By Upender Ambardar
Festival Customs in Gurtoo Families - II
The Puranas also refer to seven matrikas or Shaktis of Lord Bramha, known as Maheshwari, Kumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Andhri and Chamunda, who are invariably propitiated and invoked before the start of a pooja. The number seven also represents seven forms of agni or fire known as Kali, Karali, Manojva, Sulahita, Sudhumarvarna, Ugra and Pradeepta. It also represents seven stages of rebirth through which a human being passes before the soul attains moksha. As per a belief, there are also seven levels of consciousness each of which is linked with the seven chakras of the human body.
Probably, it is due to this reason that the river water is cut seven times during the 'Amavasya' pooja to symbolize the seven vows taken to honour and perform the Shivratri rituals steadfastly. After the completion of the ceremonial 'Amavasya Pooja'. on the river bank, a little water is put in the empty 'Nout' to be sprinkled on the entry door of the house as a mark of auspiciousness.
This ritual is known as 'Kalash Lav'. It is followed by closure of the main door of the house, which is opened only after 'knock at the door' ritual locally known as 'dhub dhub' ends. It is a sort of a conversational exchange of words betweenan elderly lady of the family behind their door and an elderly male member outside it eager to seek entry in the home. The said dialogue is in a token of affirmative and endorsement nod, in which prosperity, tranquility, fortune, well-being and all material comforts are sought and symbolically assured. It is akin to 'Zaem-brandh' ritual of wedding function of Kashmiri Pandits, where sister-in-law of the bride closes the door and opens it subsequently after the bridegroom promises to give the sought gifts to his sister.
In both the rites, the door is a symbol for the very psyche of the house inmates as it transports us into the inner world of family life, psychological security and comfort. Moreover, home also represents a sacred social institution, where human relationships are fortified and cemented on which is based the familial and societal life. On 'Amavasya' i.e. Doon Mavas, as per a native belief, the divine bride Goddess Parvati is believed to depart with Her divine bridegroom Lord Shiva to the bridegroom's home. The pooja is performed on the river bank as the flow of river is ametaphor for life and its' life bestowing generosity. The river water also symbolizes its purifiactory powers as removal of impurities and sins both at the physical and spiritual levels.
Besides, river also represents the symbolic connectivity as an essential link of transportation. The river water also represents the continuity of human life and the life giving order, which is in harmony with the natural rhythm of the universe.
In addition to it, the river banks are also regarded as the dwelling places of gods, saints and sages. Probably, due to these facts the 'Amavasya' pooja is performed on the river banks. Morever, as per a local belief, Phagun Krishan Paksh Ashtami, known in the native language as 'Hur Aethum' is said to symbolise one of the wedding ceremony rites of parting of the hair of Goddess Parvati (mus-mouchravun). Likewise on Phagun Krishan Paksh Pratipadha, known as 'Hur Oakdoh' one more marriage related ritual of house cleansing known by the name of 'Ghare-Navun' is said to commence. The concluding ceremony of Shivratri falls on Phagun Shukla Paksha Ashtami, locally known as 'Tila Aethum'.
It represents the final symbolic send off to all the remaining divine guests of the cosmic 'baraat', who might have stayed back at the bride's home. It is an evening ritual in which oil lit earthen lamps positioned on grass woven spherical bases 'Aarie' are placed at entry door of the house, top of the courtyard wall, enroute path to the river and base of the tree, whileas a few lamps are floated onthe flowing river. The light of oil lit lamps is a metaphor for life. It is also symbolic of the light offered to the departed souls of the ancestors.
The history of our social and cultural development is interepted through time-tested rituals and it is through them that past becomes alive, observes Sh. Vjiay Malla, an original residents of Malik Angan, Fateh Kadal Srinagar and now putting-up at Sarwal Jammu. The 'Gurtoo' tradition is followed by his family with an amazing purity and even a whiff of wrong doing is regarded as a blasphemous act. He disclosed that prior to Phagun Krishan Paksh Pratipadha or Oakdoh, all the cooking utensils are thoroughly cleaned, clothes washed and the earthenware pots are replaced by new ones. He also revealed that from 'Oakdoh' onwards, eatnig or taking tea outside the home is disallowed and even puffing on a stranger's hookah is not permitted.
Sh. VIjay Malla also revealed that permissible vegetarian dishes in his home are 'monji haakh', moong daal and patatoes, while as cooking of 'Soanchal', turnips, rajmah and sun dried vegetables locally known as 'hoakh sabzi' are forbidden.
As per a belief rajmah, turnips and soanchal are regarded as 'dukoal' i.e. equivalent to non-vegetarian food, while as the dry vegetable preparations are not in tune with the auspiciousness of the occasion. Elaborating further he recounted that in earlier times at the time of ritualistic filling-up of the earthen untensil 'Nout' with water and walnuts, the ladies of his home would drape themselves in new outfits and wear new 'Attahoar' in the ears as a mark of good omen. Furthermore, a rice filled up thali having a small quantity of salt was also made to touch the right shoulder of the lady engaged in 'Vatuk Barun' ritual. In the local parlance, this ritual is known as 'Zangi Yun'. Both the rites bear a striking resemblance with the practice followed during the marriage and birth day functions.
The walnuts put in the 'Nout' are usually in the odd numbers of 101 or 151. Reviving his old memories, Sh. Malla disclosed that during Shivratri Pooja, even stored drinking water and cooked dishes could not be tasted till the pooja was over and as a remedy a makeshift kitchen was utilised for the purpose. A lavish spread of recipes cooked for Shivratri pooja as per his family 'reeth' include methi, mixed with nadru, unpounded moong daal, raddish mixed with nadru, sour methi, sour nadru, yellow cheese and fried crisp nadru slices. The rigid vegetarian tradition is broken on Amavasya evening when a mixed dish of turnips and goat's stomach locally known as 'demni gogzi' is cooked and ritualistically offered. The yellow cheese is also an additional dish on that evening. According to Sh. Vijay Malla, his family also offers pooja to the figurative clay images of Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati and Lord Ganesh on Shivratri evening and the ritul is locally known as 'Parthishor'.
Sh. Raviji Raina, an erstwhile resident of the village Salia, district Anantnag Kashmir and now putting-up at the ORT complex Purkhoo Jammu is one more faithful 'Gurtoo' for whom deviation from the ordained code is a grave religious offence. Reminiscing the festival of yesterdays, he stated that from 'ekadashmi' onwards, the entry of an outsider in the house was not allowed. He also revealed that even a cursory glance of an outsider towards the Pooja room ws a revolting and sinful act on the presumption that the person may have consumed meat. In the repertoire of dishes, his family as per the clan tradition cook yellow cheese, nadir yakhni, cauliflower, sour raddish called 'mujae kaela', fried pounded raddish tiki called 'jujae voer' and side dish of 'hakh'. Sh Raviji Raina also recounted that a specially fabricated wooden knife was utilised for slicing raddish for the dish of 'mujae kaela' during his gradnfather's time.
His family also has the custom of preparing 'puris' made out of the flour kneaded with milk and fried in desi ghee prior to Shivratri. They are called 'Bubur' and are taken as 'prasad' after their pooja is performed on Shivratri. As per his family belief, purchase of new bronze utensils during the festival days portends goodness and prosperity for the entire year.
Speaking on a nostalgic note, he recalled that 'Amavasya' pooja was performed at the village stream or spring bank. During the outpouring of the 'Vatak nout' contents, the spring or stream water was cut with a knife five times. It is in sharp contrast to the ritual of cutting water seven times followed in other Gurtoo and non-Gurtoo families. The cutting of water five times is perceived to symbolize the pledge taken five times to faitfhully perform the festival related rituals as human body is composed of five elements of fire, air, earth, ether and water. The digit five also represents five main deites of Bramah, Vishnu, Mahesh Aditya and Ganesh.
The number five is also symbolic of the five holy days of Ashtami, Chagturdashi, Purnimasi, Amavasya and Sankrtai. The ritualistic pooja of 'Parthishor' on Shivratri is also a part of his clan tradition.
The Shivratri rituals represent a symbolic blending of a religious festival and family celebration, which chronicle the cultural history and societal evolution of a community, remarked Smt. Urmilla Raina, earlier a resident of Gogji Bagh, Srinagar and now putting up at Pamposh Colony, Greater Kailash, New Delhi. Sharing her nostaligic memories, she reminisced that in accordance with her family tradition, leavened rotis' called 'phulkas' andwheat flour fried in ghee locally known as 'churma' was taken with tea from Phagun Krishan Paksh Dashmi onwads. A day prior to Shivratri, a special pooja utensil designated as 'Vagur' is installed amidst elaborate religious Pooja in the 'Vatak Kuth'. The customary dishes cooked on the occasionare methi, moong daal and nadru.
*(The writer is a keen socio-cultural researcher)
Source: Kashmir Sentinel