Maha Shivratri-Revisiting Kashmir Ritual Variants-XIV

By Upender Ambardar

November 2011

The rituals are articles of faith unlimited which not only invigorate but also consolidate our socio-religious structure. There is an overriding need not only for their continued observance but also for preservation, spoke Sh. ML Ganjoo,  an original resident of the village Frisal, district Kulgam and presently putting up at Jawahar Nagar Talab Tillo Jammu.

Speaking on a nostalgic note, he divulged that as per his family belief the presiding deity of ‘Hur’, locally known as ‘Hur Raza’ is invoked to move inside the house on the ‘Hur Oakdoh’ i.e. Phagun Krishna Pakash  Pratipadha. The ‘Hur Raza’ is said to stay inside the house upto ‘Hur Ashtami’. It is in tandem with this belief that Hur Oakdoh signals the process of house cleansing followed by the ceremonial ‘livun’. As per, his family belief, the last ceremonial ‘livun’ of the ‘Brandh’ and the connecting corridor ‘Vuz’ was performed on ‘Hur Ashtami’. It would mark the symbolic send off to the ‘Hur Raza’. He also revealed that it was obligatory for his family to cook ‘Taher’ on Hur Oakdoh, which was offered to Maha Ganesh Thapna to seek His blessings for a hassle free conclusion of the Shivratri festival. He revealed that in accordance with an unfamiliar ritual, his family is required to install a flat bottomed brass untensil locally known as ‘Toor’ on a grass woven ‘Aarie’ in the Vatak Kuth on ‘Vagur Bah’. The ‘Toor’ is in place of the usually used earthen untensil of ‘Choud’. The ‘Chuchivoer’, vegetable dishes and cooked rice are the ritualistic offerings to it amidst pooja.

During the said pooja, it is customary to invoke the name of Shankpal Bhairav to seek His divine favour and blessings for the satisfactory completion of the festival. As per his family specific reeth, the Vatuk consisted of seven earthen untensils ‘Doulji’, two Machivarie, two Bhairav doul, one Resh doul, two Parva in the form of small sized earthen ‘Tokes’ in addition to the customary ‘Nout’ and ‘Choud’. During the rite of ‘Vatuk Barun’ at the village  stream, the eldest female member of the family would carry the ‘Nout’ on her right shoulder, whileas the youngest daughter-in-law and other accompanying family members would take care of the ‘choud’ and other pooja untensils respectively. New ‘Athhoar’s and new or washed outfits had to be worn by them before proceeding for the ritual of ‘Vatuk Barun’.

It was also binding for all of them to wear new grass woven footwear, locally known as ‘Pulhoar’ for the said ritual. An earthen ‘toke’ having rice, a coin and some salt was touched on the right shoulder of the family member carrying the ‘Nout’ before she would proceed for the rite of ‘Vatuk Barun’. It was locally known as ‘Zangi Youn’. Instead of the most favoured meat dishes, the ritualistic offerings to the ‘Bhairav doul’ were oil fried raddish chetni (Talith Mouj Chatin), combined dish of nadru and hakh, dumaloo and cheese.

The Vatuk Purmuzan was performed at the village stream and not in the courtyard. Interestingly enough, the vegetarian dishes were cooked again on the day of Salaam. In tune with the family reeth, the door of the ‘Vatak Kuth’ was ensured to remain closed tightly so that outsider’s imperfect gaze did not defile the sanctimonious nature of the Vatak Kuth, when the friends and neighbours would drop in to offer Shivratri greetings on the day for Salaam. The Doon Mavus pooja was performed at the village stream ghat. The ritual of the knock at the door ‘Thuk Thuk’ was also observed. However, during the said rite, apart from the usual ‘aan, dhaan, daulut, aai, batta and rozgar, it was also customary to symbolically grant bhakti, shanti, dharam and karam to the house inmates by the female head of the family. On Tila Ashtami, instead of the ready made lamps, earthen lamps were made at home, which were sun dried. In the morning black sesame seeds were put in each of them and they were oil lit. In the evening, each one of them was placed at the mud-hearth (dhaan), courtyard, cowshed, charcoal ash heap and the shrine of Maha Ganesh. The act of Jatoon toon was also performed. The rituals are endorsement acts of ancient thought and mystifying wisdom, which are sacred to many cultures for they breathe life in the socio-religious life, observed Sh. Vesh Nath Jyotshi Bhat, an original resident of Bijbehara, district Anantnag and now putting up at Talab Tillo Jammu. The festival is a walk into the yesteryears for him. Refreshing the memories of the yore, he recalled that his family would engage themselves in the night long signing of bhajans and ‘leelas’ right from Hur Ashtami to Ekadashi as according to the local folk lore, Hur Ashtami is akin to ‘Mus Muchravun’ custom of the marriage ceremony. He also disclosed that there was no ceremonial installation of the ‘Vagur’ on the Vagur Bah.

But instead on the evening of ‘Vagur Bah’, a flat bottomed spherical wooden container, locally known as ‘Tathul’ was filled up with rice. A few dry walnuts and a coin were placed on it. A symbolic offering of it was made in the pooja room. The said ritual was known by the local name of ‘Munsavun’. Sh. V.N. Jytoshi Bhat further revealed that the rite of ‘Vatak Barun’ was performed at the Vitasta Ghat. It was usually performed either by a newly wed daughter-in-law or a youngest one. On the day of the Shivratri, the back side wall of the Vatak Kuth facing the pooja utensils was whitewashed. A motif of a creeper with accompanying leaves and flowers was drawn on it. In addition to it, the religious motif of ‘Swastika’ was also sketched on the one side of the wall by Varmillion. The meat and vegetable preparations, cooked fish and cheese mixed with rice were the sacrificial offerings to the Bhairav Doul. A mixture of seven different kinds of dry pulses of moong chana, razmah, masoor, maha, sayobeen and dry peas was the tributory offering to the Resh doul. It was known as ‘Sutsoas’ in the local language. An oil lit earthen lamp was ensured to remain burning throughout the night of Shivratri in the Vatak Kuth.

The ‘Doon Mavus’ pooja was performed at the Vitasta ghat. The ritual of ‘Thuk Thuk’ was also performed. In addition to the performance of the act of ‘Jatoon Toon’. Eeah of the participating child would bring his share of the dry hay bundle. They were placed in the upright position and then put on fire.

The rituals and customs facilitate our journey through the cherished memories of the festival as their resonance permeates from the past to the present times, observed Sh. Pushkar Nath Raina, an erstwhile resident of the village Lahiryal, tehsil Tral, district Pulwama and now putting up at Manorma Vihar, Bohri Jammu. Rocollecting the fond memories of the celebration at his native place, he recalled that soil used for the act of livun was specially procured from adjacent Malpur village as it’s soil was known for it’s fine quality due to its’ powdery and granular texture. The Hur Oakdoh would herald the cleansing process of dusting, sweeping of the rooms, washing of clothes and the act of livun, which would continue upto Hur Suptami. In tune with the family specific reeth, the entire area right from the side corridor ‘Vuz’ to the Vatak Kuth would undergo the final act of ‘livun’ on Hur Ashtami. On ‘Vagur Bah’, one earthen untensil of Choud was installed in the Vatak Kuth amidst pooja and ‘Vashdaev’.

There was no reeth for the preparation of dishes. In accordance with an unusual family reeth, a wide mouthed earthen utensil ‘Doul’ was placed ahead of the ‘Nout’ in the Vatak, Kuth. The ‘Vatuk’ comprising the earthen utensils of ‘Nout, choud, two large sized Varie, two Saniwari, two Khaterpals’, one Sanipatul and a ‘Dupzoor’ were brought in by the potter on the Vagur Bah.

The act of ceremonial ‘Aalath’ was not performed. The act of ‘Vatuk Barun’ was undertaken only after all the participating family members had taken a bath and donned new or washed clothes. It was also customary for them to wear freshly woven grass footwears ‘Pullhoar’ or the new wooden foot-wear ‘Khrav’ before proceeding for the ritual for ‘Vatuk Barun’, which was necessarily performed at the village stream bank. All the family members of participating in the said act had to undertake a fast on the day of Shviratri, to be broken only after the festival related pooja was over. The ritualistic offerings to the Bhairav Doul were the favourite dishes of meat, fish, vegetate cuisines of palakh, vostahakh, muja chakal, hak, dum-mounji and a special dish of dry apricots.

Sh. Raina also divulged that his family had an unfamiliar reeth underwhich, the entrails or the innards of the fish were placed on a grass woven ‘Aarie’ infront of the ‘Parthishor’ during the pooja. It formed a separate sacrificial offering. It was known by the local name of ‘Tipun Aaer’. A piece of uncooked sheep’s lung kept on an earthen ‘Toke’ was an additional offering. On the morning of the Salaam, the ‘Tipun Aaer’ was kept on the roof top for the birds to feed upon. The ‘Purmuzan’ after the Shivratri pooja was done in the courtyard at the base of a fruit tree, preferably an walnut tree. Extending his conversation, Sh Raina disclosed further that his family had an additional remarkably uncommon reeth. In agreement with this reeth, all the utensils containing the cooked vegetarian and meat dishes had to be shifted from the kitchen to the Vatak Kuth after the house inmates had taken their evening meals on the day of Shivratri. It also included the utensil having cooked rice. They were retained in the kitchen for the whole night under a belief that the Bhairav and the divine Baraati’s night relish these dishes in the privacy and seclusion of the night according to their individual tasteful liking and choice. All the said utensils had to be shifted back to the kitchen on the morning of Salaam. It was also disclosed that a portion of the rice and all the dishes cooked on the day of Shivratri had to be retained for about a week. From Salaam onwards, all the family members had necessarily to take an admixture of the said previously cooked dishes including rice as a ‘Naveed’ before partaking their morning and evening meals for about a week. It was due to the assumption that they may have got sanctified and consecrated by the divine touch of the Bhairav and the divine Baraatis’ All the dishes on the Shviratri day had essentially to be cooked in the earthen untensils as in addition to being spotlessly clean, they were also supposed to enhance the distinctive taste and flavour for the prepared dishes. One more uncommon reeth required one of the family member to sleep in the Vatak Kuth not on the night of Shviratri but on the night of Salaam. It was necessitated by a family believe that presence of a family member in the Vatak Kuth on the Shivratri night may cause disturbance to the divine Baraatis’ who might visit the pooja room to take meals in the aloofness and solitude of the night. The Doon Mavus pooja was performed at the adjacent Khandvav stream ghat. All the family members were required to participate in it.

During the said pooja two chochivar’s were the offernigs to the flowing water of the Khandvav stream, while as the third one was kept on the stream bank. The distribution of walnuts as naveed in the neighbourhood was completed immediately after the Doon Mavus pooja was over. The ritual of knock at the door i.e. Thik Thuk was observed. However during the ritualistic conversation in reply to the symbolic inquiry of ‘Kous Chuv’, the reply was that of ‘Rani Braer’ instead of the most frequently used answer of ‘Ram Broar’. The ritual of ‘Jatoon Toon’ was also observed.

–To be Continued