Red letters on one’s hands
This multimedia story is about Azerbaijani wedding in Georgia. But not exactly about that very solemn date, because Azerbaijani wedding traditionally starts 2 days before a festive wedding ceremony. Unlike the wedding day, where a puffy white dress is a mandatory element, a festival of bright colors is of particular importance the days before it.
To some extent this event could be referred to as a ‘bachelorette party’. In Azerbaijani it is called ‘Khinayakhti’, which is literally translated as ‘applying henna on one’s hands’.
This ancient rite was revived in ‘Georgian Azerbaijani’ community just recently, a few years ago. Not only has it become very popular, but has been regarded as a mandatory tradition by many.
Henna is a natural dye symbolizing purity and it is applied to the future newlyweds, so that their living together could be as pure and bright as henna itself.
On this day, a bride is dressed like in old times, wearing traditional national clothing.
The bride’s young female friends and relatives gather for ‘Khnayakhti’, whereas the men come towards the end of the party.
“The youth like this new tradition very much. Everybody is interested, how a bride will look in a national costume. It’s discussed the months before the event,” says one of the participants in that ceremony.
The ‘Khnayakhti’ day begins as a cheerful party. Young people laya festive table, the girls dance to the national and not only national music.
And then, in the midst of fun, comes an important moment. Those young ladies who arewilling to get marriedcover up under the bride’s veil. It is believed to be the best was to find a beloved husband soon and be happy in marriage.
After taking ‘selfies under the veil’ everybody starts preparing for the visit of the groom’s guests. And that’s when the henna ceremony begins.
Henna and sweets are brought by the groom’s relatives. If the groom has a sister, she assumes responsibility to applyhenna on the bride’swrists andpalms.
An important point is that aninitial letter of the groom’s name is inscribed on one palm and that of the bride’s name – on another palm.
Then all the guests draw henna patterns on their hands at their wish. Henna is a long-lasting dye and it stays on the skin for over 4 weeks.
After the patterns and initials on the hands get dry, the closing ceremony of the event begins.
The bride is seated in the center. The bridesmaids dance aroundher to the music, whispering the words and phrases that should get her emotional and move her to tears.
Turkan, a bridesmaid, said, she had whispered to the brideas follows: ‘Justtwo days and you leave the parental house,” and after those words the bride’s eyes filled with tears.
By that time the evening comes and the groom with his friends join the guests.
- There are about 300,000 Azerbaijanis in Georgia. It’s the second largest community in the country (after Georgians).
- Kvemo Kartli region is mostly densely populated by the Azerbaijani community.