Shaadi Season: Pakistani wedding rituals that you might not be aware of
Winters in Pakistan are nothing short of festive. Following its own fashion, rituals and culinary delights, the season brings with itself an array of cozy and warm activities that gel families together.
And because of its bonding effect, this season also becomes ideal to plan weddings and host loved ones to celebrate new beginnings.
This is why the months of December and January are filled with wedding invitations, dholki rehearsals and shopping trips for all the various events one has to attend. You will find colors everywhere, and days filled with lights, love and laughter. Of course, one cannot ignore the many gastronomical delights that accompany these events, with variations evident for each ceremony.
Pondering over these variations makes one realize how vivid and rich Pakistan’s wedding culture is. Drawing inspirations from Arabic as well as South Asian customs and traditions, we have created hybrid ceremonial events that aim to not only provide a religious outlook but also incorporate cultural rituals.
Therefore, in this time of festivity, let’s focus on the diverse ways our various regions celebrate weddings all over Pakistan.
Known as one of the most hospitable community, Sindhis are renowned for having extravagant weddings that host guests from all over the province. The wedding usually starts in the afternoon and lasts till late at night. The ritual begins with the bride and groom receiving a special Sindhi sweet delight called misri, which is sent to them by their families as a way of expressing their wishes and hoping for harmony between the two individuals.
This is usually followed by the mehndi, which includes the ritual of sanhh. This ritual comprises of seven women applying oils to the bride’s hair. Some rituals also include showering the bride with rose petals during the mehndi. Another popular ritual includes the bride being garlanded with flowers by the groom’s married sisters and then the bride grinds wheat – usually taken as a symbol of prosperity and wealth.
The nikah and rukhsati usually take place on the same day, followed later by an extended valima lunch/dinner. Some families also follow the tradition of paondhulai, in which the bride’s brother washes the bride and groom’s feet, as a way of showing new beginnings with purity and sincerity.
A Baloch wedding is unique in terms of its duration; it takes seven days for the wedding event to conclude. A particularly helpful ritual is the bijjar, where the groom’s family (who are responsible for all the wedding preparations) receives contributions from their community (financial as well as material in terms of agricultural and livestock produce) to help them with the arrangements.
Two of these seven days are known as the qilla, in which the bride stays in a room for two days with women of her family and female friends. These relatives pamper the bride, look after her nutritional needs and care for her in whatever way she might need it.
This works as a way of relaxing the bride, so she may feel fresh before the wedding. After this, the mehndi rituals take place, where families of the bride and groom visit each other and apply henna to the about-to-be married couple. Some families also follow dastaarbandi, a ritual in which a turban is placed on the groom’s head to mark the beginning of his new life.
After the nikah, has been performed, the groom and his family visit the bride’s house, where both of them are made to sit with each other, nudged close together, so their heads may brush against each other seven times. After this, the bride’s relatives come together and do the rice cleaning ritual; the rice is to be used in the final lunch/dinner ceremony before rukhsati. On the seventh day, the rukhsati takes place.
Most Pushtoon wedding ceremonies take place during the day. The first custom is that of the siyakhni, a musical night before the day of the wedding where families of the bride and groom sing songs for them to congratulate them and pray for their prosperous future. This is followed by mehndi and then rukhsati on the next day. While coming back from the bride’s house, the wedding procession (baraat) stops a few steps away from the groom’s house. The groom then carries his bride in his arms into her new home – this custom is known as dehleez par.
Like the Baloch tradition, Pushtoon weddings also follow the custom of friends and family members assisting the groom to lessen his financial burden incurred during the wedding preparations. This tradition is called naindra.
Punjabi weddings are characterized particularly with loud music (using drums called dhols) and extensive musical ceremonies where families of the bride and groom sing and dance to celebrate the union of two souls. On the day of the rukhsati, the groom’s head is tied with a garland of rose petals known as a sehra, which hides his face.
He keeps this sehra on till the wedding ceremony is completed. Some families follow the jootachupai custom, where the bride’s siblings and friends hide the groom’s shoe and then demand an amount, which the groom has to pay in order to get the shoe back. This custom is also done by blocking the groom’s way before he leaves the ceremony.
Some Punjabi families also follow the custom of maklava. This is when the bride is brought back to her own house after a few days of the wedding ceremony, to ease her through the phase of adjusting to her new home. Coming back to her own house helps her in recalibrating and finds her bearing before going back after a few days.
Although these are just some of the many cultural variations in Pakistan, other traditions have also seeped into Pakistan’s culture in various ways and forms. One thing that is common in all these aspects is that weddings hold a high importance in Pakistan and the variations that each culture has should be celebrated and revered.
Happy wedding season!