Herath

By Shah Faesal

Kashmiri Pandit family celebrating Herath. (Photo courtesy: Web)
Kashmiri Pandit family celebrating Herath. (Photo courtesy: Web)

When it rained yesterday, it was as if nature had kept its promise. Faith won over the forecast. Very unusual in this age.

Our ancient-wisdom says that it always rains or snows on Herath (Shivrathri) – the moonless night when Kashmiris celebrate Lord Shiva’s wedding to goddess Parvati.

And during the reign of Jabbar Khan, an Afghan ruler, when Herath was by a royal fiat postponed to Summertime, Kashmir witnessed unexpected midsummer snow, thus remembered:

Wuchtan ye Jabbar Janda-Haarus ti korun wanda“(Look at this awful Jabbar. He turned summer into winter). Hearath-the surprise in Persian – so goes the legend.

On Herath, as a child I remember, we used to scoop hardened fresh-snow from white heaps in the garden and sweeten it with sugar crystals to celebrate the bonds of brotherhood and communal harmony. I do not belong to the age of ‘soaked walnuts’, as Kashmiri Pandits had already left Sogam Lolab by the time my father taught me to break a walnut by crushing it in the door-hinge.

Kashmir didn’t get snow-rich this winter, as if nature is upset with us. The first blossoms of Baid-Mushk have begun to wrinkle and the tulips are likely to bloom ahead of the season. The word is “Divath“, translated as bliss. When a person or place is not at peace with itself, we call it “Divath wathen“- flight of bliss. While we are busy looking for the missing graves we need as much to look for our missing groves- what Lawrence calls “Brotherhood of Trees”- the upset mother nature – if we want the Divath back, the friend that has not been talking to us for last few years now.

Nature has been keeping its promise always. Around September, deep inside the heart of the earth are born ‘Fug ta Mug‘, twin-spirits of autumn equinox in Kashmir when the sun crosses the equator. They are messengers of winter and soon afterwards Kashmir starts getting cold. We might have forgotten their birthday but they are selflessly and quietly born and reborn every year.

In the month of April, on the annual Urs of Sheikh Dawood Sahib at Ziyarat Batamalu, we get to witness sudden windstorms, while garlands of dried-turnip are brought down from attics, cooked and fed to guests. This is one more time when nature comes out like a whirling darvish through the streets of Srinagar. We witness it or not, that is our failing. Winds keep the promise made to willow trees.

As a lover of Kashmir, I pray that the old days return, Shiva comes home and the mountains regain their snow-turbans. White Dastar (turban) used to be a sign of nobility and prosperity in Kashmir, says Ayaz Rasool Nazki, and when people abandoned it, mountains went bareheaded as well.

I wish a blessed Mahashivrathri to all and am signing off with a short- poem titled Baid-Mushk.

Baid Mushk

Look up to the sky, and walk.
Listen to the stream, and walk.

The mileposts are gone.
Last patch of dirty snow in the corner has melted.
Peach grafts on plum trees are happy,
And clay-seals are wet.
Spring has, like a henna artist,
painted the fingertips of willow trees mauve.
Stranger vine has raised its tendrils.
Wounds are fresh again.
The woods are near.
Just look up to the sky and walk.
Listen to the stream, and walk.
The pyramids of saucer-like stones,
Standing like Stupas in wilderness.
And the scent of the muskdeer.
And the curls of the eatable fern.
Are good omens.
The woods are rich.
And the wisdom, fortune and hope are near.
The winter carrying its crucible of white-pain is also around.
The wounds might heal.
Just look up to the sky, and walk.
Listen to the stream and walk.

(The author is 2010 IAS topper and presently Director Education Kashmir)

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