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Maha Shivratri – The most sacred festival for Kashmiri Pandits

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By Rajinder Premi.

Shivratri is the most sacred religious function of Hindus and especially for the Kashmiri Pandits.  Scrupulously, this religio-spiritual deliberation is observed by the Kashmiri Pandits, for seeing the cosmic vision of Shiva and Parvati.  Since the majority of the Kashmiri Pandits are followers of Shiva, so Maha Shivratri festival is observed for 15 days, beginning with the ‘Parva' of Hurya Okdoh or Krishna Paksha Pratipda– waning moon to the ‘Parva' of waxing moon, which is Amasya.

Much before the festival does actually occur, houses are cleaned, new- utensils are bought and other household things are put in order, for the glorious arrival of the Vatak-Raaza. One new dress for the main Puja is set aside, and thorough preparations are made and a collection of eatables, fruits and sweets are made. Each day has a special name and religious function to be observed, which includes the social get-up, and interaction with friends, neighbours and relatives.

 

Our Shivratri Puja is known as the Vatuk -Puja.

Regular cleanliness starts from Huri -Okhdoh and continues up to the Ashtmi, also revered as the Horashtami.  Hurya Navmi is also a prelude to the function. Dashmi is called ‘Diyaar- Dhahem'. On this day, usually married daughters come to their parental houses to participate in this social ‘At Home';  for enjoying the  special feast. But essentially they are given new-clothes, a salt-packet, Kangri, Khagaon and zang/aath-gath which starts from a minimum one rupee coin. It is also known as the Noon Tsocha Tu Atagatha.

Our Shivratri puja is known and revered as the Vatuk Pooza. On the eleventh-day, known as the Daad Kah, mostly Pandit families cook the fish.  The puja-room called Vatuk-Kuth is fully decorated with , pictures of Shiva parivar, properly garlanded and nicely decorated. We call this day Waguri-Baah and some families offer puja to the Vatuk. On 12th day is the day of Ganesh-puja, in association with the Wagura is invoked according to the family tradition. On this day a pot-filled with Gangajal is also worshipped and that is revered as the Wagura. The Trayodashi or 13th day is the actual day of Mahashivratri. This 13th Tithi of the festival is known by the name of Herath, by the Kashmiri Pandit community which is celebrated with indescribable zest and joy. We Kashmiris generally believe that the marriage of Shiva and Parvati is being celebrated on this day of Herath/Mahashivratri.

 

How does this celebration take place?

Vatuk Raza is decorated in the Vatuk-Kuth. Mostly these are earthen pots/pitchers filled with nuts, soaked in water and flowers representing Shiva and Shakti. Then a definite number of small earthen pots containing walnuts in water symbolises other Deities/Baraatis. This is as per the family tradition. These pitchers and pots collectively are called the Vatuk. Vatuk Raaza is the presiding-Deity. There is a set form of Puja/worship in each or in a group of our homes. Mostly, the heads of the family observe fast on Shivratri. After the worship/Puja as well as fast, Prasada is taken at midnight. The Pooja is done according to the Tantrik way. It takes 3-4 hours to perform the whole Puja in a celebrated manner.

On the 14th day i.e. second day of Vatuk, the daughters and sons-in-law are invited by the parents. It is a day of grand-feast and festivity. Money called “Hearch-kharach” and other presents are given to all younger ones. People greet each other with pleasantries and send Naivedya  to each other.

The 15th day heralds the end of this auspicious festival. All the earthen pots are collected. Deepak is also given a leave. Flowers and garlands and other decorations offered to the Vatak Raaja, are put off from them which are usually immersed in the nearest lake or river.

In the evening some play with fireworks also. The end comes in the form of Vatuk-Parmuzun. Prasada in the form of Watak Doon and Tomul Tsot  or Roti is distributed among all the neighbours and relations. Thus comes the end of this grand religious function.

 

About Lord – Shiva.

The word meaning of Shiva is All Bliss. He is one of the Hindu Trinity, comprising Brarmha – the creator, Vishnu-the preserver and Mahesha or Shiva – the destroyer. The Kaala-Purusha and Kala Niyanta, the controller of Time. Time is invisible and formless.

Therefore, Mahakala-Shiva as per the Vedas, has manifested himself self as “LINGUM” to make mankind aware of the presence of external time. That day when Shiva manifested himself in the form of Lingam is Chaturdashi. What's the form of Lingum was the fourteenth day of the dark -night in the month of Maagh, (February– March) This is confirmed by Reshi-Markandeya.

That night when the money- splendored Shiva-lingam, dazzled the with its appearance was the night of Mahashivratri, the Night of the great Shiva “

This Mahashivratri festival continues to be celebrated forever and ever. Mahashivratri to mankind is the showering of peace, progress. He who observes a fast on this day and prays to all the powerful Shiva, so that all his kindness be shown upon the devotee, gets the grace of Lord Shiva.

Thatha- Asthuo.

 

Northlines
Northlines
The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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