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Punn Ceremony

Our Cultural Heritage

Piyaray Lal Raina

Aug 31, 2000

This year the "Punn" ceremony falls on Saturday, September 2. It is a very auspicious day for the worship of Lord Ganesha. The following is a detailed account of this ceremony in Kashmir and its link to Hindus in Maharashtra. I hope it is beneficial for our younger generation.

            Kashmiri Pandits have a special place for Lord Ganesha being the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati. He has been blessed by no less than Lord Shiva Himself as "Siddhi Daata" (one whose worship guarantees success). Among the deities that we worship He is to be worshipped as the first deity "Ganadipati" (leader of all deities) and "Vigneshaya" (remover of all obstacles). According to Ganesh Purana, the fourth day of the bright half of every lunar month is called `Siddhi Vinayak Chaturthi'. The fourth day of Bhadrapad Shukla (bright half) chaturthi is known as MahaSiddhi Vinayak Chaturthi ( as it is on this day that Parvati, spouse of Lord Shiva, created Ganesha for her protection). When this chaturthi falls on Tuesday or Saturday it is termed as Varad Chaturthi or Shiva Chaturthi and its importance is enhanced.

            We observe this great arrival of Lord Ganesha for 10 days from Chaturthi to Chaturdashi by preparing "Roth" (sweet thick pancakes fried in ghee) and "Laddoos" from wheat flour. On this day the ladies of the household get up early in the morning, take a bath and then get to the business of preparing roths at a specially cleaned up space. First of all, roth's made from  1¼  kg of wheat flour mixed with ¼ quantity of sugar are rolled and fried in boiling ghee. These are kept apart as Lord Ganesha's Prasad along with few Ladoo's prepared out of above material. Then additional roths are prepared for all family members, daughters' family, close relatives, and neighbors.

            After the roth preparation is completed, a metallic pot (gadda) is placed at a specially cleaned up place as a symbol of Lord Ganesha. A mixture of green grass, barley, and flowers is prepared in a thali. A small quantity of above mixture is put in the pot. Then it is tied with mavli (narivan) round its neck and using sindur tika "Om" in hindi is painted on this pot. Some milk and a coin are also placed in this pot.

            The ladies of the house put a small thread made from raw cotton (hence the name Punn) by an unmarried girl by the side of their `athahore' or `dejahore'.

            All the family members assemble near this place of worship where the pot has been decorated. A sindur tika is applied on the forehead and the senior household lady places the mixture prepared in the thali in the hands of all the members and gives blessings for their welfare.

            Everybody takes a seat and then senior lady of the house or somebody she chooses recites a story of Bib Dharam Maej which is as follows:

            A long, long time ago there lived a king happily with his family somewhere in India. Once when he was on a hunting trip he happened to see a brahman with a sindur tilak on his forehead and Narivan on his right wrist. The brahman offered some `prashad' to the king. The king got inquisitive and wanted to go to place of worship where the lady of the house, Bib Dharam Maej, applied some sindur tilak on the kings forehead and tied a narivan on his wrist for his welfare. When king returned home, his wife suspected him of marrying some other woman (Ghandar Vivah) and got angry with him. The king narrated to her what had happened but she wouldn't listen and removed the tika from his forehead and the nirvan from his wrist. Soon after neighboring king invaded their kingdom and the king was taken as a prisoner. His wife and daughter ran away in disguise and lived a life of misery in another kingdom. They worked in a horse stable in the kings palace. One year on the day of Siddhi Vinayak chaturthi, Lord Ganesha's pooja was being offered in the palace and this lady was also invited for the function. When she saw all this she came to realize that her husband was telling the truth and felt guilty for bringing all the misery to her husband and her family. She decided to perform this pooja for Lord Ganesha and ask for His forgiveness. But she had no resources to buy all the ingredients required for the pooja. She didn't lose heart. She was determined to seek forgiveness from Lord Ganesha. The mother and daughter collected some barley from the stable by washing horse dung and after grinding it prepared some roth's by baking them in the hot desert sand. They offered sincere prayers to Lord Ganesha and soon the roth's turned into gold.

            Afraid they might be charged for stealing gold, they presented these gold roth's to the king. The king asked them for their real identity. On hearing their story, the king felt it his duty to help them regain their kingdom and get the king released. He attacked their former kingdom and got back the king and his family together.

            Ever since that year, the kings' family observed this Bib Dharam Maej's day and lived happily ever after.
(End of Story)

            After this story is narrated and listened to by all the family members with full devotion, some prayers are offered to Lord Ganesha and then everybody puts the mixture of grass, barley, and flowers, that has been in their hands all along the narration, into the decorated pot (symbolizing Lord Ganesha). Roth's are now distributed to all the family members along with a cup of `Kahwa' tea. On the same or next day, roth's are distributed among daughters' family, relatives, and neighbors. This distribution has to take placed before Chaturdashi.

            Sometimes it is not possible to perform this pooja during the ten days period as stated earlier. In this case, the function is performed on chaturdashi called as `Annth Chaturdashi' (14th day of the lunar fortnight)

            Coinciding with our Punn ceremony, Maharashtrian Hindus perform Ganesh pooja in a big way during these days. Ganesh idols made of clay are purchased by every household. These idols are worshipped for 36 hr up to a maximum of 10 days. The whole community celebrates this festival by erecting special pandals where a big Ganesha idols are installed and pooja is performed three times a day along with fanfare. On chaturdashi i.e. 10th day, processions are taken from all neighborhoods for immersion of the Ganesha idols in the rivers and other water bodies and that brings the ten-day festivities to an end. The state comes to a standstill during these 10 days and schools and establishments close to allow people to participate in this grand function.

            The best artists of the state of Maharashtra prepare thousands of beautiful idols of Lord Ganesha. However, the idols prepared by the artisans of the village of 'Pen' near city of Pune are considered to be superior and more religious. This may indicate our strong links with Hindus from Maharashtra (who are also Saraswat Brahmans). The word "Punn" we use for the ceremony may have links with the idols of the village `Pen' that is special in Maharashtra. Another observation regarding this pooja is that Ganesh pooja is common to Kashmiri and Maharashtrian Hindus. It is also to be noted that unlike Maharashtra, Kashmir was never a cotton growing area. It could be that the `Punn' ceremony has come to Kashmir through Saraswat Brahmans of Maharashtra.

Kashmiri Writers P.L. Raina

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