of Nilmat Purana
are a treasure house of knowledge of our past. They shed light on different
customs and rituals that were observed by the Hindus at different places
and different times of the year. Puranas are many in number and have been
written in Sanskrit. There are eighteen Puranas and an equal number of up-Puranas.
old. It also means a story of the ancient times. Puranas deal with the
creation and destruction of the universe, with the lives of Saints and
Sages, with the dynasties of Kings, with the importance of Gods and Goddesses,
places of pilgrimage, rivers and rivulets, with festivals, customs and
rituals etc, prevalent among the Hindus in olden times. So Puranas have
a great religious and social significance. They are the explanation of Shastras.
is one of the famous Puranas that deals with the Valley of Kashmir in respect
of its creation, its original inhabitants-Nagas, Pisachas and Brahmins,
their style of living, religion, customs, festivals and topography. It
peeps into the ancient history of Kashmir. It was written by some Kashmiri
Brahman between 6th and 7th century A.D. In all there are 1453 verses in
it. Some verses and parts thereof are missing with the passage of time. Kalhana, the great historian of Kashmir, has taken help from this document
in tracing four Kings- Gonanda I, Damodar, Queen Yashovati and her son
Gonanda II from it.
is named after the King Nila of the Nagar dynasty that ruled Kashmir in
written in the descriptive form wherein two persons converse in question
and answer style and the story is narrated. In Nilmat Puran, King Janmejaya
of the Kuru dynasty asks questions to Vaishampayan the son of Vyas of the
Mahabharat times. The first question put to Vaishampayan was why the King
of Kashmir did not participate in the Mahabharat war. Vaishampayan replies
that Gonanda II was a child those days, so could not take part in the war.
Janmejaya further asks how did the lake Satisar dry and how people settled
there. The author has brought in two more persons in the Puran who also
narrate the story in question- answer form, they are sage Brihdashva and
King Gonanda of Kashmir. Thereafter starts the story of Kashmir. Jalodbhav
demon lived in the waters of Satisar. He terrorised the people and killed
them. King Nila of Kashmir approached his father Sage Kashyapa and requested
him to get rid of the demon. Both approached God Vishnu who ordered Ananta
to break the Himalaya with his plough. Ananta broke the mountain at Khadanyar.
The waters of the lake gushed forth and its bed became visible. Vishnu
caught hold of Jalodbhava and killed him with his chakra. He ordered Nagas
and Pishachas to live in harmony. Brahmins and other castes of the plains
lived as Gypsies in Kashmir. They stayed in the Valley for six months of
the Summer and returned to the plains with the setting in of the Winter.
One day Brahmin Chandradeva could not leave Kashmir due to old age and
weakness. He was teased by Pishachas. He approached King Nila for protection
who readily provided it. Then Nila narrated him the way of life of Nagas,
their religion, customs, festivals, the places of worship, rivers and rivulets,
hills and mountains and all about Kashmir. He also granted the Brahmins
and others to settle permanently in Kashmir.
The King Nila
described sixtyfive rituals and festivals which were celebrated by the Nagas, with great devotion, faith, pomp and show. Some of the rituals and
festivals find mention in other Puranas also. Some of these are celebrated
in Kashmir even today. Kaw Poonim and Yaksha Mavas are celebrated in Kashmir
describes in detail which rituals and festivals are to be celebrated on
a particular day of the year. Both men and women participated in them.
They kept fasts, prayed to Gods Vishnu, Shiv, Brahma and Goddesses Parvati,
Laxmi and Saraswati. They sang and danced and enjoyed life to their best
satisfaction. They were freedom loving and happy-go-merry people. The King
also participated in the festivals with his subjects. He looked after the
welfare of the people and provided them guidance. In fact the festivals
and rituals were started by Nila for the prosperity, health and happiness
of his people.
above, there is a list of Sixty-five rituals and festivals in Nilmat Puran.
Here we would make mention of only those rituals (religious practices)
which are observed by the Kashmiri Pandits even today.
literally means sleep with happiness. On Kartika Amavasya all except the
sick and the children keep fast. In the evening Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth
is worshipped. Lamps are placed in temples, on crossings of roads, cremation
grounds, banks of rivers, streams and lakes, hills, houses, at the foot
of trees, cow-sheds, courtyards and shops. Shops are decorated tastefully.
Feast is arranged in the evening in which friends relatives, Brahmins and
servants participate. On the next day people with new clothes on, gamble
and listen to vocal and instrumental music.
is celebrated now as Deepawali and not as Sukhsuptika. Now electric bulbs
illuminate houses, temples, shops courtyards and trees etc. besides the
lamps. Laxmi is worshipped in the evening. Sweets are distributed, crackers
are burst and fire-works illumine the skies.
Nilmat Puran people kept fast on that day and broke it at night after worshipping
the moon with white garlands, eatable offerings. Brahmins also were worshipped.
The Brahmin lady, sisters and the wife of a friend each was to be honoured
with a pair of red clothes.
is celebrated in a different way. Tahar-rice boiled with turmeric, mixed
with oil and salt, is prepared. Pooja is performed, a little Tahar is kept
in an earthen pot and placed on the roof or the uppermost storey of the
house for the house-diety.
We call it
was observed on the twelfth dark day of Magha. Shradha of the dead was
performed with oil and seasame.
Now this ritual
is performed on the eighth dark day of Phalgun. How this change occurred
is not known. On this day Tarpan (Water oblation) is given with seasame
to the dead and a lamp is also lit.
seasame was performed on this day and food was offered to the crows.
Not only food
i.e. boiled rice is placed on Kawpatals (A plate woven of grass around
two twigs placed one on the other at right angles) and is offered to the
crows. Children celebrate this festival with gaiety as they play with Kawpatals
after the boiled rice is eaten away by the crows.
is the most famous and important of all the festivals of Kashmir. It is
celebrated on the dark thirteen of Phalguna. Shivlinga is worshipped with
flowers, incense and milk. All members of the family except the sick and
the children keep fast. Devotional songs are sung. On the 15th dark day,
Shiva is worshipped again and sweet dishes are offered to worshippers and
is celebrated with great devotion, faith and pomp and show now. On 12th
dark day of Phalguna, Wagur (an earthen pot or steel pot now) is brought
to the house. Food is placed into it and is placed on a small circular
asana made of grass. It is supposed to be the Brahmin who has to perform
the marriage ceremony of Shiva with Parvati. Some say that Wagur is Shiva's
messenger to Himalaya for his daughter Parvati's marriage with Shiva. On
the 13th dark day, Watak consisting of big earthen pitcher, two small earthen
pitchers, two smaller earthen pitchers, one elephant trunk shaped figure,
seven bowls are decorated with flowers garlands and sindoor. They represent
Shiva Parvati, Ram Brahmin, Seven Rishis, Ganesa and some other rishis.
Walnuts are washed and placed into the pitchers and seven bowls. Then these
are filled with water, some milk is poured into each one of them. Mishri
(Sugar) is also poured into them. Pooja is started at Pradosh Kala (Dusk).
All the members of the family take part in it. It continues with devotion
and full faith till late in the night. Then fast is broken and boiled rice
with a variety of cooked vegetables is taken. The worship continues, upto
Amavasya and in the evening the Shivratri comes to a close. The walnuts
in the pitchers are taken out and washed, Pooja is performed and the flowers
and other pooja samgri used for worship is immersed into the river, walnuts
are used as prashad and distributed among neighbours and all the relatives.
6. Navsamvatsara (Navreh)
is celebrated on the first bright night of Chaitra. According to the lunar
calendar, it is the first day of the New Year. It is also the first day
of the creation of universe. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are worshipped on
this day. It is also the beginning of Navratras. According to the custom,
a plate (thali) is filled with rice. The following articles are also placed
on the rice (i) milkpot (ii) flowers (iii) walnuts (iv) pen (v) inkpot
(vi) coin or a currency note of any denomination (vii) Panchang of the
new lunar calender year (viii) boiled rice (ix) Sugar or mishri (x) salt (xi) ghee (xii) baked rice flour bread (xiii) wuy a root of some kind of
grass that grows in water and (xiv) picture of Vishnu or Shiva-Parvati.
This plate is filled on the eve of Navreh (Navsamvatsara). Early in the
morning of Navreh, the grandmother or elder lady or mother gets up and
brings this thali for darshan by every member of the family. It is considered
a good omen for the new year. Tahar of the rice is cooked and served after Pooja. Goddess Sharika is worshipped at
Hariparbat. Flowers and Tahar are
offered there. Navratras are celebrated with great devotion and faith.
Goddess Mother is worshipped in homes and temples. Wye and kernels of walnuts
are taken by every member of the family before taking any other thing in
It is the ninth
bright day of Chaitra. Goddess Bhadrakali is worshipped. Fast is also kept.
Navratras come to an end on this day. It is celebrated in the whole of
northern India as Rama Navami.
is a famous temple about eight kilometers to the west of Handwara (Dist. Kupwara) on a hilltop in a thick forest of
Devdars. There is a statue of
Bhadrakali which is worshipped on Chaitra Navmi.
It was celebrated
on the eleventh bright night of Chaitra. Grehdevta (House-deity) was worshipped
and offerings were made to Him for the protection, prosperity and health
of the family. Now this festival is celebrated only on Tuesday or Saturday
of the dark night days of Pausa. Gadabatta (cooked fish with boiled rice)
is offered to the house-deity after performing Pooja.
birthday is celebrated on the eighth dark night day of Bhadrapada with
great devotion and faith. Fast is kept and broken at the rise of the moon.
Temples are decorated and people in large numbers go there to perform pooja.
Dark half fortnight
or Ashwin is celebrated as Pitra Paksha in memory of the dead ones of the
family and maternal side. Fast is kept, shradha Kriya is performed. Brahmins
are offered food, fruit and clothes etc. It is also known as Kambirpach.
In olden days,
Goddess Durga was worshipped in the evening. Arms and weapons were also
worshipped. Shanti was worshipped too. Now the practice of worshipping
arms and ammunition has stopped. Only Goddess Durga is worshipped at Hariparbat,
Durganag and Akingam.
This day is
celebrated on the eighth bright half of Bhadrapada. Goddess Uma (Parvati)
and Ashoka tree are worshipped. Nowadays only Goddess Uma is worshipped.
A Yagna is performed each year on this day at Umanagri (Utrasoo), Distt.
Anantnag, where there is a famous temple of Uma. Fast is observed and prayers
This is observed
on the thirteenth bright half of Bhadrapada as the birthday of the Vitasta
river (Jhelum). After bathing in the river, the pilgrims worship Vltasta
at Shadipora (confluence of Vitasta and Sindhu). Now this festival is observed
at Vethvothur near Verinag (Dist: Anantnag) Pilgrims take bath in the holy
spring of Vethvothur and worship the idols of Vitasta and Parvati. Fast
is also kept. (Vethvothur is considered as the origin of the Vitasta.)
The sixtyfive rituals and festivals have now shrunk to thirteen only. Navhimpatosava
was also observed in the past on the first snowfall of the year.
of rituals is incomplete without fasts, worship and offerings to gods and
goddesses. From Nilmat Puran, we have learnt what food and eatables the
people of Kashmir used to take in those ancient times. Khichri (rice, moong,
pepper, turmerics, salt, ghee or edible oil; with water is cooked to form
Khichri) barley, milk, curd, ghee, honey, grapes, meat, fish, bread, moong
and masoor etc. were used as food items.
of these rituals and festivals speaks of the highly civilized and cultured
Kashmiri society. We are proud of being their progeny and we have tried
to preserve our culture even after facing onslaughts of marauders of Central
and West Asia. We should not give up our festivals and rituals even under
the present trauma. We must not forget our language Kashmiri - because
that gives us our identity. We must propagate it, learn it, speak it and
write it in Devnagri script.