Herath: Shivaratri: An interpretation
Herath: Shivaratri: An interpretation
Felicitations on the Herath 2012
|erath is celebrated during the month of Phalgun according to the Hindu lunar calendar. The main puja (pooza in Kashmiri) is held on the 12/13th night of the dark fortnight of the month of Phalgun (this year on February 19th.). Tradition has it that in different eons of the Hindu cosmology, Shiva drank poison to become Nealakantha, got married to Parvati, performed His Tandava dance, and was declared by the goddess Uma as the Unfathomable entity. For Kashmiri pundits this day truly is a family celebration. While inviting the ideal inseparable family of Shiva and Parvati into our homes, we celebrate Their bond and share the blessed joy together. In the elaborate preparations for it no stone is left unturned. And it does take a village to get it together.
Although the ceremonies are laden with symbolism, and at times resemble a chaotic scene with all the pots and pans used in the puja, yet the festival does manage to bring together the ultimate unit of daily life-the family.
What follows is a description of my practice while living in the US (and might be similar to what is followed by others living outside of Kashmir). It is an adaptation of the practice of Herath/Shivaratri that we grew up with in the Kashmir valley.
My notes about the significance/philosophy of Shivaratri are based on an explanation of the festival written by my father, Pundit Bishamber Nath Koul.
The ritual and the philosophy:
In Kashmir, we celebrate Herath with the grand ritual of Vatuka Pooza. Vatuk is corruption of the word Batuka the young Bhairava- that is Shiva.
Although the ritual is given the name of Vatuka Pooza, yet it is a three act play running concurrently: a Kashmiri Pundit multitasking.
Act 1. The re-enactment of the marriage ceremony between Vatuk (Shiva) with Parvati (Uma). To get married, Shiva is accompanied by his Bhairavas (played by the five little pots; dulgees (and Dhull) and an assortment of little pots). Shiva and his retinue are offered the feast. Depending on the family tradition (reeth), vegetarian or non-vegetarian food is offered. In Kashmir meat and fish preparations were offered with gusto by most of the families.
Act 2. The annual return of Parvati (along with Shiva) to her parent’s home, and her stay for three days. Shiva (Large pot; Nott) comes along with his wife Parvati (small pot; Naar). This is annual enactment of the inseparable union between Shiva and Shakti.
Act 3. The attempt to identify one’s self with the Source of all. (the person performing the puja: symbolically also represented by the Nott with the dry walnuts in water; as Bhairava (Shiva unrealized) with the ParamaShiva (as Nott with shell softened and kernels accessible). Thus the ritual is a symbolic demonstration of the processes needed to remove ignorance (shell) and access and realize the Truth (kernel inside), and unify the seeker with the Source. In this portion of the play the dulgees play the part of our senses that need to be directed and appropriately positioned, kept clean to help.
The progression of Herath festivities during the fortnight:
Kashmiris begin the festival on the first day of the dark fortnight. The celebrations in Kashmir were literally made possible by the hard work of Pundit women-the cleaning, the arrangements and cooking-the eating and merrymaking was, however, done by us all. Now outside Kashmir these burdens on women have changed somewhat although not completely.
Huri Okdoh (Feb. 8 this year): marks the beginning of the fortnight long Herath festival for Kashmiri Pundits that ends on Amavasya, 15 days later. Each day has significance in the sequential progression to the climax. I have listed them as we see them here in the US.
Huri Okdoh to Huri Sheyam (the first day of celebration to the sixth day):
Clean the house, and give it a festive look.
Procure material for puja.
Huri sattam, huri atham and Huri Navam (seventh to ninth day): Offer prayers to the mother goddess Sharika-the presiding deity of the valley of Kashmir.
Dyara Daham (Tenth day: - literally the Day of the Money -Day of Lakshmi).
Offer prayers to Goddess of wealth. Send a felicitation card to the mother-in-law if not living with you.
Gadda kaah (11th day: the feast of fish day):
Feast with fish, according to the reeth (i.e. the family tradition)
Wagur Baah (12th day): Day of the Wagur. Ritual performed after sunset
At sunset, tie a naarivan around a small pitcher (wagur: the priest: the messenger) and offer tilak. The messenger brings the good news about Shiva and Parvati visiting next day. Another tumbler or pitcher is filled with water and walnuts (called kalusha: the witness: the mind). The priest and kalusha sit on grass mats. A brief puja is offered, culminating with eating of rice cakes and walnuts. At the end of the ceremony, the mats and naarivan are collected and deposited under a tree (parmoozan). In Kashmir we would deposit this in a running stream of water.
Herath (13th day: February 19th.this year): the day of the main pooja: Wedding party of Shiva arrives: Shiva and Parvati come to stay in our home: the seeker (you) seek the Source (Universal Truth/Being: the ParamaShiva). The elements of puja are listed below.
The pots are filled with walnuts and water.
|*Omanand Koul is a Kashmiri from Anantnag, a graduate of the Banaras Hindu University, and a professor at the University Of Massachusetts, Worcester(USA).|
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