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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Kashmiri Pandits' Version of Sivratri

President, Sant Samagam Research Institute
All India Kashmiri Samaj

Shiv-Parvati Sivratri (Kashmiris call it Herath) is an important festival of Hindus. Lord Siva and his spouse Parvati are worshipped with great devotion everywhere in the country. Even those Hindus living abroad cannot forget observing and enjoying this king of festivals. Alongwith worshipping 'Siva' people observe both social and cultural meets on this festival. They rejoice and exchange greetings with friends and relatives, no matter how distant and near they are. India being a vast country, this festival too is observed in various ways according to place, time and taste. This day is observed on Phalgun Krishna Chaturdashi corresponding to February-March of each year.

Devout people observe 'Sivratri' with great dignity and devotion and pray for peace and prosperity for humanity as a whole. They specially keep a fast, put on simple garments, washed or new, according to the custom of each area. They start preparations for observing this holy day a few days early. On this day specially, they clean their houses and surroundings. This time coincides with the advent of spring season. Naturally people have to change from their winter atmosphere to approaching spring moods. Therefore, this day instills in them new life, cheer and job.

'Sivratri' festival is most scrupulously observed by the Kashmiri Pandits, the ancient and original inhabitants of Kashmir. They make thorough preparations and collect eatables, fruits and sweets. The entertainment of the Sivratri festival extends to about three weeks in Kashmiri Pandit house-holds. Each day or a group of days has a special name and religious function which include social performances also. Some of the names are Akodah, Hurya Aatham, Dyara Daham, Vagarye Bah, Heracnia Truvah, Donya Mavas and Tila Aatham. On each day they have different functions.

During the first week they clean their homes. They begin the second week with different kinds of worship after collecting earthen utencils and articles of worship. On 13/14 night they have long worship of the articles which represent Siva-Sakti and a host of other deities. It is a happy time, time of joy, devotion and peace. Recitation from the Vedas and hymns pertaining to the deities and mantra chanting are made individually and collectively. An example:

Namah Sambhavaya Cha,
Mayo Bhavaya Cha,
Namah Sankaraya Cha,
Mayas Karaya Cha,
Namah Sivaya Cha,
Sivtaraya Cha.

The special thing with Kashmiri Pandits is their mode and way of celebrating Herath. Two earthen pitchers filled with nuts soaked in water and flowers represent Siva and Sakti. Then a definite number of small earthen pots containing a nut and water symbolise the Ghanas and other deities. These pitchers and pots, collectively are called Vatuk. There is a set form of worship in each or in a group of Kashmiri Pandits' homes. After the fast and worship, prasad is taken about mid-night. The next day also is observed as a day of worship and feast.

Dyra Daham is a day of special social function. On this day the married daughters go to their in-laws with auspicious cheer and presents. After the 14th day, prasad (nuts from the pitchers) is distributed among relatives and friends for about a week. The festival actually ends on the Phalgun Krishna Ashtami called Tila Aatham. On the evening of this day people wind up all the material of worship and assemble it by the river side to immerse the same. In the evening they play local fire works called 'Ja-tun-tun'. Both young and old, are in their playful mood during the days of the festival. Thus comes to an end the Kashmiri Pandit version of Herath, the Mahashivratri of India.



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