Kashmiri Pandits living across Kashmir celebrated Hehrath, the Shivratri festival. Unlike the rest of the mainland, the festival is strictly personal and rituals take place at home. On Sunday, Pandit families received their relatives and friends who had come to congratulate them for the festival.

“Right now we are only 705 families who have not migrated from Kashmir,” Pandit leader Sanjay Tickoo said. “There has not been any change in the fundamentals of the festival.” Besides, there are 1857 Pandits who live in the transit camps after they were employed by the state government in a special drive. Most of them do not have their families along with .

Tickoo said the celebrations of this festivals is one of the many things that distinguish from their counterparts living in the mainland India. “We do not go to the temples for puja, we restrict it within out own homes,” he said. The base of the festival is the Puja of walnut. An even number of wanut is immersed in a tumbler for four days and hymens are recited. It is then retrived and distributed among relatives and friends. “We do the puja of walnut simply because the fruit looks like a globe and that its 4-part kernel represent four directions and four Vedas on which Hinduism is based.”

Chuni Lal, another Pandit leader said the main puja of the festival is somehow attached to snow, rain or a drizzle. “In 1819 Aghan governor Jabar Khan banned the festival on the day it was to celebrated and shifted the date to June,” Lal said. “When the Puja started in June as per the Farman of the ruler, it snowed heavily.” Last evening, Lal said there was slight drizzle in Srinagar. The festivals falls somewhere in between February and March.

Manohar Lalgami, a journalist said they faced no problem in managing whatever they required. “Authorities kept almost everything available including fish, mutton and vegetables,” Lalgami, who lives in Sheikhpora said. “I had my guests from my villages who had come for Mubarak, a tradition that still survives in Kashmir.”

Pandit leaders said though the fundamentals are same, they have many things that distinguish them from their counterparts in the rest of India. One of them is how the Shivratri is being celebrated. “It is highly personal,” Tickoo said.

“Rituals in celebrations can in all the 270 Surnames that make the Pandit community.” While in certain cases, they may cook mutton, some stay with fish and there are people who simply do not interact with others for two days. In the mainland, however, this festival is being celebrated by having formal functions in the temples.


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