Navreh - An epitome of Kashmiri Culture

An epitome of Kashmiri Culture

Gopinath Raina

ormally, we like certain things more than others. Some of us may like to play rather than just sit and gossip; some others may like to utilize their time in studies and not waste it in sleep or useless pursuits. Thus, all of us have different values for different things.

Well, what is it that determines the value of a thing? Whatever satisfies us or gives pleasure is considered valuable. That explains why some find satisfaction in developing physique, others in developing intellect and still others in developing character.

What is culture?

Culture means to cultivate, to grow, to develop and to expand. Our culture is what we regard as ideal or best for us to cultivate. When we take interest in the cultivation of our body, we are said to be interested in physical culture; when we hunt libraries in search of reading material and burn midnight oil to acquire knowledge, we are interested in intellectual culture. If we regard the development of mind as the best, it is a case of moral or spiritual culture and if we take interest in making money and in seeking physical comforts, we are believed to pursue materialistic culture.

Culture, therefore, may be defined in terms of the value or the values that we cherish most for the development of our personality and society

Cultural Patterns

Like individuals, groups, communities and nations, too, have their distinct culture. No wonder we find different cultural patterns in different parts of the globe. In Greece, for example, a community called Spartans attached greatest importance to physical prowess and gave their youth fine physical education. A child born in the community was taken to the top of a mountain and left there for a whole night. If the child survived, he was brought back and reared. For them, physical endurance and strength of the child was the most important criteria to justify existence. If the child was weak in physique, he was better dead.

Unlike most of the nations in the East, Western nations regard material prosperity as the most valuable pursuit and they measure progress by the economic yardstick. Their greatest men are either scientists who impart knowledge of physical forces and help them produce goods to satisfy their bodily needs; or industrialists who set up industries to produce material goods on a mass scale.
Broadly speaking, culture is expressed and lived in our behavior and habits and in case of a community like ours it is expressed through its customs and manners, its laws and conventions, its art and religion, its ideas and institutions, its beliefs and traditions, and in its language, literature and philosophy.

What constitutes KP Culture?

What is it that constitutes Kashmiri culture? Is it Roganjosh Bata or Hugada Char? No. It is not merely the food habits but language and literature, religious beliefs and, in fact, the customs and festivals that determine a particular culture.

The first and foremost is the language, which is normally the vehicle of our day-to-day life and also of our lofty thoughts. It is the only vehicle that can express the tender feelings of a mother’s attention for her child in the cradle (Wala myani gubrah) and a lover’s infatuation for his or her beloved, but , tell me how many of us know how to speak, leave alone writing, in our mother tongue.

Mata Ksheer Bhawani

Devi Anagan in Hari Parbat
Kashmir Valley, in the words of Nehru is “like the face of the beloved that one sees in a dream and that fades away on awakening.” We may call ourselves the citizens of the world first and then Indians; we may consider ourselves as Indians first and only then Kashmiris; we may be, like the Hindus in rest of India, the adherents of Sanatana Dharma, the eternal law; yet what we feel nostalgic about is the lush vegetation back in the land of our birth. What beckons us is the holy cave of Amarnath, the color-changing spring of Mata Ksheer Bhawani, and the lilting tunes of Maej Daya Kar from the precincts of Devi Anagan in Hari Parbat, the abode of Sharika Mata. What haunts our memories is the enchanting beauty of Dal Lake and the badaam vaar, spring blossom of almonds.

KP New Year

Despite being rendered refugees in their own country, Kashmiri Pandits have retained their socio-cultural beliefs in the hope that their younger generations comprehend the essence of their culture.

Festivals not only have deep religious overtones, they are also significant inasmuch as they provide us means of enjoying life, thus breaking the monotony of every day hum-drum life. Of the many festivals KPs celebrate, Navreh stands out as being the one that has shaped and guided our lives for centuries.

As mentioned in Nilamat Purana and Rajatarangini, KP New Year
(Navreh) is celebrated in Kashmir with great enthusiasm and fervor on the first day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Chaitra. It marks the onset of Spring and coincides with the first day of Chaitra Navaratri.

This year,
Navreh falls on April 11, 2013. Regarded as sacred as Maha Shivaratri by the Hindus of Kashmir, it is also the first day of the Sapta Rishi Samvat, 5087. It is this calendar that KPs generally use to celebrate their birthdays, anniversaries and all the religious rituals.

In different parts of India, too, the first day of the lunar New Year is observed as "Ugadi or Yugadi" in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, as"Gaudi Padwa" in Maharashtra and Goa, as Cheti Chand by the Sindhis and in the northern parts of India as Chaitra Shukladi.

Thaal Barun

Thaal Barun
It is on the eve of Navreh that every Pandit family used to get a new almanac/Jantri (Nichipatra or Nakshatrapatri in Sanskrit) and an illustrated scroll (Kreula Pachh) with the sacred picture of Sharika Bhagwati from their Kulguru. And later in the evening, the housewife would fill a big thaal (metal-plate) with rice or paddy and place on it the new almanac and decorate it with dry and fresh flowers. Among other things usually placed in the thaal were Wye, a special weed, newly sprouted grass, cooked rice, a piece of bread/roti, a small bread made of rice powder, yoghurt, a currency note or a gold coin, a mirror, a pic of the chosen deity, shelled or even unshelled walnuts in odd numbers, a sugar cube, salt and most importantly a pen and an inkpot.

Early next morning, i.e. on the day of Navreh, usually the lady of the house or in some cases, particularly during my childhood, a boy or a girl would get up at dawn, have the first darshan of the thaal and its contents, and look into the mirror as the first thing. Then the thaal would be taken to all the members of the family, so as to enable them to see the decorated metal plate before seeing anything else.

All the items on the thaal represent the items of our daily use, so very essential for day-to-day routine of life. This practice, known as
thaal barun, signified the hope and the prayer that the New Year may bring wisdom and provide the family with prosperity, wealth, health and happiness for the coming year

It was always considered auspicious to wear new clothes on such special occasions.

Zanga Trai

Closely associated with
Navreh is the observance of the third day of New Lunar Year, called Zanga Trai. On this day, the ladies would visit their parents’ home to receive blessings for good luck and well-being. Even the community members would visit temples, parks and picnic spots to meet each other and have fun. It used to be an occasion of social get-together with men, women and children attired at their best.

The 8th and 9th days of this lunar fortnight are observed as Durga Ashtami and Rama Navami respectively
*A journalist by profession, a scholar by temperament and a writer by choice, Gopinath Raina was inclined to the study of religion from his very young age. It was Swami Vivekananda’s dynamic exposition of Hindu thought that fired his imagination while he was still at school, and by the time he entered college, he had been drawn to the writings of Gandhi, Aurobindo, Narayana Guru, Radhakrishnan and Bertrand Russel.

After retiring from Indian Information Service (I.I.S.) in 1983 where he distinguished himself as an editor, correspondent, commentator and administrator in All India Radio, he edited, AICC Journal, Varnika, (Jan.'84-Dec.'90), Koshur Samachar (March'91-Oct'95, Sanatana Sandesh,(1997-2005) and KASHEER (2003-2004),

He has been writing profusely on various aspects of Hindu thought. He enjoys writing, particularly on saints and sages, not only of Kashmir, but of the other parts of India as well. Presently he lives in Miami, and spends his time writing personal memoirs.

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As always, another gem from you. Thank you for the education and joy that your writing provides us.
Added By Arun Koul
I appreciate the theme of this write-up,beautifully written and nicely presented. Kashmiri Navreh is spiritual in content,with cultural settings.
Added By Chaman Lal Raima
S I M P L Y G R E A T.
Added By Chander M. Bhat
A very well written piece on Navreh and its significance.
Added By Amit Wakhlu