Folk Tales from Kashmir

Table of Contents

  Twin Scientists
  Daddy’s Distress
  Breaking the Horse
  She is the Apple of My Eye
  Daddy’s Coronation
  The In-Law Tussle
  Broken Pen
  The Dudda
  Daddy’s Nightmare
  Rise and Fall
  Rivalry and Rebuff 
  Mini Marco Polo
  Royal Dudda
  Facing the Challenge
  Yes, No? May be So
  Crest Fallen
  Shock Treatment
  Grandma’s Shivratri
  Conquering Death
  Prickly Thistle
  Book in pdf format

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Chapter 19

Grandma's Shivratri

In their forties, Man Mohan and Mohini, husband and wife, belong to the upper middle class of society. They live a comfortable life with all the modern amenities that such a family can afford to possess. They have to support a large family comprising widowed mother, brothers, sisters and four children. The mother is a strict follower of religious functions, rituals and traditions.

The prize winning harvest season of mowing plentiful field's of food crops and picking fruits of different tastes from bowlike bented branches and twig of trees in horticulture gardens has given a boost to mobile hawkers and fruit shop exhibiting fruits of differing fragrance and variegated hues, some red, some yellow and juicy, some even green and sweet. Crowds of prospective consumers briskly hustle through the busy markets. The manually moved Raidas fan out and make brisk business in towns.

The poplar trees rise to the skies to receive more heat and light. They turn golden yellow from below upwards with green crested tops, The chinars are ablaze as their leaves turn red. Shrawan purnima and Lord Krishna's birthday are performed with religious fervor followed by dark fortnight of annual shardas of dead and diwali. The drizzle of a few withering leaves turns to a regular rainfall of red and brownish profusion of falling foliage.

The spectacle is superbly scenic. Nature is at its very best for many naturalists, artists and poets. The dry autumn air becomes denser and colder day by day. The fields are denuded of their verdure and golden crops and gardens shorn of not only tasty pears and ruddy umbro apples but also their apparel of beautiful green leaves.

Kartik is over and yields place to Manjihore, the first month of winter. The atmosphere begins to become colder and foggy. The earth is covered with dazzling white crystals of frost. Tiny little snow-flakes, begins floating about in the air, heralding the pre-heavy winter showfall "Be prepared" bugle. Woollen clothes replace the cottons of summer, Pherons, long robes and Kangries ascend the seasonal throne of winter. The exuberance of larger snow-flakes forming thick layers of snowy carpets on the surface of the' earth catches the eyes as supreme beauty to be enjoyed.

Ushers in the mid-winter month of Poh, the season of children's thristle, adventures of snow-fighting rolling and raising show pillars, carving snow-men, skating on slippery ice-pools and puddles and so on and so forth. At dusk time little children often sit comfortably on window sills watching flocks of crows flying by overhead, They address them in songs thus

Cav Bata covo, Khetserie Kavo

Yapaere yeto

Doona Ditto, Tsotta Khetto

"O, ye brother crow, come this way,

Drop a walnut and eat a bread."

More often than not they hear mother's calls from inside, "come children come. Hot beans and sheer-chain are ready. Come in and share these with us all.

Poh in Kashmir is a month of feasts and festivals especially for Kashmiri Pandits which in reality are symbolic incentives of the need of good diet and proper nourishment to withstand the severity of the biting cold of winter. As the revered seasoned mistress of the house grandma is invariably the chief organizer of such functions especially "Shivratri", the most important religious function of Kashmiri Pandits.

As an expert in ancient lore, grandma often sits at ease and tells her large family how in the remote past rich people from the plains flock into Kashmir to escape the blazing heat of the summers in their habitats outside. The locals had to escape to the jungles and spend their summers roaming in mountain sides. The stories included the' descriptions of saints, and sages, Rishis and Yakshas as well as inroads and raids of Bhombas, Khukhas, Kazaks and so on.

She would often repeat mythological stories and historic anecdotes tracing the origins and sustained development of religious rites and rituals, festivals and religious functions including the outstanding position Shiv Ratri holds as the most important religious festival of Kashmiri Pandits. Snowfall, she tells them during Krishna Pakhsh (dark fortnight) of the month of Phagun especially the 13th day is a good omen for us. To bring out the importance of snowfall on Shiv Ratri, she generally quotes historical anecdote thus:

"Once upon a time an Afgan Governor of the valley compelled our community to perform Shiv Ratri in the mid-summer month of  'Har' instead of the concluding winter month of Phagun. They did so.

Lo and behold! There was a heavy snowfall that month resulting in the whole-sale destruction of growing crops causing famine, starvation and death.

The ruthless governor was unnerved by the impinging impact of slighting slogans against him by one and all everywhere.

Wuch Toun Ye Jabba Jandha

Harus Ti Karun as Wundah !

(Look at this Jabba Jandha

even the hot month of' Har' has turned into icy winter)

The jubilation of the family knows no bounds at the abundance of snowflakes that fall from the cloudy skies. The children sing in chorous for its continuous fall till the auspicious occasion of holy Shiv Ratri thus:

"Sheena Peto Peto

Mama Yeto Yeto

Heyruth tam !"

Fall, O Ye, snowflakes fall

come, O, m-uncle, come to stay

Till Shiv Ratri

The months of Poh and Magh pass into oblivion with all their concomitant, fun and frolic frost-bites and Kangri patches and burns on naked legs.

Ushers in, the dawn of Shiv Ratri fortnight on the first day of Phagun Krishna Paksh. Normal rites and rituals are performed as per the usual schedule from the first to the twelfth day.

The thirteenth day sunrise begins with ablutions, bathing and cleansings, kitchen arrangements and pujas. The actual puja begins at 3PM or 4PM and is completed by eight or nine in the evening. Much more work has to be done before dinner time.

Feeling exhausted by the day long stress and strain of incessant hard-work, grandma retires for rest in her bedroom during the interval. No sooner does she slip into her bed than she is found caught in deep slumber snoring aloud. But her roaring snores are drowned in the din and noise of her son and grand children who too find themselves engaged in playing different games cowries in the meanwhile.

Kitchen work being over, dinner chadhars are spread and dinnertime announced. The hungry members in their zest for flavour, rush to pounce upon their plates as a flock of starving birds in a freezing winter crowd round handfuls of grains to peck as many grains on they on they ern in quick in succession. Demands and counter demands for different dishes by different members continue browing the "Ghoor-r---" roars of snoring nostrils emanating from the nose of slumbering grandma.

Dinner's devoured up, the ladies too now join in cowrie playing. The din of merriment, protests and counter protests as well as argumentations become louder.

Pangs of hunger in the pit of grandma's stomach become more acute and painful. Her sleep gets disturbed. She wakes up and moves out to the lobby to ascertain if dinner time has come. Entering the lobby, she's surprised to find her son, his wife, children, grand children and all engaged in after dinner cowrie playing at leisure. She smells the rat with disgust and sits silent, sad and sullen at her normal place of honor as the usual head of the family, brooding all by herself.

The game is over. It's time to go to bed. Goories are set aside. Members of the family start moving towards their respective bedrooms. The last outgoing member at the rear casts a backward glance into the lobby. He is surprised and pained to notice his grandma sitting sad in an isolated corner wearing a pale, wrathful and wrinkled face watching the movements of her off-spring who had callously ignored her presence altogether. Moved with pity, the grandchild, trembling with self-remorse, cannot help yelling and weeping, with tears gushing down his cheeks.

"Ah ma! Mummy, Daddy, brothers and sisters. Ah me! Fie on us all that our helpless and famished grandmother has been ignored at dinner time.

Fie! Fie !"

The cries of shame get contagious and the whole house echoes with the pricky, painful tumult of hue and cry.

Mummy, Daddy and all rush in panic, fall at Grandma's feet weeping apologetically and entreating her to have her dinner.

Sags Grandma, "Dear children and grandchildren. Pray de not weep or feel panicky. Grandma's satisfied when her off-springs have had their fill. My hunger subsides when your hunger is satiated. Don't you get disturbed on that." So saying, the famished grandma heaves a deep sigh and falls down unconscious.



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