Rites & Rituals
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
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.
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.
- Zang Trai.
On 3rd. Navratra, ladies go to their parents’
home and come back with a pouch of salt
- 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)
- Zeth Ashtami
and Haar Ashtami, the birthday and
incarnation day respectively of Mata
Raginya are observed. People offer prayers at
Tullamul (Kshir Bhawani).
Purnima. People worship Shiva, visit
Shankaracharya Temple, Amarnath Cave,
Chhota Amarnath at Bandipora, Thajevora (3
kms.from Bijbihara), Harishwar etc.
- 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.
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.
- 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
- 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
Gopinath Ji’s birthday
as well as Mahanirvana day are widely observed
by his devotees in India and abroad.
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
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
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).
It is a purificatory ceremony usually perf.mp3ed on
the eleventh day. Kaha means eleven and
nethar (not marriage) Nakhshetras -
First feeding of the baby.
First tonsure of the baby.
- Yagnopavit or
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.
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.
Varenyam bhargo devasya
dhiyo yonah prachodyat
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
- Gadda Batta
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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