha (Groom) and Dulhan (Bride) get together and initiate the gala. They “Ubtanise” (coating of ubtan, a sort of henna) the Dulhan traditionally and after that friends and cousins party the event by singing traditional marriage songs. Formerly, after this particular day the bride was proscribed from the sight of groom till the day of marriage but now it is thought to be an outdated phenomenon… (After all, it’s the modern “cell phone” century, you know… huh!)
In Pakistan, if one inquires about the most vivacious and multihued event of marriage even from a child of ten, “Mehndi” will be the answer. It is the day when Henna (Mehndi) is coated over the hands of Dulhan. In some families, henna and oil is applied to groom as well. The sight of helpless groom while he’s being applied henna in hands and oil in head is indeed worth seeing. The kindred of Dulha (Groom) drape Dulhan with bangles, garlands, embroidered Shalwar Qameez (that usually tends to be yellow or greenish in colour) and above all with mehndi itself. And similarly Dulha is given a shalwar qameez from his in-laws to put on the particular day and traditional “ganna” (a sort of ribbon) that is knotted at the hand of Dulha by his uncle.
The most indispensable element of mehndi is the presence of close friends and cousins of bride and groom. The event is insipid without their attendance. They, especially girls commemorate the occasion by marking luddi (a traditional dance) and crooning marriage songs, at the beat of Dholaki (a mini drum). The presence of percussion equipments i.e Dholaki, luddi was thought to be the part and parcel for the night. However, now it is being replaced by advance sound systems and it is heavily costing the ‘traditional celebration’ of the event.
The most significant part of every wedding ceremony in Pakistan is Barat. It’s the day when the prospective guy and girl are actually locked up in the sacred (poor boys may read it ‘scared’) wedlock.
Wearing the most glamorous costume, Dulha (groom) sits for “Sahra Bandi”. Here he’s given “Salami” (cash) which usually happens to be enough to make him a millionaire over night. After mounting bundles of money, the groom accompanied by Shahbala (a mini Dulha, the tedious and aimless personality in entire gathering) and a number of Baratis (the marriage procession) departs towards the home of bride (or wherever the wedding is organised). The sparkling firework and the delightful drum-beats herald the arrival of Barat. But as soon as the poor groom tries to enter the threshold of wedding place, he gets captured by his Salis (sisters-in-law) and the company. This particular small gang of lively girls never absolves the poor groom unless he grants some fresh currency notes out of his salami (the number of currency notes either depends upon the generosity of groom or at nobility of the gang!) to them. This particular custom is known as “Rasta Rukai”.
After paying “toll tax” to his sisters-in-law, Mr. Dulha signs the religious contract of marriage in the presence of two witnesses. And when the Nikah is performed, small packets containing sweets, sugar coated almonds and dates are distributed among the people, which are locally called “Bied”. Sprinting to attain the packets of sweets, young children look just like politicians running towards kursi.
Doodh Pilayee (payment of milk) is another interesting custom in our marriages that is scored when Baratis have accumulated months’ food in their pitiable bellies. Mr. Dulha takes a sip of scrumptious creamy milk, offered by the aforementioned gang of sisters-in-law and company. Then the same milk is tasted by Dulhan. Though the original cost of the glass of creamy milk doesn’t exceed more than 100 rupee but the smart gang charges thousands of money against it. It’s also believed that if the unmarried boy/girl drinks the remaining milk soon after the custom, s/he gets engaged quite soon… astonishing!
For kith n’ kin of bride, Joota Chupai is the most exhilarating occasion which provides them with a chance to grab as much money from the groom’s pocket as possible. What happens actually is that while bridegroom is being seated on the wedding stage, any of bride’s sisters or cousins cleverly takes bride-groom’s shoes off his feet. Helpless groom keeps sitting barefooted until he pays a handsome amount to his sisters in law in exchange of his shoes (probably dozens of pairs of the stolen shoe can be bought with this money). Joota Chupai is a whole fun activity indeed.
Rukhsati is the most emotional moment in the whole wedding ceremony. It’s the time of departure from her parents’ home to her husband’s home, the permanent dwelling. For the bride, it’s a very sentimental experience. After spending about two or three decades of her life with a family, who loves her in every imaginable way, a girl heads towards her new life, new family, new relations and new responsibilities. This is the time for a bride when she leaves her birthplace, her parents’ home and all her memories of childhood behind and turns towards a new journey of life with vivacious dreams of being loved and cared, all set in her pretty eyes. But with her goes not only her dreams of an ideal life but a fear too- the fear of these dreams being unfulfilled or shattered. This fear probably is a big cause of bride’s uncontrollable tears at the time of departure.
Valimah is a practice carried out by our beloved Prophet Mohammad (SAW). It is a lunch or dinner party given by the family of bridegroom to the friends and relatives. The basic purpose of this ceremony is a note of thanks to Allah Almighty by bridegroom for tying him in the sacred bond of marriage.
The newly married bride is given cash money by her relatives this day which proves quite fruitful for her brand new sparkling purse. But just like the groom, the bride is also captured by a gang. And this time it’s the turn of Dewars (brothers of the groom) of the bride. Just like the gang of sisters-in-law they also focus on “crispy currency notes” present in her Bhabi’s purse and don’t get pleased unless are given few of them.
With Maklawah, the wedding ceremony march towards its end. Maklawah is a tradition rather than a religious obligation. After the valimah ceremony, bride and bride-groom come to the home of bride’s parents and spend the rest of the day there. Next day (the day following the valimah), whole family of bride-groom goes to bride’s parents’ home and takes the new couple back to their own home. Brides, who leave the city or country after Rukhsati, can’t enjoy the Maklawah Ceremony.
Eastern nuptial ceremonies are full of vivaciousness and zeal showed by every person involved. It’s a blissful time for the bride and bride-groom where they start together a journey of life. All the colourful events at the time of wedding help in creating beautiful memories for the couple which they relish throughout their lives. Best of luck to all those people who are going to tie the knot this year…
(DAWN, 05 January 2008)