By Upender Ambardar
The Shivratri pooja of Kashmir is a complex interplay of diverse components of customs, ritual beliefs, codes of observance and taboos as per the individual family reeth.
The Shivratri rituals having a strong devotional and faith content are deeply interwoven in the matrix of our rcligio-socio-cultural lives, affirmed Sh. Rattan Lal Bhat, a resident of the village Daetgham, district Baramulla and presently putting up at Srinagar. Sharing his festival related memories, Sh. Bhat revealed that as per his family ‘reeth’, the ritualistic pooja of two flat bottomed spherical earthenware locally called ‘toke’ is performed in the evening of Phagun Krishna Pakash Dwadashi, known as ‘Vagur Bah’ in the local language. Amidst an elaborate pooja, only cooked rice usually prepared from fresh harvested stock is put in the above cited earthenware (‘Toke’). The ‘Doon Mavus’pooja is performed in the evening on the bank of Daegham rivulet. Curiously enough, only one of the earthen pitcher’s symbolically representing the Goddess Parvati is taken out to the bank of the village stream for the said pooja, whileas the main pitcher symbolically representing Lord Shiva is retained in the ‘VatakKuth’. As per his family reeth, the flowing water of the stream is cut seven times in straight lines with a knife during the ‘Doon Mavus’ pooja.
It was also revealed that during the symbolic ‘knock at the door conversation ritual’, it is customary to say Maha Ganesh as a witness before the main door of the house is opened and house inmates are allowed inside. On ‘Tila Ashtami’ evening, oil lit earthen diyas having a sprinkle of black sesame seeds inside are placed on the rivulet bank, cowdung heap and road crossing. They were not permitted to be kept in the house.
The Shivratri rituals having a mysterious symbology facilitate an intimate bond with the Supreme Divine, observed Sh. Pushkar Nath Tutu, an erstwhile resident of Sheshyar, Habbakadal Srinagar and now-putting up at Janipura Jammu. Recapturing the festival related nostalgia memories, Sh. Tutu revealed that as per the family ‘reeth’, the repertoire of culinary legacy of his home on the evening of 'Vagur Bah’ comprised water fowl (Pachin), the usual meat preparations, the combined dish of fish and nadru, palakh-nadru and hakh. But strangely-enough, none of the above dishes but only walnuts in odd number were reverentially put inside the water filled designated clay pitcher of’Vagur’. However, all the above cited dishes were repeated on Shivratri and offered to the ‘Bhairav Doul’’.
It was also revealed that from ‘Salam’ onwards upto the ‘Doon Mavus’, the designated earthen utensil ‘Nout’, ‘Choud’ and ‘Saniewari’ had to be taken to Shashyar Vitasta ghat for refilling them with fresh water daily usually in the early hours of mornings. Curiously enough, ‘Doon Mavus’, pooja was performed in the ‘Vatak Kuth’ instead of the river ghat and correspondingly there was no ‘Thuk Thuk’ ritual.
The amazing variety of Shivratri rituals and customs graced with local flavour have deep rooted symbolic underpinnings, observed Sh. Manoj Koul, a native of the village Danter, district Anantnag and presently residing at Dream City, Muthi, Jammu. Recounting the festival related ‘reeth’ of yesteryears, he disclosed that in the evening of ‘Vagur Bah’, i.e. a day prior to Shivratri, cooked rice mixed with fish dish accompanied by an uncooked and uncleaned small fish variety called ‘gumri were put inside the designated earthen pitchyer of ‘Vagur’ amidst pooja. The ‘Vatak’ utensils comprised the earthen ‘Nout’, ‘Choud’, two Resh Pyala’ in addition to the usual ‘Bhairav Doul’, ‘Sanipatul’ and ‘Dhoopjoor’. As per the family reeth, cooked rice mixed with meat preparations of ‘Roganjosh’, ‘Kalya’, ‘Maech’ and mixed dish of fish and raddish were the ritualistic offerings to the ‘Bhairav Doul’ during the Shivratri pooja, whileas only milk mixed with cooked rice is put inside the ‘Resh Pyala’.
Strangely enough in stark contrast to the usual and most common practice, the ‘Doon Mavus’ pooja is performed in the morning and not in the evening and that too in the home and not at the river bank. Correspondingly there is no ‘knock at the door’ ritual. Sh Manoj Koul also divulged that on ‘Tila Ashtami’ morning uncooked rice and uncooked raddish are put infront of the nine oil lit earthen lamps in the ‘Vatak Kuth’. In the ensuring evening, all these items placed in a bronze thali were taken to the village stream. The rice and raddish were consigned to the flowing water of the stream whileas all the oil lit diyas were placed on the bank of the village stream. In no case were they permitted to be taken inside the house.
The varied hues of Shivratri rituals representing a majestic repository of the past are impressive left over imprints of the past, articulated Sh. Vircnder Koul, an originally resident of the village Damjan, tehsil Vessu, district Anantnag and presently putting up at Srinagar. Recapitulating the festival related ‘reeth’, Sh. Koul disclosed that on Shivratri, the ritualistic offerings to the ‘Bhairav Doul’ comprise the cotton-seed, locally known as ‘Kapsi Boyel’, alternately in its’ absence to be substituted by cotton, a mixture of different uncooked pulses of moong, mash (maha), arhar, matar etc and seven different uncooked vegetables namely ‘hak’, raddish, potato, nadru, knol khol, spinach and cauliflower or cabbage as per the availability, known locally as ‘Sut Sous’. In addition to the above, cooked vegetable dishes were also offered to the earthen utensil of’Bharav Doul’ amidst pooja. Sh. Vircnder Koul also revealed that fresh blood of a slaughtered sheep and an uncooked piece of sheep’s lung’s were also a part of the sacrificial offerings to the ‘Bhairav Doul’. As per his family specific reeth, figurative images having human figure like outlines were made out from the kneeded rice flour on Shivratri. They were known as ‘Kral, Kraej, Kath, Katin, Butt, Batin and Shav Shavin’. They were baked dry on a frying pan. Pooja was also performed for them. At the time of ‘Doon Mavus’ pooja, they were offered to the flowing waters of the village stream known by the name of Louver. During the said pooja, the stream water was cut only three times with a knife in straight lines and not crosswise. It was customary to distribute, the naveed of walnut kernals and rice flour rotis ‘Chochivour’ right at the Louver stream ghat itself. During the ‘knock at the door ritual of dubh dubh’, it was obligatory to say ‘Maha Lidar’ as an accompanist, perhaps to emphaisze the nearness of the village Damjan to the river Lidar, which flows in Pahalgam area. Incidentally, Lidar is the mutilated pronunciation for the original name of the said river as Lambodhari and one of the name’s of Maha Ganesh is also Lambodhar.
Additionally in reply-to the ritualistic conversation of ‘Kus Chuv, Ram broar, kya heth, ann, dann, douvlut, sukh, smpadha, laxmi and saraswati,’ the main door of the house was opened and family members allowed inside only after the words of ‘Urniya Tae Tiyan’ were uttered. After the immersion ritual of ‘Doon Mavus’, the earthen utensils of ‘Nout’ and ‘Choud’ had to be seated once again in the ‘Vatak Kuth’ for about five to six minutes. The naveed after the said pooja comprised dry dates, kishmish in addition to the customary, walnut kernals and rice flour rotis. On Tila Ashtami instead of the earthen lamps, diyas were made from the kneaded rice flour. They were oil lit after black sesame seeds were put in them. They were eventually placed on the enroute sides of the road leading to the temple of the village Damjan.
Making an addition to the above conversation, Sh. Kanya Lal Koul, an erstwhile resident of the village Vessu, district Anantnag and now living at Muthi Jammu revealed that his family reeth ordains him to cut the flowing river water only five times with a knife during ‘Doon Mavus’ pooja.
The Shivratri pooja of Kashmir is a complex interplay of diverse components of customs, ritual beliefs, codes of observance and taboos as per the individual family reeth. They are valuable socio-religious assets, which are moored in medieval origins, asserted Sh. Bansi Lai Raina, a resident of the village Chandrigam tchsil Pahalgam, district Anantnag. Sh Bansi Lal divulged that most of the Raina families of his village cook only-vegetarian dishes on Shivratri, which are offered to the ‘Bhairav Doul’. However the vegetarian tradition is broken on the day of ‘Salam’. The ‘Vatak Parmujan’ and ‘Doon Mavus’pooja are performed on the village spring. During the ‘knock at the door ritual’ of ‘Thuk Thuk or Dubh Dubh’, it is necessary to say ‘ Vatak Raza’ as a witness. On Tila Ashtami, eight oil lit earthen lamps are placed in the temple premises, Vatak Kuth, bank of the water source, charcoal heap, livestock room and in the stable.
The Shivratri rituals are faith aiding embellishments having unlimited adoration and reverence for the great God Lord Shiva opined Sh. Manohar Nath Raina, an originally resident of the village Wullar hama, district Anantnag and presently putting-up at the ORT Complex Purkhoo Jammu
The family ‘reeth’ ordained that alongwith the delectable meat preparations of Roganjosh, Kalya, minced meat, a few pieces of uncooked meat, uncooked and uncleaned small fish called ‘gurun’ and fresh blood of a sheep procured from a butcher were the sacrificial offerings to the earthen untensil designated as ‘Bhairav Doul’. The ‘Vatuk’ comprised earthen utensils of ‘Nout’, ‘Choud’, ‘five Doulji and one ‘Bhairav Doul’.
All of them were carried to the village stream to get them filled-up with fresh water. However, strangely enough, the clay representation of Lord Shiva known as ‘Saniepotul’ did not form a part of the ‘Vatuk’. An unusual absence was also that of ‘Resh Doul’ utensil. An additional sacrificial offering to the ‘Bhairav Doul’ was a mixed dish of sheep’s stomach and turnip, known by the name of ‘demni gogiz’ locally. In addition to the electric lamp, an oil lit earthen lamp was also kept burning throughout the night of Shivratri in the pooja room. The snow procured from the adjacent forest was a prized offering to the earthen untensil of ‘Nout’, the symbolic representation of Lord Shiva. On ‘Doon Mavus’, pooja and ‘Vatuk purmoojan were done on the village stream and participation of each and every’ family member was ensured. During the ‘dubh dubh or thuk thuk ritual, Jawala Bhagwati was spoken as a witness; most probably as Goddess Jawala is the Isht Devi of most of the Kashmiri Pandits of Wullarhama village. An interesting ritual of the said family is that in the morning of ‘Tila Ashtami’, seven circular and flat bottomed earthenware locally known as ‘Toke’ are filled up with cooked rice. Each one of them is then covered with a rice flour roti called ‘Chochivor’. Afterwards a red coloured uncooked turnip alongwith two rolled-up cooked rice morsels known as ‘Hoon Machie’ are placed infront of the above earthenware. In the evening of the same day a sufficient number of oil lit earthen lamps are filled up with a sprankle of black sesame seeds amidst pooja for departed souls. This ritual is known as ‘chaeng mootravin in Kashmiri.
These oil lit earthen lamps were then kept in each room of the house, main stepping stair, locally known as ‘Brandh’, livestock room, cowdung and charcoal ash heaps and lastly on the village stream bank. An additional peculiarity of Shivratri pooja of the said family is the absence of ‘Reshi Doul’ among the ‘Vatak utensils’. Sh. Manohar Nath Raina rounded off his conversation with a disclosure that a few families of Wullarhama village have a ‘reeth’ of offering raddish chetni (muj chatin) to the designated earthen utensil of ‘Bhairav Doul’ during the Shivratri pooja.
*(The writer is a keen socio-cultural researcher)
Source: Kashmir Sentinel