Navreh - The New Year of Kashmiri Hindus
By Upender Ambardar
are windows to our culture. 'Navreh'--the festival of New Year for
Kashmiri Pandits reflects their age-old social, ethnic, cultural and religious
ethos and ushers them into the freshness of the New Year.
the first day of the Saptrishi Samvat of the lunar year marks the start of the
New Year for Kashmiri Pandits. It is also the first day of the Basant or spring
and 'Navratras'. It proclaims the advent of spring season, 'Sonth'
in Kashmir. 'Navreh'-the festival of the New Year is celebrated on
Chaitra Shukla Paksh Pratipadha, the first day of the bright fortnight
of Chaitra (March-April).
momentous festival of 'Navreh' finds a special mention in the 'Brahma
Purana'. According to it, the whole universe was created by the
Lord Brahma on the first day of Chaitra Shukla Paksh Pratipadha i.e. day of 'Navreh'.
As per the 'Matsya Purana', one of the eighteen
Puranas of Hindus', Lord Vishnu, the God of preservation among
the Trinity is believed to have incarnated, as 'Matsya' avatar on the earth on
the day of 'Navreh'. The festival of 'Navreh' also signifies the start of 'Satya
Yug', the first of the four golden eras of Hindus. 'Navreh' has
historical significance as it signals the initiation of 'Vikram Samvat' to
commemorate and memorialize the victory and triumph of famous king of golden era
of Indian history, ChandraGupt Maurya over 'Shakas'. 'Navreh' is the day, when
the new almanac, an annual calendar of months and days with astronomical data
and other related information starts for the new Hindu calendar year.
heralds the arrival of soothy season of spring when fresh life becomes evident
from fields to forests with new foliage, blossoms and riot of colours in the
form of flowers making their presence felt everywhere. Yamberzal or Narcissus
poeticus, having white coloured petals and yellow stamens is a beautiful and
sweet scented flower, which is frequently spotted from meadows to gardens. It is
one of the early flowers, which announces the arrival of 'Sonth' in Kashmir.
Similarly, the appealing flowers of Primula Rosea, Primulla elliptical and
Primula denticulata also make their appearance immediately after the snow melts
Likewise, the early migratory birds of 'Phemb-Seer' (Paradise Flycatcher), 'Poshnool'
(Golden Oriole), 'Kukil' (Ring-Dove), 'Katij' (common swallow), 'Tsini Hangur
(Himalayan Sterling) and 'Sheen-pipin' or Doeb-Bai (Pied-Wagtail) also proclaim
the advent of 'Sonth' in Kashmir through their melodious notes.
the festival of 'Navreh' is a celebration of change of season, regeneration and
fertility, a journey from cold to warmth, an escape from winter confinement to
social communion and a beginning for new lease of life everywhere.
celebration of this joyous day in the medieval times also finds mention in 'Kitabul
Hind', a book written by a renowned foreign voyager Al Beruni. According to
him, the month of Chaitra denotes festivities for the natives of Kashmir on
account of the victory gained by an ancient Kashmiri King Muttai over the Turks.
In the words of celebrated historian Srivara, the Chaitra festival in ancient
times in Kashmir was laced with enthusiasm and fervour to the accompaniment of
lighting and merriment everywhere.
also marks the time to bid 'adieu' to harsh and severe winter and welcome season
of spring when multitude generosity of Nature is visible everywhere. The display
of new life in nature and invigorating ambience arouses hope and inspiration
even in most brazen hearts.
the festival of 'Navreh', the family priest known as 'Kul Brahman' brings to
every Kashmiri Pandit family, the almanace of the New Year known as 'Jantari
or Panchang or Nachhipater' in Kashmiri. 'Nachhipater' is
a derivation of Sanskrit word. 'Nakshetra Patri'.
The Kul-Brahman also brings the 'Kreel Pach', which
is an illustrated scroll usually having a picture of Goddess Saraswati or
Goddess Sharika with a hymn in Her praise.
night prior to Navreh, an elderly lady of the Pandit household fills a big thali
with rice. On this rice filled thali, various items like walnuts (in odd numbers
usually five or seven), paddy (as per family 'reeth'), a piece of bread (usually
'Kulcha'), a lump of cooked rice, a pen, an inkpot and book, a Katori filled
with curds, a currency note or a coin or a gold ornament like ring or a bangle,
a pinch of salt, seasonal flowers (usually Yamberzal), a piece of medicinal herb
called 'Vai' ) known by the name of Sweet flag or Acorus Calamus
and a mirror are arranged. The 'Nachhipatar or Jantari'
of the new year and the 'Kreel-Pach' also find a special place in this rice
ritual is known as 'Thal-barun'. Early in the morning of 'Navreh' well
before sunrise, a female member of the family, usually a daughter, makes each
and every member of the family have a 'darshan' of this thali in their
respective rooms. This ritual is known as 'Buth-Vuchun'.
The ritual of 'Buth Vuchun' is said to bring happy year full of health, wealth,
wisdom and good luck for the entire family. After having darshan of this thali,
every elder member of the family puts some money in it, which is then taken by
the girl as a gift known by the name of 'Kharch'.
mythological belief, a mysterious power lies hidden in all human beings. It can
be stimulated only by the use of specific symbols as our subconscious correlates
fully with the symbols in comparison to the words.
all the items arranged on the rice filled thali have symbolic significance.
Rice, the principle diet of Kashmiris is a symbol of abundance, life, growth,
development, expansion and prosperity. Rice is also an integral part of our
every auspicious occasion and function in our lives. It also stands for the
quality of refinement and purity in the individual life. Paddy or unhusked rice
connotes unsullied clarity, natural perfection and untainted life without
deception and imitation.
rice indicates metaphoric process through which paddy has passed upto the cooked
form. As such, the cooked rice is a symbol of transformation and progression in
life in the right direction. Besides it, the cooked rice is regarded as a 'prasad'
and gift of God to the mankind. Apart from it, paddy, rice and cooked rice being
the source of survival and sustenance are symbols for our physical and mental
growth. Curds is a symbolic representation for fullness, stability and
cohesiveness in life. Due to its' 'satvic'-quality, curds also represents
placidity, consistency and virtuous conduct in life. The next item of bread kept
on the rice thali is a symbolic representation for absorption, expansion and
integration in one's socio-cultural surrounding.
walnuts indicate regeneration, evolutionary process, continuity and flow of
life. The four kernals present in the walnut represent the four aspects of
dharma or divinity. Wealth or arth,
or wish fulfilment and moksha or salvation. A coin or a currency note or a gold
ring or a bangle represents good fortune, prosperity, wealth and material
strength. The gold ring or gold bangle is a symbol of purity and auspiciousness.
The gold metal also has religious and spiritual significance as it not only
gives contentment but is also believed to drive away evil influences. The coin,
currency note and the gold ornament together remind us not to shun righteousness
in the pursuit of material wealth. The medicinal herb of 'Vai' known by the name
of sweet flag or Acorus Calamus is a symbolic representation for disease free
life and good health.
represent freshness, hope, fragrance, compassion and feeling of concern in life.
They are so inextricably associated with the human life that no celebration or
rejoicing is complete without them. Flowers are also symbols for the
impermanence of life.
cheer-up the mood and drive away the feelings of depression and dejection.
inkpot and the book taken together are symbols for wisdom, knowledge, awareness,
insight, enlightenement, learning and intellectual brilliance. They also
represent the power of knowledge for the eradication of illiteracy, ignorance
and shallowness. They have the allegoric meaning for 'Apara Vidya' i.e.
Knowledge of wordily objects and 'Para
i.e. knowledge of Self. Salt, which is central to our day to day life is
supposed to generate positive energy and drive away negative retardants and bad
luck. Some families also keep sugar on the rice thali, which signifies cordial
social bondings and sweetness at every stage in life.
(Nachhipater) represents the symbolic connection of the events in human life to
the planetary influences and their movements. 'Kreel Pach' having a picture of
Isht Devi is indicative of religious inclination, our trust in Her grace and our
total surrender to the sovereignty of the Divine.
due to its' attribute of reflection stands for duplication of auspiciousness,
apart from all the good events of life.
is also believed to dispel and deflect the damaging impact and influences if
present in the house.
Goddess Lakshmi is symbolically represented in Her different aspects of
Vidyalakshmi (represented by pen, inkpot and book), Dhanyalkshmi (represented by
paddy, rice, cooked rice, bread and curd) and Dhanlakshmi (represented by a
coin, currency note or a gold ornament). Inversely, the various agriculture and
cattle products are symbolic representations of Mother Nature, Mother Earth-Bhoodevi
and Goddess Shakambhari, the Goddess of vegetarian and agriculture.
it, Goddess Mahakali, the presiding deity of longevity represented by the
medicinal herb of 'Vai' or sweet flag is also worshipped and remembered
during the ritual of 'Buth-Vuchun'. On the day of 'Navreh', the rice of thali is
used for making yellow coloured rice called 'Tahar' and after performing pooja,
it is taken as 'Prasad' or 'Naveed' by the family members.
morning, the walnuts of rice thali are thrown in the river as the flowing water
of the river and walnuts together symbolically represent regeneration and
continuity of fruitful and productive life. It is also a metaphor for the surge
and movement of active and energetic life. In the good old days upto mass
migration in 1990, on the 'Navreh' morning, Kashmiri Pandits of Srinagar city
after having a customary bath and attired in new dresses would make a beeline to
Hari Parbhat to pay obeisance to the Goddess Sharika. Hari Parbhat-the historic
and heritage hill of Goddess Sharika (one of the manifestation of Goddess
Parvati) is the holy spot, which has Chakrishwar Asthapan on it. The
Divine Mother Goddess Sharika, the presiding deity of Srinagar city represented
by 'Soyambhu' Shrichakra (Mahamaha Shri Chakra) is the very cause of creation,
sustenance and dissolution of the Universe. The holy site of 'Devi Angan' at the
foothill of Hariparbhat is believed to be the cosmic playfield of the Universal
Mother, where all the divinely activities are controlled. In the sacred ambience
of Devi Angan and in the serenity of it's cool and calm surrounding, the
spiritual seekers do meditation for spiritual awakening and enlightenement.
Mavas', i.e. Chaitra Krishna Paksh Amavasya, which falls a day prior to
Navreh, Kashmiri Pandits while in Srinagar used to visit Viccharnag Shrine,
which is about eight kms. from Srinagar on the Srinagar-Ganderbal road. They
used to offer prayers and have a holy dip in one of it's sacred springs.
earlier times on 'Navreh Amavasya', a local annual Almanac, known by the
alternative names of 'Janthari', 'Panchang' or 'Nachhipater' used to be released
for public use after having been compiled and delebrated upon by the native
learned Brahmans at Vicharnag itself.
Srinagar, on 'Navreh' day Kashmiri Pandits dressed in new clothes would visit 'Badam-Vari'-the
orchard of almonds situated at the foothills of Hari Parbhat situated in the
down-town. Here they would enjoy sipping steaming tea (Kehwa) made in 'Samavar'.
They would also relish roasted water chest-nuts (Trapa bispinosa), oil-fried
rotis locally known as 'luchie' and 'nadermonje pakoras'. The children with
beaming faces would enjoy playing with water-balls, gas-filled ballons and 'tikawavij'.
day, the 'Badam-Vari' would present the look of a fairyland due to the pink and
white flowers of the almond trees being in full blossom. People would enjoy the
almond blossom locally known as 'Badam Phulai'. Almond is the first fruit
bearing tree to blossom in the
valley in this season.
violet or green coloured spring vegetable locally called 'Vosta-Hak' (Chenopodium
sps.) cooked with reddish or 'nadru' is a special dish alongwith a lavish spread
of the traditional dishes on the day of Navreh. In addition to it, cheese
cooked in combination with a native wild vegetable called 'Tsokalader'
having the Botanical name of Polygonum persicaria is a much prized and sought
after dish on this day. The near and dear ones especially the daughters and
son-in-laws are invited on the 'Navreh' feast.
prevailing Kashmiri folklore, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were not invited
for the 'Navreh' feast by the in-laws of Lord Shiva. Inconsequence, Goddess
Parvati felt downcast and dispirited on the day following Navreh. In remembrance
of brooding and contemplative mood of Goddess Parvati on the day after 'Navreh',
Chitra Shukla Paksh Ditya or the second day of bright fortnight of Chaitra is
known by the name of 'Deiviein Doie' in Kashmir. As per the connected
folklore, realising the said lapse, the parents of Goddess Parvati later-on
invited Her to a feast on the third day after 'Navreh'. As a reminder, this day
is known as 'Zangtrai', which falls on the third day of the bright fortnight of
reverence and regard for this day, Kashmiri Pandit ladies even to this day visit
their parental houses and return back to their homes in the evening with salt
and cash locally known
as 'Aetgath' as a token of good omen. Both these days of 'Deivein Doie'
and 'Zangtrai' having indigenous distinctiveness are known and observed only in
Kashmir and nowhere else in the country.
auspicious festival of 'Navreh' epitomises our age old traditions, which make us
determined not to forget our rich past, notwithstanding the twists and turns in
our history and present-day geographical and climatic separation.
If so many
momentous events are embedded in a single day, then that day becomes a special
day and that special day is 'Navreh' for Kashmiri Pandits.
Even to this day, 'Navreh'
continues to be a popular and adored festival among Kashmiri Pandits and every
body eagerly awaits its' arrival every year.