Srinagar, Feb 24: It is the February afternoon; Rattan Chaku, Kashmiri Pandit has spread a piece of cloth on the floor of a room in, Habba Kadal here in old city. Then he brings out coconut balls from a polythene bag and culls them into small pieces for making Kheer.
It is not the only Pandit house where celebrations are in full swing for the Herath festival, which is also called Shivratri.
“We are preparing different dishes for this festival. This is the crown of our all festivals and we celebrate it while sticking to our culture and tradition” said visibly enthusiastic Chaku in the room of the third floor of a multistoried, old fashioned house which is manned by CRPF from the entrance side.
On the right side of Chaku, a man in thirties, who introduces himself as Vijay joins us,” We celebrate it with a much enthusiasm, zeal and devotion as many Pandits celebrate in whole world” after a pause he says, “but we miss our community here. We are scattered at many places that belittles our enthusiasm, otherwise we do celebrate but the lack of community waters down the real flavor of celebration.”
Sasvi who lives in Nai Sarak has come here at Chaku house to get a sense of togetherness, he says that “We have no blood relationship with Chaku family but after the tragedy stuck our community, all the Pandit families came close to each other and tried to evolve a new community. We regularly meet each other.”
Sasvi says that celebrations however vary within the community also, “Some eat meat in these days, and some of the clans don’t even allow the non-vegetarians to come inside the house. A clan in Pandits offers fresh blood of sheep to Gods and his disciples.”
The Herath lasts over full fortnight of the Phalguna month (Hindu calendar), It starts with the collection of items for Puja followed by cleaning of the house, utensils, painting and decorating the house. “On the 8th day we go to Hari Parbat. Next day daughter in law of a family goes to maternal home, and on 10th day she returns with gifts.”
This is followed by cooking of fishes at home on next day.” Then walnuts are kept in water and are distributed in friends, relatives and neighbours.”
The following days are marked with religious activities. On the Amavasya day the culminating Pooja of the festival is held and the entire paraphernalia of Vatuk is taken off from its place.
In the evening a very interesting event is observed. “It is called dub dub or knock, knock. Actually one member of the family goes out and returns with a glass of water. The door is shut on him and when he knocks at the door a conversation takes place. He is asked who he is. He replies that he is Ram bror and has come with wealth, riches, good wishes for health and happiness, food and means of livelihood and all the good things. Then the door is opened. The walnuts are broken to take the kernel out and along with cakes made of rice flour are first offered to the deity and then taken as Prashada.
Sasvi and Chaku families have stayed here all these years when thousands of Pandit families migrated to Jammu and other parts.
“It is not the first time that we are celebrating Herath here, we will continue to live here and pass on our cultures, traditions to our children.”
In a shrilled voice, Sasvi vouches to carry the tinge of culture and tradition to another generation in the lifestyle and celebration of festivals.