“My Old but Ever New Pindi” (Part 19)

By Rafique Ahmed Khan, Dubai  

Rafique Ahmed Khan, pic for articleEditor’s Note: The writer was born in Rawalpindi in 1925. He studied in Denny’s High School, Mission High School and Gordon College. He now lives in Dubai. He is writing a series of articles about the life in Rawalpindi during 1930′s, 40′s and 50′s.

Continued from Part 18……….

I have already mentioned briefly about the marriage ceremonies solemnized by the various communities during the pre 1930’s period in Rawalpindi {Please see my article: “My Old but Ever New Pindi” (Part 6)}. Almost all the marriages were family arranged and in very rare cases that some marriages took place out of any wed-lock. Any interfaith marriage was out of question; and at least I am unaware of any such marriage in Pindi.

A number of marriage engagements were settled even at the birth of babies between two relative families and or very close friendly families. As a token of such bondage, gold finger rings were exchanged by the well-to-do families along with some other gifts including complete dresses for the parents, grand parents, brothers, sisters and even  their spouses. Grand feasts were also exchanged at the occasion. In addition “DOPATTAS” (a muslin shawl) for ladies and “PUGS” (muslin turban) for gents; distant relatives were also given by the family of the brides to the family of grooms during such functions.

A number of marriage engagements of minors were also settled between such families in the same manner. Any objection by such girls or boys was least expected and intolerable. Normally the number of such marriages was not high and limited to very orthodox families. Generally under the current social and moral traditions of the EAST such marriages took place quite normally with quite visible willing consent of the involved matches.

Nostalgic article about Rawalpindi. A marriage of minor children.

After the fixation of final date of marriage function, certain traditional ceremonies were performed. A week before the “RUKHSATI” (Bride to leave her parental house for her permanent residence in her Husband’s House), both the Girl and the Boy were made to remain in the same clothing till the final day of marriage arrangements. This ceremony is called “MAIYAAN”.

 Nostalgic article about Rawalpindi. Maiyaan Ceremony.

Next ceremony is “MEHNDI”. This formality in fact is to receive voluntary help from the relatives/friends under the cover of holding this ceremony. In this ceremony the Groom’s Party would go to the Bride’s residence to apply “HENNA” paste to decorate the hands of the Bride. Big metallic plates filled with the henna paste and duly decorated with candle lights and flowers were taken to the Bride’s residence by the ladies in procession, singing and dancing all the way. Professional “DHOLAK” beaters (MEERAASIS) would accompany the ladies in procession to the Bride’s residence. It may not be out of point to mention herein that a brand new unused, colour-painted in designs, earthen pitcher (GHAROLI) filled with the water from some nearby water well; duly decorated with flowers and covered in red cloth was also carried by the ladies to the Bride’s residence. It was considered as a sign of prosperity and good omen.

Mehndi on Bride's hand

Gharoli ceremony.

All the invited guests especially the ladies would pay certain amount also to the girl as a token of affection and cooperative help. In fact, this gesture is also the return of the amount which the giver had already received a long time ago during the same type of function from the family of the present bride. As a matter of fact such formalities were/are the signs of mutual cooperation, financial help, aid to the family involved undergoing burden of extra expenditure; adopted by the local society as a whole. A handsome amount would be received by the family from relatives and friends without any obligation, but surely a big timely and appreciable relief.

During the marriage functions the gentlemen of the Groom’s side would wear pink-coloured turbans (PUGS) and the ladies would wear pink-coloured muslin shawls (DOPUTTA) showing the sign of being happy upper hands. At the time of the arrival of “BARAAT” (Groom’s side party) sweets like; dried dates (CHHOHARAS), indigenous candies (PHUL MAKHANAS) and coins were thrown over the BARAAT in their honour to the joy of the young kids who would rush and jump to pick up the booty from the ground. This action was performed as a good omen to ward off the evil. After the formalities of hugging, exchanging compliments and touching the feet of the Groom party gents; the guests were seated on the chairs under the “SHAMYANA” (Tent). One set of Sofa was arranged for the Groom and his parents. Such Tents were fixed right in the middle of the road/street (without bothering to block the traffic) or an open space nearby the house of the Bride.

Rawalpindi nostalgic article - Chhoharas, Phul Makhanas.

To add some entertainment to the gathering, a group of “BHAANDS” (Comedians) would spring up from no where uninvited; and start performing to make all the gathering laugh and enjoy. They used to keep the audience mused and laughing all the time with their comic gimmicks, taunts, jokes and stories and would leave only when paid up to their satisfaction.

Nostalgic article about Rawalpindi. Two Bhaands.

During all this time the brass band used to be in attendance playing popular tunes of the time. Some from the gathering would go to the Band Players and would start giving tips (WAILS). On this the Band would start playing at their best and loudest pitch. The BARAATS would often arrive after the sun set in order to look more imposing in the bright lights of the “Patromax” gas lights filled with kerosene oil, and fitted on the pedestal stands. During the peak season of the marriages, there used to be shortage of the gaslights and the Brass Bands resulting into the black marketing and overcharging.

Brass Band Studios in Raja Bazaar, Rawalpindi

The complete Brass Band consisted of 23 players under their Band Master who used to play the Clarinet to lead/conduct the playing. The Musicians wore salvaged ex army band uniforms made with Vicona or Blazer cloth, with colour combination as red & white or blue & white with tidy turban wound on the “KULLA” with golden frill on one side, and presented a good show. The Band Master wore his normal clean and tidy dress without any uniform and led the Band with playing on the Clarinet. During such time of high business and shortage of staff, extra labourers were engaged and were deployed in the proper uniforms, who would act as if they were trained musicians moving their fingers in harmony with the other colleagues, but without actually playing the instruments. It meant that against the order for Ten Men Band, only eight persons were genuine musicians and two were fake.

 Rawalpindi nostalgic article. A Brass Band in a Marriage.

The Brass Bands were generally hired by the Groom’s family. The Groom’s family accompanied by the relatives and friends start for Bride’s house in a procession following the Brass Band playing and stopping at small distances to give a special performance show in stationery condition to receive tips (WAILS) from the procession. While playing a long note, the Band Master would raise his clarinet pointing towards sky blowing to his best, expecting due appreciations from the audience. In this way the procession used to take its time to reach the Bride’s residence (Disregarding the arrival at fixed timing) or the place where they were expected to be received.

After the arrival of the procession at the Bride’s Reception place, the Brass Band would play to their loudest for considerably long time, to enable the “BARAATYS” (Groom’s Party) to be seated properly. Thereafter the necessary refreshments hot and/or cold were served as per the weather. During old days the effervescent drinks used to be filled in heavy thick glass bottle with a glass “marble” which used to seal/close the bottle fitting tightly in the rubber ring in the neck after filling with the gas. The “marble” had to be strongly tapped to open. A specially made wooden cup with a small pin would be used to open the bottles. Some people would use their thumb on the “marble” and open the bottle by striking the thumb hardly with the fist of the other hand. The bottle would open with a loud thud. Initially the drink was started with Lemon flavor; though  long afterwards few more flavours like Rose, Banana, Ginger and Plain Soda were added, but the drink kept being called with its nickname and known as “Lemon Bottle”. It was also known as “BANTA BOTAL” (Marble Bottle).

 Lemon Bottles.

After the BARAAT” settled, the “NIKKAH” formality was performed by the local Imam, who after reciting few verses from the Holy Quran would ask the Groom loudly “Do you agree to accept………., daughter of,……as your wife?”. He would repeat his query three times followed by the answer each time by the Groom, “Yes, I accept…….daughter of…..as my wife”. Then the Imam would take the Groom’s signature on the “NIKKAH REGISTER” maintained by him on behalf of the Government. Then the Imam would go inside the room where the Bride was kept for the purpose along with two witnesses and ask her the same question three times to receive the reply in her loud and clear voice with regards her accepting the Groom as her husband. Her signature would also be obtained in the same Register. And this is how a marriage of Muslims was solemnized. After the Nikkah ceremony and the announcement by the Imam with regards to the completion of the formalities, he would greet the Groom and the gathering with the words,” MUBARAK HO, MUMBARAK HO, Hazraat (the gathering of the guests)”.

Nostalgic article about Rawalpindi - A Bride signs in Nikkah Register.

Soon after the NIKKAH ceremony was over, the dinner used to be announced. During pre 1930’s, the dinner was cooked in huge “DAIGS” (metallic pots). Each DAIG had the capacity to hold 14 kg of rice plus 7 kilos of Mutton to make PULAO. One DAIG was sufficient to serve 60-70 persons. The food was cooked on the spot nearby to be served hot. Traditional professional cooks, called “DAIGEES”, were hired for the purpose, who were capable of cooking any number of DAIGS at a time assisted by their couple of relatives or hired staff.

Daigs of Pulao being cooked by DAIGEES

The food was served on ground by laying big lengths of “DASTAR KHWANS” (cloth mats). The food was served in big neatly tinned Copper serving plates and bowls. The water was also served in metallic glasses. The menu served by middle class gentry used to include Mutton Pulao, Mutton Qorma, Tandoori Roti (Oven baked bread) and “Zarda” (Sweet rice).

Nostalgic  article about Rawalpindi. Mutton Pulao, Mutton Qorma and Zarda.

After 1940’s the meals started being served on tables with chairs. The services of the proper Caterers were hired to supply and serve the food according to the ordered menu. Though a bit costly but it proved very convenient arrangement taking the load off the shoulders of parties in respect of all the labour of running to and fro to buy the required stuff and hiring the professionals in this regard.

There used to be a difference in the menus of the Muslims and non-Muslims. Before 30’s, there used to be Vegetarian menus for Hindus consisting of Pulses and Fried vegetables served with “POORHEES” (fried Chappatys) or Tandoori Roties duly greased with pure Desi Ghee. One favorite dish was sun-dried Mushrooms (called GUCHHEES) and green pea curry. This dish was considered to be a good replacement of meat because of its meat like taste. Dried Mushrooms were very costly item and top quality could be bought at Rs. 100/- per one seer (Kilo). In sweet dish the “KHEER” (Rice boiled in milk with sugar) was very common. The Sikh community would have non vegetarians dishes. They would use “JHATKA”  instead of “HALAAL” mutton. Main features of the marriage functions of the Muslims and Non Muslims were mostly common except the respective religious formalities and food restrictions with regards to the vegetarians and non vegetarians.

Nostalgic article about Rawalpindi. Sun-dried Mushrooms, green peas & potato curry.

Before I conclude, I would add about a very old unusually strange but faded and forgotten tradition (PUCH BAKRI) prevailing before 1920’s in the surrounding villages of Pindi. The common folk (poor or tenants) would ask for “BLESSINGS” (In other words proper permission) from the Land Lord or the Chief of the Clan to marry their daughter; appearing before him along with one goat as a fee cum present. This goat would be called a “PUCH BAKRI”. The Land Lord would grant the necessary permission while accepting the gift; and thus the poor tenant would marry his daughter. Thank God this unjust tradition has gone with the wind, forgotten and not to return. THIS WAS THE LAST PART.

Rawalpindi nostalgic article - Healthy Goat.

Related Pages:
Nostalgic Articles about Rawalpindi  
Rawalpindi Blog 

Editor’s Note: 
Did you find this article interesting? Feel free to share it on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media by using the buttons below. If it is not inconvenient, please do write a brief comment at the end of this page under the heading “Leave a Reply here”. You are welcome to contribute nostalgic articles about Rawalpindi by sending to the Editor at: nativepakistan@gmail.com


  1. My dear friend Rafique Ahmed Khan Sahib is severely sick and admitted in Shaikh Rashid Hospital Dubai.
    All friends are requested to kindly pray for his early recovery and health.
    Jazak Allah Khair.
    Javed Iqbal

  2. Raja Basharat says:

    Now where are you living in Bahria Town ?

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Respected Raja Basharat Saheb,
      I live in Dubai for the last 30 years. My residence is 775/F, Sattelite Town Rawalpindi; but the house remains closed and looked after by the Watchman who lives therein with his family. On temporary visits I stay at House no 300-301, Main Boulevard Bahria Town with my grand daughter for the obvious reasons. I can however, be contacted at my email address: rafique1@eim.ae

  3. Jawad Ahmad says:

    Rafique Sb,
    I love karahi of Babu Mohallah and missing one of the few things here in Canada, please share contact (if any) and history of these guys). Their waiter, Shah Sb, is the best of customer services.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Jawad Ahmad sahib,
      It has been observed that ones living outside the country never forget about their birth places. The original taste of “Karahi” made in the Babu Mohalla regardless of its unhygienic conditions would remain in your everlasting memory; even in the presence of most modern eateries in Canada. Now there are many such “Karahi tikka Shops” running in the locality attracting the same rush of diners in the evening as a daily routine.
      Thanking you.

  4. Jawad Ahmad says:

    Dear Rafique sb
    I was born and grew up in Rawalpindi in 1971 (Banni Mohallah), and stuided in City Public (owned by Khan sb) and Modern Science Academy. What a great feeling it was by reading your Post, would you believe I was not in a voting age but all of my family supported Agha sb for Mayor, not only because he was neighbor of my uncle (mamoo) but because of his devotion as son of the soil. Allah Pak aap jaisi hastioun ko hamaray ser per salamat rakhay, Aameen.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Mr. Jawad Ahmad,
      Thank you for the appreciating comment. Also thank you for the gracious feelings of you and your family for late Agha Saheb the ex Mayor of Pindi. I would have loved to know the name of your “MAMOO” for the obvious reasons.
      Thanking you and with best wishes,

      • Jawad Ahmad says:

        Dear Rafique sb,
        Thanks for your reply
        Name of my Mamoo is Iqbal Mustafa he used to live on Eidgah Road just next to Raja Sarwar’s house (Murree walay). My Nana jee (Muhammad Afzal) was having a paint business on Jamia Masjid Road named Aziz Sons Paint Store.
        The tikka shop I mentioned earlier was Raees Tikka Shop on a one way street of Bao Mohallah.
        Stay blessed,

        • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

          Dear Jawad Ahmad Saheb,
          Thanks for the feed-back. Raja Sarwar’s house is at the end of Peer Choha Road leading towards Eid Gah. I also know about the Paint shop Aziz Sons near Jamia Masjid. How happy I felt to have been contacted by an anxious Pindiite, whose memory of Pindi is still as fresh as ever, while living so far away.
          Thanking you again,

  5. Sir Rafique Ahmad Khan Sb,

    Infact you have preserved forgotten episodes of Pindi history. If you would like to say something about villages to the north of Pindi that were evacuated/demolished during the construction of Capital, Islamabad. Had you ever visited this area and particularly traveled on Saidpur Road that used to be initiated from Bunny Chowk to Saidpur village. I will be thankful for ur precious information. Thanks.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Mr. Adnan Alam Awan,
      Thank you for the comment. As a matter of fact the original charm and beauty of old Pindi has been destroyed under the undesirable programme of modernized expansion of the city. While it retains its originality from Banni Chowk to Asghar Mall Chowk (the start of Saidpur area) but thereafter all original constructions have vanished except a few buildings like the Municipality Water Works, or Khalsa High School (Now Muslim High School). With the start of the Satellite Town during 1950s every inch of cultivable lands/fields was utilized for residential purpose.
      Then with the start of Islamabad nothing original was spared; when an ultra modern city appeared in lieu. It was an extremely beautiful rural scenery with cultivated meadows, scattered mud houses of the farmers, hamlets, and villages scattered over miles. Now Saidpur & Nurpur the very famous historical villages are a part of the ultra modern city, Islamabad, with the newly built houses, palatial & high rise buildings replacing the original beautiful mud houses. The Hindu religious places like KUND a bathing pond in Saidpur was a worth visiting place during the old days
      Though the modernization has provided better facilities & convenience of life; but lost the original charm & beauty.

  6. Chaudhary Fakhar Zaman says:

    Respected RAFIQUE Sahib,
    I do know Guchhees and have eaten them they usually come from Kashmir and no doubt a replacement for meat. My late father Tariq AZAM Chaudhary used to cook pilau of them specially for Narnakari Sikhs when they used to visit Panja Sahib.


      Dear Chaudhary Fakhar Zaman Saheb,
      Thank you for the comment. The “Guchhees” are in fact dried mushroom; and during those times this commodity was available in Kashmeer only. It was really a very costly food items and only the rich could relish.
      With regards,

  7. Shaheda Rizvi, Canada says:

    Dear Rafique Ahmed Khan Saheb,

    As usual I loved reading the episode, and recalled similar wedding traditions in Karachi. I had never heard of Puch Bakri, where the poor tenants gave as present a goat to the landlord to seek his permission for marrying his daughter. How unfair, cruel and lop-sided! It’s the landlord who should be giving a gift of sorts to the young bride. Should he not?

    You wrote: “There used to be a difference in the menus of the Muslims and non-Muslims. Before 30′s, there used to be Vegetarian menus for Hindus consisting of Pulses and Fried vegetables served with “POORHEES” (fried Chappatys) or Tandoori Roties duly greased with pure Desi Ghee. One favorite dish was sun-dried Mushrooms (called GUCHHEES) and green pea curry” Looks and sounds tasty.

    One of my dearest friends in Karachi was from a Hindu family, a very prominent Hindu family, who gave away their buildings to NED college and other institutions, but never left Karachi because of strong community ties. I attended her brother’s wedding, and was thoroughly amazed at the variety of vegetarian dishes that I had never eveer imagined existed. Various egg curries; paneer curries; soft onion and potatoe puffs, many other delicate and pretty dishes.

    So many thanks.


      Dear Madam,
      Very kind of you to post your comments. The “PUCH BAKRY” the very old tradition has now completely vanished with the passage of time and awakening of the conscious of the depressed classes. Even its memory has almost completely faded; and now these days only very old people may remember or old chronicle records may contain the same.

      While referring to your contention “my dearest friends in Karachi…..”, I have to admit that when a Hindu becomes your friend, nothing like it. In charity business they excell others giving “DAAN” to needy persons, religious places, hospitals & Schools etc. The “paneer curries” which you mentioned must have been cooked with dried mushroom (which was a very favourite dish of Hindus), which you might have missed to note inadvertently
      Thanking you for the encouraging appreciation and with regards.

  8. Lt Col Masood Alam (retd) says:

    Dear sir,
    Your article is very informative and interesting. As usual your expression and narration of events is so good that while reading I was so indulged that it seemed that I was seeing every thing live. Thank you, sir, for giving us real time knowledge of Pindi.
    Best Regards,

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Lt Col Masood Alam,
      Many thanks for your nice & encouraging appreciation. I feel so honoured to receive such praiseworthy comments from the distinguished gentlemen like you.
      With the best of regards and thanking you again.

  9. Azam Gill, France says:

    Khan Sahib,
    Thank you for the latest pearl necklace!!

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Azam Gill Saheb;
      How kind & nice of you to encourage me like that, sir.
      Thanking you.
      With the best of my regards.

  10. Salim Akhtar says:

    Dear Sir,
    I was born in Pindi in 1959 and have nostalgia of Pindi, hardly I miss your episode. It is great service to Pindiwals, stay blessed and healthy.

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Salim Akhtar Saheb,
      So nice of you to read my memoirs so regularly which has encouraged me very much. Pindi is really an attractive place worth seeing during Spring season when the flowers are in full bloom and the weather is at its best.
      Thanking you.

  11. Maj (R) Khalid Saeed Shah says:

    Great, sir G.
    Keep it up.

  12. Sana Ullah says:

    Dear Rafique Sahib,
    Great effort. Stay blessed, healthy and happy.

  13. Rafique Sahib,
    Another splendid article with meticulous details!!

  14. Dear Rafique sahib,
    This time I have spent many hours on the Internet to pick appropriate photos for your article. I hope these will make your day!!! :)

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Sir,
      I know how much trouble you take to collect the priceless relevant photos for the Memoirs to be worth reading. Thanking you very much for your usual cooperation & help in this regard.

  15. Sultan Jamshed says:

    Respected Rafique Khan Sahib,
    This time your nostalgic episode is really very informative. Pindidites of especially post 1930 era, might have witnessed not all but some of the Muslim marriage ceremonies. I myself had been party to most of the ceremonies in 1950’s. Nowadays, as you would also be aware, these ceremonies have become a symbol of extravagances thus causing unnecessary financial burdens to have nots.
    Picture of child marriage is really impressive. May Allah give your pen more strength. Ameen.
    Please do remember me in your dua’as. Praying for your health and long life.
    Affectionately yours,

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Sultan Jamshed Saheb,
      So kind of you sir, to appreciate my memoirs. I have also to thank you for your such kind sentiments for me. May God Bless you.
      With the best of my regards,

  16. Kanwar jit Singh Malik says:

    Rafique Sahib,
    I am a native of Rawalpindi (Pre-Independence). My late father, Malik Mukhbain Singh Ji was a well known figure of pre-Partition Pindi.
    I would like to meet you here in DUBAI. If possible, may I have your phone Number and email address?

    • Rafique Ahmed Khan says:

      Dear Kanwar Jit Singh Malik Saheb,
      Sorry for the belated reply which was beyond my control. Thank you for contact. You can call me on 04-3429580; or you can convey your phone number to enable me to call you.

      • Dear Khan Sahib,

        I have read your fascinating articles. As editor of http://www.indiaofthepast.org, I invite you to write your pre-Partition memories for my website. The aim of the website is to capture personal memories of Indians and India that are at lest 50 years old. Since the website is about India, we cannot include post-Independence memories of what became Pakistan.



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