Aspects of Kashmiri Pandit Culture
Kashmiri Pandits have been
a profoundly religious people; religion
has played a pivotal role in shaping their customs, rituals, rites, festivals
and fasts, ceremonies, food habits and the worship of their deities. Kashmir is
widely known as the birth-place of ‘Kashmir Shaivism’ – a philosophy
expounding the unity of Shiva and Shakti. Hence, Shaiva, Bhakti and Tantra
constitute the substratum of the ritualistic worship of Kashmiri Pandits on
which the tall edifice of the worship of Vishnu
(Krishna and Ram), Lakshmi and Saraswati, and a host of other deities has been
Kashmir has also been a great
centre of learning for
several centuries. It has
been a major centre of Buddhist learning for nearly a millennium during
which period a sizeable number
of revered Kashmiri Buddhist
scholars travelled as far as Sri Lanka in the South and Tibet and China in the
North. The contribution of these scholars commands a place of pride in the
extant Buddhist philosophy. Unfortunately, this tradition was brought to an
almost abrupt end by the Pathan and Mongol invaders in the 14th century
Though the advent of Islam
produced a clash
of civilizations, it also brought
into being a
‘composite culture’ in which saintly figures (Rshi, Pir, Mot, Shah)
came to be revered and respected equally by the polytheistic Hindu as well as
the monotheistic Muslim .
This journey through over
three millennia has shaped the cultural moorings
of the Kashmiri Pandit (KP hereafter) and provided him with a vast corpus of
impressions and expressions, which have given him a distinct cultural identity.
Today the KP is on the
crossroads, bewildered and baffled,
homeless and nameless. His progeny is in a flux, unsure of its morrow and
unaware of the traditions that its forefathers held dear to their hearts.
This paper records some of the major socio-cultural
beliefs, traditions, customs and festivals of the KP with the hope that
the younger KP generation will know, learn, and comprehend the essence of
KP culture which evolved long periods of
peace and turmoil.
Festivals and Fasts
break the monotony of everyday work and provide
the members of a community with an opportunity to feel cheerful, happy and
relaxed. Hindu festivals have a deep spiritual import and religious significance
and have also a social and hygienic element in them. On festival days people
take an early morning bath and pray and meditate which gives them peace of mind
and a new vigour.
In their lunar calendar, KPs
observe a number of festivals and fasts,
most of which fall in the dark fortnight
(Krishna paksh). The
eighth (ashtami), eleventh (ekadashi) and
fifteenth (Amavas/ Purnima) days of both dark as well as bright
fortnights, and the 4th day of the
dark fortnights (Sankat Chaturthi) are considered so auspicious that people
would observe fast on these days.
KP new-year (Navreh)
begins on the first day of the bright fortnight of the month of Chaitra. On the
eve of Navreh, a thali full
of rice is decorated with fresh flowers,
currency notes, pen and inkpot, curds, figurine/picture of a deity and (dry)fruits.
Early in the morning, the one who wakes up first (usually the lady of the
house), sees this thali as the first object in the New Year and then
takes it to all other members of the family, wakes them up to enable them to see
the decorated thali before seeing anything
else. This signifies a wish and hope that the new year would bring wisdom and
blessing to every member of the family
all through the year.
On the 3rd
day of Navreh, the community members go out to nearby parks, temples, or
outing spots to enable people to meet each other after
nearly four months of snowy-winter. It is a social
gathering where men, women and children put on their best attire to get
ready for the new year chores. The eighth and the ninth days of the same
fortnight are observed as Durga Ashtami and Ram Navami respectively. The
fortnight marks the beginning of Spring, an important
junction of climatic and solar influences. Durga Ashtami is celebrated to
propitiate Shakti to seek her blessing and mercy. The
eighth day of the dark fortnights of the Zyeshth and Ashar months are
also celebrated with great devotion, when people throng the Rajnya temple at
Tulumula (Gandarbal), and Akingam, Lokutpur (Anantnag) to pray and worship Maa
day of the bright fortnight of the Ashara
month is specially dedicated to Jwalaji, the Goddess of fire. People in large
numbers go to Khrew, 20 kms. from
Srinagar and offer yellow rice and lamb’s lung to the Goddess.
Purnima of the Shravana month
is the day of Lord Shiva. On this day
pilgrims reach the holy Amarnath cave to have a
‘darshan’ of the holy ice-lingam. People also go to Thajivor (near Bijbehara)
to pray at the ancient Shiva temple there.
The sixth day of the dark
fortnight of Bhadrapada is sacred to
women. On this day, known as Chandan
Shashthi, women observe a dawn to dusk fast and bathe sixty times during the
The eighth day of the dark
fortnight of Bhadrapada is celebrated as the birthday of Krishna, the 8th
incarnation of Lord Vishnu. On this day people sing in daintly decorated temples
prayer songs in admiration of Lord Krishna. They do not eat solid food till
The Amavasya of the same
fortnight is called Darbi Mawas.
On this day the family Guru (purohit) brings ‘Darab’, a special kind
of grass, which is tied to the main
entrance of the house.
The Ashtami of the bright half
of Bhadrapada is known as Ganga Ashtami. On this day people
go on a pilgrimage to Gangabal.
The 14th day of the same fortnight is
called ‘Anta Chaturdashi’. On
this day the family purohit brings‘anta’ a special
thread which married women wear along with 'atûhór', a threaded
bunch of silk tied to one’s ear. The ‘anta’ is cleaned and worshipped like
a 'Janev', the sacred thread worn by men. The 4th
day of this fortnight
is dedicated to Vinayak, the son of Shiva. Families
prepare special sweet rotis known as 'pan' on this day or during
the remaining days of this fortnight. When the'pan' is ready, it
is worshipped and the tale of its origin is recited by the eldest member of the
family. The rotis are distributed among the neighbours and relations as 'pan
The dark half
of Asoj is the fortnight of ancestors, pitra paksh (kàmbûri
pachh). During this fortnight people pay
homage to their dead parents, grandparents, great grandparents by performing
Shraadha and giving away rice, money, fruits, clothes and other things to the
Mahanavami and Dussehra,
marking Lord Rama’s victory over the demon Ravana, fall on the 9th
and 10th days of the bright half of
Asoj. Episodes from Ramayana are enacted during this period.
Diwali, the festival of
lights, falls on the14th day of the
dark half of the Kartika month. All the corners, windows, balconeys and eddies
of the house are illuminated with lights. It is also believed that Lord Rama
returned to Ayodhya on this day and Lord Krishna killed the demon Narakasura;
hence, this day symbolizes the triumph of good over evil.
The third day of the bright
half of Magara month is celebrated as the day
of the ‘Guru’ (Guru tritya). Before the advent of Islam in Kashmir,
scholars were awarded degrees to honour
their academic achievements on this day (a precursor to present-day
convocations). On this day, the family purohit brings a picture of Goddess
Saraswati for a new-born baby or a new daughter-in-law in the family. On the
Purnima of the same fortnight
yellow rice (tåhår) is prepared early in the
morning and served as prasad to children and adults in the family.
During the dark half of
the month of Posh, the deity of the house is propitiated for seeking his
blessings. The deity (dayút) is served rice and cooked and raw fish on
any chosen day between the 1st and
the fourteenth of the fortnight. On the day of the feast, called 'gàdû batû'
, fish and rice is placed in the
uppermost storey of the house late in the evening for the dayút who is
expected to shower blessings on the
The Amawasya of the same
fortnight is the auspicious day of 'khétsí
màvas', when rice mixed with moong beans
and other cereals is cooked in the evening to please the 'yaksha' (yóchh) so
that he casts no evil on the members of the family. The 'cereal-rice' (yéchhû
tsót) is placed at so a spot outside the house, believed to be the
day of the dark half of the month of Marga is observed as the death anniversary
of Mata Roopabhawani and the 11th day
of the same fortnight is observed as Bhimsen ekadashi.
It is believed, that from this day the earth begins to warm up and snow
starts melting. The purnima of this month is celebrated as Kaw purnima (kàv
pûním), that is crow’s purnima. On this
day, the cup of a laddle like object,
'kàvû pôtúl' - crow’s idol (a square front cup made of hay with a
willow handle) is filled with a little rice and vegetables and the children of
the family are made to go to the upper storey of the house and invite crows to
the feast. The children invite the crows thus :
"Crow pandit-crow, cereal- rice crow
Gangabal, bath meditation having done,
to our new
house, to eat cereal-rice"
Shivratri (herath) is
the most auspicious KP festival. Beginning on the first day of the dark half of
Phalgun, its celebration continues for twenty three days till the 8th
day of the bright half of the same month.
During this period the house is cleaned thoroughly for getting it ready for the
marriage of Shiva and Parvati on the 13th
day of the dark fortnight.
is the wedding night when watukh, Shiva in bachelor as well as in
bridegroom forms, is worshipped along with the bride Parvati, Kapaliks,
Shaligram till late in the night. Watukh, that is, ‘Shiva’s marriage
party, is worshipped for four days, upto the 1st day of the bright half
of the month. On this day, watukh is cleaned (parmùzún / parimarjan) of
all the flower
petals etc. at a tap in the compound of the house. Then it is taken back into
the house where the eldest lady of the house bolts the entrance-door from
inside. The members carrying the watukh knock at the door and the following
exchange of words takes place :
At the end of the watakh
puja Shivratri prasad in the form of kernels of walnut and roti made
from rice flour is distributed amongst neighbours and relatives. The
distribution of the prasad is completed before the 8th
day of the bright half.
day of the bright fortnight marks the beginning of sònth (Spring). On
the eve of sònth, a thali full of rice is decorated as on the
new-year eve to be seen as the first thing on the morning of ekadashi.
Rituals and Rites
domestic rites and rituals among the Hindus are popularly known as Karma
and Sanskara. In the form of Karmas they are cherished as programmes of
duty to be observed by all householders and as Sanskaras, these enable the
devotee to make their observance rhythmical. The rites and rituals serve the
external and internal modes of purity (shrùts).
Together they constitute certain ceremonies beginning with the Garbhadhaana
or the rite of impregnation and ending with the anteshti or the funeral
rite including Shraddha. These can be divided into pre-natal, natal,
post-natal, prenuptial, nuptial, post-nuptial, pre-obituary, obituary, and
Hindu marriage is not a social
contract but a religious institution, a
sacrament in which besides the bride and the groom, there is a spiritual or
divine element on which the permanent relationship between the husband and the
wife depends. The husband and the wife are responsible not only to each other,
they also owe allegiance to the divine element. This mystic aspect of Hindu
marriage necessitates a number of
symbols. The marriage creates a new bond between the bride and the groom. They
have to rear up this union by dedicating their
entire energy in the direction of their common interest and ideal.
Marriage is possible only between those families
which have had no kinship for seven generations on the paternal side and four
generations on the maternal side. Once the boy and the girl consent to join as
man and wife in a life-long bond, their parents meet in a temple in the company
of the middleman (if there is any) and some select family members from both the
sides to vow that they would join the two families in a new bond of kinship
This ritual is known as kasam
dríy. This is followed by a formal engagement ceremony (tàkh) in
which some members of the groom’s family and relatives visit the bride’s
place to partake of a rich feast. The party brings a Saree and some ornaments,
which the bride is made to wear by her would
be sister-in-law. During this ceremony, the two parties exchange flowers and vow
to join the two families through wedlock. A younger brother
or sister of the bride accompanies the groom’s party
with a gift of clothes for the groom.
After this function the two
families begin to make preparations for the marriage ceremony which is held an
some auspicious day after consulting a purohit.
Several rituals are associated
with marriage whose observance begins nearly a week before the wedding day. The
bride’s family begins with what is known as 'garnàvay' (literally: get madeup)
when the hair of the bride are let loose. This is followed by 'sàtû mänz'
(first henna or auspicious henna) when henna is applied to the bride and the
groom by their respective mothers and aunts. These rituals are attended by near
relatives and neighbours. 'mänzíràt' (henna night) is the first major event
when all the relatives-men, women and children in the extended families assemble
at the girl’s and the boy’s respective places. This is a night of much
rejoicing and feasting. The evening meal is followed by a series of ceremonial
acts. Henna is pasted on the hands and feet of the bride and the groom in their
respective places and almost every young boy and all women and girls paste henna
on their hands and elderly women sing traditional songs. Before pasting henna,
maternal aunt (maami) washes the feet and hands of the bride and the groom, and
the paternal aunt (bua) applies henna, and the maternal aunt (maasi) burns
incence to ward off evil. Meanwhile women, girls and boys sing traditional
ditties as well as popular songs appropriate to the occasion.
While the singing, & henna
pasting is on, the bride as well as the groom are given a 'kaní shràn'
(thorough bath) by aunts and sisters-in-law to prepare them for 'dívgòn', the
entrance of Devtas. After the ceremonial bath, the boy and the girl wear clothes
brought by their respective maternal uncles. The bride is made to wear 'déjíhòr'
- a gold ornament, and 'kalpùsh' -a variety of headgear.
'déjíhòr' is tied to a gold
chain known as ‘'ath' which is provided by the groom’s family on the wedding
day to complete the holy alliance between Shiva - the groom, and Parvati - the
'dívgòn' is the religious
ritual performed after the bath. The family purohit performs a small yajna on
this occasion. 'dívgòn', it is believed, transforms the bride and the groom
On the wedding day, the groom
wears a colourful dress with a saffron-coloured turban on his head. He is made
to stand on a beautifully made 'vyùg' (rangoli) in the front compound of the
house where parents, relatives and friends put garlands made of fresh plucked
flowers, of cardamom and currency notes round the groom’s neck. A cousin holds
a flower-decked umbrella to protect the groom against evil. Conch-shells are
blown, ditties are sung and the groom’s party moves towards the bride’s
place usually in cars and other modes of transport.
Conch-shells announce the arrival of the groom and his party at the bride’s
place where the lane leading to the main entrance to the house is beautifully
decorated with colourful flowers and dyed saw-dust. Upon entering the compound
of the bride’s house, the groom is welcomed by traditional songs sung by the
bride’s relations. He is put on a rangoli where the bride draped in a
colourful silk Saree is made to stand beside him on his left side. There is
another round of garlanding from the girl’s relatives. Then the mother of the
bride comes with a thali of small lighted lamps made of kneaded rice flour and
an assortment of sweets and makes the groom and the bride eat from the same
piece of sweet a couple of times. After this the bride is taken back into the
house and the groom is made to stand at the main door of the house for a short 'dvàr
pùzà' (door prayers). The groom’s party joins the bride’s relatives in a
very rich feast. Meanwhile the bride and the groom are seated in a beautifully
decorated room for a series of rituals and ceremonies amidst chanting of
Sanskrit mantras for several hours with little breaks in between. During these
ceremonies, the bride is supported by her maternal uncle. The purohits of the
two families recite mantras and make the bride, groom and their parents to
perform a number of rituals with fire (agni) as the witness. The boy and the
girl take seven rounds of the agni-kund (spring of fire) and vow to live
together in prosperity and adversity, in joy as well as in sorrow, till they are
separated by death. 'lågûn', as this ceremony is called, is followed by 'pòshû
pùzà' (showering of flowers) in which a red shawl is spread over the bride and
the groom, held at four edges by four people, and amidst recitation of shlokas
all the elderly people shower flowers on the two ‘devtas’. After this
ceremony the bride and the groom are taken to the kitchen and made to eat from
the same plate.
A 'vyùg' (rangoli) is laid in
the compound and the bride and the groom stand on it. Now the bride joins the
groom to the groom’s place where yet another rangoli is laid and the bride and
the groom are made to stand on it. Here the groom’s party relaxes and the
bride is made to wear'ath'', the gold chain which is attached to 'déjíhòr'.
Her hair and head-gear 'tarûngû' are tied and she is made to wear a saree
given to her by the groom’s family.
After this they return to the
bride’s place with a small party comprising the groom’s father, brothers,
sisters, brothers-in-law, and a couple of friends. As a member of her new
family, she is now a guest at her parent’s place. The groom’s party asks the
bride’s parents to send her (the bride) to her family (the in-laws). After a
little tea, the party leaves for the groom’s place. A younger
brother/sister/cousin of the bride accompanies the party to the groom’s place.
On the next day or a couple of days later depending upon the mahoorat
(auspicious day), the newly married couple visit the wife’s parents. This
visit is known as 'satràt' or 'phírsàl'. Upon reaching the wife’s
parent’s place, the man and wife are welcomed with 'àlat' - a thali with
water, rice, coins and flowers.
The nuptials in their utterances, promises, and hopes symbolize a great social
transition in the life of the bride and the bridegroom. They have to earn their
own livelihood, procreate children and discharge their obligations towards Gods,
parents, children and other creatures of the world. The nuptial ceremonies these
address all aspects of married life: biological, physical, and mental.
During the first year after
marriage the girl’s parents send gifts to the groom’s place on a number of
occasion in the form of cash, clothes, sweets, fruits, & cooked food. Gifts
are sent on the birthdays of the groom, the bride & groom’s parents;
prasad in the form of wanlnuts and baked bread etc. on Shivratri (hèrats bòg),
fruits, sweets etc. on Janamashtami and Diwali; 'pôlàv' etc. on 'khétsí màvas';
During the month of Magar a special ceremony known as 'shíshúr' is solemnized
when the bride is provided with a special 'kàngûr'-a brazier used during
winter, and 'shíshúr' (til seeds wrapped in a piece of silk) is tied on her
upper garment. On this day, near relatives, especially women, of the groom’s
family are invited and the girl’s parents send gifts in the form of clothes,
cash, to their daughter.
During her first pregnancy, the girl’s parents invite her to their home, and
after a little puja, she is made to wear a new headgear 'tarûngû'. Then
accompanied by a sister / cousin, she goes back to her home with milk, clothes,
cash, baked bread & other gifts.
On the seventh day after delivery, the mother and the baby are given a hot bath.
Special vegetarian / non-vegetarian dishes are prepared on the occasion. Pieces
of paper or 'búrzû' (birch bark) are burnt in an earthen plate and circled
thrice round the heads of the mother and the baby to ward off evil. Seven plates
of special food are served to the paternal aunts of the baby. This is
exclusively a women’s ceremony. On this day the mother’s parents send ‘trûy
phót' (wife’s basket) which contains clothes, rotis, sugar, spices, cash for
the newborn, and its parents and grandparents.
This is the religious ceremony of purification. On the 11th day after
childbirth, a small ‘hawan’ is performed in the house and a tilak is applied
on the forehead of the newborn . The baby’s maternal grandparents send clothes
on the occasion. This ends 'hòntsh' (impure effect) in the family.
On the 12th day the baby is put on a rangoli laid in the house-threshold (porch)
and a piece of sweet is touched to its lips, the family elders shower blessings
on the baby. The baby & the mother visit its maternal grandparents where
they may stay for a few days. On their return, the grandparents send baked items
mutton preparations, curds, milk & clothes for the baby, its parents and
mèkhlà or mèkhal
In the past the sacred thread ceremony of boy was performed when he would become
seven years old, i.e. when he would be able to wash the sacred thread 'yòní' (jeniv)
and recite the “Gayatri Mantra”. Usually, all the boys in the family are
made to wear the sacred thread together in a single ceremony. 'mèkhlà' or
yajnopavit involves all the ceremonies and rituals, like 'mänzíràt', 'dívgòn''
etc. associated with a marriage ceremony. After 'dívgòn' the boys' (called 'mèkhlí
mahàràzû' - mekhla grooms), heads are shaven and they are made to wear
Mothers, and paternal aunts wear red and white thread 'närívan'
on their ears and a huge agni-kund’ is prepared where seven purohits recite
vedic mantras for nearly 12 hours and ghee, jaggery, rice and paddy are
constantly poured into the agni-kund to please the devtas and seek their
blessing. For the whole day relatives and friends come to this ‘'Hawan Pandal'
and the eldest of the 'mèkhlí mahàràzû begs of them to give 'dakshínà'
(offerings) for the gurus (the purohits), which the visitors are pleased to give
him 'åbìd' (dakshina). Towards the evening the family-purohit asks the father
of the mekhla grooms to put the sacred thread on them. This is a very emotional
moment for the purohits as well as the father, the members of the family, and
relatives. The chanting of mantras rises to the highest pitch and the mekhla-grooms
are made to wear the sacred thread, marking their entrance into the pure
brahmanical fold. This begins their brahmachari period, the first stage of Hindu
life, when they seek only knowledge and wisdom. After this the Guru (family-purohit)
whispers the Gayatri Mantra into the ears of the mekhla grooms. They are
directed to recite this mantra every morning after taking a bath.
Once the yajna is concluded, the maternal uncle(s) of the mekhla
–grooms takes them to a nearby temple. Meanwhile prasad in the form of rice,
cereals, vegetables is served to all the relatives and friends including the
mekhla grooms, and their parents who observe a fast for the whole day.
The next day (kôshalhòm) is observed as a day of feasting when
mutton preparations are served. A day or two later, depending upon the position
of the planets, sweet rice 'khír' is prepared and a small puja held. After this
the mekhla-grooms are made to put on a new sacred thread and the mothers and the
aunts remove the 'närívan'. This brings to an end the rituals connected with
the yajnopavit ceremony.
When a person breathes his / her last, his/her mortal remains are washed in
water to which Ganga jal is added. Cotton buds are put into his / her ears and
nostrils. A coin is placed at its lips. The whole body is covered in a white
shroud and tied with a thread (närívan). The body is then placed on a plank of
wood and four persons take the coffin on their shoulders to the cremation
ground. The eldest son of the deceased carries an earthen pitcher in his hand
and leads the coffin. Some distance away from the cremation ground, the coffin
is placed on the ground and the family members, relatives and friends are
allowed to have a last glimpse of the deceased’s face. The coffin is then
taken to the cremation ground and put on a pyre. The eldest son, after taking
three rounds around the pyre, lights it. From second to the ninth day of one’s
death, his/her eldest son and daughter come out on to the house threshold before
sunrise and call upon their departed father/mother a couple of times, asking
bôchhí mà låjíy babò / mäjì?
(Are you hungry father/mother?)
trèsh mà låjíy babò / mäjì?
(Are you thirsty father/mother?)
tür mà låjíy babò / mäjì?
(Are you feeling cold father/mother?)
On the fourth day of cremation the sons and some relatives
and family friends go to the cremation ground to gather ashes (åstrûk). Most
of it are immersed into a nearby river /stream and a part is put into an earthen
pitcher and taken to Haridwar for immersion into the holy Ganges.
On the 10th day, the sons of the deceased along with many
relatives and the family purohit go to a river bank where sons’ heads are
shaved and a Shraadha is performed. The relatives after having lunch leave the
family of the deceased alone. On the 11th day, the sons and daughters perform a
very elaborate Shraadha under the guidance of a purohit. The ceremony ends with
aahuuti given to agni invoking almost all the deities, major rivers, temple
towns, mountains, and lakes of South Asia. On this day the daughters too pay
dakshina to the purohit and arrange food for the families of their brothers.
On the same day, ‘oil’ is provided for the deceased (tìl
dyún) in which mustard oil is poured into a large number of earthen lamps and
cotton wicks are immersed and lighted in them. Favourite vegetarian foods are
prepared in the name of the deceased. Burning of oil lamps is meant to provide
light to the deceased in the ‘other’ world.
Another Shraadha is held on the 12th day after death. This
marks the end of the mourning, when married daughters return to their homes.
During the first three months, a Shraadha is performed after
every fifteen days i.e. on the 30th, 45th, 60th, 75th and 90th day of death . An
elaborate Sharaadha is held on the 180th day (shadmòs). The Shraadha on the
first death anniversary (våhårûvär) too is an elaborate one. Daughters and
sons and their husbands/wives assemble to perform both shadmòs and våhårûvär.
After this a Shraadha is done every year on the death
anniversary and one during the pitra-paksh. The children (sons and daughters)
offer water to their deceased parents and three generations of grandparents
Language and food
KP has been a polyglot throughout the known history. Besides mother tongue
(Kashmiri) it has had a sound knowledge of Sanskrit, Persian, Urdu-Hindi, and
English at different periods in history. Literatures of these languages are a
testimony to their genius and creativity. Their original contributions in the
areas of philosophy, theology, aesthetics, logic, grammar, astronomy etc. occupy
a place of pride in the extant literatures of these disciplines.
KP loves vegetarian foods yet mutton and fish have been its
favourite. Rice and knolkhol (hàkh batû) has been its primary requirement. The
use of a wide variety of spices, e.g. aniseed powder, turmeric powder, chilly
powder, ginger powder, black-pepper, cardamom, saffron etc. is very common among
the KPs. Besides knolkhol, KP relishes beans, potato, spinach, lotus-stalk,
sonchal, raddish, turnip, cabbage, cauliflower, wild mushroom, cheese and an
assortment of local greens like lìsû, vôpal hàkh, núnar, vôstû hàkh and
hand. The major mutton preparations of the KP include: kålíyû, ròganjòsh,
matsh, kabar gàh, yakhûni, rístû, tabakh nàt, tsók tsarvan etc.
After the advent of Islam in the Valley, when Persian replaced Sanskrit as the
language of administration, senior members of the Pandits (a large majority had
been forced to embrace Islam) organized a kind of a conference to deliberate on
and find means to preserve their religion and culture so as to prevent it from
becoming extinct. In that historic conclave, it was decided that in order to
participate in State administration, it were necessary to learn Persian, so the
son’s son would learn the language of administration and the daughter’s son,
if he were educated by his maternal grandparents, would learn bhasha
‘Sanskrit’ and religious scriptures and eventually perform religious rites
and rituals. Thus, two distinct sects, one of bhasha Pandits or purohits
‘clergymen’ and another of the karkun ‘the men of administration’ were
created. In course of time the Purohit became dependent upon the Karkun for
dakhshinaa ‘offerings’ to make his living and the Karkun came to be
considered a superior class to the men of religion. This historic ‘decision’
has brought the community to an impasse now where the purohits too have
diminished in number and the very identity of the community is at stake. At this
juncture, it is not only the religious rites and rituals, customs, festivals and
ceremonies, beliefs, myths and superstitions that are under threat of
extinction, but also their mother tongue, which was not under threat during the
The community elders need to sit together again to think
about its linguistic and cultural heritage and evolve a strategy to preserve it.
Otherwise, the literary and religious writings of Laleshwari, Parmanand, Zinda
Koul will have no takers in near future.