When the young lady's family have made all the necessary arrangements for that important event (their daughter's nuptials), notice is sent to the friends of the intended bridegroom, and the gentlemen of both families meet to settle on what day the celebration is to take place. They are guided in the final arrangement by the state of the moon--the new or full moon has the preference; she must, however, be clear of Scorpio, which, as I have before stated, they consider the unfortunate sign. There are some moons in the year considered very unpropitious to marry in. At Mahurrum, for instance, no emergency as to time or circumstance would induce the female party to consent to the marriage solemnities taking place. In Rumzaun they have scruples, though not equal to those which they entertain against fulfilling the contract in Mahurrum, the month of mourning.
Marriage settlements are not known in Mussulmaun society. All contracts are made by word of mouth; and to their credit, honourable reliance is usually followed by honourable fulfilment of agreements. The husband is expected to be satisfied with whatever portion of his wife's fortune the friends may deem consistent or prudent to grant with their daughter. The wife is at liberty to keep under her own control any separate sum or allowance her parents may be pleased to give her, over and above the marriage portion granted to the husband with his wife.
The husband rarely knows the value of his wife's private property unless, as sometimes happens, the couple in after years have perfect confidence in each other, and make no separate interests in worldly matters. Occasionally, when the married couple have not lived happily together, the wife has been known to bury her cash secretly; and perhaps she may die without disclosing the secret of her treasure to any one.
In India the practice of burying treasure is very common with females, particularly in villages, or where there are fears entertained of robbers. There is no difficulty in burying cash or other treasure, where the ground floors of the houses are merely beaten earth--boarded floors, indeed, are never seen in Hindoostaun--in the houses of the first classes of Natives they sometimes have them bricked and plastered, or paved with marble. During the rainy season I have sometimes observed the wooden tuckht (a portable platform) in use with aged or delicate females, on which they make their seats from fear of the damp from the mud floor; but they complain that these accommodations are not half so comfortable as their ordinary seat.
The division of personal property between married people has the effect of rendering the wife much more independent than the married lady of other countries. The plan is a judicious one in the existing state of Mussulmaun society, for since the husband could at his pleasure add other wives, the whole property of the first wife might be squandered on these additions. In the middling classes of society, and where the husband is a religious person, this division of property is not so strictly maintained; yet every wife has the privilege, if she chooses to exercise it, of keeping a private purse, which the good wife will produce unasked to meet her husband's emergencies; and which the good husband is never known to demand, however great may be his necessities. There are many traits of character in the Mussulmaun world that render them both amiable and happy, wherever politeness of behaviour is brought to bear. I have seen some bright examples of forbearance and affectionate solicitude in both sexes, which would do honour to the most refined societies of the civilized world.
The marriage ceremony occupies three days and nights: --The first is called, Sarchuck; the second, Mayndhie; and the third, Baarraat, (fate or destiny is the meaning of this word).
I am not aware that three days are required to accomplish the nuptials of the young couple in any other society of Mussulmauns distinct from those of Hindoostaun. Judging by similar usages among the Hindoo population, I am rather disposed to conjecture that this is one of the customs of the aborigines, imitated by the invaders, as the outward parade and publicity given to the event by the Mussulmauns greatly resemble those of the surrounding Hindoos.
There are no licences granted, nor any form of registry kept of marriages. Any person who is acquainted with the Khoraun may read the marriage ceremony, in the presence of witnesses if it be possible; but they usually employ a professed Moollah or Maulvee, in consideration of such persons being the most righteous in their lives; for they make this engagement a religious, as well as a civil contract.
The day being fixed, the elders, male and female, of the two families, invite their several relatives, friends, and acquaintances to assemble, according to their means and convenience for entertaining visitors. The invitations are written in the Persian character on red paper, describing the particular event which they are expected to honour. During the week previous to Sarchuck, both families are busily engaged in sending round to their several friends trays of ready-cooked dinners. Rich and poor share equally on these occasions; the reason assigned for which is, that the persons' nuptials may be registered in the minds of those who partake of the food, who in the course of time, might otherwise forget that they had ever heard of the young couple's nuptials.
The mother of Bohue Begum actively employed the intervening time, in finishing her preparations for the young lady's departure from the parental roof with suitable articles, which might prove the bride was not sent forth to her new family without a proper provision. There is certainly too much ostentation evinced on these occasions; but custom, prided custom, bids defiance to every better argument; and thus the mother, full of solicitude that her daughter should carry with her evident marks of parental affection, and be able to sustain her rank in life, loads her child with a profusion of worldly goods. The poorest people, in this instance, imitate their superiors with a blameable disregard to consequences. Many parents among the lower orders incur heavy debts to enable them to make a parade at their children's wedding, which proves a source of misery to themselves as long as they live.
It may be presumed the Sumdun Begum prepared more suits of finery than her daughter could wear out for years. A silver bedstead with the necessary furniture, as before described; a silver pawn-dawn, round, and shaped very like a modern spice-box in England; a silver chillumchee (wash-hand basin), and lota (water-jug with a spout, nearly resembling an old-fashioned coffee-pot); a silver luggun (spittoon); silver surraie (water-bottle); silver basins for water; several dozens of copper saucepans, plates and spoons for cooking; dishes, plates, and platters in all variety needful for the house, of metal or of stone. China or glass is rarely amongst the bride's portion, the only articles of glass I remember to have seen was the looking-glass for the bride's toilette, and that was framed and cased in pure silver. Stone dishes are a curious and expensive article, brought from Persia and Arabia, of a greenish colour, highly polished; the Natives call them racaab-puttie, and prefer them to silver at their meals, having an idea that poisoned food would break them; and he who should live in fear of such a calamity, feels secure that the food is pure when the dish of this rare stone is placed before him perfect.
Amongst the various articles sent with the bride to her new home is the much prized musnud, cushions and carpet to correspond; shutteringhies, and calico carpets, together with the most minute article used in Native houses, whether for the kitchen, or for the accommodation of the young lady in her apartments; all these are conveyed in the lady's train when she leaves her father's house to enter that of her husband. I am afraid my descriptions will be deemed tediously particular, so apt are we to take the contagion of example from those we associate with; and as things unimportant in other societies are made of so much consequence to these people, I am in danger of giving to trifles more importance than may be agreeable to my readers.
On the day of Sarchuck the zeenahnahs of both houses are completely filled with visitors of all grades, from the wives and mothers of noblemen, down to the humblest acquaintance of the family. To do honour to the hostess, the guests appear in their best attire and most valuable ornaments.
A wedding in the family of a respectable Mussulmaun is very often the medium of reconciling long standing estrangements between friends. Human nature has the same failings in every climate; there will be some who entertain jealousies and envyings in all societies, but a wedding with these people is a perfect peace-maker, since none of the invited can consistently stay away; and in such an assembly, where is the evil mind to disturb harmony, or recur to past grievances?
The day of Sarchuck is the first time the young lady receives the appellation of Dullun, at which time also the bridegroom is designated Dullha. Dullun is kept in strict confinement, in a dark room or closet, during the whole three days' merriment going forward under the parental roof; whilst the bridegroom is the most prominent person in the assembly of the males, where amusements are contrived to please and divert him, the whole party vieing in personal attentions to him. The ladies are occupied in conversation and merriment, and amused with the native songs and music of the dominie, smoking the hookha, eating pawn, dinner, &c. Company is their delight, and time passes pleasantly with them in such an assembly.
The second day, Mayndhie, is one of bustle and preparation in the Sumdun Begum's department; it is spent in arranging the various articles that are to accompany the bride's Mayndhie, which is forwarded in the evening to the bridegroom with great parade.
It is so well known that I need hardly mention the fact, that the herb mayndhie is in general request amongst the natives of India, for the purpose of dyeing the hands and feet; it is considered by them an indispensable article to their comfort, keeping those members cool and a great ornament to the person.
Long established custom obliges the bride to send mayndhie on the second night of the nuptials to the bridegroom; and, to make the event more conspicuous, presents proportioned to the means of the party accompany the trays of prepared mayndhie.
The female friends of the bride's family attend the Mayndhie procession in covered conveyances, and the male guests on horses, elephants, and in palkies; trains of soldiers, servants, and bands of music swell the procession (among people of distinction) to a magnitude inconceivable to those who have not visited the Native cities of Hindoostaun, or witnessed the parade of a marriage ceremony.
Amongst the bride's presents with mayndhie, may be noticed every thing requisite for a full-dress suit for the bridegroom, and the etceteras of his toilette; confectionery, dried fruits, preserves, the prepared pawns, and a multitude of trifles too tedious to enumerate, but which are nevertheless esteemed luxuries with the Native young people, and are considered essential to the occasion. One thing I must not omit, the sugar-candy, which forms the source of amusement when the bridegroom is under the dominion of the females in his mother's zeenahnah. The artush bajie, (fireworks) sent with the presents, are concealed in flowers formed of the transparent uberuck: these flowers are set out in frames, called chumund, and represent beds of flowers in their varied forms and colours; these in their number and gay appearance have a pretty effect in the procession, interspersed with the trays containing the dresses, &c. All the trays are first covered with basket-work raised in domes, and over these are thrown draperies of broadcloth, gold-cloth, and brocade, neatly fringed in bright colours.
The Mayndhie procession having reached the bridegroom's house, bustle and excitement pervade through every department of the mansion. The gentlemen are introduced to the father's hall; the ladies to the youth's mother, who in all possible state is prepared to receive the bride's friends.
The interior of a zeenahnah has been already described; the ladies crowd into the centre hall to witness, through the blinds of bamboo, the important process of dressing the young bridegroom in his bride's presents. The centre purdah is let down, in which are openings to admit the hands and feet; and close to this purdah a low stool is placed. When all these preliminary preparations are made, and the ladies securely under cover, notice is sent to the male assembly that, 'Dullha is wanted'; and he then enters the zeenahnah court-yard, amidst the deafening sounds of trumpets and drums from without, and a serenade from the female singers within. He seats himself on the stool placed for him close to the purdah, and obeys the several commands he receives from the hidden females, with childlike docility. The moist mayndhie is then tied on with bandages by hands he cannot see, and, if time admits, one hour is requisite to fix the dye bright and permanent on the hands and feet. During this delay, the hour is passed in lively dialogues with the several purdahed dames, who have all the advantage of seeing though themselves unseen; the singers occasionally lauding his praise in extempore strains, after describing the loveliness of his bride, (whom they know nothing about), and foretelling the happiness which awaits him in his marriage, but which, in the lottery, may perhaps prove a blank. The sugar-candy, broken into small lumps, is presented by the ladies whilst his hands and feet are fast bound in the bandages of mayndhie; but as he cannot help himself, and it is an omen of good to eat the bride's sweets at this ceremony, they are sure he will try to catch the morsels which they present to his mouth and then draw back, teasing the youth with their banterings, until at last he may successfully snap at the candy, and seize the fingers also with the dainty, to the general amusement of the whole party and the youth's entire satisfaction.
The mayndhie supposed to have done its duty, the bandages are removed; his old unnah, the nurse of his infancy (always retained for life), assists him with water to wash off the leaves, dries his feet and hands, rubs him with otta, robes him in his bride's presents, and ornaments him with the guinah. Thus attired he takes leave of his tormentors, sends respectful messages to his bride's family, and bows his way from their guardianship to the male apartment, where he is greeted by a flourish of trumpets and the congratulations of the guests, many of whom present nuzzas and embrace him cordially.
The dinner is introduced at twelve amongst the bridegroom's guests, and the night passed in good-humoured conviviality, although the strongest beverage at the feast consists of sugar and water sherbet. The dancing-women's performances, the display of fireworks, the dinner, pawn, and hookha, form the chief amusements of the night, and they break up only when the dawn of morning approaches.
The bride's female friends take sherbet and pawn after the bridegroom's departure from the zeenahnah, after which they hasten away to the bride's assembly, to detail the whole business of their mission.
I have often heard the ladies complain, that the time hangs very heavy on their hands whilst the party have gone to perform Mayndhie, until the good ladies return with their budget of particulars. Hundreds of questions are then put to them by the inquisitive dames, how the procession passed off? --whether accident or adventure befel them on the march? --what remarks were made on the bride's gifts? --but most of all they want to know, how the bridegroom looked, and how he behaved under their hands? The events of the evening take up the night in detailing, with the occasional interruptions of dinner, pawn, and sherbet; and so well are they amused, that they seldom feel disposed to sleep until the crowing of the cock warns them that the night has escaped with their diversified amusements.
The eventful Baarraat arrives to awaken in the heart of a tender mother all the good feelings of fond affection; she is, perhaps, about to part with the great solace of her life under many domestic trials; at any rate, she transfers her beloved child to another protection. All marriages are not equally happy in their termination; it is a lottery, a fate, in the good mother's calculation. Her darling child may be the favoured of Heaven for which she prays; she may be, however, the miserable first wife of a licentious pluralist; nothing is certain, but she will strive to trust in God's mercy, that the event prove a happy one to her dearly-loved girl.
I have said the young bride is in close confinement during the days of celebrating her nuptials; on the third she is tormented with the preparations for her departure. The mayndhie must be applied to her hands and feet, the formidable operations of bathing, drying her hair, oiling and dressing her head, dyeing her lips, gums, and teeth with antimony, fixing on her the wedding ornaments, the nut (nose-ring) presented by her husband's family: the many rings to be placed on her fingers and toes, the rings fixed in her ears, are all so many new trials to her, which though a complication of inconveniences, she cannot venture to murmur at, and therefore submits to with the passive meekness of a lamb.
Towards the close of the evening, all this preparation being fulfilled, the marriage portion is set in order to accompany the bride. The guests make their own amusements for the day; the mother is too much occupied with her daughter's affairs to give much of her time or attention to them; nor do they expect it, for they all know by experience the nature of a mother's duties at such an interesting period.
The bridegroom's house is nearly in the same state of bustle as the bride's, though of a very different, description, as the preparing for the reception of a bride is an event of vast importance in the opinion of a Mussulmaun. The gentlemen assemble in the evening, and are regaled with sherbet and the hookha, and entertained with the nuutch-singing and fireworks until the appointed hour for setting out in the procession to fetch the bride to her new home.
The procession is on a grand scale; every friend or acquaintance, together with their elephants, are pressed into the service of the bridegroom on this night of Baarraat. The young man himself is mounted on a handsome charger, the legs, tail, and mane of which are dyed with mayndhie, whilst the ornamental furniture of the horse is splendid with spangles and embroidery. The dress of the bridegroom is of gold-cloth, richly trimmed with a turban to correspond, to the top of which is fastened an immense bunch of silver trimming, that falls over his face to his waist, and answers the purpose of a veil, (this is in strict keeping with the Hindoo custom at their marriage processions). A select few of the females from the bridegroom's house attend in his train to bring home the bride, accompanied by innumerable torches, with bands of music, soldiers, and servants, to give effect to the procession. On their arrival at the gate of the bride's residence, the gentlemen are introduced to the father's apartments, where fireworks, music, and singing, occupy their time and attention until the hour for departure arrives.
The marriage ceremony is performed in the presence of witnesses, although the bride is not seen by any of the males at the time, not even by her husband, until they have been lawfully united according to the common form.
In the centre of the hall, in the zeenahnah, a tuckht (platform) six feet square is placed, on which the musnud of gold brocade is set. This is the bride's seat when dressed for her nuptials; she is surrounded by ladies who bear witness to the marriage ceremony. The purdahs are let down, and the Maulvee, the bridegroom, the two fathers, and a few male friends are introduced to the zeenahnah court-yard, with a flourish of trumpets and deafening sounds of drums. They advance with much gravity towards the purdahs, and arrange themselves close to this slender partition between the two sexes.
The Maulvee commences by calling on the young maiden by name, to answer to his demand, 'Is it by your own consent this marriage takes place with ----?' naming the person who is the bridegroom; the bride answers, 'It is by my consent.' The Maulvee then explains the law of Mahumud, and reads a certain chapter from that portion of the Khoraun which binds the parties in holy wedlock. He then turns to the young man, and asks him to name the sum he proposes as his wife's dowry. The bridegroom thus called upon, names ten, twenty, or perhaps a hundred lacs of rupees; the Maulvee repeats to all present the amount proposed, and then prays that the young couple thus united may be blessed in this world and in eternity. All the gentlemen then retire, except the bridegroom, who is delayed, as soon as this is accomplished, entering the hall until the bride's guests have retreated into the side rooms: as soon as this is accomplished he is introduced into the presence of his mother-in-law and her daughter by the women servants. He studiously avoids looking up as he enters the hall, because, according to the custom of this people, he must first see his wife's face in a looking-glass, which is placed before the young couple, when he is seated on the musnud by his bride. Happy for him if he then beholds a face that bespeaks the gentle being he hopes Fate has destined to make him happy; if otherwise he must submit; there is no untying the sacred contract.
Many absurd customs follow this first introduction of the bride and bridegroom. When the procession is all formed, the goods and chattels of the bride are loaded on the heads of the carriers; the bridegroom conveys his young wife in his arms to the chundole (covered palankeen), which is in readiness within the court, and the procession moves off in grand style, with a perpetual din of noisy music until they arrive at the bridegroom's mansion.
The poor mother has perhaps had many struggles with her own heart to save her daughter's feelings during the preparation for departure; but when the separation takes place the scene is affecting beyond description. I never witnessed anything to equal it in other societies: indeed, so powerfully are the feelings of the mother excited, that she rarely acquires her usual composure until her daughter is allowed to revisit her, which is generally within a week after her marriage.
P.S.--I have remarked that, in important things which have nothing to do with the religion of the Mussulmauns, they are disposed to imitate the habits of the Hindoos; this is more particularly to be traced in many of their wedding customs.
In villages where there are a greater proportion of Hindoos than Mussulmauns the females of the two people mix more generally than is usually allowed in cities or large towns; and it is among this mingled population that we find the spirit of superstition influencing the female character in more marked manner than it does in more populous places, which the following anecdote, will illustrate. The parties were known to the person who related the circumstance to me.
'A learned man, a moollah or head-teacher and expounder of the Mahumudan law, resided in a village six koss (twelve miles English) distant from Lucknow, the capital of Oude. This moollah was married to a woman of good family, by whom he had a large progeny of daughters. He lived in great respect, and cultivated his land with success, the produce of his farm not only supporting his own family, but enabling the good moollah to distribute largely amongst the poor, his neighbours, and the passing traveller. A hungry applicant never left his door without a meal of the same wholesome, yet humble fare, which formed his own daily sustenance. Bread and dhall he preferred to the most choice delicacies, as by this abstemious mode of living, he was enabled to feed and comfort the afflicted with the residue of his income.
'This moollah was one of the most pious men of the age, and alive to the interests of his fellow-mortals, both temporal and eternal. He gave instruction gratis to as many pupils as chose to attend his lectures, and desired to acquire from his matured knowledge an introduction to the points of faith, and instruction in the Mussulmaun laws. Numbers of young students attended his hall daily, to listen to the expounding of the rules and maxims he had acquired by a long life devoted to the service of God, and his duty to mankind. In him, many young men found a benefactor who blended instruction with temporal benefits; so mild and persuasive were this good moollah's monitions, that he lived in the affection, venerations and respect of his pupils, as a fond father in the love of his children.
'The wife of this good man managed the domestic affairs of the family, which were very little controlled by her husband's interference. On an occasion of solemnizing the nuptials of one of their daughters, the wife sent a message to the moollah, by a female slave, requiring his immediate presence in the zeenahnah, that he might perform his allotted part in the ceremony, which, as elder of the house, could not be confided to any other hands but his. This was to "tie the naarah to the moosul".
'The moollah was deeply engaged in expounding to his pupils a difficult passage of the Khoraun when the slave entered and delivered her message. "Coming", he answered, without looking at the messenger, and continued his exposition.
'The good woman of the house was in momentary expectation of her husband's arrival, but when one hour had elapsed, her impatience overcame her discretion, and she dispatched the slave a second time to summon the moollah, who, in his anxiety to promote a better work, had forgotten the subject of tying the naarah to the moosul. The slave again entered the hall, and delivered her lady's message; he was then engaged in a fresh exposition, and, as before, replied "coming", but still proceeding with his subject as if he heard not the summons.
'Another hour elapsed, and the wife's ordinary patience was exhausted; "Go to your master, slave!" she said with authority in her voice and manner; "go ask your master from me, whether it is his intention to destroy the peace of his house, and the happiness of his family. Ask him, why he should delay performing so important a duty at this ceremony, when his own daughter's interest and welfare are at stake?"
'The slave faithfully conveyed the message, and the moollah, finding that his domestic peace depended on submitting to the superstitious notions of his wife, accompanied the slave to the zeenahnah without further delay.
'The moollah's compliance with the absurd desires of his wife surprised the students, who discussed the subject freely in his absence. He having always taught them the folly of prejudice and the absurdity of superstition, they could not, comprehend how it was the moollah had been led to comply with a request so much at variance with the principles he endeavoured to impress upon them.
'On his return, after a short absence, to his pupils, he was about to re-commence the passage at which he had left off to attend his wife's summons; one of the young men, however, interrupted him by the inquiry, "Whether he had performed the important business of tying the naarah to the moosul?" --"Yes," answered the moollah, very mildly, "and by so doing I have secured peace to my wife's disturbed mind." --"But how is it, reverend Sir," rejoined the student, "that your actions and your precepts are at variance? You caution us against every species of superstition, and yet that you have in this instance complied with one, is very evident." --"I grant you, my young friend," said the moollah, "that I have indeed done so, but my motive for this deviation is, I trust, correct. I could have argued with you on the folly of tying the naarah to the moosul, and you would have been convinced by my arguments; but my wife, alas! would not listen to anything but the custom--the custom of the whole village. I went with reluctance, I performed the ceremony with still greater; yet I had no alternative if I valued harmony in my household: this I have now secured by my acquiescence in the simple desire of my wife. Should any evil accident befall my daughter or her husband, I am spared the reproaches that would have been heaped upon me, as being the cause of the evil, from my refusal to tie the naarah to the moosul. The mere compliance with this absurd custom, to secure peace and harmony, does not alter my faith; I have saved others from greater offences, by my passive obedience to the wishes of my wife, who ignorantly places dependance on the act, as necessary to her daughter's welfare."
'The students were satisfied
explanation, and their respect was increased for the good man who had
taught them to see and to cherish the means of living peaceably with
mankind, whenever their actions do not tend to injure their religious
or infringe on the principles of morality and virtue.'
 See p. 158. [[Letter 11:
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