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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri



Maha Shivratri - Revisiting Kashmiri Ritual Variants

By Upender Ambardar

Part 1

Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8
Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13 Part 14    



The wide spread of the diverse Shiv-ratri rituals and customs reflects the elegant and wondrous confluence of various and distinct influences acquired over the times, asserted Sh Avtar Krishan Koul an original resident of Purshiyar, Habbakadal Srin-agar and now putting up at ORT Complex Purkhoo Comp, Phase-I Jammu. Refreshing the festival related memories of the yore, he recalled that as a run-up to the festival, the house cleansing followed by mud smearing of the whole house would commence on Phagun Krishan Paksh Pratipadha, locally known as 'Hur Oakdoh'.

Similarly, the customary washing of the outfits was done on Phagun Krishan Paksh Shasti or 'Hur Shayam'. In conjuction with the family, 'reeth', the 'Vatuk' comprised one clay, 'Nout', one 'Doul' (Bhairav Doul) and 'Doulij' (Resh Doulij', two small 'Doulji, one 'choud' designated as 'Ram Goud', two 'Suniwari, two Muchiwari, two 'Sanipatul' (one used for pooja and the second one was seated with the 'Vatak', utensils. They were brought home on the specific day of 'Dhyara Dahum' i.e. Phagun Krishan Paksh Dushmi.

They were ushered inside the house amidst the traditioinal 'Aalath' i.e. waving around of a water filled vessel having a few rice grains and a coin put inside it. The 'Aalath' was performed at the main enterance door of the house. A day prior to Shivratri, a clay utensil designated as 'Ram Goud' was installed by seating it on the backside space of the mud hearth, locally known as 'Dhaan' in the kitchen room. The rite was performed usually in the evening after 'Vusur' was tied to its rim and it was seated on a grass woven base called 'Aarie'. The combined vegetarian dish of 'hakh and nadru', 'nadir churma' and cooked rice along with 'argh' and flowers were put into 'Ram Goud' amidst an elaborate pooja. Interestingly enough, on Shivratri, the ritualitic meat dishes were those of 'roganjosh', 'kelya', 'muja-gaeda' and 'demni-nadru'. The pooja utensils of 'Vatuk' were filled-up with water at the yarbal ghat of Purshiyar. On the next day of 'Salam' morning pooja was performed for 'Nout' and 'Ram Goud'.

In confirmity with the family 'reeth', the 'Doon Mavus' pooja was performed first at the 'yarbal ghat' and then at the 'Vatak Kuth' but curiously enough the 'knock at the door' ritual of 'Thuk Thuk' was omitted.

However, though on the 'Doon Mavus', the embellishment of Vusir', 'mouli' and 'aarie' etc. were untied but curously enough they were deposited in the river only on 'Hur Ashtami'. Out of eight oil lit mud lamps, one each was placed at home, connecting lane, lane corners, yarbal ghat and one was floated in the flowing waters of the river. The Shivratri rituals are riveting evocation of long and remarkable socio-religious journey of our community. They are outcome of specific beliefs, convictions, social patterns and taboos and are interlaced with insightful meanings, articulated Smt. Meenawati Watt Pandit, an original inhabitant of the village Hall, district Pulwama and now residing at Indra Nagar Srinagar. The 'Vagur' and 'Vatak' utensils were filled up with water at the bank of Lar riverlet, a tributary of Rambara stream. In conformity with the family 'reeth', the ritualistic offerings to the 'Bhairav Doul' were cooked liver (Churvun), cooked cheese and vegetables and not the usual meat dishes. She also disclosed that in tune with an unusual and exceptionally rare family custom, the 'Parmuzan' of only 'Vagur' was done on 'Doon Mavus' and not that of of 'Vatuk' as is usually done in majority of the households. Accordingly only water of the pooja utensils was replaced with fresh one on 'Doon Mavus' and actual 'Mavus' pooja was performed on Phagun Krishan Paksh Dashmi at the yarbal ghat of Lar streamlet. On  'Tila Ashtami', oil lit mud lamps were placed, one each at the house corridor passage called 'Vuz', courtyard, cowdung heap and the stream bank. The ritual of 'Thuk Thuk' likewise was performed on 'Dashmi' instead of the usual 'Amavasya' and the auspicious things were symbolically granted by an elderly lady of the household. The family would also perform 'Jatoon Toon' on the evening of the said day. It was also revealed that apart from cash, the potter was also given rice in the willow wicker container, locally called 'Phout', in which the 'Vatak' utensils had been carried by him.

The multilayered complexity of the festival rituals represents an amalgamation of many socio-cultural influences of bygone eras, declared Mrs Dhanwati Khan, an original inhabitant of the village Hall, district Pulwama and now residing at Indranagar Srinagar. During an interaction, it was revealed that on Phagun Krishan Paksh Duvadashi i.e. 'Vagur Bah', uncooked reddish slices and an uncooked and uncleared small fish variety called 'gurun' were family specific traditional offerings to the designated pooja utensils of 'Vagur'. It was obligatary to procure and offer 'gurun' even in overwhelming odds of harsh clime.

On Shivratri, the traditional offering to the 'Bhairav Doul' was only cooked liver (Churvan) and interestingly enough the usual meat preparations were excluded from the offerings. However, strangely enough separate pooja was offered to the sacrificial offering of an uncut and unwashed sheeps' lung in its' entirety having it's heart intact. After the pooja was over, it was kept on the roof top for the crows and the kites to feed on. The 'Doon Mavus' pooja was performed at the village streamlet called  'Lar' but the widely prevalent custom of 'Thuk Thuk' was not performed.

The Shivratri rituals reflect the grandeur and richness of our ceaseless devotion and symbolize the devotion personfied, remarked Smt. Arundati Ambardar, an original resident of the village Sombruna, Tehsil Shangus, district Anantnag and presently putting up at Muthi Jammu .During a detailed conversation, she narrated that as per the family 'reeth', the whole house was spruced up for the festival by though cleansing only on Phagun Krishan Paksh Suptami, while as it was obligatory to initiate and complete the ritual of 'livun' on the evening of the same day and not before that she also disclosed that piece of cloth used in the process of clay and water smearing, locally known as 'livun hur' had to be retained inside the house till the wee hours of the next day to it's subsequent disposal only at an uncontaminated place. The 'Vatuk' comprised one 'Nout', one Bhairav Doul, one Resh Doul, two 'Saniwari', one Sanipatul, one dupzoor and five flat bottomed saucer shaped earthenwares, called 'Toke'.

The pooja utensils were filled up with water at the village steam. The said ritual was strangely enough performed only by the male members of the family as participation of the ladies was not allowed. During the said ritual, an unusual and peculiar family reeth ordained that an eldest male family member would wrap a woollen blanket around his waist, locally known as 'Hoal Gandun'. It was also mandatory to keep a small axe locally called 'Makh' on the right side of the wrapped up woollen blanket at the level of the waist. It was also required to keep the head covered with a towel during the act of water filling. The subsequent entry inside the house was allowed only after the main entrance door was closed by an elderly lady of the house  and opened only after the 'knock at the door' ritual of 'Thuk Thuk' was performed. It is in sharp contrast with the other households, where the said ritual is performed usually on 'Doon Mavus'.

During the rite of 'Thuk Thuk', all the good things of life like health, wealth, rozgar and overall prosperity 'Soukh Savai' were symbolically granted by the male member standing outside the entrance door. The 'Doon Mavus' pooja was performed at the village stream bank.

The myriad hued mythical Shivratri rituals trace a magnificient and splendid journey of our socio-religious development and growth, opined Sh. Ravi Kumar Najawan, an erstwhile resident of the village Chek Chrathram, tehsil Pattan, district Baramulla and presently putting up at the ORT Complex Mishriwalla, Jammu. The festival related memories are indelibly imprinted in his mind. He nostalgically recalled that in accordance with his family reeth, the 'Vatuk' consisted of brass vessels of 'Gagar', Gudva', five Katoreez called 'Kuvli' and one 'Doul'. It is in contrast with the wide prevalent reeth of having only the clay utensils as 'Vatuk'. Among these vessals, the 'Gagar' was the symbolic representation of Lord Shiva, 'the Gudva' as that of the Goddess Parvati whileas the two 'Katoreez' stood for Lord Ganesh and Kumar. The Vatuk was filled up with water at the village stream. The vegetarian dishes as per the family reeth were the sacrificial offerings to the 'Bhairav Doul'.

As per an unusual reeth, hulva and puri were also an additional ritualistic offering to both the untensils of 'Gagar' and the 'Bhairav Doul'. It was also revealed by him that it was customary for one member of each family to participate in the Shivratri pooja of other households of the village. The puja as such would continue till the wee hours of the next day.

Sh. Ravi Kumar also disclosed that 'Vatak' pooja was performed not in the 'Vatak Kuth' but in a portion of the kitchen set a side  for it. The 'Doon Mavus' pooja was performed at home and not at the stream bank. However, the utilised and left over pooja material was collected and stored in a bucket for subsequent immersion in the village stream. On 'Ashtami', oil lit mud lamps were placed at the window shelf, store room, cowshed, the enterance stair base or 'brandh' and at the intersection of the roads called 'Chowk'. The rite of 'Jatoon Toon' was not performed.

The Shivtatri ambience to pray, worship and meditate, observed Sh. Bakshi Lal Kapoor, an erstwhile resident of the village chak Narayan Dass and now putting up at Muthi Jammu. The said village is a distance of about three kilometers from Chak Chrath Ram village. He disclosed that no sybmolic pooja of the utensils was performed. However, curiously enough in accordance with the family custom, 'parthishor' of Lord Shiva and the Goddess Parvati were made out of cooked rice. They were subsequently seated reverentially in a thali. Amidst elaborate pooja, the most relished dishes of meat and fish were ritualistically offered to the rice made symbolic substitutes of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. An additional offering was that of an uncooked, uncleared, and undressed fish variety called as 'gurun'. On the subsequent day of 'Salam', they were immersed in the village stream. Accordingly no 'Doon Mavus' pooja was performed. Sh. Arjan Nath Kapoor, an original resident of the same village and at present residing at ORT complex Mishriwalla Jammu disclosed that Shivratri festival was celebrated by his family  in the same way. However there was a minor variation in the sense that only vegetarian dishes were the sacrificial offerings to the rice made 'Parthishar's of the Lord Shiva and the Goddess Parvati.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



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