by Sh. Amar Nath Bhan
Niagara Falls, Canada
The following is a
popular history and a folk tale about the celebration of the famous festival
of Yanayak chorum by the Kashmiri Pandit community which is also called Pun Deun.
This is a traditional celebration which almost
all Kashmiri families celebrate in the month of Bhadron (August/September)
by preparing very delicious Roths of wheat pan-cakes) which are fried in
Ghee (Butter). Some people consider it as a celebration of Bhagwan Mahavir
Hanuman day. People in south India celebrate this day as Ganesh Puja celebration.
I am writing this article to remind our people
how our community used to maintain the social link with each other by distributing
the Neveed (prasad) of this function in the form of Roth to all their neighbours,
relatives and even strangers. This allowed them to keep in close touch
with each other. This day is celebrated with devotion, to show respect
to almighty god. The celebration also gives enjoyment in the form of a
get together for the family, and especially among children. For this celebration
the big family kitchen and all the brass utensils are cleaned thoroughly.
Although religious significance of this day may
have numerous interpretations, it has the same importance as any of our
other festivals such as Shiva Ratri (Herath), Janamashtami etc., and it
was always on top of the list, especially for women folk. People were very
keen to get this Neveed. As I remember, all our neighbours, relatives and
friends were very keen to get this Neveed, and if by mistake or otherwise
the Neveed was not delivered on time, the person would definitely lodge
a serious complaint and one had to apologize. Even the relatives in far
villages expected this Pun Neveed. In some cases the Neveed was delivered
up to one month after the celebration. The Roth fried in ghee would stay
fresh for a long time. I remember when my children were grown up and had
been away from home for higher education, they always expected the Pun
Roth when they returned home for vacation.
I remember in our home at Srinagar (Kashmir) my
mother, and later her my wife used to perform and celebrate this festival
with great devotion and faith. Some people also called Pun Deun as Beeb
ghar maji hund doh. They would clean the clay floor and walls of the room(usually
the Kani or top floor of the house) when the celebration was to be performed.
Some people would use their kitchen. All brass utensils were cleaned with
sand to shine them, then they were washed with clay to sanitize them. A
special iron or brass Krai (Wok) was first cleaned and used to fry the
Roth. This utensil was especially meant for this day and was not used for
The following ingredients were collected several
days in advance of this occasion: For Roth white flour, brown sugar, ghee
(butter), salt, vegetable oil, yogurt (zamut dodh), Khashkhash seed, cardamom
(Big alaiche seed). For puja flower, rice, barley, green grass (Dramun),
some fruits, fresh walnut, silver foil (roph warukh) ,Nariwan( coloured
string) and Sindoor. In the city interior it was usually difficult to find
Dramun which could be only found in the pastures outside the city or from
the garden of a prosperous relative. In combined families the senior lady
of the house, who usually performed this celebration, used to get some
cotton thread hand spun by an unmarried girl and all kind of vegetables
in season. About five paw(1 kg) of wheat flour was kept in a separate Thalli
(brass plate) with 5 chatang (nearly 300 gram) of brown sugar. This was
meant as offering to the god for whom this festival was to be celebrated.
Separately, additional 250 grams of wheat flour per person in the family
was weighed and used for cooking Roth.The proportion of brown sugar to
flour was one chatang (65 grams) of sugar for 250 grams of flour.
My family prepared the Roth in the following manner.
The required quantity of brown sugar, according to the quantity of wheat
flour, was boiled in a bhogun(brass pot) with a small quantity of water
and then it was strained through a thin cotton cloth. Big alaichi seed
(Big Cardamom) was mixed with the wheat flour.Then the brown sugar water
was mixed with flour. To make it into dough, some ghee was also mixed with
the flour to make it soft and sweet. The dough was divided into small portions
and each portion was rolled flat using a chakla and belan( rolling pin).
Then this bread was put on the flat of a Thali's(bronze plate) back side
and made smooth .Some design were made on the flat end of bread using fingers
or with the bottom of a Khos(bronze cup). Sufficient quantity of ghee was
then placed in the krai (Wok)on a stove to fry the roth. Then yogurt was
mixed with Khashkhash (sesame) seeds and pasted smoothly on the flat end
of the Roth. Then the bread was then put in the hot ghee to fry.
Precaution was taken to see that the ghee is not
too hot which may burn the bread, and a lifter known as (Kafgree) was used
to turn the bread over. This kept the Roth soft and delicious.
My mother and my wife also used to make
a salted bread which had the same ingredients as the roth, except brown
sugar was replaced with a little salt. Namkeen bread was fried in the same
ghee which had been used for Roth. After all fried Roths were prepared
including the separately kept 5 pauw of wheat flower for the offering in
the name of God.The latter were put separately in a new or fresh Foth or
Tooker(willow basket )or in a big Thal( bronze plate) and were covered
with a new or washed cotton cloth.
In our house we also prepared mixed vegetables
called Bhoojai with as many as ten or more varieties of vegetables . Some
prepared Aloo (potatoes) or dry Bhoojai, and some prepared Wangan bhoojai
(egg plant ) depending on the tradition in the family. Then vegetables
were cleaned out mixed. They were then boiled and fried in oil and masala
(spices) were added to make the Bhoojai. It took a fairly long time to
prepare the Bhoojai.
In the mean time my mother ( and later my wife)
used to get fresh water in a bronze Ghadwa (container) from the tap and
would decorate it with a flower garland and Nairwan, Sendher teok and Rophwarukh
(silver foil). Then she would put five Roth with Kanika Roth (Roth with
saw tooth like edges all around) on the Gadwa. Then she would put some
fruits and shelled walnuts on it as Naveed. Then she would call all members
the family to the room. The Ghadwa with Roth were placed in front of her
while she would be facing the east (sun rises from the east). After placing
the Teok on the forehead and tying the Nairwan on the wrist of every one
present, she would give to every one some rice with barley and Habel in
their hands. The cotton thread which she had been keeping on her ear was
then placed in her hand with some rice, barley and Habel. Then with full
attention and devotion she would repeat the same story every year. She
would start by saying that anyone who performed this ceremony with devotion
faith and love would get everything in life, will be released from misery
and trouble. She related the story with a lot of concentration in the sweet
melodic Kashmire Language as follows:It was the month of Bhadron, Venayak
Chorum te Athwar( fourth lunar day and sunday), a long time ago, in Kashmir
there was a Hindu king ruling comfortably and his people lived in peace
and harmony. His wife, the Queen, used to celebrate this festival of Vanayak
chorum in the month of Bhadron with great devotion, faith, pomp and show.
The royal family was very happy. One day while the queen was performing
this ceremony, the king walked in (may be he was drunk) and said "what
is thisall going on, I don't want this puja to be celebrated in my home",
and without waiting for any reply from his wife he entered the puja room
with his shoes on and scattered away all things. He was very furious. The
Queen was very much depressed and angry with her husband, but could not
and did not tell him any thing. Since the King did this, bad things began
to appear and happen in their lives and in the Kingdom. After some time
the kingdom was invaded by the enemy, the king was taken a prisoner and
all his belonging were taken over and destroyed by the enemy. The queen
with her daughter ran away for the safety of their lives and honour, towards
the rural area without any personal possession. They had nothing, and were
almost begging for their survival, and were in a miserable condition. Both
the queen and her daughter were making hand to mouth living.
As the daughter grew older she became sensible.
One day the daughter went to the town to beg for some food. Accidentally
she came to a house where the Vynayak Chorum festival was being celebrated.
The lady of the house asked the girl to come in, she told the girl that
she was celebrating Vynayak Chorum puja. She told the girl to stay untill
she finished the puja, she would then give her a good quantity of Neveed.The
lady said you have to do one thing for me. I am giving you the cotton,
would you spin it with your hand for me. The girl was pleased to be invited
and being asked to spin the cotton and readily agreed. While watching the
festival the girl noticed the celebration with devotion, cleanliness and
all the food.She told the lady of the house that she would do whatever
was asked of her. She made cotton thread for the lady who was pleased,
and celebrated the festival with devotion and faith. The girl carefully
watched everything. When the puja was finished, the lady gave good number
of Roths with Kanyakeh Roth to the girl. The girl was pleased, and she
ran home to her mother, who was waiting and anxious. When she saw her (the
daughter) she was cross with her, and asked her where she had been and
why she was so late. She told her that now she had grown up and she should
not be so late in the future. The girl narrated to her mother the whole
story, what she had seen and why she was late only to get the Neveed. The
girl pleaded that she had done nothing wrong, and that the lady of the
house was a good and nice lady.
After hearing the story from her daughter the
mother took a deep breath and was depressed and began to weep. Her daughter
inquired from her mother why she was so depressed and why she wept. After
a while the mother told her daughter that I too used to celebrate this
day for many years with devotion. She told her how and every thing used
to be replaced with new things, and whole house used to be cleaned, washed
and decorated in this month of Bhadron. I used to make a good quantity
of Roths, and do puja of Mahaveer with devotion and faith. What happened
one day, that your father, the King, came while I was preparing the Roths
to celebrate this day, rebuked me for what I was doing, and threw away
all things, and forbade me from celebrating this day in the future. I was
very depressed, but could not tell him anything. After that incident bad
days began and every thing began to vanish. The kingdom was conquered by
the enemy and everything was looted and plundered. Your father was taken
prisoner. They (the enemy) were in search of us, but during the night I
took you and ran away from the palace for safety and honour. Since then
we are here in this bad condition and since then I don't know anything
about your father. The girl asked her mother why they should not also celebrate
the day again with faith and devotion, almighty god may again be pleased
with us and give some relief. Her mother replied "daughter !", one requires
money to purchase or get everything for the festival, where from will we
get that. The girl listened to her mother with attention and told her mother,
"I hope I can arrange how to get some money". After taking their supper
they went to bed. The girl was thinking about how to get wheat flour, etc.
An idea came to her mind and early next morning she went into a horse stable,
and collected all horse manure. She took the manure to the river, where
she washed it carefully to get undigested wheat seeds. By doing this she
got a good quantity of undigested wheat seeds and she left the wheat seeds
in the sun to dry. When it dried, she ground it by hand on a stone mill,
so she got some wheat flower. She collected some rice, f lowers and Habel,
etc., and went home. She cleaned a small room and a few utensils, and washed
herself and the clothing. This she did all with devotion and faith without
the notice of her mother. She did all as she had seen the lady in the town
do with devotion. She made five bread loaves from the wheat flour she had
and then baked them very cautiously on a hot charcoal fire. When they were
prepared, she did puja while offering some flowers, rice, and Habel which
she had collected with great humility and faith. Then she put all breads
in a clean basket and covered them with her washed saari, and went to sleep.
Next morning when she woke up and went into the small room where she had
performed the puja and had put the breads, what she saw to her surprise
was that under her sari there was something. She lifted the saari, and
what she saw was that all the breads had turned into gold, and were shining.
She at once called her mother and told her what she had done, and now they
had turned into gold by the grace of Shri Bagwati (Beebgharen maeg) god.
They were excited. The mother was very pleased with the belief that performing
and celebrating this day their bad days were over. Now they began to change
their life style and could live happily. They had enough gold to spend.
The Queen and her daughter began to live a better life.
After some time a Wazeer (Minister) of the king
came to their house in their search, and said "the soldiers loyal to the
king had re-conquered the kingdom from the enemy who was defeated. The
king along with his loyal supporters had beene freed from the enemy's prison,
and your husband the king had regained his kingdom. He has sent me in your
search to bring you back, so I have come; please accompany me to the kingdom.
The queen and her daughter were very pleased and accompanied him.
They met the king and told him all of their past.
The king was ashamed, but pleased to have found them, and they began to
live very happily, and were performing this Vyanayak Chorum celebration
every year, with faith and devotion. After telling the story my wife would
repeat in Kashmiri, Yith paeth timan kassin zand te zalath, tithai paeth
kassten assi ti greh peda( the way the queen and her family recovered from
their misfortune and misery, the same way may god bless us with good fortune
and good luck). Then she would put in the Gadwa the rice, Barley, Hable,
one silver rupee and cotton thread etc., and asked all members present
to do the same. After this puja and Aarthi was celebrated with neveed mantar,
dhoop deep, etc.
In the mean time the vegetable Bhoojai was also
cooking on slow heat, and Neveed was distributed. We tasted the Neveed
roth and then salted Roth with Bhoojai. After completing the ceremony a
good number of very thin dry breads were also prepared and the Neveed was
distributed to the neighbours and relatives. The distribution work would
carry on for several days.
That is the story and on a spirtual not I would
like to make a few general remarks. The Hindu religion is a great religion
and it has existed since many thousands of years. To know Hindus one must
study scriptures such as Vedas and Upanishads. There are many Hindus who
do not understand the real meaning of their religion. Hinduism is not a
domineering or expansionist religion. Million of people follow this religion,
and realize god from this..
About human soul (Atma) the Upanished say "He
is the unseen seer, the unheard listener, the thoughtfull thinker, th understood
understander, other than he there is no thinker, other than he there is
no understander. He is the Atman (soul), the inner ruler, the Immortal".
It also says about God whom it calls Purush (Person),"He is formless ,
he is without and within, unborn, breathless, mindless, pure,higher than
the high and imperishable". Shirmad Bhagavat Gita says the following about
God" thou art the father of the world of the moving and the unmoving, thou
art the father of the object of its worship and its vanishable teacher".
Sankaracharya defends god as the totality of taught knowledge and beauty.
The more popular prayer is one of Hindu scriptures is "From the unreal
lead me to the real, from darkness lead me to immortality, after all thou
is god". Idol worshipphig has a very meaningful purpose in that, in search
of Purush it is the easiest way of concentration.
We have reached a moment of decision in our history,
and one has to make choice that will determine the course of events for
centuries hence. Change is the law of life, we have to come to terms with
nature and with ourselves. We cannot live and work without the hope that
our future holds better prospects both on the physical as well as on the
spiritual level. Our ills are not beyond redemption. If we have to live
and exist as Hindus we must regain our path. We must not, therefore, forget
our tradition, our customs, our religious functions and our rituals. We
must keep the flame alight, so that our children inherit our rich culture.
We must repeat the same Katha (Story). "The core of Hindu religion is regeneration
of mankind, a spiritual mutation of human nature", Radhakrishnan said.
The story about the festival of Yanayak chorum
demonstrates how the Hindu religion helped to maintain the social fabric
within our society. We have yet to learn that performing puja and worshipping
are not a passport to questionable values and inhuman practices much less
to heaven, but once you perform puja with devotion and concentration like
done by the Queen and her family, you will be on the path of attaining Nirwana.
- Om Hari Krishna Hare Rama -