By Upender Ambardar
The Shivratri rituals structured down the generation are precious legacies of our forebear. In addition to the chronicled account, the rituals also interpret the socio-cultural evolution of our community, asserted Sh. Amar Nath Koul (Miya), an erstwhile resident of Kocha Nidan Sahib, Rainawari Srinagar and presently putting-up at Anand Nagar Bohri, Jammu. Refreshing the festival related memories, Sh. Miya recalled that even on 'Vagur Bah', i.e. a day prior to Shivratri, the ritualistic food preparations were that of fish and meat. The pooja utensils installed in the 'Vatuk Kuth' comrpised earthen utensils of 'Gagar', a wide mouthed 'Doul', two 'Sanivarees', one 'Sounipatul' and an additional pooja vessel called 'Ram Goud', which was in the form of a narrow mouthed clay pitcher 'Nout'.
Interestingly, on 'Vagur Bah', the ritualistic pooja was performed only for the 'Sanivaries' and not for the 'Ram Goud'. The pooja utensils were taken to charihaenzpur yarbal, which was adjacent to Vetal Bhairav Shrine for getting them filled-up with water usually in the morning.
As per his family reeth, the traditional dish offerings to the Bhairav Doul' comprised 'Rogan Josh', combined dish of fish and nadru, performed after midnight. The walnut pooja on Amavasya i.e. 'Doon Mavas' was performed at home and not on the river bank. Sh. Miya also disclosed that as per his family 'reeth', it was ordained to put the oil lit earthen diya's only on the enslosing courtyard wall and the nearest road crossing.
The Shivratri rituals represent the multiplicity of our cultural and social ethos and also depict our religious ethnicity, declared Sh. Kanya Lal Saproo, an erstwhile resident of Gulab Bagh, district Ganderbal and presently residing at Bhagwati Nagar Jammu. Reminiscing about the festival of yesteryears, he revealed that fish, 'roganjosh' and mixed dish of meat and nadru were the ritualistic cuisines offered to other 'Bhairav Doul' on Shivratri. In contrast to it, on 'Doon Mavus' the mixed dish of palakh-nadru' was cooked. During the ritualistic 'knock at the door' or 'Thuk Thuk' rite, it was customary for his family to say to have come from Tulamulla and Vicharnag in reply to a query about the specified place from where journeyed. It was probably said to emphasize the nearness of the holy shrines of Tulamulla and Vicharnag to his abode at Gulab Bagh.
During the said symbolic conversation , health wealth, good produce, overall prosperity, wisdom and knowledge are symbolically wished and granted. The Shivratri rituals having exceptional diversity and variety are proud expressions of our ancient social set-up and value structure, observed Sh. Moti Lal Raina (Razgaroo) an erstwhile resident of Drabiyar, Habbakadal Sringar and now putting up at Shivnagar Jammu. He also stressed that centuries old treasured rituals share a history, which have stretched into legends as they take us through the splendoured journey and glory of bygone ages. Counting his conversation Sh. Raina opined that rituals should never outlive their utility even under the heightened pressure of time and hurried life style of the present times. The Shivratri rituals are not only the cultural and religious accessories, which reassert our distinctive identity but also reveal the depth of our adoration and surrender to our most favoured Isht Dev and God of Gods Lord Shiva. With nostalgia weighing heavily on his mind, Sh Moti Lal Raina (Razgaroo) recounted vividly that the ritualistic offering to 'Bhairav Doul' used to be water fowl cooked with nadru, locally known as 'Pachin or Shikar' meat preparation of 'maech'.
He also disclosed that 'Vatuk Parmujan' ritual was performed even during the heightened winter chill at the Vitasta Yarbal Ghat of Drabiyar, with the river embankment coming alive during the pooja.
During the immersion ritual of 'Doon Mavus', the flowing river water was cut crosswise seven times with a knife. 'Thuk Thuk Thuk' was an integral part of the said ritual. Making an addition to the said conversation, Smt. Krishna Raina (Dhar) stated that Shivratri rituals endorse our earthly adoration and pesonalised devotion for Lord Shiva and His celestial spouse Goddess Parvati. She divulged that deloctable dishes of yellow meat mixed with turnip and 'Nadeer mokan' were traditional offerings to the 'Bhairav Doul' in her parental house at Bana Mohalla, Sringar, where 'Doon Mavus' pooja was performed in the 'Vatuk Kuth' or pooja room instead of the Yarbal Ghat. Sh Moti Lal Raina also revealed that offering of liquor to the 'Bhairva Doul' by some families having 'Sahib' surname of Kharyar Habbakadal Srinagar was an unusual and uncommon Shivratri ritual. A good quality liquor used to be specially procured for use in the sail ritual in Shivratri pooja.
The Shivratri rituals having metaphorical meaning and veiled wisdom are products of careful thought and insight gathered during the successive waves of proceeding times, affirmed Sh PN Tikoo, an old resident of Kralkhud/Peer Bagh Srinagar and now a resident of Vijay Nagar Talab Tillo, Jammu. Sharing the 'Hayreth' related imperishable memories, Sh. Tikoo recapitulated that on Phagun Krishan Paksh Duvadashi, locally known as 'Vagur Bah', a flat bottomed earthen utensil locally called 'Aaneut' was reverentially seated amidst pooja on the back-side space of the mud herth called locally as 'Daan' in the kitchen. The ritualistic combined dish of yellow meat and turnip was put in it amidst elaborate pooja. However, strangely enough on the next day of Shivratri the most sought after vegetarian dishes of yellow cheese, dumalu, nadir yakhni, cauliflower, nadru-palakh and mixed dish of potatoes and peas formed a part of the kitchen repertoire as per the family reeth as meat was a taboo in the family 'Vatak Kuth' i.e. the family pooja room on Shivratri day.
Making an addition to the conversation, Sh PN Tikoo further revealed that Vatuk or Pooja utensils comprised 'Nout', one 'Bhairav Doul', one 'Resh Doul', two small sized earthen pots called 'Machivari' and four more small sized clay pots, locally known as 'Sanivari', one 'Sanipotal' and a dhoop holder known as 'dhupjoor'. As per the family reeth, four walnuts were put in each of the two 'Machivari', whileas only one walnut was put in each of the four 'Sanivari'. All the cooked dishes after having been mixed with the rice were put inside the designated 'Bhairav Doul' amidst elaborate pooja, while as only rice mixed with unboiled milk was offered to 'Resh Doul', Curiously enough, there is no symbolic representation of the Goddess Parvati among the pooja utensils of the said Tikoo family. 'Doon Mavas' pooja was performed at home and not at the river bank. On Tila Ashtami, oil lit earthen lamps were placed on the stepping stone stair, locally called 'Brandh', the courtyard wall the adjacent lane and the Yarbal Ghat.
The rituals are real life expressions of undying love and adoration for the great God Lord Shiva affirmed Sh. Madhusudhan Raina, an original resident of Seer Jagir, tehsil Sopore, district Baramulla and presently putting up at Trilokpur, Gole Gujral Jammu.
He also advocated total commitment and steadfast loyalty for the observance of the Shivratri rituals. Thick with the cherished memories, Sh. Raina disclosed that 'Vatuk' comprised 'Nout', a small sized earthen utensils, locally called 'Choud' three wide mouthed clay utensils called 'Doulji', and a 'Sonipotal' and four clay pots called 'Varie'. During Shivratri pooja, cooked rice and meat delicacies were put in one of the 'Vaer' while as only milk and water was ritualistically offered to the remaining three earthen pots called 'Vaers'. Out of the three 'Douji's' only milk was offered to one of them, whileas in rest of the two water and a few walnuts usually in odd number were put in them. As per the reeth of the said family, it was customary to offer snow to the 'Nout' , the symbolic representation of Lord Shiva. Sh Madhusudhan Raina also disclosed that many a times snow had to be procured from the snow copped mountains of the adjacent village of Chanad, Delina. All the pooja utensils were decked with 'Baelpattar' leaves, the coloured Virkam and 'Bredmushik' flowers gathered from the nearby forests. The said family would also offer pooja to 'Parthishor', the home made figurative earthen linga, for which the soil was collected from chanad forest range.
In addition to the electric lamp, an oil lit earthen diya was also kept burning throughout the night of Shivratri in the 'Vatak Kuth'. Sh Madhsudhan Raina also disclosed that Pooja utensils locally called 'Vatak Bhane' were in first instance stored in the out-house store room, locally called 'Kuch' from where they were taken inside the house only on the Shivratri day. Adding to his conversation, Sh Raina also stated that during the process of filling up of the Pooja utensils with water and walnuts, the ladies of the house would attire themselves in new outfits and also wear new 'athhoar; in the ears. On the day of 'Salam' the Kul-Brahman would invariably come early morning to apply chandan tilak to the house inmates, which as per family belief would spell auspiciousness for the ensuing year. During the ritual of 'Thuk Thuk', only an elderly lady of the house would tap the door and during the course of said conversation in reply to a symbolic query about the identity of person, the answer was that of 'Vatak Raza'. In confirmity with the family reeth, about three dozen oil lit earthen lamps filled with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds were placed in all the rooms, yarbal ghat, charcoal ash heap, livestock room, cowdung heap and the enclosing compound wall in tune with the family belief that no space should remain in shade on that day. It was also disclosed that after the end of 'Doon Mavas Pooja', all the ladies of the village would collectively perform a sort of circular dance on the Yarbhal Ghat with their hands drawn towards the sky. It was akin to the ritual dance performed by Kashmiri Pandit ladies during the Yaegnopavit and marriage ceremonies.
Sh Raina also revealed that fried pounded moong tikki was also a part of the walnut 'prasad', distributed among near and dear one's. All the Raina families of the village would also cut the flaming river water seven times crosswise with a knife. It was also disclosed that some families of the village Seer Jegir had the reeth of performing pooja of fried Nadru or potato slices alongwith the walnut kernels on 'Doon Mavus'. A curious and unusual family reeth was that 'Thuk Thuk' ritual was not performed on Amavasya evening but on the day of Shivratri itself after the pooja utensils were filled up with water and walnuts. Their entry inside the house was allowed only at the end of the 'knock at the door' ritual.
The multitude of Shivratri rituals are our prized inheritance, which demonstrate our boundless and immense devotion and love for the Supreme God Lord Shiva, observed Sh. Triloki Nath Pandita, originally hailing from the village Hutmulla, district Kupwara and now putting up at Trilokpur, Gole Gujral, Jammu. He also stresed that festival related rituals need to be faithfully observed so that we become recipient of His grace. It was also disclosed that in addition to an uncooked and uncleaned fish, blood collected in a flat earthenware (Toke) after slaughter of a sheep in the courtyard were ritualistic offerings to the designated pooja utensil called 'Bhairav Doul' during the Shivratri pooja. As per his family custom, a small earthenware known as 'Vagur' was also reverentially installed in the 'Vatak Kuth' on the evening of 'Vagur Bah', i.e. a day prior to the main festival of Shivratri. Meat preparations were the usual offerings to the 'Vagur' also. The 'Vatuk' comprising pooja utensils were ushered inside the house only after the completion of 'Aalath' by waving around of a water filled pot around them.
Sh. Triloki Nath Pandita also revealed that (figurative-images) of only potter and potteress, locally known as 'Kral' and 'Kraej' were made-out from the kneaded rice flour. They were baked dry without oil on a pan and eventually offered to the 'Bhairav Doul' . The 'Doon Mavus' pooja was performed collectively by all the families of the village on the rivulet bank. In place of earthen lamps, about 30-40 oil lit walnut shells having a sprinkling of black sesame seeds were also placed in all the rooms, rivulet bank, dry cowdung heap, stored charcoal ash mass, and livestock room in the evening of Tila Ashtami. It was also customary to perform 'Jattu-Toun' by rotating the ignited old and damaged fire pots i.e. 'Kangris' in the evening of 'Tila Ashtami'.
*(The writer is a keen socio-cultural researcher)
Source: Kashmir Sentinel