Henzae: A Folk Genre Viewed
[We are indebted to the renowned author and scholar,
Professor Pushp, for sending us this learned article on a subject with
which all of us are so closely involved but about which we know so little
Henzae seems to be the oldest extant folk genre of Kashmiri verse. Alongside the
proverb and the riddle it certainly is one of the earliest items of folklore
in the Kashmiri language. It signifies a conventional type of the ceremony
chant called vanavun, sessions of which cover, in toto or in part, series
of socio-cultural concomitants of ritual associated with various stages
or steps in the ceremony concerned, particularly zarakaasay (tonsure),
maekhal (sacred thread-investiture) and khaandar (wedding).
The term henzae has wrongly been regarded as a
derivative of the word Hindu, interpreting it, accordingly, as a call to
the Hindu women to join a session of the traditional wedding chant. The
word, in fact, preserves a Kashmiri variant of the Prakrit vocative hanje
meaning 'O lady or ladies'. It, obviously, connotes a significant reference
to the mode of starting a session of ceremony chant, by addressing a worthy
equal or a band of worthy equals. In course of time, however, the word
came to signify a specific type of ceremony chant rendered by a select
group of Kashmiri women of the Pandit community, joined by other women
sitting around. The elderly lady who leads the group is held in high esteem
as vanavan-gar (a competent lady specialising in ceremony chant.)
The conventional rendering of the chant known
as henzae is surprisingly reminiscent of the Sama Vedic legacy which seems
to have lingered on in the Valley of Kashmir as an interplay of the traditional
tones: the uddata (accented), anuddata (unaccented) and svarita (circumflex).
i.e. the high pitch, the low pitch and the even pitch peculiar to Sama
recitation. Obviously the old Sama chant underwent a series of transformation
during its transmission at the folk level, and reached us as an echo of
the ancient convention trans-shaped by various pressures of innovation
in tune with the changing times. The echo thus preserved in the henzae
has become a vital link of the flexible present with the stratified past.
In form, the henzae snatch is just a vanavun piece,
a snatch of a ceremony song framed within a couplet the second line of
which is invariably shorter than the first, at least by two syllables,
roughly corresponding to the following beat pattern:
|na na na
||na na na
||na naa na
|na na na
||na na na
The couplet may or may not rhyme the end of the
first line with the penultimate of the second line, but it is generally
crisscrossed by internal rhyme rich in alliterative rhythm as is borne
out by the apt placement of vena and vena; vaaj and laaj;. hiyi- tharae,
ranga-tsarae, and shaama svandaras; vuchhmay and prutshmay; kraanis and laanis; koo ree and
komaaree; dakha chhuy and nakha chhuy; phaerae and shaerae; raaza and vaaza in the following chants offering revealing peeps
into the creative stamina of everfresh articulation:
1. Yena tar vena tay vana vaaj maadal
The shuklam here refers to the popular mangala- sloka,
the hymn of auspicious inauguration without reciting which no ritualistic
performance would normally be undertaken by a devout Pandit. The sloka
refered to, starts with the line
asi laaj kalashes poozaayae.
(Mentha-herbs we brought from across the water-
course and maadal flowers from the woods; and both we used in worship of
2. Path hiyi-tharae brontha ranga-tsarae
shaama-svandare kor monen gachh.
(Jasmine-shrubs in the background, colourful sparrows
in the forefront; thus did Shyama- Sundari decorate walls with gypsum dye.
3. Vuchhmay na zaatakas, prutshmay na kraanis
kooree laanis namaskaar.
(I didn't get your horoscope examined, nor did
I enquire about your family ties; daughter dear, let us bow to destiny.)
4. Kooree komaaree maamajuv dakha chhuy
nakha chhuy tsoturbvaz naaraayan.
(Daughter innocent, your uncle (maternal) is supporting
you up; the four-armed Narayana is by your side.)
5. Broentha broentha Shivnath sabaayi phaerae
raazan kyut vaaza-bata shaerae.
(Ahead moves Shivanatha inspecting rows of seated
guests, ensuring that dishes specially cooked for them by cooks are duly
The traditional vanavun formally starts with the
exclamation henzae followed by the proto-verse thus:
h e n z a e...
Sh o k lam ka rith hy o tmay va na voe nuy
r u t ph a l dyu tay maa ji Bh a vaa nae.
Shoklam karith hyotay vanavoenuy
rut phal dyutay maa ji Bh a vaa nae
(With a recitation of the shuklam have we started
chanting the vanavun; Mother Bhavani has bestowed upon us a boon benign.)
Shuklambaradharam devam shashivarnam
which, of course, is conjured up by the key word
shuklam pronounced as shoklam in the Kashmiri accent. Every session of vanavun, accordingly, that begins with the word shuklam is expected to
be rendered in the vilambita (leisurely tone) rather than the druta (the
Vanavun, of course, is the bed-rock on which henzae
has stood for centuries, and it continues to be the generic name of the
ceremony chant. Even poets of eminence have composed vanavun whenever it
suited their context. Prakash Ram (c. 1840), for instance, sounds quite
close to the henzae tradition when he writes (in the context of Sita's
OEM shabda sootin shoklam karith
Among other peots influenced by the henzae tradition,
Krishna Razdan deserves special mention for a number of popular chants
in his Shiv-lagan particularly those in the contexts of the arrival of
Shiva as the bridegroom and the subsequent floral worship (called Poeshi-poozaa)
of the bride and the bridegroom. Some of these chants woven into vatsun
lyrics are a must at the Shivaratri celebration, including the ones with
vanavun hyotuy maaji Bhavaanae.
(Uttering the syllable OM along with shuklam Mother
Bhavani has started the vanavun chant for you.)
Maharaaza raazakomaarae aav
(The bridegroom came to wed the princess-bride)
Shiva Shankarasay chhe poeshi-poozaa
The vanavun has thus found its way not only into
the leelaa (devotional lyric) hymns but also into the naat (verse tribute
to the Prophet); and instances are available of poets who have sought to
specialise in the vanavun though with doubtful success.
(It is, indeed, the floral worship of Shiva.)
The inaugural chant of the vanavun, nevertheless,
has all along carried with it rich possibilities of improvisation as and
when the occasion demanded; and this improvisation has been mainly twofold:
paradigmal as well as substitutional. The paradigmal covers syntactical
modifications while the substitutional leaves the syntax untouched; it
simply replaces a variable within the syntactical matrix. Here, for instance,
are a few cases of such improvisation detected without much difticulty:
A. Substitutional (suiting intracultural demands):
1. The second line of the inaugural chant
improvises the impression Bhavaarlae variously as Shivaayae, Shaarikaayae,
Raagnyaayae, Zaalaaye, Baalaayae, Vomaayae, etc. putting in any of the
Kashmiri names of the Goddess, corresponding to the classical Siva, Sa:rika,
Ra:jni:, Jvaala:, Ba:la: and Uma:
In the early strata of the vanavun we find this type
of improvisation mostly intracultural as it is intended to perpetuate a
few cultural memories of the community as long as possible. But an encounter
with quite a different tradition (particularly religion- oriented) led
to a fundamental departure in basic perceptions. In due course of historical
development, naturally, perceptions other than those reflected within the
henzae parametres also emerged. A new type of improvisation, essentially
intercultural in nature, came into vogue by virtue of which the core form
Shoklam was understandably improvised with the parallel register expression
Bismillah, the key- note of the Kalima.
2. The first line of the next chant refers to Vasudeva, the king, as the head of the family celebrating the event: Vasudeev
raazanyev hyotay vanayoenuy; and it similarly, presses into service a number
of relevant variations for the phrase Vasudeev raazanyev. Some of these
A.2.1 Dasharatha raazanyev (in the context of
the bridegroom's paternal family);
A.2.2 Zanak raazanyev (in the context of the bride's
A.2.3 Raaghav Kaakanyev (in the context of the
family of some parent of the bride or the bridegroom, name Raaghav varying
from family to family. No lady, however, is on record as the head of the
family, though the spouse of the head is invariably referred to as yezmanbaay
i.e. the female counterpart of the yajama:na, the ritual performer.
With the spread of Islam in Kashmir, the growing
urge for sectional identity also encouraged departure from the traditional
mannerism of the chant associated with the Sama legacy, the folk variation
of the vanavun was taken over as the only style in which Muslim women could
inaugurate their session of ceremonial chant despite their conversional
inhibition. They would accordingly start their session of vanavun with
the following snatch as suitably modified within the time-honoured traditional
Bismillah karith hemav vanavoenuy
Obviously the neo-converts took over the matrix of
the vanavun from the old convention with appropriate improvisation reflecting
thereby the archetypal change in the perception of faith. It was so because
Shoklam echoed a different archetypal context that had by the time become
associated with idol worship. As such it was not deemed fit to serve the
immediate purpose of the neoconverts. An appropriate substitute for the
term was, nevertheless, discerned in Bismillah that could insure the traditional
vanavun against the risk of being dubbed as un-Islamic, without upsetting
or undermining the socio-cultural continuity of collective participation.
It is because of such a salutaty development that both types of vanavun
share a lot of common concern and cognate articulation.
Saahiban anjaam oenuyae.
(Uttering bismillah shall we start the vanavun
chant; the Lord has brought it about for us.)
The contours of these types are peculiar to the
religious creed or cult inherited by a sizeable group within the Kashmiri
society, as an ingredient of sub- cultural heritage; while the affinities
shared by both the segments are significant components of common inheritance
not only cherished but also promoted as interpersonal commemoration.
Viewed in such a historical perspective we find
the Henzae covering a broad spectrum of socio- cultural preoccupation with
festivity. Starting with a prayerful declaration of the resolve to celebrate,
the conventionally stylized folk genre covers as already pointed out, a
series of socio-cultural concomitants of ritual signifying various stages
or steps in the ceremony concerned, particularly zarakaasay, (tonsure),
maekhal (Sacred thread- investiture) and khaandar (wedding). Some of the
outstanding links in the chain are:
a. garanaaay: house-cleaning.
Viewed from the angle of cultural stratification,
however, we find two linguistic layers in the snatches of the vanavun.
One of these reflects the indigenous pre-Islamic tradition occasionally
preserving a verbal fossil or two fixed up in a later setting. The other
level reveals a preponderance of socio-linguistic synthesis bringing about
a harmonius blend of the indigenous and the domiciled, despite the initial
irritants caused by religious conversion. The blending, therefore, appears
to be mostly a natural one speaking forth, on occasions, through a single
word belonging to a Persi-Arabic hoard and, yet, appearing quite at ease
with earlier matrices and modes of expression.
b. dapun: formally moving out with a personal
invitation to a ceremony at the insistence of a relative or an intimately
c. krool: decorating the walls flanking
the main doorway of the residential house, with ritualistic designs of
flowers, shrubs and creepers splashing a rich variety of colours.
d. maanziraath: the henna-night when the
hands of the bride or the bridegroom are beautified with the henna dye,
and relatives (particularly women, young and old) also get a touch or two
of the auspicious dye. Concurrently goes on a nightlong session of brisk
and zestful singing and dancing.
e. divagoen: a pre-nuptial ritual held
in front of the sacrificial fire invoking the blessings of gods for a flawless
celebration of the bride's or the bridegroom's respective performance.
f. maekhal: sacred thread-investiture,
comprising a number of subsidiaries like
1. vaaridaan: ritualistic cooking
by the Auntie (father's sister) of the lad who has to wear the sacred thread
ensuring the privileged Auntie a rich reward for her tender affection.
g. khaandar: the wedding, comprising a number
of subcomponents (besides the common components as detailed above under
a to e), starting with the kanishraan and concluding with the poeshipooza.
2. Yoeni: actual investiture of the lad
with traavun the sacred thread.
3. abeed: ritualistic begging of the lad
for collection of money as daksina to be paid to his guru at the symbolic
culmination of his learning at the guru's feet.
4. mandul: the mandala ritual in which
the lad has to take his stand on a colourfully designed and decorated circle
called mandala (also called vyoog in Kashmiri.) The ritual is performed
on the eve of the lad's trip to a spring or a stream, late at night, after
performing the thanksgiving ritual called the koshal-hum (kushala-homa).
1. kani-shraan: ritualistic ablution
of the bride getting ready for the wedding.
h. koshal-hum: the final thanksgiving ceremony
expressing the family's gratefulness to the tutelary deities for happy
culmination of the ceremonial undertaking.
2. daarapoozaa: ceremonial purification
of the doorway through which the bridegroom is expected to enter the bride's
house for the wedding ceremony.
3. lagan: the pivotal ceremony in front
of the sacrificial fire extends from the initial athavaas (handlock of
the prospective couple) to the dayabata (the wedded couple's first meal
together under divine supervision symbolized by the sacrificial fire).
In between, we find the most crucial sacrament.
3.1 satapady: the saptapadi, i.e.
the ritual featuring the seven symbolic steps taken together by the prospective
couple round the vigilant fire, in a clockwise direction, soon after they
have beheld each other's face in a mirror held under cover in front of
which they sit with hands interlocked. It is during this circumambulation
that the father of the bridegroom points out the Dhruva (Polar Star) to
the bride who is called upon to set her foot firmly on a granite pestle,
signifying the need to be steadfast in wedlock.
3.2 poeshipoozaa: the loveliest spectacle
offered by the lagan ceremony, which is characterized by a meaningful collaboration
between the ear and the eye. The ear is treated to a soulstirring felicity
of nuptial benedictions reminiscent of happily married couples famous in
legend and prehistory, while the eye is refreshingly fed on intermittent
showers of colourful flower petals.
3.3 vaaryuv: the touching moment of bride's
naerun departure from her parental house to that of her lifemate.
Let us, then, view a few telling instances even
though culled rather casually within the parameters of random sampling.
Among the first category we may take up the following that appear to have
come down tht centuries almost unchanged:
1. Parmaeshvaras ta maaji Parvatiyae
Coming to the second category we notice a number
of snatches in which just a word or two from the Persi-Arabic hoard reflects
an appropriate recognition of the forward-looking expansion in vocabulary
so as to cover the authentic nuances of socio-cultural interaction. To
this very category, in fact, belong the snatches in which the changing
folk diction of the Kashmiri language registers a wider area of susceptibility
to change in environment as well as articulation. Here are a few samples
(with the new word underlined):
laagoes poozi lava-hatiyae poesh
(Parameshvara and Mother Parvati shall we worship
offering flowers fresh with dew.)
2. Svana sundi tvangarae ta rvopa sundi baeloe
lamay vaaloo shaelay mets.
(O you golden hoe and you silver shovel, fetch
us virgin earth from the mountain-slope.)
3. Shishramnaagy vatshkhay Ombraavatiyae
Sree Sarasvatiyae Kaanie liv.
(O Amaravati, you flow down to the Sheshnag lake;
come and wash the upper apartment of Shri Sarasvati.)
4. Asy ta maali zaanahav na tuhunza vatay
koeri hundy laany kor ataygath.
(We did'nt know at all your wherebouts, darling
daughter's destiny has linked us up.)
5. Samskaar karayae Maheshvaree
(I'll perform your marriage ceremony, Maheshvari,
Lalleshvari, my daughter dear.)
6. Arag kar manas tay po:sh kar praanas
Kreshna-bhagavaanas saavedaan laag.
(Treat your mind as rice-grain offering and turn
your life-breath and worship Lord Krishna, heart and soul.)
7. Kehe chhakh heri kani koesam tsaaraan
bona kani Naaraan praaraan chhuy.
(How come you are still upstairs just culling
flowers; while down below is Narayana awaiting you.)
1. Pushinee khatsakhay Divasara-baalas
(Kashmiri words of Persi-Arabic origin that claim
our attention here are: bala, nala, jahan, ud (vuda), masnad, havas, baladari,
khamir, ghamghin, sahi, koh, bagh, divankhana and jamah.)
tala vuchh naalas poesh maa pholy.
(O flower-selling maid, you've gone up the Divasar-mount;
look up the stream-banks below for any flowers abloom.)
2. Gata tsaj gaash aav saarysuy iehaanas
chhemay Bhagavaanas poeshi-poozaa.
(Darkness has vanished, the whole world is aglow
with light; floral worship of my Lord is on.)
3. Gangaasaagar heth chhes Gangaa.
vuda zaalaan chhes Tsandrabhaagaa.
(Ganga has appeared before her with a sacred kettle;
the Chandrabhaga waits upon her with incense.)
4. Rukmani saal kor Kreshna Bhagavaanas
yeti masnad kor laalas kyut.
(Rukmini held a feast in honour of Krishna; here
we spread a sheet for our darling.)
5. Gangabala toermay ganga-vony naavan
haavasa kaanee livaa sae.
(From Gangabal I' ve brought for your boatfuls
of holy water; wash her up-apartment longingly.)
6. Nermal neshkal ganga-zal chhaavath
baalaadari peth behnavath.
(I shall treat you to lucid crystal waters of Ganga; I'll seat you in the balcony.)
7. Metsi tay paanis khot khambeeray
gambeera khoermay agnay-koand.
(Clay and water showed ferment; I fashioned a
grand fire-pit for you.)
8. Kehae chhakh gamgeen Rama-Rama mothuyae
karmayloen choen pothuyae draav.
(Why are you worried? Have you forgotten the name
of Rama? Your destiny has proved quite eventful.)
9. Kooree loen choen azy hay gav sahee
saakhyaat Maheeshvar hay aav.
(Your destiny, my daughter, has turned out right
today; Maheshvar in person has come to us.)
10. Koshalyaayi thovuyae poeshi-baag livith
Dashrath raaza khot sraan karith.
(Kaushalya swept and washed for you the flower-garden
clean; King Dashratha is back after having a river-dip.)
11. Kaalaasa kohuky yim hay soora-matiy
volaas gandy gandy aangan tsaay.
(These ash-besmear'd denizens of the Kailasa have
entered our courtyard wearing ullasa.)
12. Lagun chhiy karaan daevaankhaanas
karee Bhagavaanas namaskaar
(Your lagna is on in the audience-hall; do a namaskar
to the Lord.)
13. Tren bavanan hundy lukh gayi jamaah
koeri hund tamaah baryze na zaanh.
(People of the three worlds have turned up here;
never, never, never yearn for a girl.)
14. Sayibaana banoevmut chhus aasmaanas
chhemay Bhagavaanas poeshi-poozaa.
(We've set up a canopy of the sky for him; the
floral worship of my Bhagavan is afoot.)
15. Arshae vathimati Anan Deevoe
farshes peth kar kalashes jaay.
(O Arjuna Deva, who have descended from the heavens,
place the kalasha firmly on the floor.)
The two extremes between which the vocabulary
of the henzae seems to have flourished may, perhaps, be identified in terms
of the following snatches:
1. Arrnaayae dharmaayae raazapotraayae
displays a queer juxtaposition of the archaic Shiva
metaphor or divine grace with the high-sounding Persian grandeur of the
feudal court, rhyming the Sanskrit prasada with the Persi-Arabic sada shehzada.
mandan-rnaali dachhiny dyoo boez baayae.
(Armaaya dharmaaya raajaputraaya; listen, brother,
pay the daksana dues for the nandana- garland.) which preserves an old
substratum of Sanskritic morphology; while
2. Shaktipaata-dreshti vari kari prasaadaa
saada shehzaadaa aangan tsaav.
(With the shakti-inducing eye he'll favour us
and shower grace on us; a saintly simple prince has entered our courtyard.)
It is, nevertheless, difficult to pinpoint the
detailed choronology of stratification in view of the fact that quite a
number of fragments of early legacy have been updated in linguistic expression
from time to time. It can, however, be safely inferred that the current
version of the henzae text is mostly later than the Vaak-Shruk (XIV century)
configuration. Such a state of affairs is amply bome out by telling pointers
like reference to institutions, events, places and persons as in the following
a. Sataraath anymay Goejevaarae
Similar, of course, is the evidence of allusions
like those to Vakile Sarkar Har Gopal, Tarakh Zityush, Naran Juv, kaaranda,
tabardar, tehsildar, Shalamar Bagh, Padshah Bagh, Tulamuly Nag, jagir, jamadari,
rozgar, bazar, khana-moel, durdana, shaahe zaafraan, saahebzaada, bumakamaan,
buma-khanjar, masval and guli akhtaab.
(The household-ware for you I got from the market
at Gojivoer; your dejihor I got manufactured at Vejibroer.)
b. Saraafkadaluky saraaf aayi saaree
sana truvchi rvapayi diyiv tsaary tsaaree.
(All the silversmiths of Saraaf Kadal came beseeching;
give us the silver coins called rupees minted in the year thirteen, referring,
obviously to Kupuny, i.e., Queen Victoria's rupee.)
c. Anathnaagas laj ho savaaree
doejen gayi ho ambaarreeyae.
(Vehicles sped away toAnantnag; wooden tablets
called takhtees were piled up.)
d. Poosteen nary ho alraavaan aakhoe
petaree gondayoe khirki-dastaar.
(Dangling sleeves of your furjacket you came;
Your uncle (paternal) tied a khirki turban on your head.)
e. Tshvata pethaci lisa ranyi dharma-sabhaayae
(The Dharma Sabha insisted on cooking lisa (succulent
leaves) that grows on wild dumps; Yogi Campanath had thus ordained.)
More clinching appears to be the evidence silently
offered by the very nomenclature of a crucial segment of the henzae-lore,
i.e. the vanavun of the maanziraath which is an inalienable part of the
current vanavun text. A sociological and literary study of the henzae in
detail, no doubt, calls for a separate write up, yet a rich cross-section
of the content with peculiarities of folk-articulations has substantially
been covered by the chants quoted above in various contexts.
Finally, a word as to the need for a technological
study of the henzae rendering, based on the authentic grounds of musicology.
A competent analysis of at least half a dozen tapes in different voices
covering different parts of the Valley as well as from Poonch, Bhadravah
and Kashtawar is likely to reveal a broad spectrum of renderings; and those
could be further taken up for contrastive studies with respect to the resembling
chants in some sister languages of the state; Dogri, Panjabi, and Gojri,
for instance, present some interesting parallels in their folk-chants,
particularly in p'aakh and mahiya which register some remote degree of
affinity with the henzae rendering. Do these styles of singing share some
variation or the other of the old Sama chant? Let some competent musicologist
explore and reveal.