Ceremonies of Dogra Hindus

Ashok Sharma
Dogras have inherited a rich culture & heritage.Our forefathers were wise enough to bequeth to us tangible and intangible heritage in the form of big and grand palaces, forts, manuscripts, rituals, traditions, folklores etc. We have one or the other ritual for every occasion,be it joyous or sad.
Thus, we have various rituals associated with a person right from his birth to death and even before birth, the moment the foetus is conceived in the mother’s womb.As conception takes place and it is confirmed that the mother is pregnant, various rituals and ceremonies are observed.In the 8th and the 9th month of pregnancy,the prenatal rituals called ‘Thuaan’ and ‘Nuaaan’ are observed by many communities.’Sund’, the mixture of almonds,dates, cashewnuts among other things cooked in Desi ghee is sent to the would be mother by her paternal family.
Ambriyaanmigi Sundbheji, dhiyebandi Shrikaankhaaye in
Ambriyaan mig is eesditti, dhiye kaud bellisa in faleiyaan
‘Mother gifted me sundand asked me to share it with relatives
Mother blessed me and wished that I be get children like avine’
And when the baby is born,this song is sung
Alongwith the Saunth or ‘Gund’ as it is commonly called,new dresses for the daughter and her husband too are gifted. As the baby is born,a sweet dish or gur (jaggery) is offered to the Family Deity (Kuldevta) and other Deities and then shared with the close relatives, friends and neighbours.
At this time,this song is sung
Gauri deangan phull jekhidya-khideyaasal gulab
Ji Godaan hariya anhoiyaan
‘A flower like a real rose has blossomed in the court yard of the fair lady’
All the members of the clan cannot perform any auspicious act such as pooja,marriage etc till the mother gets purified after 11 or 13 days.For the first five days, a candle is continuously lit as the mother and the new born baby are kept at a dark place to protect them from infection and evil influences. Usually, a midwife is hired to massage the mother for two or three weeks to help her recuperate fast and recover the lost energy and vigour.
At the same time, a ritual called ‘Punjaab ‘is observed five days after the delivery of the baby.On this day, a herb called ‘Parkanda’ has special significance.Generally five different fruits are taken in a basket and kept under a fruit bearing plant.The placenta is buried deep inside the earth.On the 11th or in some cases 13th day, a special ceremony called ‘Sutra’ is observed and the mother and the infant are gifted new clothes to wear.
Krishna Murari Jarmebhabo, Triloki De Naath
‘A baby like Krisha Murari,who is the Lord of three worlds, is born’
It is on this day that the infant is given a name generally by a young girl who utters the name in the baby’s ears.The younger brother in law of the new mother stands with an umbrella over her head while the rituals are being performed. He also sits on the lap of the new mother and It is customary to gift him a coconut and some money for his role in the ceremony.After five days the community members are free from ‘sutak’ where as parents of the new born remain in ‘sutak’ till the 40th day from the birth of the baby (though there may be some variations in different communities) and only then they can perform auspicious and religious act such as worshipping Gods etc.These days gold chains and other expensive things are also gifted to the brother in law of the new lactating mother.
Generally in the third or the fifth year,the Mundan cermony of the boys is performed at the abode of the family Deity or at a temple.The baby’s hair on the head is removed amidst the chanting of Vedic Mantras and playing of traditional musical instrument called ‘Kail’ by the barber. Generally yellow coloured clothes are gifted to the boy and his ‘friend’ who is generally of his age.This bond between ‘friends’ would last till the last day of their life and both would treat each other as real brothers and share their weals and woes.It was believed that this bond has more significance than the bond between real brothers but these days the relation does not have so much strong bonding in the wake of modernity and materialism. On this occasion a grand feast is arranged and it is the day of festivity,fun and joy. Sometimes, Satsangs or Jagratas are also arranged to make it a memorable day.
Yagnopaweet is another important ceremony generally observed by Dogra Brahmins and Kashmiri Pandits. On this auspicious day, the child is at the centre of the whole ceremony. Amidst rituals and recitation of Vedic Mantras, a sacred thread is tied around the waist of the child. It is the symbol of chastity and austerity and a sort of pledge to observe piety and righteousness in one’s behaviour throughout life.This sacred thread is shifted to the ears while doing an impure act such as defecation etc.
Then, there are many rituals associated with the Dogra marriages.In the past it was customary for the family Pandit or Kulpurohit to seek prospective grooms or brides of the children of their yajmaans. Once a suitable partner was found out, the father of the boy and the girl alongwith their close relatives would sit together generally at the home of their common friend and fix the marriage.The Pandit was later consulted for fixing the auspicious date of marriage ceremony after studying the horoscopes of the prospective life partners.Once fixed, the groom would be invited and shagun offered to him in a simple ceremony called ‘Peripay’. These days,it has become a lavish affair and a lot of money is spent on arranging the event and offering gift to the would be bridegroom and the members of his family.Both the girl & the daughter are conspicuously present on the occasion amidst a lot of fun, frolic and dance. Sometimes, it coincides with another relatively new ceremony called the ‘Ring Ceremony’ in which the boy ties the ring in the girl’s finger.As the date of marriage approaches, there is a lot of enthusiasm in both the familes.The boy’s family sends gifts on the special days such as Lohri, Karvachauth etc if they fall before the date of marriage. On the day of marriage, the ‘Saant’ ceremony is organised for the boy & the girl at their respective homes amidst recitation of Vedic Mantras.
Mayete mangal galan dimarhaja
‘You are sitting in a Saant and your mother is singing happy songs’.
Before Saant, the brideg room or the bride is bathed and butna, a combination of turmeric and other things,is applied by their parents and close relatives, while the women sing:
Maliyo maliyo butnaae
Mere Laad ledabyah
Maliyomaliyo butnaae
Mere laadledabyah
‘Apply but nato the bride groom.My darling son is getting married. Call his father to apply but nato him as my darling son is getting married.
As the time of the departure of the Baraat approaches, the mare is offered pulses (Dal) by the groom’s sisters/cousins and the mother and aunts fan air to the groom and wipe his face lovingly and the Bhabhis (Brother/cousin’s wives) apply surma (Kajal) to his eyes to make him look more handsome. In all the ceremonies, apart from the parents, the Mama (mother’s brother, especially the elder one) plays a significant role.The groom sits on the mare and proceeds towards the girl’s home in the form of a procession including his parents, relatives and friends. The baraat is treated with utmost respect and reverance and served sumptuous snacks and dinner. In olden days,only the male members of the groom’s family would form barat and spend the night at the girl’s home and the female ones would remain at home to perform a night dance called Jagrana. But this practice has vanished now and both male and the female members and relatives of the groom’s family attend the barat and all except the groom, his father, Pandit, Purohit and one or two friends, return home after enjoying dinner.
The cousins and friends of the bride sing ‘Sithanians’ to tease the relatives of the groom.
Sahre basmati de chaol (rice) ban dik bhi neyiyo
Jaani buddeiy and iaayejawanik bhineyiyo
‘We served pure basmati rice without a single grain of paddy
This Barat consists of only old men, no young one is there in the Barat.
The friends and cousins of the bride take the bride groom to a room and ask him to tell them Shandh.The bride groom generally praises his parents in law by comparing his mother in law to Goddess Parvati and his father in law to Lord Shiva as under:
Shandpraag shandeiageinkesar
Sasmeri Parvati, Sauramera Parmeshar
The Lagna ceremony starts at an auspicious time in which the bride & the groom are asked to sit together by the holy fire and havana amidst recitation of the Vedic Mantras by the Pandits of both the families and they are told how to embark on their new life.The father of the bride performs ‘Kanyadan’ while the ladies sing Gorians
Maude thar samjeyaan Sas Maharanigi
Bable dethaar samjeiyan Saure Maharaj egi
‘Treat your mother in law as your own mother and father in law as your own father’.
In the morning, the bride is sent in a palanquin to the groom’s family.One of her cousins or friends accompanies her and she is welcomed by the groom’s family.The newly wedded couple have to pass through another ritual called ‘Rakhede’ in the Dogri parlance. They revolve around the abode of their kuldevta to seek blessings for a fruitful and prosperous life.
Thus, there is an elaborate chain of prenatal, natal and post natal rituals followed by Dogras and they are very conservative about them. Though with the advent of technology and increasing use of social media, some of these rituals & traditions have vanished,majority of the people in rural and hilly areas still follow them strictly.
(The writer is serving as Sr.Lecturer in English in Govt.Hr. Sec. School,Thial (Udhampur)