Shivratri - Revisiting Kashmiri Ritual Variants
By Upender Ambardar
The multitude of Shivratri rituals having undated
antiquity sculpt a riveting portrayal of indigenous and exogenous strains of our
societal cum cultural growth. They represent a microcosm of diverse beliefs,
varied faith patterns, variegated societal mores, multiple layers of distinct
religious practices and variable traditions acquired over centuries in the
bygone times. Speaking on a nostalgic note, Sh Chand Ji Bhat, an original
resident of the village Ladhoo, tehsil Pampore, district Pulwama and presently
putting up at ORT Complex Nagrota, Jammu, divulged that ahead of the festival,
the whole house was spruced up by smearing it with a combined mix of clay, water
and cowdung usually on Phagun Krishna Paksh Ashtami, the day set aside for it.
To ensure the foolproof piousness and cleanliness, the clay to be used was
procured from the adjacent almond orchard of the family. In conjuction with the
family defined 'reeth', the ritualistic pooja of two flat bottomed and wide
mouthed spherical earthenwares, locally called 'Anyut' was performed in the
evening of Phagun Krishan Paksh Dwadeshi, also known as 'Vagur Bah'.
The said pooja was performed in the kitchen. The two
earthenwares of 'Anyut' were seated on the backside space of the mud herth,
called 'Dhaan'. They were seated on grass woven bases 'Aarie'. The pooja would
take place in the evening after mouli and 'vusur' were tied around and 'sindoor'
applied to them. In accordance with the family 'reeth' it was customary to put
uncut red coloured raw turnips one each in the earthenwares of 'Anyut'. The
cooked rice was also put in them. The said pooja was undertaken in the kitchen
and not in the 'Vatuk Kuth' for the obvious reason as kitchen is not only an
integral and bustling part of a Kashmiri household but also constitutes a
sanctimonious area of the house after the pooja room or 'Thakur Kuth'. Chandji
also divulged that 'vatuk comprised twenty two earthen utensils of one 'nout',
one 'choud', one 'doul', three 'doulji', seven 'varie', two 'saniwarie', one 'sanipatul',
one 'dhoopajoor' and two 'tokes'. On Shivratri, usually at dusk, only the pooja
utensils of 'nout' and 'choud' were taken to the nearby spring called 'charish
pokhar' by both male and female family members.
Before undertaking the said ritual of water filling, the
ladies would attire themselves in new outfits and wear new 'Athoar' in the ears
as a mark of auspiciousness and good omen. On their return, the entry inside the
house was allowed only after observance of 'Aaluth' by waving around of a water
filled vessel having a few rice grains inside it. The lavish spread of
non-vegetarian gourmet goodies of 'Roganjosh', Kalyai, mixed dish of turnip and
lambs stomach called 'Demni gogiz' minced meat preparation of 'mach', sour
tasting 'chok charvun', the most favourite humble 'hakh' and raw chutney of
raddish called 'muj chatin' were the sacrificial offerings to the designated
vessel of 'Bhairav Doul' amidst elaborate pooja. As a part of the offering,
apart from milk and sugar candy called 'kund', kishmish, almonds, dry dates
sliced coconut pieces and a native herb of 'Bubrikath' were the ritualistic
offerings to the pooja utensil of 'Nout', the symbolic representation of Lord
Shiva. In accordance with the family custom, an oil lit clay lamp was kept
burning continously right from Shivratri day upto the evening of 'Doon Mavus'.
The 'doon Mavus' pooja was performed at the village rivulet
bank. Only 'Nout' and 'Choud' were taken there for replenshing them with fresh
water during the 'Visarjan' ritual. Contrary to the more prevalent practice of
ladies involvement elsewhere, the rite was performed solely by male members of
the family. During the knock at the door ritual of 'Thuk Thuk', in addition to
the usual 'ann, dhan, orzu, sokh sampdha, gurgupan was also symbolically wished
and granted, undoubtedly affirming the pastoral disposition of the said family.
On Tila Ashtami seven earthen diyas having a sprinkle of black sesame seeds were
oil lit in the kitchen and seven rolled-up cooked rice morsels called a 'Hoon
Machie' were placed on seven rice flour rotis called 'Chochivar'. Additionally a
bronze 'Kahwa' tea utensil called as 'Khoas' was also filled up with cooked rice
to facilitate the observance of ritual obeisance to the departed souls of the
family. The rite was also supplemented with the filling up of an earthen soucer
called 'Toke' with cooked rice, which was subsequently placed at the village
rivulet ghat as a part of the said ritual.
Out of the seven oil lit lamps, one each of them was
subsequently placed at the charcoal ash deposition, dry cowudung heap, exterior
stepping stair stone base called 'Brandh', streamlet or spring bank and the
village temple. Their placement in the rooms was avoided. However the family
specific custom permitted only a previously used old oil lit clay lamp to be
kept in the kitchen. The family also observed the rite of 'Jatoon Toon' by
circular rotation of worn out wicker exteriors of 'Kangri' and old wicker
baskets of 'Phout' and 'Kranjul'.
The Shivratri rituals are an amazing blend of multi
splendoured traditions, myriad religious attitude, varied devotional pursuits
and enormous reverence for the most favoured God and Ist Dev Lord Shiva,
asserted Sh. Maharaja Krishan Handoo, a native of Achabal Adda, main town
Anantnag and now putting up at Anand Nagar Bohri Jammu sharing the cherished
memories of the festival of yester years, he disclosed that ahead of the
festival, the house was readied for the most momentous occasion by smearing the
entire house with a mixture of clay, water and cowdung. The clay required for it
was specially collected from the sacred hillock shrine of the 'Tutlai Baal' of
The 'livun hur' or the fabric used, for the cleanliness cum
purifactory act of 'livun' had necessarily to be preserved in a contanier before
it's subsequent immersion in the flowing waters of vitasta river. It was in
accordane with the family belief to safeguard the wholesome sacredness of the
purifactory act of 'livun'. Expanding his conversation, he also informed that 'Vatuk'
consisted of thirteen items of a 'Gagar', number of 'Katories', two bronze
tumblers, two Rattandeeps' in addition to a conch and a hand ringing bell or 'ghanta'.
The pooja untensils were taken to the Nagbal for getting them filled up with
water. The ladies of the household would drape themselves in new dress and wear
'athhoor' in the ears before undertaking the said ritual. It is akin to the must
wear requirement of wedding finery during the auspicious and eventful occasions
of weddings etc. A combination of seven different types of drug pulses namely
mazie, mooong, maha masoor, rajmah, channa and peas mixed together was a family
specific ritualistic offering to the 'Bhairav Doul'. The said offering was known
by the local name of 'Sut Sous'.
In addition to it 'cooked rice along with a rice flour 'chochivor'
was put in an earthen sacucer shaped 'Toke', which was seated on a grass woven
base 'Aaer'. A few unwashed and uncooked meat pieces put into the 'Toke' amidst
pooja was an extra sacrifical offering. An unusual and unique family 'reeth'
also ordained that motifs of flowers and leaves were elegentaly carved out on
the lime white washed side walls of the main door of the house on the Shivratri
day. It is synonymous with the custom of the 'Krool Kharun' on the front door
wall area of the house on the weddnig occasions. The said floral illustrations
were also drawn on the lime water smeared back side wall of the 'Vatuk Kuth',
which had an array of pooja utensils of 'Vatuk' installed in the front. It
undeniably symbolises a feeling of heightened delight and cheer besides it being
a recognisable sign of welcome on the aupsicious occasion of celestial weddnig
of the Divine couple of Lord Shiva and Jagatmatta Goddess Parvati. It is in
harmony with a sidespread belief that Godess Parvati is the divine daughter of
the Satidesh Kashmir.
The above ritual bears a close resemblance with the
reproduction of a specific carvings marked on the wall of the ceremonial room of
the wedding function of 'Divgoan', which are knwon in Kashmiri as 'Divtimoen'.
As per one more uncommon family reeth, it was requried to sanctify the 'Vatuk
Kuth' before commencement of the Shivratri pooja by sprinkling water drops with
a twig of an indigenous wild herb locally known as 'Bubrikath', which was dipped
in a water container. The said ritual is also synonymous with a custom of same
nature locally called 'Laev dieni' performed during the wedding functions and
the other such events of auspicious nature. The utilised pooja material and
restulting 'Nirmaal' was deposited after midnight usually at the base of a
nearby tree, preferably a fruit bearing one during the custom of 'Purmujan' on
Shivratri. An oil lit clay lamp was also required to burn uninterruptedly right
from the Shivratri pooja upto the next day of 'Salam'. The final 'Visurjun'
pooja of Doon Mavus was performed in the evening on the Vitasta ghat.
Interestingly on 'Doon Mavus' the used grass 'Arie', 'Vusir',
Mouli, used flowers and the left over pooja material was wrapped up in dry
grass, giving it a shape of spherical ball. It was subsequently floated in the
Vitasta river after an oil lit clay lamp, and lighted 'dhoop' and incense sticks
were placed on it. The knock at the door ritual of 'Thuk Thuk' was performed
with a minor variation that all the good things of life were symbolically
bestowed by the daughter-in-law instead usually done by elderly lady of the
family. On Tila Ashtami, oil lit earthen lamps were placed at the four corner's
of the house, the pathway lane leading to the house, the potable water source
like a well or water tap the adjacent road intersection called 'chowk' and the 'Thokur
placement of the oil lit lamps as such also display an unusual variance in the
relation to the widespread practice prevalent in most of the households.