in winter and yearning for the spring
Kashmiris follow a
lunisolar calendar; a combination of the lunar and solar calendars. The endings
and beginnings of the month are marked by the transit of the sun into various
constellations -- the Sankranti. The last of these transits in a year is the
Meen Sankranti, marking the festival of Sonth.
Similarly, when the
moon enters the constellation Mesha (Aries) usually after Sonth, we celebrate
the festival of Navreh. This year Sonth is on March 14th, and Navreh falls on
Sonth heralds the
beginning of spring and Navreh is New Year’s Day according to the Vikrami
calendar that began in western
57 years before the common civil calendar- what is known as the Gregorian
calendar. Interestingly, in the Middle Ages before the Christian calendar was
formalized, the New Year’s Day in
was also celebrated in March at the vernal equinox. The Vikrami Calendar
divides a year into twelve months-- each with two parts: a lunar bright
fortnight and dark fortnight. The first month of the year is called Chaitra.
Navreh, therefore, falls on the first day of the bright fortnight of Chaitra.
We believe that
Navreh also is the New Year’s Day on the Saptarishi Calendar used by Kashmiri
Kashmiri Rituals of Sonth and Navreh:
On both these days
the Kashmiri tradition calls for an early morning ritual of viewing of a thali
full of paraphernalia for good omen.
The thali is prepared
on the eve of the festival (Thaal Bharun) and kept covered with a towel
overnight, and presented next morning individually to all the family members by
a younger female or an elderly lady who is given money in return. In the
we have found it easier to leave the thali on the kitchen table and let
individuals do their own viewing.
The thali contains:
- Rice (previously used to be unhusked)
- Pen/pencil and a paper pad
- A coin
- A batch of honey
- A batch of Ghee
- A picture of a deity
- A small mirror
The uncooked rice
grains and coins represent our daily bread and wealth, the pen and paper a
reminder of the quest for learning, the mirror represents retrospection. These
articles represent good omens for the coming year.
For Navreh additional items placed on the thali include a bitter herb (Wye:
Sweet Flag, Sweet rush: Acorus calamus), and a new calendar (panchang).
The calendar signals
the march of time and deity the reminder of the Universal. While the bitter herb
is a reminder of life’s bitter aspects and has been used in Native American
cultures as well as by some of the American transcendentalist philosophers, the
information from the Food and Agricultural Organization Corporate Document
Repository and other sources indicates that calamus contains insecticidal,
carcinogenic and hallucinogenic components.
After the darshan,
each person takes a walnut to be thrown into a river (in the
we place it under a tree). The rice is cooked to make Tahar (rice with
turmeric) and eaten as a prashad. The
bitter herb is eaten with walnuts to make it sweet.
On the day of Sonth,
in some villages people would tie together old adobe pots and drag them with a
rope to a dumpster. This is symbolic
of the renewal of spring, so you would see many families doing their "spring
in this manner.
celebration includes wearing of new clothes, and cooking and serving fancy
Kashmir, people would go for a picnic to view almond blossoms.
On the third day
after Navreh,-day of Zanga Triy- women folk would visit their parents' house if
close by and return in the evening with a token of salt, bread, and money for
travel (attagat.). However, the money would usually end up with the mother-in-law"”a
tradition of unnecessary taxation and should be discarded.
My felicitation on
the occasion of Sonth and Navareh.