Omanand Koul

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Yachha  Mavas: Khetsi Mavas: Khechi Mawas: Khichdi Amavasya

This feast of the Yachh is held on the last day of the dark fortnight (Amavasya: mavas) of Pausha (Poh in Kashmiri) of the Indian calendar. The comfort food called khichdi (or khecher/ kheched: a hodgepodge) is cooked for dinner and offered to the deity. The dish is essentially rice cooked along with whole-moong beans, turmeric, other spices, salt and ghee. The first mound of this khichdi is placed on a freshly made grass mat (aear), and after applying a little vermillion, is placed at an isolated spot outside the house- preferably on top of a fence. The family then enjoys the feast of khichdi with some ghee, anchar of Kohl rabi, or even cooked fish and radishes. Afterwards all hush up to listen for the call of the Yachh passing by in the dark of night, supposedly as a large cat-like creature. Legend has it that the Yacch dons a golden cap which, if snatched away would bestow the grabber enormous amounts of wealth.  

Who is this Yachh? Yachh is a corruption of the Sanskrit word Yaksha. Apparently Yakshas were meat eating people living in the northern areas of India (including Kashmir and beyond). They possessed knowledge, wealth, technology and power. In the Mahabharata the famous discourse between Yudhishtara and aYaksha (Yaksha Prashna: the questions by the Yaksha to Yudhishtara) illustrates the deep understanding of the mundane and the subtle by these people. In the epic Ramayana, king Rama returns from Lanka to his kingdom Ayodhya in an aeroplane called Pushpak Vimana that belonged to the king of Yakshas -Kubera. The Yacch mavas offering is for this chief of the Yakshas.  

Kubera was bestowed with enormous super-natural powers in spite of his physical deformities. He is depicted as a three legged dwarf! Since Luxmi lives in the kingdom of Kubera , he is the treasurer of wealth, with the responsibility to distribute it. Thus propitiating Kubera bestows wealth on the devotee.

Yakshas have been a part of the Indian landscape since ancient times. With the passage of time, folklore has ascribed both bad as well as good qualities to the Yakshas. Because of their supernatural powers they gradually became part of the pantheon of deities for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains- just as the elves of the North have become part of the Christian tradition in various forms. Some of the famous deities that we adore in Kashmir probably have Yaksha origins directly or indirectly with Saivite, Buddhist and Jain influences mixed in together. The modern Kashmiris may in fact be the descendants of the original tribes of Yakshas, who lived in Kashmir from times immemorial, intermingled with lineages of the sage Kashyapa. No wonder then, we offer Khichdi to Kubera not only to propitiate him to bestow us with wealth but also to remind ourselves about our own ancestry derived from the ancient lineages that have gone before us.

So now, hush, and get ready to snatch that golden cap!  And may Lord Kubera bestow us all with wealth and happiness.

Happy Yachh Mawas!

Omanand Koul, Burlington , MA  

December 17, 2009



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