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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Walnut In Pandit Heritage – Rituals and Recipes

- Prof. (Dr.) Bansi Lal Puttoo

Walnut (Juglans regia L.), akhrot, Kashmiri name doon/dun belongs to the stateWalnuts of jammu and Kashmir and the tree is indigenous to Kashmir. According to Pandit Kalhan as metioned in Rajtarangni, fruit culture in Kashmir valley dates back to the time of king Nara (1000 BC) that includes walnut. During the period of King lalitaditya (700AD) and Harsha (1089AD), the fruit culture in the valley received a big boost. Surprisingly, the majestic walnut tree does not find its mention in the description of flora from Kashmir or adjoining areas by Jahangir a naturalist in his Tuzuk-I-Jahangiri (1605-1627). However, Walter R. Lawrence, the Settlement Commissioner of Kashmir and Jammu State (1887-94) in ‘The Valley of Kashmir’ has documented enough evidence to justify the heritage status to walnut for the state that has now emerged as a dollar earner for the country.

Pandits, being a 5000-year-old ethno-religious community have extensively made use of walnut in their rituals and also in some cuisines since long bestowing the place of prominence to this dry fruit. An attempt has been made to compile the entire information available from different sources – verbal or written and present it for the benefit of our younger generation, much of which has been going on un-noticed in our daily life in exile.

Use in Rituals:

A. In-shell walnut:

1. Herath (Vatak pooja): Dry walnut is an indispensable item required for Herath celebrations. In fact procurement of quality nuts from available sources begins just from the day fresh walnut crop arrives in market, besides the beginning of the festival. Earlier walnuts were packed in gunny bags after washing and drying but now, walnuts are available in nylon bags and cardboard packing of different sizes bearing details of type and place of produce etc. Acid treated walnut with bright colour devoid of tan and untreated are commonly available in market. Earthen or metallic utensils especially Gagar and Gadda, representing Shiv and Parvati are filled with walnut and water after floral decorations. These walnuts are distributed as ‘Vatak Doone’ naweed/prasad among relations, neighbours and married daughters and friends after keeping in water for three days and pooja by each household on Amavassi till the following Shukla paksh Ashtami (Teela Aatham), symbolizing the end of winter in Kashmir and start of spring.

According to the legend, walnut having four-part kernel represent Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. It is also believed to be symbolic of four Vedas – Rig, Yajur, Atharva and Sama. Another version states that walnut being oval in shape represents the universe. The four kernels signify Iccha, Jnana, Kriya and Chitta.

2. Sonth (spring) festival: Thal barun has been an essential prerequisite of Sonth celebration. A day before the festival, ingredients like rice, kulcha/bread piece, pen, inkpot, currency notes, milk and curd are artistically arranged in a wide thali and kept overnight at a centrally located place in the home covered with cloth. The celebration begins with having a darshan of this thali early in the moring by each member of the family and picking a few walnuts for immersion in river/stream/Vitasta after washing hands, face abd feet in running waters. During good old days when Vitasta/Jehlum river used to have gushing waters in spring, boatmen usually collected the immersed walnuts floating on water and the struggle between them was a unique fun to witness. At times one or two walnuts offered to a boatman would be sufficient for a boat ride across the river.

3. Navreh (New Year) festival: Thal barun as explained above is again a prerequisite of navreh celebrations with an addition of new Jantari to the thali. After thali darshan in the morning, a few walnuts are immersed in running waters of Vitasta besides the boat ride. The rice placed in the thali is cooked along with some whole walnuts and served as a delicious item along with lunch. The kernels inside the nut absorb water and become soft plump and tasty. According to Walter R. Lawrence, dry walnuts were a favourite item exchanged as New YearGift between neighbours and well-wishers of both Hindus and Musalmans in Kashmir.

4. Janam Ashtami (Zarma Satam): Kashmiri Pandits, both male and female irrespective of age keep fast on t his auspicious day and take fried singara pakodas, milk, curds and fresh fruits only for the day. Fresh green walnuts that mature by the festival time are favourite for the occasion. Parents ensure inclusions of green walnuts with the fruit basket as a token of gift to the married daughters including her in-laws.

The fresh kernels carved out of the nut-shell with knife tip, detached peel/skin/pellicle, taste delicious. In the process of kernel extraction, the fingers get tanned with dark brown colour.

5. Woharvod (Birthday) Pooja: Touching the right shoulder with a Zangi Thal, (Plate filled with rice and decorated with walnuts, coin and salt) is the first ritual on a birthday pooja, after putting on new dress, through the tender hands of young child. The contents are later on passed on to Pujari ji. Walnut in the thali is considered as auspicious.

6. Vyig Toke (Rangoli Pot): On the day of marriage laying of multi coloured Vyoog (Rangoli) with lime/ sawdust etc. is an essential item among various rituals of the ceremony. The Vyoog is further decorated with earthen plate (Toke) containing rice, walnut, coins and vari (masala cake). After putting the attire the Groom is made to stand on the vyoog facing east and walnuts along with the rice in the earthen plate are lifted by the poor children no sooner the groom receives blessings from his parents and elders. Similarly when the groom reaches the place of wedding ceremony both groom and bride are made to stand on the vyoog facing east for blessings and aalath. Placements of walnuts in the plate are considered as good omen.

7. Devgoon/Havan: Walnut has special place in Kalash (Gadda/Pot filled with walnut and water) pooja in Decgoon and Havan. Devgoon pooja for both groom and bride is held at their respective places comprising among other rituals, the Kalash pooja. The walnut from the kalash are called as’ Kalash doon’ and distributed among the participants after pooja as Naveed/ Prasad.

B. Shelled/Kernel: Dry walnut kernels along with other fruits like resins/kishmish, coconut, almond, date palm, and mishri/nabad is an auspicious component of composite naweed packet kept ready for any pooja to be distributed as naweed among others.

Use in Recipes:

1. Doonya chatani: Walnut kernels crushed in stone pestle and mortar and mixed with red chilli powder and salt to taste in yogurt/curd forms a tasty mouth watering chatani for taking with rice, poori or chapati.

Sometimes kernels are crusged along with green chilli, mint/pudina and adrak/ginger with salt to taste and mixed with curd.

2. Doonya waer: A favourite vegetarian preparation prepared with sufficient quantity of dry walnut kernel with rice and vari masala, salt and oil, forms an essential item to be served on mehndiraat/manziraat and also on engagement ceremony among the guests, relations and neighbours along with rice flour roti after designing krool on the main entrances of the house.

3. Doonya yajee: A rare preparation of making yajee that includes putting walnut kernel in between thick rice flour mix with water, salt and zeera and molded into a deep cup shape having thick rim and placing inverted inside an earthen Pot/lej rinsed with oil and covered with a lid and held upon slow heat of choola/daan till the contents get properly cooked and colour changes to light oily to brown and served hot.

Other Benefits of Walnut:

Walnuts are a high-energy food, rich in oil, vitamins and minerals. They are a popular ingredient in baked foods and are frequently served in shell during the autumn and winter in particular. Walnuts are commonly consumed dry but undried walnuts are more popular in Kashmir. These fresh walnuts are shelled with a sharp knife tip and kernels carved out, peeled to remove the pellicle which otherwise gives a bitter flavour. Walnut oil is high in unsaturated fats and can be used as a substitute for olive and other cooking oils. Nowadays it is extensively used in snack food and bakery items. Walnut hull and other tree parts like bark and roots are used as dyes and dandasa/dantan to clean teeth and tan the lips and gums while walnut timber is used for making furniture, wood carving and gun butts etc.

Walnut kernels are good for heart, blood system and improve health. Positive benefits of walnut eating have been observed in the form of lowering cholesterol.

Source: aalav, a Kashmiri Pandit Sabha, Bangalore publication


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