In another group when I told friends about occasions like someone's death or marriage in Pakistani society they barely believed me, so I thought of covering marriage of a relative recently held.

GANA traditionally a band with hanging strips named "gana" is bound to groom's wrist in a ceremony a weak or so prior to the marriage day which officially marks the beginning of marriage. Groom wears gana upto marriage night until it is removed by his bride at wedding night.(though in this case groom refused to wear it for so long). It got to do something with good luck because people also hang "gana" to their newly contructed houses too.

After that day both men and women of the village gather every evening in the bride's and groom's houses where they sing traditional songs and perform dances.

Shaker Marriage friends are officially announced(called sambalas). Groom along with friends visits one friend's houses per evening prior to the marriage where they are offered tea and sweets. Friend's family give a tray of sweets and cloth of a dress to the groom as present on the occasion.

Mehndi two days prior to marriage mehndi ceremony is held in the evening. Both bride and groom are applied mehndi(a skin coloring extract of Hina plant). Women usually wear green or yellow on the occasion(resembling color of plant or the extract). Other participants mostly women also apply mehndi on their hands.

Daaj Both bride and groom's families put wedding cloths, jewelry and other things prepared for the marriage on beds and women of village are properly invited to have a look on them a day prior to the marriage. This occasion is named as "daaj".

Ghroli marriage day starts with a ceremony named ghroli(pitcher) in which grooms sisters and relative women go singing to the village common well to fetch water. Pitcher keep on shifting the heads of women relative to the groom. In the end groom bring it down from a sister's head and pay her some money for the effort.

Sehra Bandi Then groom changes and ride on a horse back. His sisters feed his marriage horse. If marriage is in the same village then groom rides his way to the bride's house. But in case of distant marriage it is just a ride to local shrine and grave yard. On the way people stand in front of their gates having a glass of milk in their hands which is offered to the groom. After drinking it he puts some money in the empty glasses.

On the marriage day groom visits graves of his close relatives. In this case a sad moment because of father's absence on the marriage day.

Marriage ceremony takes place in bride's house. In this case in a marriage hall accompanied with several rituals. I will not go in details of that but it is a grand affair involving several hundred people from both sides.

Broom is given a glass of milk by bride's sister for which he got to pay. In order to raise the money groom's shoe is stolen. Here groom is trying to escape the steal.

Marriage Bed  Bride on arriving to the groom's house sits on a very elaborately prepared marriage bed called "saij".

Walima On day after marriage walima feast is given by the grooms family. 

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Replies to This Discussion

Thank you so much for posting all the beautiful photos and giving us detailed information.  It's so interesting how the act of marriage is so universal around the globe, yet celebrated so uniquely and with so many varied customs.  Would you say that your photos represent a typical wedding throughout all of Pakistan?  Or was this wedding unique to the village or region? 

some rituals are common through out India and Pakistan but some of them are unique to semi hilly Pothohar region

This is an incredible ritual, full of ceremony, color, and I assume sounds and tastes that the whole community enjoys. I do hope the customs come to USA when Pakistani's move here. I know of no Pakistani s in Spokane. 

Colors especially, stand out! So deep and rich; I don't think I have seen such pretty reds, yellows, greens, blues, violets, pinks. Dying fabric must be an ancient art form. Also, the lovely  embroidery on so many of the garments look intricate. The skin painting, too, offers beautiful patterns. I have never seen such a marriage bed! So tenderly and beautifully assembled. Dresses on the bed, Daaj, are so pretty! Are they all of silk? Who does the embroidery? The bride and groom's wedding day looks serious and playful at the same time. Their garments radiate. 

Thank you so much Amer! These photos are not at all what I expected to see. Just lovely! There must be ancient roots to your wedding ceremony.

Can you describe the foods you serve at such a celebration? 

Joan rituals do have roots. Those embriodries you see are now done by professionals but 30 or so years ago when society was totally argricultural it was done by girls themsleves. People were very buisy at times of sowing and harvests. But after wheat harvest in May they were free for next three months. In this period intense summer heat restricted people to their homes from early noon till the evening.

In this period's noon girls of village gathered in the houses of girls to be married that year. They all mutually knitted and did embriodry on bed sheets, pilo covers and dresses etc for the dowery of the girls. There was certain air of romance about those gatherings. Though a child at that time I still remember the meaningful smiles and singing at those gatherings.

The neighborhood in which I live in Chicago (Albany Park) has a fairly large Pakistani and Indian population.  On occasion throughout the years I've seen some of my neighbors obviously assembling for a wedding and wearing the same type of clothes as shown laid out on the bed in your photo.  It's a very colorful affair.  

Do the women suffer such indignity as Ruth describes in Albany Park? Are they able to have the kinds of care that we think necessary for the elderly? Do the colors and flavors and traditions come with them?

Amer, What would it take to humanize the culture? especially for the elderly women?


Joan, I'm not personally aware of each family situation that pertains to my many neighbors.  You have to understand that I live in a densely populated urban area with a mix of single-family homes, multiple-unit dwellings and apartment buildings, so my knowledge is limited by shear population size and also by a language barrier. 

I was not aware of the issue of abandoned widows as Ruth described until yesterday.  My observations during the eleven years I've lived in this neighborhood have shown me that the Indian and Pakistani families include persons of ALL ages, and that they are living with each other in the same buildings.  In addition, in this country we also, generally, have government or charitable programs in place to help persons in need. 

These families have left their native countries obviously for important reasons.  They have come to the United States and must inevitably be influenced by our societal values.  Woman with power abound here in our culture, be it in respected elected political positions or working in jobs that were once 'men only.'  It would be my educated guess that our type of inclusive environment would have a positive and lasting effect toward the treatment of the women who are emigrating here.  Or......perhaps these families already had these inclusive values and decided to move to the United States for that reason.  I don't know, and I'm sure each family situation is different.  

As a flight attendant, it's common for me to regularly have passengers on my flights who are emigrating to the United States.  In recent years, most have been refuges from Sudan or Somalia.  Sometimes it's whole families, sometimes it's one individual.  They don't speak English and they often physically look scared.  A few weeks ago on a flight from New York-Kennedy to Chicago I had a 14-year old girl from Somalia all alone on her way to a new life in Minneapolis.  Where was the rest of her family?  Were they dead?  Were they already in Minneapolis?  Were they still alive in Somalia, but made the agonizing decision to send her to a better place for her own good?  I'll never know.  When I escorted her off the plane in Chicago she asked me one simple question, "America?"  It's heartbreaking, but I do my best during my short interaction with these people, and always with a smile.  I can't imagine how upsetting it must be to leave your native-born country and go to a completely unknown and strikingly different environment.  (Sorry, I got off on a little tangent.)  

As far as food and clothing, I see most of the elderly dressed traditionally.  The local markets in my area carry a variety of Indian, Pakistani, Mexican, Korean and Latin American groceries.  In regards to food, it seems that native traditions rule in the kitchen.  (Some of the most delicious smells come from my Ecuadorian neighbors upstairs when they're cooking dinner!)

A funny little side note:  a Korean restaurant down the street has advertized their daily specials in the window in both English and Spanish. 

 The Flying Atheist,  Your densely populated, diverse neighborhood, and your job as a flight attendant offer you opportunities to see diversity that most people do not have. You are most fortunate! I had to travel by air, boat, railroad, bus and donkey to get to the 32 nations I visited trying to understand the role of religion and women.

People who have never been exposed to cultural diversity don’t realize they have missed a wonderful world of very nice people with different languages, traditions, religions or no-religions.  There are some terrible people in the mix as well.

Ruth does such a good job of finding research to back up her writings. She impresses me in so many ways. She does an incredible job of visually demonstrating the points she makes.

Your description of observations of “Indian and Pakistani families include persons of ALL ages, and that they are living with each other in the same buildings.” I can’t even imagine what it would be like to go to a strange country with a different language and value system and try to fit in, and flourish. I agree, our treatment of women encourages and empowers them to fully function as an adult human. At least I hope so. Yet, we still have a long way to go.  

While doing my studies for my doctorate, and traveling around the world gathering information, I tried to be an ethnographer and failed terribly ... completely. When I observed an injustice against women, I started training them to think and imagine and make plans and take action. Oh, I could describe their situation accurately, but I am an activist, not an ethnographer. Dissertation denied. I was “biased”.

The plight of women coming from Sudan and Somalia is beyond my imagining. Just suspecting that they might have been sexually mutilated would get me energized beyond reason. When I was in Greece I interviewed an Africa black woman, a Christian from birth, a teacher and no longer religious. At four years of age, her mother and women of the village put her on a rock, used a broken bottle and cut away her clitoris, using no anesthetic. Her vaginal opening grew shut to a very small hole for urine to pass. As she matured, married and had intercourse, her husband forced his way in, tearing scar tissues. These torn tissues became infected and ultimately, she had no children. Her husband threw her out, her parents refused her sanctuary, and she became a prostitute. Women Helping Women took her in, they restored her health, they educated her, and she became a teacher. I met her vacationing in Greece, at cape Sounion, the ruins of the Temple of Poseidon, built in 444 B.C. over-looking the Saronic Gulf.

Your story of the 14-year old girl from Somalia tells of courage overcoming fear. Yes, it is “heartbreaking”. I am so glad you were there for her, even for that short bit of time. No, you are not off topic, you tell your experience and that is as on topic as we can be.

Living so many traditions must provide aromas from all over the world; how I envy you. I like your Korean restaurant advertising in English and Spanish. 

P.S. We sat under the signature of Lord Byron

Signature of Lord Byron at Sounion

I don't understand why friends would find such customs difficult to believe.

The entire process is far too costly for my taste. Nobody looks relaxed or joyous.

My marriages were both very simple inexpensive events. But the relative power between men and women differs vastly in Pakistan from my egalitarian life.

Related to this power imbalance, today I learned that many elderly widows in nearby India are abandoned by their children or literally starved. At Largest Religious Festival, Some Abandon Elderly

... dozens of people are deliberately abandoned during a Maha Kumbh Mela, at a very rough guess.

Once the crowd disperses and the volunteer-run lost-and-found camps that provide temporary respite have packed away their tents, the abandoned elderly may have the option of entering a government-run shelter. Conditions are notoriously bad in these homes, however, and many prefer to remain on the streets, begging. Some gravitate to other holy cities such as Varanasi or Vrindavan where, if they're lucky, they are taken in by temples or charity-funded shelters.

In these cities, they join a much larger population, predominantly women, whose families no longer wish to support them ...

Mohini Giri, a Delhi-based campaigner for women's rights and former chair of India's National Commission for Women, estimates that there are 10,000 such women in Varanasi and 16,000 in Vrindavan.But even these women are just the tip of the iceberg, says economist Jean Drèze of the University of Allahabad,...

"For one woman who has been explicitly parked in Vrindavan or Varanasi, there are a thousand or ten thousand who are living next door to their sons and are as good as abandoned, literally kept on a starvation diet," he said.

So such a pretty looking extravaganza is the beginning of a long road for the bride,  which may end as often as not in poverty and abandonment in old age if the next door neighbor is any guide.

Ruth, a good bit of reality checking here. Sounds like they could use some good leadership of women and men who recognize the inhumanity of such a situation and create communities of care and compassion. 

Amer, is that even a slight possibility? 

Hope now you understand fully why I used word "You" earlier.

Upon further reflection, I've realized that part of why I replied to your post about marriage with a reply about the abandonment of the elderly came from a cultural divide. Without realizing it, I was responding to a value inherent in elaborate marriage rituals, all of then not just Pakistani. Placing great importance on the moment of transition, focusing so much attention on it, has come for me to represent turning attention away from the painful aspects of larger life experience. It's as if there's a tension between how one sees ones life, either looking at the outward aspects - the show, the face presented to the world - with seeing the personal aspects such as feelings, facing challenges together and mutual caring. For me there seems to be a discrepancy between appearance and substance, between the well meaning public statement of promises over a day or a few days and long term fulfillment over a lifetime, where women get the short shrift.

I'm sorry if my thoughtless response insulted you. I am only now, days later, realizing the source of my discomfort with your original discussion topic.




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