Tajikistan – Rituals

Courtship

What ritual goes before a wedding? Of course, it's courtship. Frequently, Tajik families matched their young children and even newborn babies. There were two kinds of such courtship, namely: govorabakhsh (gakhvorabakhsh) - «cradle matchmaking", "cradle gift » and domanchok - "young children matchmaking". During «domanchok" mothers of a boy and a girl broke a flatbread with a prayer, put the children side by side and having connected hems of their shirts, tore them slightly along the seams. Girls and the young men were married off by their parents (at their prefernce), or professional matchmakers (sovchi). First, they negotiated with parents of the groom and the bride and then the courtship was arranged.

Engagement

WeddingAfter the courtship (in 10 days or a month) the courtship ritual was repeated: the young man was told who his bride was. Afterwards in the evening his mother went to the bride's house with the dish of a pilaw covered with freshly baked flatbreads. She was treated with tea while the hosts were cooking pilaw. Soon after that the bride's parents invited their relatives, neighbors, old men, and heads of clans to their home. All the guests were told that the girl had been married off. Before a meal someone who is very much respected broke flatbreads and prayed for the happiness of the groom and the bride. All rituals were accompanied by prayers. This ritual was called fotikha ("opening", "beginning") or nonshikanon - "breaking bread" and was considered an official engagement.

Presentation of Kalym to Bride's Parents

No wedding could take place the presentation of kalym (ransom for the bride) to girl's parents. The ritual went like this:

On the eve of the appointed kalym day the father of the bride had to come to the house of the groom for "takhta pas kunon" («lowering of dough board"). Some women baked flatbreads (lochira), old women cut wedding clothes and other women sewed them. All this was accompanied by songs, prayers and so forth. On the following day in the house of the groom they agreed upon final kalym with the father of the bride. In the evening "takhta pas kunon" was observed. After refreshments and the pray for happiness, young girls were ordered to sift flour and knead dough for wedding flatbreads; the elders examined the wedding gifts for the groom. One of the old women while praying had to cut a shirt (from fabric sent by the groom) for the bride which had to be sawn by younger women right afterwards. In few day' time, usually on Thursday, another ritual "latta buron" took place; when women in the bride's house cut clothes from the fabric presented by the groom's mother.

The wedding ceremony normally took place in autumn when harvesting season was over.

Suzane - a Wedding Coverlet

Suzane was an obligatory gift for a wedding. Tajiks believed that properly woven coverlet would savegurad from evil spirits and evil hexes. There were some rules which had to be observed. For example the fabric used for the coverlet ought to be exclusively white cotton homespun one - only that kind of fabric was considered ritually pure and favored by the Allah. Except for the patterns filled with ancient magic, skilled workers used other ways to increase the magic properties of the thing. Before the wedding, in order to finish the dowry preparation on time neighbors and relatives gathered for the work which looked more like a ritual in the bride's house. They read the Koran. Sewing work had to be started by a respected mother of many children.

Although there were a lot of skilful craftswomen around the ready coverlets often contained a slight flaw: e.g. some pre-drawn pattern was not embroidered. Actually, the crafty embroideresses did it on purpose- they thought: when praising do not overdo it; let the bad eye stumble over the flaw and the happiness of a newly-married couple never come to end the same way this coverlet was not completed. After the wedding the best suzane decorated the young couple’s room.

Wedding Ceremony

The wedding day - nikokh - started very early with pilaw cooking with further invitation of all villagers. First men were fed, and then it was the turn of women with children. The bride and the groom (each in his/her own home) prepared for the wedding ceremony. Closer to the evening the mullah (priest) was sent for. The bride's friends and relatives invited women-neighbors for the wedding. When invited each one gave a girl who had invited her cup of flour - the sign of happy wedding.

After refreshments and prayers for happiness of the groom and the bride the bride and her friends sat in the corner opposite the front door behind a curtain. There the bride was dressed and combed with prayers and other women danced in front of the curtain. The witnesses then went to the women's part of the house to obtain the bride's consent to be reported to the mullah. He, in turn started the ritial of akdi nikokh - traditional wedding ceremony.

After the ritual the groom received congratulations and his friends led him to the bride illuminating his way with torches. Before entering the door за the bride's house the groom had to jump over burning flax straws (to get a cleanup). The groom entered the house over the spread fabric and stopped in front of the curtain behind which the bride was waiting. When the groom left, the bride wearing a yashmak was led from behind the curtain to the door to say good bye to her father. After the farewell ceremony the bride was taken to the house of the groom. As the wedding procession moved on the fires were burning near the groom's house lighting the road. In the yard of the groom’s house there was a big fire for the bride to jump over it before entering.

She had to stop at the doors to wait until her father-in-law sacrifices a goatling at her feet. The bride entered the house walking on freshly spilled blood of the sacrificial animal and stepped onto the spread poiandoz (a fabric) the end of which were held by two old women. The bride was met by the low bowing mother of the groom. When inside the bride was placed behind a curtain. The people who gathered in the house were treated with pilaw.

Post-Wedding Rituals

On the third day after the wedding the young husband visited the bride's parents. This visit was called "domod salom"- "son-inlaw's bow". In fifteen days after the wedding took place the ritual of "looking at the brife's face" by her family. This ceremony was called rubinon, rukushod, rukushoi dukhtar. It normally was observed in the evening before Thursday or Sunday. In twenty days after the wedding in an evening before Thursday, Friday or Monday the young couple visited the house of the bride. This ritual was called khona tablon - "the invitation home".

Child's Birth

The period of pregnancy of a future mother, labor and first forty days (chilla) of a child's were accompanied by numerous ceremonies and rituals. The mother and the child were never left on their own; their room was at all times lit and the fire always burned. Beside the headboard of the woman they used to put sharp objects, above the bed they hung cayennes, onions and garlic. During the period of chilla there were a few special days: the third, the fifth, the seventh, the twelfth and the fortieth which were marked by rituals crelated to various stages of the baby's development, e.g. putting on its first shirt, the first bathing, giving a name, putting to sleep. This period came ended with a ritual called chilla-gurezon when the mother with her baby left their house for the first time and came to see some relatives who were to arrange a party for them.