Why is there
need to save our religious traditions?
Piyaray Lal Raina
traditions include all the customs and beliefs that are received from
generation to generation through
literature, or by word of mouth. Some of these traditions shape their origin in
the philosophical thought that has been the endeavor of several generations and
yet some may have their roots in the event in the hoary past which has no
bearing now. No one, however brilliant, or well informed, can come to such
fullness of understanding as to safely judge and dismiss the customs or
intuitions of his society, for these are the wisdom of generations after
centuries of experiment in the laboratory of history. The sanity of the group
lies in the continuity of its traditions. To break sharply with the past is to
court madness that may follow the shock of sudden blows or mutation.”
- Will and Ariel Durant (Lessons of History)
Unlike western societies most of the Hindu
traditions are linked with our religious beliefs. Thus, it is important to
understand our religious philosophy and how our Kashmiri traditions are
different from the rest of the country.
Our Religious Philosophy
Right from Vedic times Sanatana
Dharma developed along two broad traditions known as Shaivism
and Vaishnavism. The main outlines of
these traditions are:
1) Both recognize Supreme Being
as transcendental. While in Shaivism
It is known as Parmshiva,
Vaishnavites recognize It as Brahman
(not to be confused with Brahma)
Manifestation as per Shaivism
takes place through the immanent aspect of Parmshiva
called Shiv-Shakti where Shiv is
passive witness to all that takes place under His orders but Shakti is the
active principle involved in the manifestation process.
Shakti has been given the
feminine form of Durga (with her many
other forms). Vaishnavism
also recognizes that manifestation takes place through the immanent aspect
of Brahman called Ishvara or Hiranyagarbha
2) As per Shaivism,
Durga in Her various forms takes care of the lives of humans(jivas)
whereas in Vaishnavism
trio of gods-Trimurti
(Brahma, Vishnu and Mahash)have been recognized
for creation of jives (Brahma),
maintenance of life(Vishnu) and
dissolution of life at the end of life cycles called epochs (Mahesh
is also known as Shiva or Shanker)
To take care of jivas on this
planet Lord Vishnu takes birth as
Avatar from time to time. Lord Rama,
Lord Krishna are the two Avatars among
the nine who have taken birth so far.
3) Both traditions agree that jivas are held in bondage in this world (samsara) due to their ignorance about their true relationship with
Supreme Being caused by
divine illusion (Maya) which is the cause of repeated births in this samsara.
To get out of this cycle of misery one has to work for salvation (moksha).
While Vaishnavites focus on
carrying out rituals and offering prayers to Lord Vishnu and His Avatars, Shivites
offer their ritualistic worship and prayers to Shiv–Shakti.
Broadly speaking Shaivism is
practiced in Kashmir, Bengal and South Indian States. Vaishnavism is the dominant faith in rest of India.
Our Unique traditions
As a result of our religious
faith, geographical location and long history of about 5000 years our (Kashmiri)
traditions have uniqueness. A few examples are given below:
1) Our family deities (Isht
devas) are various forms of Durga
(Ragnya, Sharika and Jwala ji) The Isht
devtas of Vaishnavites are Lord Rama,
Lord Krishna and other regional deities
Our recitations which we carry out on most of the occasions are mainly dedicated
to our Isht devi and Her other forms.
Most of these recitations are of local origin and are not recited by non-
Kashmiri Hindus. (e.g. Bhavaninamashasra,
Indrakshi, Panchastavi, Leele rbda etc ; Ganash Stuti -Hemja
stum). Shiv Stuti like
Shivmahimnapar which is universal has
a local touch. We have 35 shlokas whereas out side Kashmir there are only 32 sholokas.
And even among 32 we have 2 different sholakasd. The only prayer for Vishnu
prevalent among Kashmiris i.e. Jai Narayan
is also of local origin not recited by non- Kashmiris.
Vaishnavites carry out
recitations from Ramayana (e.g. Sunder
kand, Hanuman Chalisa), Bhagwat
and Devi stuties from Sunder
Lahri of Adi Shankera
We start our pujas with doop dip puja
which forms the pradhan bhagha (first
step of any puja). This is our local
tradition. Again Prepun which is
extensively used by us at the time of offering bhoga (Prasad) is purely a Kashmiri tradition. Again we celebrate
our birthday with a
puja dedicated to our 8 rishis. Non-Kashmiri
Hindus do not have any birthday puja
as a tradition.
we offer extensive prayers to Lord Shiv -Shakti along with
Vatuknath Bhairwa (the highest
being next to Shiva- Shakti) for days together. The Vaishnavite do not follow this tradition. Vaishnavite Bhairva
is a malicious being who if ignored can create obstacles in their worship.
We celebrate Janam
Ashtami as Zarm Satam, one
day before Vaishnavites celebrate it as Lord Ksishnas birthday. Same is the case with Shivratri.
Celebrations like Kawpunim
Khicri Amavas, are our historical links with the past. We enjoy
preparations made on these occasions.
universal among Hindus has developed a local tradition which involves not only
extensive ritualistic puja carried
over several days but also heavy expenditure. It is a small time function among Vaishnavites usually
carried out for
group of boys at teenage or along with marriage of boy.
Our death rituals (Antyeshti) are very elaborate which involves extensive rituals on
the day of death and again on 10, 11 and 12 day after death. Even Social customs
associated with death are lengthy.
We do not celebrate Divali, or Holi with the
same enthusiasm as is being done by Vaishnavites. It is not a Shivite tradition.
10) Even in the recitation of
Bhagwadgita which is universal
we have our way of recitation on occasions like Yagnopavit
and death rituals
These are some of the differences which mark uniqueness of our traditions.
Post migration dilemma
The loss of interest in our religious traditions started while we all lived
happily in Kashmir, which was partly due to lack of real knowledge behind
our traditions and partly due to
the fact that we had left performance of our religious rituals to our priest
class without ever bothering to understand the rationale behind their performance.
Post migration we got scattered into various Diasporas all over India mostly
in Vaishnavite lands. Our priests had
already started getting their
children trained into various lucrative professions. After migration the
existing ones settled mostly around Jammu. Thus, most of our diasporas who had
settled at places like Delhi,
Gurgaon, Noida, Faridabad, Pune,
Bombay, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Dehradun and other places are left without the services of
priests. Since our
traditions are unique to us the local priests are not able to perform our
rituals to our satisfaction. Hence, when need arises on occasions such as
marriage or yagnopavit
ceremony or the cremation
of a dear one, we search all
corners to find a Kashmiri priest who, as a matter of supply and demand,
raises his fees to unaffordable levels for a common man The community needs to find out a way to preserve out
We have to bring awareness among our community members, especially the
younger generation, about our religious philosophy and our traditions. Although
we have many scholars in our community yet they have not paid enough attention
to writing about our religious traditions. A lot has been written about Kashmir
Shaivism but it is not part of our religious traditions. Kashmir Shaivism
is a philosophic concept of our relationship with god and does not guide us in
the performance of these traditions. Our priests have produced a few booklets
about performance of rituals but they lack background knowledge.
2) Karmkanda, which is a guide book
for performance of our rituals, needs to be updated from time to time, keeping
in view the needs of the
group of people who follow it. It is regional in nature
. Our Karmkanda was written
centuries back which not available now. Our present priests have preserved parts
of relevant portions for carrying out our Samaskaras.
In the present age one does not have time and patience to carry out long and
unintelligible rituals, especially when even the priests are not available. We
have to rewrite our karmkanda, as is
being done by other Hindu communities, and make it brief.
3) Our seniors have to take out some time off to learn how to carry out our
less important rituals. We may avail of the services of trained priests for
carrying out major religious functions such as vivah,yagnopavit, yagnya
pujas like birthday, Shivratri
Punn, bhumipujan greh pravesh are simple
and can be performed by seniors ea,
or at one house if available, and
learn to carry out recitations like Bhawaninamashasra,
Indrakshi, Panchastavi ,
Shivmahimnapar and other stuties. It could be like a kitty party with the service of prashad
4) We need to train priests preferably from our own community. To attract
people we must provide for their training, residence in the locality where they
serve and adequate assured income to meet their financial needs. This can be
done by regular contributions from the community who avail of their services. We
had this tradition in our villages when they were paid a part of the harvested
crop along with other service providers like barbers carpenters etc.
Our priests were part of family who were consulted not only for carrying
out rituals but acted as family astrologers as well.
5) We should try to create Mrityuo Samgri Bhandars (materials needed for cremation of dead
person) in the localities where we
live. It was our tradition back home in Kashmir and has been preserved
in some localities in Jammu and even outside J&K state. A death
in a home brings lot of grief and tension.
A little help from community members is a great encouragement. The cost
of these materials is meager but
inconvenience in finding them, especially in our new surroundings, is great.
6) Setting up of community centers. There are reserved places in many new
developments for construction
of temples which act as community centers. The land offered is at cheap rates.
Funding for payment of land and building can be met with donations from
residents of locality, especially from those who are well off.
* The author is a great devotee of Karuna Mai Maa - a Kashmiri saint who has
established an Ashram at Sohna Gurgaon where all Kashmiri religious practices
are followed. He has written a voluminous book on Kashmiri traditions entitled
“Socio- Cultural and Religious Traditions of Kashmiri Pandits published in
USA. He is President of Samarpan Public Charitable Trust (Regd) which is
dedicated to bringing awareness of KP traditions among youth, rewriting of Karmkanda
and setting up of centers for learning of KP religious traditions. He lives in
Gurgaon and USA and can be approached through mail (pl_raina @ yahoo.com or
phone 9868402999 in India.