Category Archives: kashmir

Samavar-The Heritage Tea Brewer of Kashmir

Samavar – the monarch tea brewer is perhaps the most distinguishable traditional utensil of Kashmir and is deeply rooted in the socio-cultural ambience of the valley. Enjoying enormous popularity, it is indispensable and central to every day Kashmiri life with the tea prepared in it being an inseparable part of the warm-hearted Kashmiri hospitality. Its overarching standing in Kashmiri culture has remained undisputed and unchallenged over the years despite the inflow of numerous contemporary appliances of similar nature in the market.

Samavar – Socio-cultural Significance

Samavar has carved out a proverbial niche for itself amongst the Kashmiri tea connoisseurs and steals the limelight at our every socio-cultural function. Its arrival and presence imparts an intimate touch of social warmth and cheer to every festive occasion. It also serves a deep societal purpose as it provides contextual relevance to our native conventions and time tested traditions. Its predominant presence is seen daily at breakfast and evening times in every Kashmiri household even now. Tea time is a wonderful family custom of Kashmir handed down to posterity by practice when all the family members assemble around the legendary Samavar to enjoy sizzling Kahwa cups. People relish endless chats, gossips and unconstrained talks over countless cups of tea prepared in it. Samavar by its utility also promotes family togetherness, emotional closeness and social cohesion.

The Samavar also enjoys a privileged position in the occupational part of Kashmiri life holding prominence during paddy cultivation, farming and fruit gathering activities. It also adds a vintage touch to celebrations, excursions and congregational gatherings. Samavar also adds radiance to the high octane atmosphere of the wedding functions of Kashmiri Pandits as well as Kashmiri Muslims. It acts as a comfort utensil as the tea brewed in it provides the required warmth to beat the bitter winter of Kashmir. The camaraderie with it is not broken even during despairing times and moments of gloom amongst the Muslims as it is used for brewing and providing Kahwa and Noon Chai (salted tea) to the callers during Fatehkhani on Chauhrum and Jumah Fateh.

Samavar is also integral to our social cultural expression. The arrival of the spring season with the bursting of almond flowers at Badamwari, Srinagar is incomplete without its presence. It also occupies a place of pride during social customs. The newly wed Kashmiri Pandit bride is required to serve tea brewed in the Samavar to the family members at the In-laws’ house in consonance with an age-old social ritual. The custom is known as ‘Chai Phirin’.

The Journey of Samavar

Samavar was introduced in Kashmir as an outcome of the Kashmiri association with the age old trade routes in the medieval times. The name Samavar is derived from the Russian word – ‘Samover’ and translates to ‘self-boiler’ or ‘self-brew’ in english. The innovative remodelling and improvisation that the Russian Samover received at the hands of Kashmiri artisans has resulted in the emergence of its exotic design and form.

Samavar enjoys cross-border acceptance and acknowledgement as it is closely linked with many cultures across the borders. Apart from Kashmir, it enjoys phenomenal popularity in Russia, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Central Europe, South-east Europe, Africa, Morocco and the Middle East through its resembling counterparts. The lookalike utensil has diverse shapes, designs and outlines varying from place to place and may be cylindrical, spherical or barrelled in appearance and made from either plain iron, copper, polished brass (an alloy of copper and zinc) or bronze. The Russian Samover comprises of the main body, base, central chimney, faucet, cover, handle, crown ring and the steam vent key. The traditional Samover of earlier times used coal and charcoal for heating and brewing purpose while the present day ones are driven by electricity.

From Russia, the Samover made its entry into Iran about two centuries back as ‘Samevar’ in the Persian language. The Iranian Samevar’ employs Persian art motifs in its designs and outlines. The city of Borujerd located in Iran is one of the prime centres of its production where they are mostly handmade. Likewise, its lookalike kin, the Turkish Samovar is a metal container traditionally used to heat water and brew tea.

Samavar- a specimen of Kashmiri craftsmanship

The Samavar is an all-time favourite domestic utensil in the entire valley of Kashmir. It is one of the finest examples of the splendid art or craftsmanship and is known for its superb quality and distinct design. There are essentially two types of Kashmiri Samavars, the Qandhkari Samavars and the plain Samovars. The Qandhkari Samavars are made from copper and are exclusively used by the Muslims. In contrast, the plain Samavars are crafted from brass and are used by the Kashmiri Pandits. However, the stylish handles of both the types are made from brass. In earlier times, another type of Samavar was in vogue among the Kashmiri Pandits. It was known as the Panjaeb Samavar. Unlike the usual Samavars, it was uniformly globular in shape right from the crest to the base with a latticed lower part.

The Qandhkari Samavar has its entire outer surface carved with intricate floral and Chinar leaf motifs or geometric designs. Both its outer and inner surfaces are nickle plated, which is locally known as ‘Kalai’. In contrast, the plain Samavar is devoid of any design. Only its inner side is nickle plated which gives the surface a smooth finish and shine. The size of a Samavar depends upon its capacity to hold the number of tea cups. The Samavar used by the Muslims is usually bigger in size as compared to the one used by Kashmiri Pandits. It is sold by weight and its cost is related to its water holding capacity and size. The artisan who crafts the Samavar is known as ‘Thanthur’ in local parlance, whereas the designer who creates decorative carvings and patterns on its outer side is called ‘Naqash’. In Srinagar, the biggest and the most reputed market of its production is located at Gadde Bazar, Zaina Kadal, in downtown Srinagar. In addition to it, the spring town of Mattan in Anantnag, the village Nehama in Pulwama district and the hamlet of Wanmpora in central district of Budgam are known for their high grade and outstanding quality of Samavars. The handmade peg bottomed bronze tea cups, locally called as ‘Kenz Khose’ made at these places are prized for their high quality.

The Samavar is divisible in distinct parts. The middle segment is known as ‘Yaed’ or ‘Paytae’ in Kashmiri. It is the principal part of the Samavar. The lower most base is called as ‘Taelvather’ or simply as ‘chouk’. The portion above it is finely latticed which facilitates the passage of air needed for the charcoal to burn and glow. It is known as ‘Poung’. The topmost small circular lid is called as ‘Lokut Thanda’. It has a pointed knob at the centre known as the ‘Kalla’. This lid acts as the cover over the tubular chimney to extinguish the hot charcoals by cutting the air supply when needed. Beneath it is a bigger spherical lid known as ‘Boud Thanda’. Both of them are joined by a movable hinge which carries the name ‘Machil’. A tubular iron chimney runs vertically midway upto the base of the Samavar, which holds the hot embers. An extended curved part which has a beak shaped outlet at its upper end is joined at the outer surface of the Samavar. The arched part is known as ‘Nai’ while the beak shaped outlet through which tea is poured is known as ‘Hi’. It has a small hinged flap called as ‘Zev’ which regulates the flow of tea. The upper circular rim of the Samavar is known as ‘Kaaen’. An S shaped stylish handle is attached to the side opposite to Nai’ for holding the Samavar. It is known as ‘Thup’. Green tea, sugar, cardamom (elaichi), black cinnamon (dalchini), cloves (loung), black pepper (kali mirch) and crushed almonds are added to the water poured in the Samavar. The evenly distributed heat generated in the central chimney gives a conspicuous taste and a distinct flavour to Kahwa prepared in the Samavar. Both the kenz khous and flat bottomed khous are essential accessories of the Samavar.

Samavar – Preserving our culture

The heritage tea brewer- Samavar has also made its entry into the folkloric narrative of Kashmir. It figures both in the riddles and the famed folk form of singing – Wanwun. The riddles associated with Samavar run as “Aend Aend Aab, Munjbagh Naer” which means “having water outside with the blaze in the middle” and “Su kus janawar chu yas kalus paeth naer vuhaan tae tountae kin travaan ruth” which means “the animal that has an inflamed glow at the crest with its sprout pouring out reddish fluid”.

The Samavar is also praised in the traditional Wanwun singing at Kashmiri wedding functions. Some of the songs that find a mention of it are:
“Samavarus teungul treav, vah vah maam touthai aev” which means “put embers in the Samavar and keep it ready to welcome the esteemed maternal uncle”

“Aalae tae badam traav Samavarus vuch Sumcharus guil phoulnai” which means “put cardamom and almonds in the Samavar; it will heighten the bond of nearness”

“Roup sundh khous tae souna Samavarae, vuch chai kya mazadaar” which means “Have tea from the Silver crafted khous and golden Samavar and enjoy the unique flavour”

Kashmiris irrespective of their religious affiliation continue to have an unshakeable allegiance with the Samavar. The fast paced lifestyle and the advent of modernization has neither diminished its stature nor lessened its relevance. The Kashmiri Pandits have unquestionable adoration for this priceless possession that reminds them of their socio cultural roots in the valley. They have unwaveringly stayed loyal to it even in their time of exile. It continues to be the hallmark utensil at their socio-cultural functions as its presence till today amplifies the festive cheer. Needless to say, that it is imperative upon us to preserve this rich legacy of the Samavar so that it is not relegated to obscurity and lost in the pages of history.

By Upender Ambardar

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Sancha Vidhya – A glorious gift of to Himachal Pradesh

In the times bygone, Kashmir excelled in many spheres of art, literature and culture, in which it achieved great heights. The cross cultural-religious strands that stretched between Kashmir and present day Himachal Pradesh successfully withstood the centuries old time-warp and refused to fade-away into oblivion. Apart from the natural brilliance of the landscapes, both the states share a deep rooted faith of the people in the time tested traditions, belief systems and ancient wisdom, which are enshrined in their holy scriptures. They form an integral part of our common heritage. The ancient Sancha scripture of Himachal Pradesh is an illustrious example of the same. It is a combination of Jyotish and Tantric knowledge. Even today, in the present scientific age, this ancient priceless knowledge is quite popular in Shimla, Sirmour and Solan areas of Himachal Pradesh. The ‘Sancha Granth’ is believed to have travelled to Himachal Pradesh from Kashmir hundreds of years back. The present day custodians of this ancient legacy, who are natives of Himachal Pradesh are believed to be the descendants of Kashmiri Panndits. The ‘Sancha’ treatise is a unique combination of ‘Mantra (sacred incantations), ‘Yantra’ (hallowed implements) and ‘Tantra’ (mystical hymns or invocations). The scripts of Sancha treatise are known by the names of ‘Bhatakshri’ or ‘Pabuchi’, which are Himachali variations of ‘Sharda’, the ancient script of Kashmir. In earlier times, the said script was also known as ‘Takri’.

In Himachal Pradesh, in addition to ‘Bhatakshri’ and ‘Pabuchi’, the ancient ‘Takri’ dialect has survived in many resembling forms like ‘Chambyali’, ‘Kalluvi’ Mandyali’ and ‘Sirmouri’ etc., which are the present day spoken dialects of Chamba, Kallu, Mandi and Sirmour areas of Himachal Pradesh. In earlier times, the scholarly and learned Himachali Brahmans were known as ‘Pabuch’ due to their demonstrative grip and hold over the ancient ‘Sancha’ knowledge. The ‘Sancha’ growth deals with a wide range of topics ranging from necromancy, black magic, witchcraft, occult effects and negative influences of evil spirits besides demonology. The ‘Sancha’ text offers solutions and remedies to the persons who are troubled by the negative influences of the above. In addition to it, all those persons, who are saddled by anxieties and worries arising out of afflictions by various ailments can find health assuring remedies by consulting ‘Sancha’ system. The ‘Sancha’ treatise also guarantees a triumph over one’s ‘hidden’ enemies by recitation of certain ‘mantras’ i.e. secret incantations.
Its help is also sought in adopting a religious recourse to the matters connected with almost all the Hindu Sanskars right from birth to death. In addition to it, ‘Sancha’ knowledge also aids in the recovery of stolen items by giving clues and hints about the identity of the thief, the time of the occurrence of the theft and number of persons involved in the act. An accurate and exact knowledge of the auspicious timing or ‘Hora’ is also possible by consulting ‘Sancha’ text. The word ‘Sancha’ owes it’s origin to the Sanskrit word ‘Sanch’ or ‘Sanchai’, which means a repository or a compilation. The Brahmans well-versed with the ‘Sancha’ knowledge are called ‘Pabuch’ or ‘Baat’. In addition to ‘Pabuchi’ or ‘Bhatakshri’ dialects, the ‘Sancha’ texts are also found in ‘Chandvani’, ‘Pandvani’ and ‘Butakhshri’ dialects. The script employed by the Brahmans of the ‘Panda’ sect is called ‘Pandvani’, while as the inscription used by the Brahmans of the ‘Bhat’ sect is known by the name of ‘Bhatakshri’. According to a legend, an ancient ruler of the erstwhile Sirmour Kingdom came under the spell of a curse by a female dancer. As a consequence, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Sirmour was completely submerged under water and the royalty became kingless. Depressed by the loss of entire royal clan and to ensure a new heir to the Sirmour throne, two ministers of the Kingdom namely Roymoan and Roy Gopal are said to have travelled all the way from Sirmour to Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir in the eleventh century A.D. The two Sirmour ministers are believed to have requested the then Kashmir King to send a Kashmiri Prince, who could take charge of the Sirmour Kingdom.

According to the oral legend, out of the two queens of the then Kashmiri King, one had an adopted son, while the second one named Sumitra was in a family way at that time. In pursuance of the then prevalent bestowal of alms custom, the King of Kashmir agreed to send his pregnant queen in the form of ‘Shaya Daan’ to the princely state of Sirmour. In furtherance of it and to facilitate the subsequent coronation of the Kashmiri Prince as a King of Sirmour, the queen Sumitra of Kashmir went to Sirmour. She was accompanied by a host of Rishis, saints, learned Brahmans, bards, artists and ministrels, in addition to numerous footmen and domestics. The accompanying Kashmiri Pandits are said to have carried with them their prized possession the ‘Sancha’ knowledge system. In the historical documents of Himachal, this notable event is recorded in the following lines “Loia Aana Mangtoo, Purohit Sath Loia Aana Raoy Baat Loia Aana Vikram Samvat Saat thi todi 1152 Mahina Magh.” It fully affirms and supports the historical fact that the carriers of the ‘Sancha’ treatise or knowledge to Himachal Pradesh were none other than the Kashmiri Pandits. Corresponding to the above Vikram Samvat, the exact year of the said event can be said to be 1095 AD.

The Kashmiri origin of the ‘Sancha’ treatise is further collaborated by the fact that even today before consulting the ‘Sancha’ text, Himachali Brahmans pay obeisance to Kashmir in the following lines, “Vidhya Suri Kashmiri Lagan dekh Shodan Vichar”. The Sancha Granth has detailed information about astrology, planetary placements, interpretation of Zodiac and planetary movements. Based on the intricate knowledge of ‘Sancha Granth’, the ‘Pabuchi’ scholars prepare a local variation of almanac (Jantri) called ‘Chri’. The three important components of ‘Chri’ are ‘Var’ i.e. day of the week or an occasion, ‘Tithi’ i.e. a lunar day or date and the planetary movements and their positions. The ‘Chiri’ is based on the solar planetary system, which regards Baisakhi as the first day of the New Year. To get solutions, answers and remedies for the different paradoxes that rock the day to day life, the ‘Sancha’ text is always consulted for the required help. Resembling a gambling dice, the ‘pasha’ or ‘pasa’ is employed in deciphering the required information from the ‘Sancha’ text. The ‘pasha’ or ‘pasa’ has an inscription of four numerical digits marked as 0,00,000 and 0000, which have the corresponding numerical strength of 1,2,3 and 4 respectively. These numerical digits are marked on the individual pages separately. Each numerical digit with an individual value of sixteen ‘Horas’ make a sum total of sixty four ‘Horas’, with one ‘Hora’ being equal to one twenty fourth part of a day.

The ‘Pashas’ or ‘Pasa’ are specially prepared only on auspicious days and involve elaborate religious rituals. The different ‘Horas’ that are in-vogue in the ‘Sancha Granth’ are known as ‘Kaalgaymi Hora’, ‘Bhoot Prashan Hora’, ‘Lagan Ki Hora’ and ‘Tithi Ki Hora’ etc. The square shaped ‘pasha’ or ‘pasa’ is usually made up of an elephant tooth, being 1½ to 2 inches in length and with the width of a finger. According to a belief in Sirmour area, the ‘Yantra’ and ‘Lagans’ made from the soil brought from the village Chanan, give better results while consulting ‘Sancha’ text. The Brahmans engaged in the ‘Sancha’ profession take every care to maintain the knowledge secrecy and imparting of it’s knowledge is confined only within the family.

The Kashmiri origin of the ‘Sancha’ text has also been acknowledged by Sh. Sudershan Vashisht, who is a well known author and researcher of Himachal Pradesh and has done note-worthy research work in this direction. The ancient and precious Sancha texts are also found in tehsil Chopal, tehsil Shilayi and Chakrota area of Uttar Pradesh.Pandit Om Prakash and Pandit Devi Ram, the native Brahmans of the village Khadanka in Sirmour are experts in Sancha knowledge and it’s system. Another Brahman named Pandit Shivanand, a resident of the village Janloag in Sirmour has also thorough knowledge of ‘Sancha’ texts. He makes accurate predictions based on it’s knowledge. Pt. Mohan Lal, a native of the village Dehar in Sirmour is a well-known name due to his thorough and intimate Sancha knowledge. The present day experts of Sancha Vidhya acknowledge their Kashmiri origin and lineage.
Undoubtedly, ‘Sancha’ is an ancient and sacred knowledge of Kashmiri origin, which is an integral part of our historical cultural heritage. It is a glorious reminder of our rich past and the proud contribution of Kashmiri Pandits, who have left an indelible mark on the pages of history.

(By Upendar Ambardar)

Pitra Paksh -Remembering Ancestors

Every year a fortnight in the Hindu calendar month of Ashwin is observed in the fond memory of our ancestors. This period is referred as Shraddha or Pitra Paksha. The Shraddha – is derived from Shraddha which means faith. Hence the faith in one’s ancestors’ makes the mortals observe some customary rituals year on year with reverence and faith in their memories when the ancestors are no more alive.

The story goes that The King Karna the famous warrior of Mahabharata was granted heaven after the war. Karna was famous for his charity throughout his life and earned a sobriquet of Dhan Veer – The one who gives away everything in charity. So much so that during the war of Kurushetra he gave away his protective shield when Lord Indra disguised as seeker asked for the same. However, in heaven Karna was offered precious Gems, Gold and other items instead of food and water. Puzzled by this treatment Karna asked the gods about this. On this Lord Indra told him that he had been giving only gold and gems as a charity but had never given food and water to the poor or deserving people hence he was given same treatment in heaven. Karna requested gods to give him a chance to correct his anomalies and the same was granted to him and he was asked to go back to earth for some days to feed poor so as to get rid of the problem. Hence, this period of the year is observed in giving food, water and clothing to poor and also performing rituals associated with it.

The ritual of shradha is done as it is believed that ceremony shall enable forefathers to ascend higher plane of existence. Besides relieving the ancestors from traps of unfulfilled wishes. We owe our existence from our ancestors and forefathers. Therefore, this is the time when we can remember them and repay our debt.

Shradha is the only way when ancestors receive our oblations and hence get pleased. This results in peace to them and happiness in their families.
The detailed rituals of Shradha are performed by priests who follow the manual as per the scriptures and litany of ceremonies. The elder of the family keeps the fast in memory of deceased besides offering each Pind in the name of the ancestors who are no more alive.

The message of Pitru paksh as envisaged by our Rishis are :- ​

Remembering – Pitru Paksh also enables us to think that this life is transitory and one day we too would pass. Therefore, it is the time to remember our forefathers and simultaneously be good to elders in our family.
Sharing – It also cultivates a habit of giving away things like food and clothes in charity among poor destitute thus inculcating the spirit of sharing.
Good Deeds – The Shradha also makes us remember the good deeds of our ancestor’s which act as a catalyst in us to follow the footsteps and carry on the legacy of goodness shown by them.
Family Lineage – This fortnight also makes us remember all the ancestors who were in the family thus, passing their existential journey among our progeny so that they can remember the family tree and linages.
Focus on Spiritual – The rituals wean us away from the grind of day to day material world and forces us to think on the matters more spiritual than mundane in nature thus, forcing us to think about our existence and role in families, societies and nation of which we are an integral part and parcel.

According to Neelmat Puran the important places for performing Shradha are at Lake Gangabal in Kangan besides at places like Shadipur which is the confluence of river Vitista (Jhelum) and Sindhu, Martand (Mattan) in Anantnag, Kapalmochan in Shopian and shores of Vitista. Performing sharda at these given places elevates the soul journey of dead to higher planes besides granting peace and spiritual merits to the families. In Jammu the places of performing Shradha are Uttarbani in Kathua and Ghats of Chandrabhaga at Akhnoor.

The other important places across India where such detailed rituals are performed since time immemorial are at Haridwar in Uttrakhand, Varanasi & Allahabad in U.P., Gaya in Bihar, Pushker in Rajasthan, Nashik in Maharashtra, Gokarna in Karnataka, Rameshwaram in T.N.

Therefore, lets resolve in this pitra paksha that we shall share our happiness, food, clothing with those who are neglected, poor, destitute and orphans so that we embrace them a part of our society and also take a pledge that we make the life our elders in family more comfortable which they deserve and which we owe to them as their progeny.

By-Sunil Raina Rajanaka

Ruins of Sun Temple Kashmir

Temple converted into Dustbin!

A Shiva temple converted into a Mass Dustbin at Sathu barbar Shah, Srinagar, Kashmir.

Isn’t it Genocide of Religion and identity of Kashmiri Hindus!

Kashmiri pandits-the forgotten people

This picture sums up the present condition and existence of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir.

One can find many abondoned houses of Kashmiri pandit’s (KP) in Kashmir. The rusted lock is a proof that the KP had never thought that it would take him so long to return.

28 years has already passed.
God knows, how many more years, the lock will have to wait….

Photo by subrot saraf

Dilapidated houses of Kashmiri pandits

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Asifa Murder-the war of narratives

A young eight year innocent Girl-Asifa is raped and murdered brutally in Jan 2018 in predominantly-Hindu region of J&k. The incident is condemnable and the culprits should be hanged to Death- irrespective of their ethnicity or religion.

What seems to be a case of crime has turned out to be a case of palpable political as well as religious division.A division that has its base on decades of mistrust, political subjugation and dichotomous chauvinism . The truth -it seems is gasping for justice in between the chasms of the asperasions of the people of Jammu region and its political and religious opposite-the Kashmir region.

The notion that the people of other region is here to eat my share of resources, jobs, business as well as identity is so deeply dipped in mistrust and suspicion ,that even a normal innocuous action ,raises many eyebrows and infers meaning according to the mass perspective of the region one belongs to.

And these perspective and opposite narratives are the result of decades old political hegemony that one region wields over the other.

Hence, the general masses of Hindu-Jammu are not wrong in their demand to submit the Asiya-case over to CBI.

This war of narratives has inferred different steps of Govt. with different meanings by the people of two regions, according to their political understanding; which may or may not be true.

But that hardly matters.

What is more important is the belief and the perspectives of the people of jammu-who feel that the accused Sanji Ram and his accomplices have been framed because of being a Hindu. And that is why they want an CBI enquiry into the whole incident.

On the other hand, the general belief of the Muslims of India is that the Girl was raped and murdered because she was a Muslim.

The communists especially from Kerala-who have been pushed to the brink of extinction after Tripura fallout, have left no stone unturned to further fan the sentiments of Muslim for their own political gains. The communists in their propaganda have deprecated the symbols of Hinduism blatantly .To get some more time to -what looks like a definite existential threat-they have moved a step further and have portrayed the incident as casteist and a case of classical Brahminism.
By the way, the main accused of Kathua is a Brahman.

The Hindus of J&K also see a political conspiracy in giving this case to Advocate Deepika Thusso Singh-who is fighting on behalf of the deceased Girl, as well as SSP Romesh Kumar Jalla -who headed the S. I. T and apprehended the accused. They feel that this step has been taken to break the bonhomie between the Kashmir Hindus and Dogras.

With so many conspiracy angles involved in this case; no doubt, it is not going to be easy for the Govt. to bring this case to its logical end. Whatever step they are taking, is being keenly watched by the people of two regions. And since, there is a deep mistrust between the two Regions,

I fear

Even the justice might want to delay itself.

Navreh-the new year of Kashmiri Hindus

As winter’s frost gives way to amiable spring,  J&K wakes up to greetings of Navreh Mubarak,  writes SUNIL RAINA RAJANAKA If you happen to be in Kashmir on the first day of the Chaitra month,  you will see Kashmiri Pandits greeting everyone with a warm,  hearty ‘Navreh Mubarak!’The day heralds the New Year as well as the spring season, with the frost giving way to pleasant weather. This year, Navreh will be celebrated on March 18.   In Bringesh Samhita — a compendium of the Mahatamayas of all prominent tirthas of Kashmir — there is a chapter on Navreh which mentions a dialogue between Shiva and Parvati, where the goddess is keen to understand the importance of time, cycle of evolution and dissolution.

Shiva tells her that on Navreh, Brahma initiated Creation with the first rays of the sun falling on the world.   To celebrate Navreh — beginning of kaal, time and of the world — Kashmiri Hindus worship Shiva, Parvati and their son Ganesha for merit and well-being,  wear new clothes, and take part and in cultural programmes.   The day begins with looking at Thal Barun, a thaal, plate filled with auspicious items for prosperity. The large plate contains items like paddy, walnuts, sweet roti, cooked rice,  curd, pen, book, coins, a piece of gold ornament, salt, seasonal flowers, a medicinal herb called vai and a mirror.

Also placed on the plate are the new almanac and a photo of Kreel-Pach, the family deity.    The thaal is prepared overnight,  covered with a piece of cloth and kept in the prayer room. The next day, well before daybreak, the oldest woman of the house, usually the grandmother or mother,  goes around the house waking up family members one by one, asking them to open their eyes and first look at the plate, before beginning their daily chores.   Known as Buth Vuchun, the ritual of looking at the plate is said to bring good luck,  good health, prosperity and wisdom.

Each item on the plate has its own significance. While paddy symbolises wealth and expansion, cooked rice stands for progression in life and physical and mental growth.   Curd stands for completeness, constancy and cohesiveness. The sweet roti represents engagement and amalgamation into one’s socio-cultural surroundings.   The walnuts indicate the human and universal mind; the conjoined kernels represent the four purusharthas, goals of existence — dharma,  discharge of duty;  artha,  acquirement of wealth; kama, gratification of desire, and moksha, liberation.

The coin stands for material strength and the gold ornament is the symbol of purity. While the medicinal herb indicates good health,  flowers represent optimism, fragrance and sympathy in life. The pen is for wisdom and self-illumination and salt for positive energy. The almanac represents the influence of time in our life and the need to respect time and lead a disciplined life. Kreel Pach,  the family goddess stands for trust in Her grace.   The mirror, due to its attribute of reflection, stands for multiplication of auspiciousness.

Later in the day, rice from the plate is used to prepare the traditional yellow rice taher. Sumptuous dishes are prepared for visiting family and friends.    People also visit Hari Parbat in Srinagar to pay obeisance to Goddess Chakreshwari by reciting hymns and praying for a prosperous year ahead. It is believed that on this day,  the Sapt Rishis congregate at this place to offer prayers to the Universal Goddess, thus starting the Saptrishi era. After the ritual visit to the temple, people usually head off to enjoy the almond blossoms in the gardens at the foothill.

The outing is incomplete without savouring the traditional nadir monje pakoras and kahwa,  and wishing everyone ‘Navreh Mubarak’!

 

By Sunil Raina

Dhyaneshwar yatra as I remember

Dhyaneshwar Mahadev as I remember..

I have been to Dhyaneshwar Mahadev once in 1987-88.I had gone there with my Father, Brother, Grandmother and a very close friend-Sunil.We took a bus from Srinagar to Bandipura, from there, we traveled to the base of the Mountain, where the Holy shrine is situated.

I don,t remember all the names of the places that came enroute. But, Whatever I remember had an indelible imprint on my mind.

As I ascended from the base, I could see beautiful vistas all around me. The narrow trek that lead us towards the cave passed through the tall trees as well as through thick forest of Deodars .It was already dark, when we had started our Hike. The ascending trek pleteaued near a Hutment of Gurjars. It was a sight to behold. The full Moon, it seemed had covered everything around us in the golden Hue. There was a pleasant nip in the air.

I had with me a camera by the name ‘Hot Shot’. It was a compact camera and was in vogue 3 decades back. Enroute, I shot many pictures with it including that of the Full Moon.

That year some Muslim volunteers too had come to assist and support the Hindu Devotees.
All the devotees had gathered at a house(or Ashram/Dharamsala) which was very close to the cave. Devotees were waiting for their turn to have a Darshan of lord Shiva. Some group/s of Devotees were singing Bhajans. I was too tired to join them, I sat down at the corner of the room and pretended to listen to them. Slowly but steadily, from the sitting position, I stretched my legs straight, and after a while, I further recumbented myself as I could no longer resist sleep.

After few hours, my Grandmother, shook me by my shoulder and woked me up. It was time to enter the cave.

The Muslim volunteers were carrying a torch(lesh in Kashmiri/Mashal in hindi), and lighting the path for their Hindu contemporaries. The Hindu-Muslim bonhomie looked real at that time.

Finally, our turn too came.

I remember, the entrance of the cave was around 6 and a half feet in height;and maybe 5 feet in width. My bare feet had become wet from the frigid brook that comes from inside the cave. The brook starts from-what was known as Shraan kuth of parvati(the palace, from where mother Parvati takes a bath).There is a tunnel that starts from the mouth of the cave that is also the sanctom sanctorum and ends at the entrance of Dhyaneshwar. The shape of the tunnel is tapered(shape of hollow cone), with the wider section at the entrance of the cave. The roof of the cave is rough, with rock icicles hanging at places. I was up-right when I entered the cave; but as I moved further inside the tunnel, it became dark- pitch black dark. A volunteer with a torch was somehow managing to show us the path inside the tunnel. Since, the shape of the tunnel is tapered, first I had to bend my shoulders, then I had to bend my back and eventually I was crawling. The ice-cold water of the brook was getting hard to bear. At the ingress of the cave, It was like an adventure for me; but as I proceeded further, the hanging icicle-type-ceiling and the ice-cold brook, on which I was crawling forced me to chant the name of “Shiva”.I was Chanting aloud,”om namah shivaya”.
It is a very long dark tunnel, may be 100 or 200 mts long; and opens inside another natural cave known as Dhyaneswar. The area is modest inside the cave. It must be 8-9 feet in height,6 feet wide and may be 6 feet in length. . At a time,not more than 10 people can stand inside the cave. There is a natural partition inside the cave.The front part belongs to lord shiva and the rear natural raised part is the place of Parvati. The brook starts from the raised rear part.There is Ganesha and Kartik(not sure) also inside the cave.

One thing is guaranteed-an Atheist will become a believer after visiting this Holy cave. It is a Place, that should be visited at least once.

The only regret pertaining to the Dhyaneshwar pilgrimage is that I could not develop the reel of the camera. When we left for Jammu in Jan 1990, because of terrorism, The camera was left behind with so many other things.