Shivratri - Revisiting Kashmiri Ritual Variants
By Upender Ambardar
The Shivratri rituals structured down the generation are precious legacies of our
forebear. In addition to the chronicled account, the rituals also interpret the
socio-cultural evolution of our community, asserted Sh. Amar Nath Koul (Miya),
an erstwhile resident of Kocha Nidan Sahib, Rainawari Srinagar and presently
putting-up at Anand Nagar Bohri, Jammu. Refreshing the festival related
memories, Sh. Miya recalled that even on 'Vagur Bah', i.e. a day prior to
Shivratri, the ritualistic food preparations were that of fish and meat. The
pooja utensils installed in the 'Vatuk Kuth' comrpised earthen utensils
of 'Gagar', a wide mouthed 'Doul', two 'Sanivarees', one
'Sounipatul' and an additional pooja vessel called 'Ram Goud', which
was in the form of a narrow mouthed clay pitcher 'Nout'.
Interestingly, on 'Vagur Bah',
the ritualistic pooja was performed only for the 'Sanivaries' and not
for the 'Ram Goud'. The pooja utensils were taken to charihaenzpur yarbal,
which was adjacent to Vetal Bhairav Shrine for getting them filled-up with water
usually in the morning.
As per his family reeth, the
traditional dish offerings to the Bhairav Doul' comprised 'Rogan
Josh', combined dish of fish and nadru, performed after midnight. The
walnut pooja on Amavasya i.e. 'Doon
Mavas' was performed at
home and not on the river bank. Sh. Miya also disclosed that as per his family
'reeth', it was ordained to put the oil lit earthen diya's only on
the enslosing courtyard wall and the nearest road crossing.
The Shivratri rituals represent
the multiplicity of our cultural and social ethos and also depict our religious
ethnicity, declared Sh. Kanya Lal Saproo, an erstwhile resident of Gulab Bagh,
district Ganderbal and presently residing at Bhagwati Nagar Jammu. Reminiscing
about the festival of yesteryears, he revealed that fish, 'roganjosh' and
mixed dish of meat and nadru were the ritualistic cuisines offered to
other 'Bhairav Doul' on Shivratri. In contrast to it, on 'Doon
Mavus' the mixed dish
of palakh-nadru' was cooked. During the ritualistic 'knock at the door'
or 'Thuk Thuk' rite, it was customary for his family to say to have come
from Tulamulla and Vicharnag in reply to a query about the specified place from
where journeyed. It was probably said to emphasize the nearness of the holy
shrines of Tulamulla and Vicharnag to his abode at Gulab Bagh.
During the said symbolic
conversation , health wealth, good produce, overall prosperity, wisdom and
knowledge are symbolically wished and granted. The Shivratri rituals having
exceptional diversity and variety are proud expressions of our ancient social
set-up and value structure, observed Sh. Moti Lal Raina (Razgaroo) an erstwhile
resident of Drabiyar, Habbakadal Sringar and now putting up at Shivnagar Jammu.
He also stressed that centuries old treasured rituals share a history, which
have stretched into legends as they take us through the splendoured journey and
glory of bygone ages. Counting his conversation Sh. Raina opined that rituals
should never outlive their utility even under the heightened pressure of time
and hurried life style of the present times. The Shivratri rituals are not only
the cultural and religious accessories, which reassert our distinctive identity
but also reveal the depth of our adoration and surrender to our most favoured
Isht Dev and God of Gods Lord Shiva. With nostalgia weighing heavily on his
mind, Sh Moti Lal Raina (Razgaroo) recounted vividly that the ritualistic
offering to 'Bhairav Doul' used to be water fowl cooked with nadru,
locally known as 'Pachin or Shikar' meat preparation of 'maech'.
He also disclosed that 'Vatuk
Parmujan' ritual was performed even during the heightened winter chill at
the Vitasta Yarbal Ghat of Drabiyar, with the river embankment coming alive
during the pooja.
During the immersion ritual of
the flowing river water was
cut crosswise seven times with a knife. 'Thuk Thuk Thuk' was an integral
part of the said ritual. Making an addition to the said conversation, Smt.
Krishna Raina (Dhar) stated that Shivratri rituals endorse our earthly adoration
and pesonalised devotion for Lord Shiva and His celestial spouse Goddess Parvati.
She divulged that deloctable dishes of yellow meat mixed with turnip and 'Nadeer
mokan' were traditional offerings to the 'Bhairav Doul' in her parental
house at Bana Mohalla, Sringar, where 'Doon Mavus' pooja was performed in
the 'Vatuk Kuth' or pooja room instead of the Yarbal Ghat. Sh Moti Lal
Raina also revealed that offering of liquor to the 'Bhairva Doul' by some
families having 'Sahib' surname of Kharyar Habbakadal Srinagar was an
unusual and uncommon Shivratri ritual. A good quality liquor used to be
specially procured for use in the sail ritual in Shivratri pooja.
The Shivratri rituals having
metaphorical meaning and veiled wisdom are products of careful thought and
insight gathered during the successive waves of proceeding times, affirmed Sh PN
Tikoo, an old resident of Kralkhud/Peer Bagh Srinagar and now a resident of
Vijay Nagar Talab Tillo, Jammu. Sharing the 'Hayreth' related
imperishable memories, Sh. Tikoo recapitulated that on Phagun Krishan Paksh
Duvadashi, locally known as 'Vagur Bah', a flat bottomed earthen utensil
locally called 'Aaneut' was reverentially seated amidst pooja on the
back-side space of the mud herth called locally as 'Daan' in the kitchen.
The ritualistic combined dish of yellow meat and turnip was put in it amidst
elaborate pooja. However, strangely enough on the next day of Shivratri the most
sought after vegetarian dishes of yellow cheese, dumalu, nadir yakhni,
cauliflower, nadru-palakh and mixed dish of potatoes and peas formed a part of
the kitchen repertoire as per the family reeth as meat was a taboo in the family
'Vatak Kuth' i.e. the family pooja room on Shivratri day.
Making an addition to the
conversation, Sh PN Tikoo further revealed that Vatuk or Pooja utensils
comprised 'Nout', one 'Bhairav Doul', one 'Resh Doul', two
small sized earthen pots called 'Machivari' and four more small sized
clay pots, locally known as 'Sanivari', one 'Sanipotal' and a
dhoop holder known as 'dhupjoor'. As per the family reeth, four walnuts
were put in each of the two 'Machivari', whileas only one walnut was put
in each of the four 'Sanivari'. All the cooked dishes after having been
mixed with the rice were put inside the designated 'Bhairav Doul' amidst
elaborate pooja, while as only rice mixed with unboiled milk was offered to 'Resh
Doul', Curiously enough, there is no symbolic representation of the Goddess
Parvati among the pooja utensils of the said Tikoo family. 'Doon
Mavas' pooja was
performed at home and not at the river bank. On Tila Ashtami, oil lit earthen
lamps were placed on the stepping stone stair, locally called 'Brandh',
the courtyard wall the adjacent lane and the Yarbal Ghat.
The rituals are real life
expressions of undying love and adoration for the great God Lord Shiva affirmed
Sh. Madhusudhan Raina, an original resident of Seer Jagir, tehsil Sopore,
district Baramulla and presently putting up at Trilokpur, Gole Gujral Jammu.
He also advocated total commitment
and steadfast loyalty for the observance of the Shivratri rituals. Thick with
the cherished memories, Sh. Raina disclosed that 'Vatuk' comprised 'Nout',
a small sized earthen utensils, locally called 'Choud' three wide
mouthed clay utensils called 'Doulji', and a 'Sonipotal' and four
clay pots called 'Varie'. During Shivratri pooja, cooked rice and meat
delicacies were put in one of the 'Vaer' while as only milk and water
was ritualistically offered to the remaining three earthen pots called 'Vaers'.
Out of the three 'Douji's' only milk was offered to one of them,
whileas in rest of the two water and a few walnuts usually in odd number were
put in them. As per the reeth of the said family, it was customary to offer snow
to the 'Nout' , the symbolic representation of Lord Shiva. Sh Madhusudhan
Raina also disclosed that many a times snow had to be procured from the snow
copped mountains of the adjacent village of Chanad, Delina. All the pooja
utensils were decked with 'Baelpattar' leaves, the coloured Virkam and 'Bredmushik'
flowers gathered from the nearby forests. The said family would also offer
pooja to 'Parthishor', the home made figurative earthen linga, for
which the soil was collected from chanad forest range.
In addition to the electric lamp,
an oil lit earthen diya was also kept burning throughout the night of Shivratri
in the 'Vatak Kuth'. Sh Madhsudhan Raina also disclosed that Pooja
utensils locally called 'Vatak Bhane' were in first instance stored in
the out-house store room, locally called 'Kuch' from where they were
taken inside the house only on the Shivratri day. Adding to his conversation, Sh
Raina also stated that during the process of filling up of the Pooja utensils
with water and walnuts, the ladies of the house would attire themselves in new
outfits and also wear new 'athhoar; in the ears. On the day of 'Salam'
the Kul-Brahman would invariably come early morning to apply chandan
tilak to the house inmates, which as per family belief would spell
auspiciousness for the ensuing year. During the ritual of 'Thuk Thuk',
only an elderly lady of the house would tap the door and during the course of
said conversation in reply to a symbolic query about the identity of person, the
answer was that of 'Vatak Raza'. In confirmity with the family reeth,
about three dozen oil lit earthen lamps filled with a sprinkling of black sesame
seeds were placed in all the rooms, yarbal ghat, charcoal ash heap, livestock
room, cowdung heap and the enclosing compound wall in tune with the family
belief that no space should remain in shade on that day. It was also disclosed
that after the end of 'Doon
Mavas Pooja', all the
ladies of the village would collectively perform a sort of circular dance on the
Yarbhal Ghat with their hands drawn towards the sky. It was akin to the ritual
dance performed by Kashmiri Pandit ladies during the Yaegnopavit and marriage
Sh Raina also revealed that fried
pounded moong tikki was also a part of the walnut 'prasad', distributed
among near and dear one's. All the Raina families of the village would also cut
the flaming river water seven times crosswise with a knife. It was also
disclosed that some families of the village Seer Jegir had the reeth of
performing pooja of fried Nadru or potato slices alongwith the walnut kernels on
'Doon Mavus'. A curious and unusual family reeth was that 'Thuk Thuk'
ritual was not performed on Amavasya evening but on the day of Shivratri
itself after the pooja utensils were filled up with water and walnuts. Their
entry inside the house was allowed only at the end of the 'knock at the door'
The multitude of Shivratri
rituals are our prized inheritance, which demonstrate our boundless and immense
devotion and love for the Supreme God Lord Shiva,
observed Sh. Triloki Nath Pandita, originally hailing from the village Hutmulla,
district Kupwara and now putting up at Trilokpur, Gole Gujral, Jammu. He also
stresed that festival related rituals need to be faithfully observed so that we
become recipient of His grace. It was also disclosed that in addition to an
uncooked and uncleaned fish, blood collected in a flat earthenware (Toke) after
slaughter of a sheep in the courtyard were ritualistic offerings to the
designated pooja utensil called 'Bhairav Doul' during the Shivratri pooja.
As per his family custom, a small earthenware known as 'Vagur' was also
reverentially installed in the 'Vatak Kuth' on the evening of 'Vagur
Bah', i.e. a day prior to the main festival of Shivratri. Meat preparations
were the usual offerings to the 'Vagur' also. The 'Vatuk'
comprising pooja utensils were ushered inside the house only after the
completion of 'Aalath' by waving around of a water filled pot around
Sh. Triloki Nath
Pandita also revealed that (figurative-images) of only potter and potteress,
locally known as 'Kral' and 'Kraej' were made-out from the kneaded
rice flour. They were baked dry without oil on a pan and eventually offered to
the 'Bhairav Doul' . The 'Doon
Mavus' pooja was
performed collectively by all the families of the village on the rivulet bank.
In place of earthen lamps, about 30-40 oil lit walnut shells having a sprinkling
of black sesame seeds were also placed in all the rooms, rivulet bank, dry
cowdung heap, stored charcoal ash mass, and livestock room in the evening of
Tila Ashtami. It was also customary to perform 'Jattu-Toun' by rotating
the ignited old and damaged fire pots i.e. 'Kangris' in the evening of 'Tila
*(The writer is a keen socio-cultural researcher)