Pundits and Muslims are dancing to the same folk songs

The beauty of the Mehndiraat function is that it goes beyond the concept of religion

Mehndi (henna) is an auspicious element in many marriages. In Kashmir, this function is a party that lasts all night, celebrated both by the Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims.

Delhi resident Rajinder Raina has booked Kashmiri folk singers for his daughter’s wedding in Delhi. “We hired these Kashmiri folk singers for our Mehndiraat function as they represent our age-old culture. A lot of people prefer DJs to live music, but it won’t be our culture, it won’t be part of us.

This tradition of live music is still alive at wedding functions; lately it is getting clubbed with DJs to attract the younger generation in attendance. As they prefer faster music and beats, these traditional musicians also play fast numbers or sing up-tempo vibes with the crowd.

The function is mainly held in a wedding hall where a separate enclosure is made for the folk singers. The event begins with the application of Mehndi (henna) to the palms and feet of the bride and groom; Meanwhile, professional folk singers are their instruments or disinterested having a little tea party.

pure chai (salty tea), Kashmiri Kahwa and Lipton tea are served to guests and singers in the night. The singers are also offered cigarettes or the traditional hukkah.

The singing group is joined by a bacchakout (a dancer who dresses as a woman). The dancer is wearing a long colorful skirt and a top view. Bacchakout is the main artist of the event that calls and persuades guests to come on stage and dance at the wedding.

The musicians use tumbakhnaari, nott (matka), sarangi and harmonium. Almost all the top professional singers in the valley like Raj Begum, Zoon Begum, Ghulam Hassan Sofi, Ghulam Ahmed Sofi (Amma Kaandhur) Ghulam Nabi Doolwal, Ali Mohd Sheikh, Gopi Nath Bhat (Gupa Bacha) and many more were great Mehndiraat artists.

Anil Koul, who has been singing at such weddings for 27 years, says, “I live in exile and this music took me to my hometown, Srinagar, for performances.

“Due to the migration of Pandits from the valley, cultural heritage is dying slowly in the community and to maintain this language and culture alive, these folk songs are important.”

For youngsters, Koul has created a fusion music track where traditional Bollywood songs and hits are played. His troupe performs across India, and they mix relevant songs for the audience.

Harmony between Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims can be seen in this event when the Muslim artist Kashmir mehndi function starts with Ganesh Vandana.

For them, this art is also a source of income. The event also bridges the gap between Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims who lost their connection after the Pandit migration.

Mohammad Aslam Kak, from Srinagar, is the Bacchakout troop Kul.

Kak describes how he has been intrigued by music since childhood and is now a professional dancer in Kashmir. He says “Due to activism, many lives have been destroyed and it is affecting my livelihood as well.”

He says he earns less in Kashmir than elsewhere in India due to constant militant attacks and occasional stoppages.

“The militancy has engulfed Kashmir but everyone is not militant. Some are artists like us who just struggling to provide for their families, “said Kak, stressing that the militancy has no religion because every Kashmiri community is attacked.

He says that even people identify different religions, in the end humans (Insaan) lose their lives.

However, Kak is still optimistic about his livelihood as his profession gives him the opportunity to get out of his hometown and perform across India.

The beauty of the Mehndiraat function is that it is beyond the concept of religion. Pandits and Muslims sing and dance to the same folk songs.

This is not only a secular view of cultural representation. These events give the hope that peace and communal harmony in Kashmir may prevail, and that the two communities can live together as they did prior to the terror in the valley.

Comments are closed.