Srinagar, Mar 4: The most important festival of the Kashmiri pandits -- ‘Herath’ (Maha Shivratri) -- was celebrated on Monday throughout the valley by members of the pandit community who participated in night-long prayers.
A large number of devotees were visiting temples, particularly Shankaracharya on the hill top of Takhat-e-Suliman, since early this morning despite rain and chilly weather conditions. Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik and former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah have greeted people on the occasion.
After joining night-long puja in their respective houses despite chilly weather conditions, people greeted each other on the occasion of “Salaam”, a Persian word for greeting. Muslims and members of other communities greeted their Kashmiri pandit brethren on the occasion.
Meanwhile, the authorities have set up special fish sale counters at different places in the valley for the Kashmiri pandits, who have not migrated along with other community members in 90s or returned here.
The Shivratri festival extends to about three weeks in Kashmiri Pandits' households and each day or a group of days, has a special name and religious function which include social performances also. Some of the names are Akodah, Hurya Aatham, Dyara Daham, Vagarye Bah, Heracnia Truvah, Donya Mavas and Tila Aatham. On each day they have different functions.
The Mahashivratri festival, observed as “Hairath” by Kashmiri Pandits on the marriage anniversary of Lord Shiva and Goddess Uma, begins on the first day of Phalgun Krishna Paksha and ends on the Amavasi day in Phalgun. In between, there are numerous auspicious days like Hur Ashtami.
Walnuts, whose shape represents the universe, play an important part in Hairath rituals. Walnuts are filled in earthen pots and then filled with water. The water is changed every day of the festivals.
A big earthen pot, two medium sized earthern pot, two small earthen pot, clay-modelled to the shape of elephant trunk and seven bowls are used in the Hairath ritual and they are known as 'watuk'.
The 'watuk' represents Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha, Sapta Rishis and other deities. Fasting is observed on the important puja day and it comes to an end at night. The rituals come to an end on the Amavasi day, which follows Shivratri. The puja items, flowers and pots are immersed in rivers. Walntus are distributed as 'prasad'. (UNI)