The Hindu holiday of Maha Shivratri, which is one of the most auspicious holidays, is being observed with fervour all over the nation. But, did you know that the festival has a different name in Jammu and Kashmir?
The Kashmiri Pandits’ religious celebrations have foundations in the Rigveda. Some of the Pandit traditions are exclusive to Kashmir. Festivals celebrated by Kashmiri Pandits include Herath (Shivaratri), Navreh, Zyeath-Atham (Jyeshtha Ashtami), Huri-Atham (Har Ashtami), Zarmae-Satam (Janmashtami), Dussehra, Diwali, Pan (Roth Puza/Vinayaka Tsoram/Ganesha Chaturthi), Gaad Batt.
Meaning Of Hearth
For Kashmiri Pandits, Herath, also known as Maha Shivratri or the “Night of Hara (Shiva),” is a three-day festival during which families gather for elaborate rituals and festivities.
The Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu and Kashmir commemorate it as their important holiday from the 13th night of Phalgun (February–March) to the new moon.
The celebration of the festival lasts for two weeks as an extension of the ritual.
The event represents the unity of the divine for Kashmiri Pandits as well as the complementary nature of consciousness and feminine energy that combined lead to creation.
The event also honours Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva‘s happy nuptials.
In Jammu and Kashmir, Shivratri is also referred to as the Herath or Har-Ratri festival.
The Sanskrit words “Hara” (another name for Lord Shiva) and “Ratri” combine to form the phrase “Hararatri” (night). Together, they create Hararatri (night of Lord Shiva). Nevertheless, through time, it changed into Herath.
The reason for this is that this drawn-out festival, which is observed as an elaborate ritual for a full fortnight, is linked to Bhairava (Shiva) appearing as a jwala-linga or a linga of flame.
The linga arose as a blazing column of fire at pradoshakala, or the dusk of early night, according to the mythology surrounding the genesis of the devotion. Vatuka Bhairava and Rama (or Ramana) Bhairava, Mahadevi‘s mind-born sons, approached it to find its beginning or end but failed miserably.
They went to Mahadevi, who had merged with the stupendous jwala-linga, and began to praise it in their frustration and terror.
Mahadevi was there to listen to them. Both Vatuka and Ramana received blessings from the goddess, who predicted that they would be worshipped by people, receive their fair share of sacrifices, and grant the wishes of anybody who did so.
Vatuka Bhairava is symbolised by a pitcher full of water in which walnuts are kept for soaking and worshipped alongside Shiva, Parvati, Kumara, Ganesha, their ganas or attendant deities, yoginis, and kshetrapalas (guardians of the quarters), all of whom are represented by clay images.
Vatuka Bhairava emerged from the pitcher full of water after Mahadevi cast a glance into it, fully armed with all his Then, the soaked walnuts are given out as naivedya. In Kashmiri, the ritual is known as “vatuk barun,” which literally translates to “worship the Vatuka Bhairava by putting walnuts in the pitcher of water.”
After being symbolically offered to the entire host of deities and attendant deities involved with Shivaratri, the worshipper and his family indulge in the sacrificed feast, which is primarily made of meat and fish but can also be vegetarian. The passages that are relevant stress the importance of this for everyone. Individuals who do this are said to advance in life, thrive, and have all of their desires come true.
Yet, as associated writings like the Shiva Samhita state, individuals who refuse to consume the sacrificed food and do not break their fast after the Puja are destined to either enter hell or reincarnate as deplorable animals in addition to experiencing a variety of negative outcomes in life:
“yo yagotsavam ulanghya tishthet nirashano vrato, jivan sa pashutameti mrito niryamapnuyat”
But, it is evident from what we have discussed thus far that Hindus in other parts of the nation and Kashmiri Pandits celebrate Shivaratri differently. The Pandits not only observe Bhairavotsava one day early, but they also engage in very distinctive rites. Also, it is customary for Hindus to carefully maintain a fast on the day of Shiva Chaturdashi. Even consuming fruit or betel leaves is regarded as breaking the fast.
Rituals to Follow:
The Kashmiri Pandit community’s Shivratri festival starts the day prior. Shiv Puja begins a day earlier in Kashmiri Pandits’ houses. The ‘Vatuk Pooja‘ ceremony ushers in the celebration of the Herath festival (Steel vessel). The kalashasthapana is performed during the ritual after the area has been thoroughly cleaned.
The Kalash is thought to represent the four Vedas because it is packed with walnuts. It serves as a key component of the ritual. Following the pooja, the priest is fed a variety of delectable. The day after Shiva Chaturdashi is designated as Salam. The word “Salaam” denotes the valley’s Pandit and Muslim residents’ harmony. Dooni-mavas, or the fifteenth day of the festival, is observed. Doon, or walnuts, are given out to family members on this day.
Kashmiri Pandits would perform puja and pay respects at temples during this time. The Shankaracharya Temple in Srinagar, which overlooks the well-known Dal Lake, is anticipated to host the largest crowd.
Traditional Ways Followed By Kashmiri Families:
Ever other family associates Herath with its own unique customs and rituals. Kashmiri Pandits give something to the kids in their home the following morning after the puja. We refer to this as hearth expenditure. Children use this money to purchase items for themselves.
On this day, the kids remind the homeowners how much the fireplace costs. Following worship, nuts are distributed as prasad. The daughters in the family receive rice bread as prasad in addition to walnuts from Kashmiri Pandits.
This prasad is also distributed in advance of the wedding procession for Shiva and Parvati. On the day when Hindus all over the world observe by fasting, the majority of them cook fish and mutton instead of observing strict vegetarian practise.
[Writer Agrita Chhibber is from Jammu]
(Images from different sources)
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