Maha Shivratri-Revisiting Kashmiri Ritual Variants-XV

By Upender Ambardar

June 2012

The ritualised traditions associated with the festival of Shivratri are expressions of  reinforcement of collective socio-religious values and beliefs, which lend a firm sense of group identity to the community, fondly opined Sh. Mohan Lal Raina, an original inhabitant of the village Gosh Bugh, Tehsil Pattan, district Baramulla and presently putting up at Durga Nagar, Jammu.

Speaking on a nostalgic note, he recalled that as per the family reeth, the act of ‘livun’, washing of the clothes and washing of the hair by the ladies of the house was completed upto Phagun Krishan Paksh Ashtami. It was also customary for the house inmates to engage themselves in Bhajans and signing of hymns right from ‘Hury Oakdoh’ upto ‘Hury Aa’tham’ in the evenings. On ‘Hury Aa’tham’ it was obligatory to smear the side walls of the main entry door of the house once again with a mix of water and clay.

From ‘Hury Aa’tham’ onwards, the washing of clothes and washing of the hair by the female folk was disallowed. It was also a taboo for the women folk even to put oil in the hair or comb the hair during this period.

The cooking of dry vegetables and rajmah was also strictly prohibited from ‘Hury Aa’tham’ onwards. On the evening of Vaagury’ Bah, an earthen utensil of ‘Tsodd’ was reverentially installed in the Vattakh Kuth. The ritualistic offerings were cooked rice and vegetables. The ‘Vatuk’ comprised of one Nott, three Ddulji, two Vaari, two San’ny Vaari, one Bhairav Ddul and a Sa’ny poatul. The Vattak utensils were personally collected by the male members including children from the potter’s house on an auspicious day and timing. ”Aalath’ was performed before the pooja, utensils were ushered inside the house. The ‘Aalath’ was performed by an elderly lady of the house by waving around of a thali filled with water and a sprinkle of rice grains. The act of ‘Vattakh Barun’ was performed at the village streamlet. The Nott carried by an eldest male member, while it was customary for the new bride or a youngest daughter-in-law to carry the ‘Tsodd’ to the village stream. The act of the knock at the door ritual of ‘Thuk Thuk’ was performed before the entry of the water filled pooja utensils was allowed in inside the house. The ritualistic conversation was ‘Thuk Thuk’, Kus Chuv? Haerath Maej, Kya Heth, Ann, Dhan, Orzu, Rouzie Devi Divta Heth’. The entry door was opened only after conclusion of this ritualistic conversation.

In consonance with an unusual family reeth, the pooja utensil of ‘Tsodd’ representing the Goddess Parvati was kept ahead of the utensil of ‘Nott’, the symbolic representation of Lord Shiva followed by Resh Ddul and Ddulji. The second row comprised of Vaari, Sa’nny Vaari, Kheetarpaal and Dupu’zuur. The utensils of Ddul and Ddulji were emptied of their ritualistic offerings usually by the daughter-in-law or eldest lady of the house. Their contents were deposited at the base of a fruit tree after midnight after all the house inmates had slept. Pooja was performed every day in the morning upto ‘Dduuny Maavas’ and after pooja rice flour rotis were put inside the Nott and Tsodd utensils. In sharp contrast to the usual widespread reeth, the Dduuny Maavas pooja was performed in the morning and not in the evening. In consonance with another unusual and strange family custom, an eldest male family member was required to prepare ‘Mongvaer’ and ‘Bubur’ on a make-shift mud stove, locally known as ‘Oakchoar’ in a room and not in the kitchen on the day of Duuny Maavas. Both of them along with the rice flour rotis i.e. ‘Tsochivar’ formed a part of the Duuny Maavas pooja items. The distribution of  walnuts without ‘Tsochivor’ was a taboo and portent of a bad oman.

During the said pooja, the water of the village stream was cut seven times with a knife. It was followed by the customary ceremonial dance performed by  ladies of the house on the stream bank. During it, seven circular roundabouts were undertaken by them. The said ritualistic dance was enacted to the accompaniment of a folk song, which Yon as ‘Yander Sinz Nosh Korae Vach Yarbal, Raen Vach Paanis Chatnay’ (The daughters of Lord Inder have come to the river bank. The gracious ladies have stopped in to interset the flowing water). On Tila Ashtami, clay lamps having a sprinkle of black til were oil lit in the memory of the family manes. In the evening, one each of them was kept at the Thokar Kuth, the stream bank and the village temple. A few oil lit lamps were floated in the flowing waters of the stream. The ritual of the Jatoo tuun was performed. As per one more family specific reeth, it was necessary for the children to play the indoor game with the sea-shells, while as the youngsters would engage themselves with playing of cards and male elders were required to busy themselves with the traditional game of ‘Gilli Danda’ on the day of ‘Salaam’.

The faith driven Shivratri rituals and beliefs are a hallowed tradition, which spruce up the religious and devotional tone of the festival, recounted Sh. Girdhari Lal Khera, an original resident of the village Chak Narayan Dass Tehsil Pattan, district Baramulla and presently putting up at Suryavanshi Nagar, Muthi, Jammu. Sharing the cherished memories of the festival, Sh. Khera revealed that as per the reeth, the family was not required to perform the pooja for the utensils. Instead, two Parthishor’s were made out of the cooked rice, which are symbolic representations of Lord Shiv and the Goddess Parvati. During the making of the Parthishor’s, the cooked rice was required to be mixedup with milk, gur, ghee, clove, cardimom, parched rice, sugar cystals i.e. ‘nabad’, honey and the Vattakh masala. The two Parthishor’s were then reverentially seated on grass woven ‘Aari’ in a brass thali. Afterwards, tilak was applied to them and mouli tied around them along with Bilav leaves and flowers. The vegetarian culinary delights of cheese, dumaalu, palakh, haakh, and fried nadnu slices put in a rice filled thali were kept infront of the Parthishors’. It served both as an offering to the deities and as ‘prasad’ to the house inmates. Amidst Shiv Pooja and to the accompaniment of ringing of bells and blowing of conch shell, milk and curds were poured over the said Parthishor’s. On the day of ‘Salaam’, new seasonal vegetables were cooked. In the evening pooja and aarti were performed.

The rituals of ‘Dduuny Maavas and Tila Ashtami were not performed. The Shivratri festival blessed with countless variety of sacred bonds laden with immense religious devotion and societal mores are our prized inheritances, declared Sh. Bansi Lal Tandon, an erstwhile inhabitant of the village Chak Narayan Dass, Teh. Pattan, Distt. Baramulla and now a resident of Suryavanshi Nagar Muthi Jammu. Recollecting the fond memories of the celebrations at his native place, he divulged that acts of dusting. Cleasing and Clay smearing of the house were carried out to the spruce up the religious mood of the festivities. On Phagun Krishna Paksh Triyodashi, a long necked brass utensil known as ‘Gagar’ was reverentially installed on a grass woven base ‘Aari’ in the kitchen. It was decked with mouli, Bilva leaves, sindoor and flower garlands. It was filled up with water and walnuts. Curiously enough, the usual other pooja utensils were avoided. A rice filled brass thali having  culinary repertoire of meat dishes was placed infront of the pooja utensil of ‘Gagar’. An additional thali having ‘halva’ and leavened rotis’ known as ‘phulkas’ placed infront of the Gagar was one more sacrificial offering. The brass utensil of Gagar was filled up with water at the village stream.

On the day of Salaam, Shiv Aarti was performed. On the evening of ‘Dduuny Maavas’ the Gagar was taken to the village stream for the replacement of water and performance of the pooja. The distribution of walnuts as prasad would immediately follow it.  The Shivratri is both a flagship festival and mother of all festivals of Kashmir. The festival related rituals being mammoth display of our boundless devotion and steadfast commitment keep the society rooted in it’s mores and on the righteous path, spoke Sh. Soom Nath Bhat Goswami, a resident of the village Nunar/Wazirbagh Srinagar and now putting up at Old Janipur Jammu.

Reminiscing about the festival of yesteryears, he recalled that incontrast to the earthen utensils, the Vattukh comprised two long necked brass utensils of Gagars, five brass Ddulji, two San’y Vaari and two Kheetrapaals’. As per the family reeth, separate Bhairav Ddul, Resh Ddul and Sa’ny powtul did not form a part of the pooja utensils. In tune with the fine gourmet tradition of Kashmir, the vegetarian culinary delights of chees, dumaalu, daal-nadru and ‘nadir churma’ were the ritualistic offerings to the Ddulja’s. The ritual of ‘Vattuk Barun’ with water was entirely undertaken by the womenfolk of the house and participation of the male members was avoided.

As ordained by the family reeth, strangely enough, the Shiv Pooja for the Parthishor was not performed on the day of Shivratri but on the evening of Salaam. On the evening of Ddunny Meavas, pooja was performed at the bank of Padshah Koal of, the village Nunar. The ritual of ‘Thuk Thuk’ was performed by the ladies of the house. During the ritualistic conversation, Vattak Raaza was spokne as being witness to the function. The empty Gagars were retained in the Vattakh Kuth upto Tila Ashtami, whileas, the Sa’ny Vaari were placed in the kitchen’. On Tila Ashtami, five to eight earthen lamps were oil lit in the morning in memory of the family ancestors. A red coloured turnip and cooked rice placed infront of them were additional ingredients. The act of ‘Jatoo Tuun’ was performed.

The socio-cultural make-over acquired by Shivratri rituals over the centuries are acts of personal devotion, opined Sh. Ramesh Kumar Mujoo, a resident of Rainawari Srinagar and now putting up at Ajeet Colony, Gole Gujral Jammu. Speaking on a nostalgic note, he divulged that Vattukh comprised of earthen vessels of Ramgound, two untensils of Nott, one Ddul, one S’any powteul and two S’any Vaari, the notable ommission being that of Resh Ddul.

The vegetarian dishes were the ritualistic offering to the Bhairav Ddul. During the ritualistic conversation of Thuk Thuk, in reply to the enquiring query of ‘Kus Chuv’, the customary reply was ‘Ram Broar’, while as Dal Raaza, the presiding deity of the Dal Lake was spoken as being a witness to the said discourse and function.   –(Continued)