Like any other culture, the Baloch people also celebrate union of two people with utmost joy, warmth, and devotion; yet, basic rituals of traditional Balochi weddings differ to a great extent from other ethnicities of the region. Even though in big urban centres like Karachi, Quetta, Zahedan, Muscat, weddings to a little extent have transformed due to persistent local culture; however, in almost all villages, small cities and towns, conventional Balochi weddings are still practiced with all glory and novelty. This piece sheds light on the traditional and unique rituals practiced in the Balochi weddings.
In Baloch culture, generally parents and elders arrange the marriage after seeking consent from both parties. When a young man comes to his age, his family decides a suitable match for him. Sometimes, the young man himself chooses a girl and requests his family to ask for the girl’s hand from her family. However, many a times, the marriages are also arranged within relatives and friends.
The marriage process starts with man’s family asking for girl’s hand. When the girl’s father accepts the proposal, they hold a reception for groom’s family and formally accept the proposal. After that several meetings are held between banoor (bride) and saloonk’s (groom) families; groom’s family must assure the bride’s parents about the well-being of their daughter and they discuss every major & minor aspect of the marriage; first and foremost being the dowry.
Baloch customs are very unique in the sense that dowry is not given by the bride’s family but the groom’s family. In many cases, bride’s family demands the dowry of their own liking from the groom’s family which mainly includes gold, lands and other property. The bride’s parents are only supposed to gift clothes and gold to their daughter according to their financial status. They are under no obligation from the groom’s family for any material thing; if they are not economically sound bride leaves her parents house only with few ordinary clothes and groom or his family cannot dictate any terms to them. Apart from that, all expenses of wedding are also bore by groom’s family; the bride’s family is not supposed to use anything of their own even very small things like match boxes are also provided to them by the groom’s family for the wedding.
Once all the details about marriage are decided and agreed upon, the two families fix the date for engagement and with those social conventions prohibit the bride and groom to face each other or visit houses of their future in-laws until the wedding. Engagements are usually small formal ceremony held at bride’s house. Only women of groom’s family (often only close family and friends) pay visit to bride’s house with gifts, accessories and a beautiful gold or diamond ring for the bride. Since groom cannot visit or face his fiancé before marriage, it’s his mother who put the ring on bride’s right-hand ring finger. Unlike other culture bride is very simply dressed for the occasion with no elaborate ensemble and make-up. The bride’s family then serves halwa, sharbat and tea to guests followed by lunch/dinner.
The literal meaning of Bijjar is “co-operation”. Bijjar is a very historic concept still practiced in many parts of Balochistan. In conventional Balochi weddings, few days before the start of wedding processions, saloonk (groom) or his family members demand/receive Bijjar (aid) from his community members (mainly relatives and friends) to smoothly perform the wedding. They get Bijjar in form of cattle, crops or nowadays cash. However, this Bijjar that they receive is a kind of liability on them which they have to return at the time when there’s a wedding at their place. For instance, if someone gives a goat as Bajjar, he would get it back when there’s a wedding of his children or siblings.
The pre-wedding ceremony starts with the event of Jol Bandi which is held at bride’s house. The word ‘Jol’ also called ‘bashanag’ literally means curtain, hence ‘Jol Bandi’ means tying the curtain. Jol Bandi is a grand, very important and a must ritual in Balochi weddings. It is the day when the wedding ceremonies formally begin. Jol Bandi like any other pre and post wedding ceremonies is largely women dominated; men don’t participate in rituals involving the bride.
The concept Jol Bandi is to officially start preparing the bride for her big day and to enhance her beauty with traditional methods. The services of ‘Sargwap’ are sought by the bride’s mother to prepare her daughter for the main wedding day. Sargwap is an expert lady more or less like a beautician, responsible for make-over and beautification of bride. She’s the lady who makes herbal mixture from scratch that would bring glow to bride’s skin and make it soft and beautiful; she also gives her hair treatments, removes her facial hair for the first time and would style her hair into traditional braids on her big day; thus, she stays with bride till wedding is officially over.
The bride sits inside the Jol with her face covered with a ‘deemgair’ till the wedding day. A deemgir is a delicate yellow cotton fabric tied to bride’s face so that no one other than sargwap could see bride’s face till the main wedding. It is also done to build curiosity of the people but primarily to make the bride look absolutely stunning on her big day. It is widely believed that if bride face is exposed to people, she wouldn’t look fresh and glowing on the main wedding day.
Ceremony officially kicks off when women of groom’s family along with their guests come to bride’s house to tie up the Jol. The bride’s mother also invites large number of guests as it is one of the biggest events of Balochi weddings. For the occasion, groom’s mother makes beautiful doochi (traditional Balochi embroidery) and embellished Jol Along with a deemgir with doochi motifs. She also brings a doochi dress and chador for bride. The sweets for Jol Bandi are also brought by the bride’s mother, which are distributed at the end of the ceremony among all guests
Groom’s family brings Mailab and other items for the bride
The ceremony formally begins with groom’s family and guests entering bride’s house with dhol and sorna/ullalu (a long and high-pitched vocal sound). They are greeted by bride’s family with sweets, garlands and sprinkles of rose water. They proceed to corner of the room where bride is seated, groom’s sister change her chador with the one they have made for her, then seven happily married women put mailab (a fragrant herbal mixture for hair) and a special oil on bride’s hair and another herbal yellow mixture on bride’s face, after that family members of both groom and bride fed the bride with halwa one by one. Then groom’s family ties the deemgir on bride’s face and then the Jol, hence marking the symbolic hand over of bride to sargwap for beauty preparations. After the Jol is tied, all the ladies including bride’s mother put money inside the Jol and all these money goes to the sargwap. Then the sweets brought by groom’s mother are distributed to guests and bride’s mother serves lunch/dinner and chilim (hookah) to guests.
The rituals are performed to the beats of dhol, sorna/ullalu, and songs by family members or professional performers hired for the occasion. The ladies also perform do chaapi. Do chaapi is a dance form in which groom’s and brides close family members and friends forms a circle, click their fingers and clap while moving around a circle.
Previously, brides would sit in the Jol for the whole week but with the passage of time days are reduced to two to three. Some modern urban brides just sit in jol for few hours for the rituals and go to her room when all guests leave.
The Event of Aroma & Scents
A day or two after Jol Bandi, bride’s mother invite her relatives and friends to scent all bride’s clothes in traditional way. The groom’s family is not invited for the event unless they are close relatives. The event usually takes place after lunch and is performed in same room where jol is tied. Basically, this ceremony is not only to scent bride’s clothes, it is also a way for bride’s mother to show to the people, the beautiful Balochi dooch (dresses) that she was getting made for her daughter since years and also an opportunity to indirectly boast off her status. Often she also showcases the gold jewelry and other accessories that she’s giving to her daughter. The guests also get to see the jahz (clothes, gold jewelry and accessories given by groom’s family) in the event.
The event is led by sargwap; guests are served sharbet, tea, refreshments and chilim while sargwap prepares special fragrances and scents by combining different sochki (bukhoor) and fragrant oil on the spot. A traditional or electric burner is used to burn the mixtures. A special wooden stand is placed over burner and bride’s clothes are put on the stand exposing the clothes to scented smokes coming from the burner. One by one they scent all the clothes; guests would wrap the clothes and put them into plastic bags and later bride’s family pack all bride’s clothes and accessories into suitcases in front of guests, hence making bride’s luggage ready. In the end, left over scents and fragrances are distributed to guests and they take it happily as it is believed to bring good luck.
Duzgi Hinna* – First Henna Night
Duzgi Hinna is the first henna night and an integral part of pre-wedding celebrations in traditional Balochi weddings. It is usually not a very grand affair and takes place a day or two after Jol Bandi. In Duzki Hinna, only close female friends and relatives join bride and groom’s families in the festivities.
In Duzgi Hinna, bride’s family prepares the hinna for the groom and takes it to groom’s place. The older women mix hinna with ulaalu/sorna in front of beautifully dressed-up ladies. The younger generation then skilfully designs henna trays and other accessories while ladies sing, clap and perform ‘do chaapi’ to the beats of dhol.
The convoy of bride (excluding his mother)** then heads to groom’s place with intricately designed henna trays to the beats of dhol and sorna. The groom’s family receives the convoy with flower garlands, feeds them sweets and sprinkles rose water on them. Bride’s convoy put henna trays on the floor and then bride’s sisters, cousins and friends perform do chaapi around henna trays.
After sometime, groom escorted by his brothers and cousins comes to greet bride’s family. The bride’s sisters and other family members apply henna on the tip of his right-hand’s small finger one by one. The groom then gives money gift to the sisters of bride according to his social and financial status. The women also apply henna on some of the boys accompanying groom and giving money gifts to women becomes customary on the boys too. However, unlike other cultures, bride’s sisters don’t demand money gifts but it is customary for groom to pay money to them after they apply henna on his finger.
Afterwards, bride’s sisters gift the groom (most commonly) either a watch or a ring on the bride’s behalf. Subsequently, the women one by one put money on the couch groom is seated; bride’s sisters on behalf of their mother also put money on the couch and groom’s family especially takes note of that (because the groom’s mother would double the money when they go for the bride’s henna). The money is usually distributed among groom’s staff, singers and dancers specifically called or hired by groom’s family for the wedding.
The bride’s convoy returns from groom’s house afterdinner and gather at bride’s house; close family and friends stay the night over bride’s house and whole night, they sing, dance and celebrate and the festive night continues at groom’s place too. The night of Duzgi henna usually goes on till the dawn.
Hinna Band – Ladies
Hinna Band is the final Henna night and usually the last night of pre-wedding festivities. To conduct Hinna Band in a grand way depends on families’ choice and their social and financial status.
On Hinna Band, groom’s family brings henna for bride at her place. Similarly like Duzgi Hinna, they first mix henna and designs henna trays and accessories in front of guests to the sounds of dhol and sorna. And then the groom’s convoy heads to the bride’s place. The bride’s sisters and friends welcomes them with flower garlands, feeds them halwa and sprinkle rose water on the convoy.
They sing and dance and move towards the jol where bride’s sitting. Previously, groom’s married sisters and cousins would put simple designs of henna on bride’s hands but nowadays, bride’s hands and feet are decorated with intricate designs usually by an expert. Regardless, they have to carry out the ritual so they place an almond tree’s leaf on bride’s hands and seven happily married women put henna on the leaf and give blessings to the bride. Then an expert among family and friends apply henna in intricate designs on bride’s hands and feet while they sing Balochi songs of hinna, dance, perform do chaapi on Balochi music and dhol sorna. Afterwards, women put money in bride’s jol and the groom’s mother put twice the money sent by bride’s mother the night before on duzgi hinna; however, that’s not customary for groom’s mother but it’s more like a statement. The Hinna Band money also goes to the sargwap.
When the henna on bride’s hands and feet dries up, seven married women from groom’s families carry out another important ritual of applying henna under bride’s feet; however, the modern brides don’t like hinna under their feet thus, they again put a leaf on her feet and apply henna to fulfill the rituals.
They return happily after performing all the rituals and having dinner to continue the festivities and celebrations at their home till dawn.
Hinna Band– Male
Since, Balochi weddings are heavily women dominated festivities and men don’t participate in processions involving the bride thus, groom throws his own party usually on the same night, Hinna Band is held. Generally, groom also invites bride’s brothers and family members for the festive night.
The boys entertain themselves with singing, dancing do chaapi to the rhythm of dhol and traditional Baloch.They often also hire popular Balochi singers and other famous Baloch artists for the night. They make sure to have utmost fun in the festivity that continues till the dawn.
There’s no fixed day and time for Nikkah in Balochi weddings. Families in different regions organize the nikkah’s day and time according to their convenience. Some people holds nikkah in the morning of main wedding day while others find it convenient to hold nikkah a day before as wedding festivities of previous night usually continues till dawn and it’s not feasible for them to wake-up early in the morning for nikkah processions.
In conventional Balochi weddings, men gathers at the grand mosque of the area for nikkah and the imam of mosque leads the nikkah processions. The ladies from groom’s family and friends visit bride’s place for nikkah rituals involving the bride. The nikkah is performed according to Islamic laws and include mehr which is decided prior to wedding by both the families.
The imam first takes consent of bride in the presence of both bride and groom’s families at her residence. The bride gives her consent and signs the marriage contract while still sitting in jol. Afterwards, Imam asks for groom’s consent in the mosque in front of bride and groom’s respective families and guests. Afte groom’s gives his consent and contract is signed, the couple becomes legally and officially married. The people celebrate the most auspicious moment by embracing the groom and giving him blessings and good wishes for the life ahead. The groom’s families distribute sweets and dried dates to the guests followed by lunch or dinner.
On main wedding day, both families organize a grand banquet (most often at lunch hours) at their respective residences to celebrate the union. As per tradition, groom either gives cash to bride’s family for the banquet or sends food from his residence to the bride’s place for all her invitees. Everyone they know must be invited. In villages, the whole village doesn’t make food that day and it’s the responsibility of groom to feed them. After the feast, some guests who are closer to respective families stay for evening ceremonies, the others leave after the lunch.
Paag is traditional turban of the Baloch people and an essential part of a Baloch man’s attire. However, nowadays in modern times paag is more like a statement and generally worn by elders of the tribe but Baloch groom also prefers to dress up regally like a Baloch nobleman on his wedding day and his attire is incomplete without the paag; in fact the paag is very significant part of his ensemble because of its symbolic value in Baloch culture as it marks the transformation of the groom from the young boy into a man. According to some people, the ritual of Paag Bandi in the weddings is also inspired by the coronation ceremony of the Tumandar (tribal chieftain) in which ‘turbanning’ of the new Tumandar occurs.
The ceremony is held few hours before leaving for bride’s residence, at veranda of groom’s house and both men and women participate in the procession. For the ceremony a taahth (traditional Balochi couch) is placed in middle of the veranda which is covered with a beautiful doochi velvet sheet specifically made for the occasion by groom’s mother. The groom dressed in a pure white Balochi dress, a doochi waistcoat and a pair chawat (Balochi footwear), is escorted by his married best man towards the couch to sounds of dhol and sorna. Groom’s best men then tie the paag over his head while his friends dance to the tunes of Balochi music and songs particularly composed for Paag Bandi ceremony. Once, groomsmen are done tying the paag, they swing bundles of money over groom’s head one by one and then gift the same money to groom (since, it’s the groom and his family who bore all the wedding expenses of both the households, the money gift by groomsmen is a way to help the groom and lessen his financial burden). After Paag Bandi ceremony, the groom is escorted to bride’s residence by all the guests.
Banoor e Sambhainag
Bride is called Banoor in Balochi. Banoor e Sambhainag means adornment of bride for her big day. After the Grand Lunch, the sargwap lock the room where bride’s jol was tied and officially dissolve (untie) the jol; bride comes out of jol for her sambhainag; only few very close and married family members of bride are allowed inside the room, unmarried girls are strictly prohibited as it is believed if they watch bride’s sambhainag they will not look beautiful on their wedding day. However, these rules are no longer strictly followed and in cities brides goes to the salons for her make-over.
The sargwap helps the bride in dressing up. She usually wears a dark pink doochi bridal dress embellished with gold threads and colorful stones and beads work over the dooch. Sargwap then helps the bride scent her dress with soochki smokes coming from soochki burner, she then apply donn (a kind of Balochi itr) on her dress. Afterwards, she styles her long locks into the traditional braids and applies mailab on her hair. The modern brides however, opt for modern hairstyles. Then, a family member or make-up artist applies make-up on bride’s face; a traditional Baloch bride prefers to wear heavy make-up. After the make-up, her sisters help her wear the jewelry, traditional bride likes to wear traditional Balochi jewelry like kaid or sar bandh on her head, durr (Baloch earrings), sanjaak ( a traditional broach cum necklace) gulu band (choker) , necklaces, bangles and rings on all her fingers as well as toe rings and anklets. Basically, the quantity and quality of jewelry that she wears on her big day show cases the status of her in-laws.
When she’s ready, sargwap covers her head and face with a beautifully made veil scarf which will only be lifted by the groom as no one is supposed to see her face before the groom. She’s then escorted out of the room with ullalu and sorna to the soochki scented hall where she is seated on couch decorated with beautiful maroon coloured doochi valvet sheet and cushions; she sits quietly with low gaze on couch and waits for her groom to arrive; a chatty bride is not likeable in the conventional families.
Nadinag is the key wedding procession when groom along with all his invitees arrives at bride’s place and the couple face each other for the first time after the acceptance of proposal. The groom accompanied by his convoy travels to bride’s place with Balochi music, and to rhythm of the dhol and sorna. The bride’s family greets the convoy with ulallu, and sprinkle rose petals over them as they move towards the main hall.
The groom and his best men then walk under the embroidered silk cloth canopy while his sisters and close relatives holds its corners and guide them towards the hall where bride is seated with all her finery. The groom sits to the right of the bride and the men accompanying the groom then leave the hall and sit outside to let the ladies to carry out the essential rituals of nadinag.
The rituals of Nadinag ceremony begin with cleaning of groom’s finger. In previous times, bride’s married sister or a close family member would wash groom’s feet; however, in recent times washing of groom’s feet is replaced by the small finger of his right hand. After that seven happily married women from both the sides, one by one, gently collide the groom’s head with that of the bride; this gentle collision of head is a form of blessing for their happy married life ahead.
Afterwards, bride’s sister brings a glass of saffron almond milk for groom and he has to drink half the milk and then bride also has to take a sip from the same glass. The bride’s family members then cover her and groom under a decorative chador and they finally see each other through a silver adorned mirror under cover of the chador. After that, groom is asked to lift bride’s veil and finally groom lifts the veil of bride and everyone present in the hall wants to get the glimpse of the bride adorned for her saloonk (groom) as well as the look of elation on groom’s face at that time; mostly at this time bride’s sister exchange some witty comments with the groom and sounds of laughter fill the hall. After groom lifts the bride’s veil and she is seen by her man; guests come closer to them one by one to give their blessings to the newly married couple.
After the wedding rituals are performed and the dinner is served to guests, comes the bride’s farewell, which is most emotional*** moment of the entire wedding processions. Groom’s family takes permission from bride’s parents to leave with the bride. The bride is escorted to her mother who would be sitting in some other room to avoid meeting with her son-in-law during wedding processions (the reason explained above); the mother, daughter hug each other and the mother weeps with happy tears and bid farewell to her sobbing daughter with prayers and blessings. She is then accompanied by her father, sisters and other close relatives who lead her with teary eyes to the doorsteps and bid farewell to her with blessings of happy married life ahead. And thus, she leaves her parents house with tearful eyes with her groom. When she reaches the groom’s house, she is given a grand welcome at her new home by the groom’s family.
Mobaraki is the post-wedding banquet organized by bride’s parents at their house. As mentioned above, bride’s parents do not bear any of the wedding’s expenses and all are paid by the groom; however, Mobaraki is only wedding procession financially organized by bride’s parents to honour their newly-wed daughter. Mobaraki is usually held very next day after the main wedding.
For the Mobaraki, the entire groom’s family, friends and relatives are invited along as well as relatives and friends of bride’s family. The bride dresses up elegantly for the ceremony of Mobaraki and typically wears a doochi dress made by her mother for the occasion; she also prefers to wear jewelry gifted by her parents on Mobaraki. She arrives at her parent’s house with her groom and given a warm welcome by her parents and siblings who have already started missing her. All the guests gather at bride’s house and celebrate Mobaraki of the bride.
* Hinna is also called hinni or Inaam due to lexical differences in parts of Balochistan.
**The bride’s mother does not face the groom from the day wedding festivities start until two days after the main wedding. On the third day, groom himself pays visit to his mother-in-law to take her blessings. The concept behind it is the belief that if mother-in-law faces her son-in-law during this duration, it would affect their relationship and they would never be cordial with each other. However, this ritual is not widely practiced in modern times but still exists among the orthodox in rural areas.
*** The bride and her family become emotional and sob because she has to leave her parents house where she was raised and lived all her life, forever.