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Information Digest
Volume 1
Reprint Edition March 2001

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Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust

Table of Contents

Lalla-Ded Educational Trust
Project Zaan
Information Digest - Vol. 1

Har-van

Festivals, Rites & Rituals

Festivals

  • Shivratri. Generally most of the people in Kashmir take Herath as the marriage day of Lord  Shiva with Uma, and outside Kashmir, it is taken as the day when Lord Shiva  manifested in His human f.mp3 on the earth to bless His devotees. This is  celebrated in Phalguna. Interestingly, during the Pathan rule in Kashmir, people were  forced to observe the festival in the summer month of Ashada. This alteration  brought a lot of misery upon the Valley. It got a snowfall in the summer month  that resulted in crop failure and consequent famine. The Pathans called it  ‘hairat’ - i.e. utter surprise. This festival starts on the first day of Phalgun-  Hor-Okdoh and ends on Tela Ashtami. From the first day, the entire house is cleaned  and washed. On Hor Ashtami, kirtans and jagrans  are organised. On Dyara Daham,  the day of the Lakshmi,  all ladies visit their parent’s home and come back  with Atta Gat and Kangri, symbolic of good luck and prosperity. On the Herath day,  new earthenware specially prepared for the occasion is installed in the puja  room. This is called Watukh.

  • Watukh consists of a big earthen pitcher representing Vatak Nath Bhairov, two  medium sized pitchers representing Vatak Vallabha (Parvati) and Vagur (Kalash),  an open mouthed pitcher representing Reshi-Dullije,  two small pitchers (Sani  Vari), a Sanipotul (Shivling), a Dhupzoor and some bowls  representing Bhairvas.  The whole Watukh is decorated with flowers and sindoor. Walnuts are placed in  the pitchers and  bowls. These are then filled with water, milk and some mishri.  Puja is perf.mp3ed by all members of the household, which carries on till late  in the night. Shivratri comes to a close in the evening of Amavasya when the  walnuts are taken out and washed. Puja is perf.mp3ed once again. The samgri and  flowers are immersed in the river. Walnuts are distributed as Prashad amongst  friends, relatives and neighbours.
     
  • Navreh or New Year Day on first of Novratra. The day begins with the  invocation of Laxmi. A young lady of the household takes a thaliful  of rice with  sugar, curds, fruit, a pen, walnuts, a mirror, and a Jantri round the family for the  first darshan. In Kashmir, people congregated at Hari Parbat.

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  • Zang Trai. On 3rd. Navratra, ladies go to their parents’ home and come back  with a pouch of salt and Attagat.

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  • Reshi Peer’s anniversary. On the fifth day of dark fortnight of Baisakhi  (Baisakh Gata-pachh), a Havan is perf.mp3ed at the memorial of Reshi Peer at Ali  Kadal. His relics are housed there. (Now anniversaries of many saints are  celebrated on various days)

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  • Zeth Ashtami and Haar Ashtami, the birthday and incarnation day respectively  of Mata Raginya are observed. People offer prayers at Tullamul (Kshir Bhawani).

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  • Shrawan Purnima. People worship Shiva, visit Shankaracharya Temple, Amarnath  Cave, Chhota Amarnath at Bandipora, Thajevora (3 kms.from Bijbihara), Harishwar  etc.

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  • Vetha Truvah. On 13th day of bright fortnight of Bhadon (Bhadrapeth  Zoona-pachh), Veth (Vitasta) is worshipped. Lighted deeps and candles are floated on  water as a mark of gratitude and to celebrate the birthday of Vitasta.

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  • Khetsri Amavasya falls in Poh (Posha). Kashmir is believed  to have been the  abode of Yakshas in ancient times. The yaksha spirit is invoked to relish  khetsri. The day is also celebrated in worshipping Lord Kuber.

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  • Gori Trai. On the 3rd. day of bright fortnight in Magha, Saraswati puja is  offered. The family guru brings a picture of Sarswati for every child with a  suitable prayer for his/her attainment in learning. The newly wed bahus also  receive one from the guruji of her parents. Tradition has it that it was the  convocation day at the ancient Sharada University.

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  • Sahib Saptami. Saptami tithi in the month of Magha Krishnapaksha (dark  fortnight) and  also in the Pitrapaksha are widely observed by Dhars and the  off-shoots of their daughters, in honour of the Maha Nirvana day of the Saint Poetess  Rupa Bhawani (1521-1621), believed to be the incarnation of Mother Sharika.

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  • Bhagwan Gopinath Ji’s birthday as well as Mahanirvana day are widely observed by his devotees in India and abroad.

  • Rituals

    Every society, modern or ancient has its rituals. They represent continuity in  social conduct. Kashmiri being a very old civilisation has large number of  them. Some of course got obscured with time. Some got refined or even redefined.  Some of them are given below:
     

  • Birth Rituals

  • Pre-natal: Few months before arrival of the baby, a function called Dodh  () is held. It is a f.mp3al announcement of the event to come. The mother  to be is given presents and there is feasting. Similar function ‘Godh bharna’  is known in other parts of the country.

    Post-natal:
    Shran Sondar. On or about sixth day of the birth, the mother and the child are  given a ritual bath with water impragnated with herbs. Then a ritual burning of  birch bark and giving a name to the child is done. Earlier to this, a prasad of  fried Til, Candy and walnut is distributed on the third day (Trui).

    Kahanethar (). It is a purificatory ceremony usually perf.mp3ed on the  eleventh day. Kaha means eleven and nethar (not marriage)  Nakhshetras -  Planetary f.mp3ations.

    Anna Pravesh.  First feeding of the baby.

    Zara Kasay  (). First tonsure of the baby.
     

  • Yagnopavit or Mekhla ¼½

  • Yegnopavit is by far the most important Samaskar, a Kashmiri Pandit male must  undergo. The function derives its name from the sacred thread Yagnopavit (a  strand of three threads with a common knot Brahmagand which turn into six  strands on marriage). Mekhal comes from the name for the thread worn round the  girdle on this occassion. For a Brahmin, it is treated as second birth. Hence  Brahmins are called twice born. Though this is for males only, Arya Samaj sect  does it for girls also.

    Traditionally, it was an occassion when the boy would be initiated by his  teacher-Guru as a householder in perf.mp3ance of his duties towards the society, the  Gods and the Manes (dead). All the Samaskars from birth are again repeated on  this occassion.The Guru does not only bestow the sacred thread to the subject  but also conveys the Guru Mantra - in this case the Gaytri Mantra, into the boy’s  ears. A Yagya (Havan) accompanies the ceremony where Hums (offerings) are made  through the Agni (fire) by which all Gods and Goddesses are invoked to bless  the boy. The boy is made to shed his hair, wear ochre robes and hold a staff and  a begging bowl like a mendicant. Abhid (alms) collection is passed on to the  Guru as Dakshina.

    The social aspect of the ceremony appears to have overtaken the sacred value of  the function. Like a marriage ceremony, it starts with livun, Mehandiraat and  Devgon. The function proper takes nearly twenty four hours. Close relations  observe fast for the day. Those observing fast are entertained with milk, fruit and  other p.mp3itted items like Shakarpara made of waternut flour, by other  relations. These are then shared with whoever comes to offer Abhid. The ceremony  concludes with the boy returning  to the dress of  commoners including a turban,  visit to a nearby temple and a meal as Prasad. Following day, a small thanks giving  puja with a meal is held (Koshal hom).

    The focal point of the Yagnopavit is the Gayatri Mantra.  A mantra achieves  special significance when it is transmitted by the Teacher-Guru to the student.  Although Gayatri Mantra is prayer in itself, it is not the meaning but the sound  and the meter that matters the most.Gayatri is rather a meter, to which Savitur  Mantra with its estonic sound, is set to.

    Om  bhur  bhuvah  svah
    Tat  Savitur  Varenyam  bhargo  devasya
    dhimahi  dhiyo  yonah  prachodyat


  • Marriage Rituals

  • Match making. An extract of the boy’s horoscope (Tekni) is made public. The  girl’s side, who find it matching and meets their specifications, approach boy’s  side for the alliance.

    Kath Baath  (). To f.mp3alise the alliance, a party of males from the  boy’s side meets a party from the girl’s side at a place fixed by the latter. After  tea and snacks, bouquet are exchanged to signify the acceptance of marriage  proposal on both sides. The date of marriage is fixed.

    Marriage ceremony - Livun. House cleaning is done few days before the marriage,  f.mp3ally with some feasting and distribution of Ver, a concoction of rice,  condimends and sheep entrials or walnut. Colour mottifs are put on entrance gate  (Krool). Now-a-days this function is done more f.mp3ally a day before the ceremony  proper starts, while a pseudo  livun is done earlier.

    Mainzrath. It is the night when Mehandi is applied on the hands / feet of the  groom / bride by her father’s sister. It is also offered to guests. Singing  takes place all night, often supported by professional singing & dancing parties  (Bacha-nagma).

    Devgon. A long pooja (longer in case of girls) is a religious preparatory  ceremony. Father gifts all jewellery and utensils etc to his daughter ceremonially  at this function. Kheer as prasad is distributed on the occasion.

    Marriage proper. Grooms wear a kesari colour turban (Dastaar) which is tied by  the uncles. The elder lady of the house bids them bye on a Vyueg ( a rangoli  like round, coloured pattern on ground) with feeding of candy. No musicals  accompany the party except a conche shell. On arrival at the bride’s place, he is  again welcome by the elder lady of the house on a Vyueg (of course this time  together with the bride) with an aarti with lamps made of rice flour and feeding of  candy. Although some have introduced Jaimala (Vijaymala) exchange recently,  majority of people would instead have Mananmaal (Mala of agreement) tied as the  bride was not by vijay (conquest) but by agreement. The guests (Baraatis) are  entertained to a meal , usually a lunch as morning marriages are more common than  night ones. The food served is vegetarian since early 1930 when Pt. Hargopal, a  ref.mp3er made it a n.mp3. The marriage proper is perf.mp3ed by the priests and  can take anything upto five hours. It starts with the groom worshipping the  doorway to the bride’s home (Dwara pooza). In the ceremony, the most important part  is when the couple takes seven steps together and also when they are worshipped  with flowers by the relatives of the bride as if they are embodiments of God  and Godess (Posha pooza). The bride and groom feed each other ceremonially  (Dai-batta). The food for that is paid for by the groom’s side, so are all the  requirements at the ceremony, the responsibility of the groom’s side. Even the  cosmetics and the outer robe for the bride is provided by the groom’s side. Farewell  again is at the Vyueg, in the same manner as the welcome. The groom alongwith  his bride is welcome back at his place again on the Vyueg. The groom’s sister  ritually bars their entry to the house which is allowed after she is promised a  gift by the groom (Zaam Braand). They are then led to the kitchen when the  mother-in-law after f.mp3ally seeing her daughter-in-law (Maetemur) entertains them  to some food while they sit on the hearth. All the women at this stage sing in  the joy of the arrival of the new bride.

    Sat-raat. The same night, the couple again visits the bride’s house (except on  a Saturday) and  have the ceremonial dinner before leaving back.
     

  • Death Ritual

  • The cremation takes place after the body is given a wash at home. Some pooja  including worship of the dead person takes place before leaving for cremation  ground. The pyre is lit by the son(s). For ten days, mourning is held at home.  Early morning a kriya is done at the river front (usually not done these days).  Sympathisers come, but they are not expected to be entertained with anything  except a glass of water. The food from the bereaved family carries hontsh ()  which is not good for others. Tenth day, a kriya is held at the river front. Male  sympathisers come there. Tonsuring of the Karta is done. From there they  proceed to home. Rites are held on 11th day and some on 12th day. Ashes are  immersed in auspicious rivers like Ganga. Every month a Shraadha would be held  and a big ones after six months (Shadmos) and one year (Vahar vaer). A shraadha  is held every year on the death anniversary and corresponding tithi in  Pitra-paksha of the year.
     
  • Pann ¼½

  • Around September (on or about Vinayak Chaturthi of the Bhadra Shukla-paksh),  each family one day, with all solemnity, purity and sanctity, prepare Roth (sweet  pancake) from wheat floor, raw brown sugar and ghee. Big elaichi seeds &  khaskhas is added for effect. Five of these (one with saw-teeth like edge Kanki-vor)  together with some fruit is put on a clean container (Gadwah) containing clean  water. The container is emblished with Sindoor & Silver foil. All these are  covered with cloth. Tradition has it that some one in the distant past got  pancakes of gold from underneath the cloth after a puja of utter devotion.

    The eldest lady of the house presides over the ceremony. She puts tilak on the  forehead of every member of the family and ties the Bandin (Nariwan) around  their wrists. She then narrates with full solemnity, the folk tale of a poor lady  and her daughter, who once held this puja in utter poverty. They were bestowed  with luck by alliance with the king. King disregarded the solemnity of the  function and suffered. These ladies picked up the thread and started again. King  became repentant and everything was nice again. So prayers to the Goddess  Beebgaraz Maej that she may make everything nice for the family like she did for the  ladies in the tale.

    The lady of the house puts a home-spun cotton thread, spun by a young girl,  first in the ear and narrates the story. Then she puts it in the container. This  gives the ritual its name.

    The prasad of Roth is sent to all neighbours and relations. It gives a social  content to the function. It serves as one of the links in the social chain. The  function coincides with the fortnight starting with Vinayak Chaturthi and  concluding with Anant Chaturdashi.
     

  • Gadda Batta ¼½


Around December, in the dark fortnight of Posha (Poh Gata-pachh), each year, a  Kashmiri Pandit family observes a day as Gadda Batta - literary Rice and Fish  Festival. On this day, the house deity (Ghar Devta) is offered a meal of rice  and fish. The food is prepared in thoroughly clean kitchen and utensils during  the day and the puja and offering is done in the night. An offering of rice in a  thali (plate), with cooked fish and one raw fish, is made to the Devta in the  puja. This thali is then kept somewhere in the upper reaches of the house with  all solemnity for the Ghar Devta. After that, rice and fish is served to the  family members and the extended family. This being a very cold part of the winter,  the prasad of nicely cooked fish is very much relished.



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