'Herath' – This is how Kashmiris celebrate Shivratri in all grandeur
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'Herath' – This is how Kashmiris celebrate Shivratri in all grandeur

The customs and rituals of Herath is very different from other cultures

'Herath' – This is how Kashmiris celebrate Shivratri in all grandeur

New Delhi: The celebrations of Shivratri is called Herath in Kashmir. Kashmiri Pandits celebrate "Shiv-Parvati" marriage in very different manner. The customs and rituals of Herath is very different from other cultures. Shivratri literally means the great “night of Shiva,” also the day when Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati. It's called 'Herath' in Kashmiri, a word derived from the Sanskrit 'Hararatri' the 'night of Hara' (another name of Shiva).

Here we have split the Shivaratri rituals in three parts:-

1. Vatuk Puja
2. Shivaratri Feast
3. Herath Kharch

Vatuk Puja

The Shivaratri puja is popularly known as 'Vatuk Puja'. The name can be traced to the term 'Vatuk Dev', or Lord Shiva's celibate form. Before the start of the puja, two large vessels representing Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati are embellished with flower garlands, and filled with walnuts to the top. A red thread is also tied around the mouths of these utensils. A symbol of 'Om' is also drawn on them. Along with this, several small pots representing other deities are covered with a super-fine sheet of silver (varak), to give them a festive look.

The worship begins with invocation of Lord Ganesha, along with purifying vessels of other deities. During the puja, a red thread (kalawa) is tied around the wrists of every member of the family. The ritual concludes with blowing conches, as the entire family joins in for an aarti.

Shivaratri (Herath) feast

The dinner is definitely the highlight on this particular day, which serves as the second best opportunity (after Kashmiri weddings) to enjoy delectable Kashmiri dishes.

In most households, multiple vegetarian dishes are prepared as part of a grand dinner spread. However, in some houses, the lavish dinner comprises of typical non-vegetarian delicacies such as 'rogan josh' and 'matczha' or meat balls as well.
Shivaratri rituals last for three to four days. On the 15th day, Dunya Mavas (walnut) is observed. The day is marked by performing puja near the banks of a river, where emptied vessels are brought for immersion. The soaked walnuts are taken back home and distributed in the family as prasad.  The main prasad consists of walnuts and tumul czhut (rice chapati). The process of prasad distribution continues for another week. The celebrations come to a close on the eighth day of the bright half of Phalguna. The women of the house, as a custom, visit their parents' house and return with money to their in-laws.

Herath Kharch

It is another much-awaited and fun-loving custom of Herath. Just a day after the puja, the head of the family offers money to children, younger ones in the family. The excitement around this traditional practice is immense, where children sometimes wake up early to wish everyone 'Herath mubarak', and ask them for their 'Shivaratri earning'. In the good old days, this money was used to buy new clothes and candies from the market.  The newlyweds are also gifted cash by the elderly.

Kashmiri Food

We are talking about Kashmiri culture, so how come we will not talk about Kashmiri food. In India, we have diversity, different culture, and different lifestyle that's what makes India beautiful. In Kashmir, they have variety of foods but one of them, the tourist's pride, is additionally famous for its distinctive cuisine – the Wazwan – the unique food preparations served during marriages and special occasions to special invitees. Wazwan – may be a traditional sort of cooking and consists of mostly non – vegetarian dishes. A typical Wazwan meal consists of less than one or two vegetarian dishes especially spinach or cauliflower. Kashmiris hardly taste sweets, but after Wazwan meal, Halwa, Phirenee or Kashmir Kahva or tea, is served to scrub down the meal. Traditionally, the meals are eaten by hands and spoons; forks or knives are seldom used

How to Make Kashmiri Wazwan Recipes

Kashmiri Wazwan cuisine is a course of over 14 dishes, mostly non-vegetarian. Dishes like Kababs, Tabakmaaz, Rista, Rogan josh, Abbgosh, Marchiwangan Korma, Dhaniwal Korma, Goshtaba and more are prepared out of a particular positona of sheep/goat meat. Vegetarian dishes in Wazwan include Allu Bukhara (apricot), Dum Allo (potatoes), Kashmiri Sag (green leafy vegetables), spinach Nadru and much more. Besides, chicken and fresh fish preparations are served in Wazwan. Special "chutney" is served during meals prepared out of onions, dhania, dry fruits and curd. Pickle is also one of the important parts of the chutney tray. Curd is served in earthen pots and is nowadays replaced by packed containers.

Forgetting is easy, and remembering difficult. And while one expects it to snow on Shivratri, there is also hope that the weather will turn and the walnut trees will start blossoming soon. Hope is the essence of Spring season and here is something which can drive nostalgia in all the Kashmiris. In advance Happy Shivratri to all!