The New Year day falls on first Navaratra - the first day of the new moon in the
month of Chaitra. In every Hindu home, it begins with an invocation to Lakshmi, the goddess of bounty. In every family, a young lady lays a large
plate with paddy, sugar, curds, fruits, walnut, coins, a mirror, ink-holder
and the New year scroll. Early in the morning she shows the plate to every
inmate and thus seeks the blessings of the goddess for moral and material
development of members of the family.
The Navroz festival of the Shia Muslims comes a week after the New year day.
They celebrate this nine-day festival with good eating and activities showing a
spirit of gay abandon, in contrast to recitation of religious dirges that
characterise most of their festivals.
During the month of April they celebrate Durga Ashtami, followed by Ramnavami.
It is the birthday of Lord Rama. For the Kashmiri pandits the day is also
connected with goddess Durga, and they celebrate it with a feast of rice and
meat viands, after the prayers.
In the middle of April or on the Baisakhi day, starts the New year of the
Vikrami Samvat. The day presents a grand spectacle of colour and gaiety on the
Dal lake and in the gardens that flank it.
The Urs (or
Ziarats) is a typical Kashmiri festival. It is held annually at the
shrines of Muslim saints on their death anniversaries. There is a saying "
It snows when the Urs of Meesha Sahib is held, it is windy when the Urs of
Batamol Sahib takes place, it rains on the occasion of the Urs of Bahauddin".
These Urs are popular despite the rigours of weather. This is celebrated in
different parts of Srinagar, not only by Muslims but Hindus and Sikhs as well. An
interesting feature of the Urs celebrations at Batamaloo (the locality in
Srinagar named after the saint Batamol Sahib) and in Anantag (Rishi Mol's
anniversary) is that both Muslims and Hindus abstain from taking meat during the
course of the festival.
The inter-communal participation is the main feature of the Urs celebrations.
The anniversary of Rishi Pir, a Hindu saint, held on the fifth day of the full
moon of Baisakh, at his home in Srinagar is attended by Muslims also.
Shab-i Mairaj /Shab-i-Barat
Muslim festivals which are celebrated nationally, include
Shab-i Mairaj which
is followed by Shab-i-Barat. The dates of these festivals change in
accordance with the appearance of the moon and shift by 10 days each year. During the
night of Shab-i-Barat, the Muslims keep vigil. Legend goes that on this night the
Holy prophet visits each house and relieves the pains of suffering humanity.
Another Muslim festival of this area is Ramzan. During the month of Ramzan,
Muslims abstain from eating or drinking during the day.
Jeth Ashtami / Har Ashtami
Jeth Ashtami is succeeded by
Har Ashtami in a month. These two days
are the birthday and the incarnation day, respectively, of the Rajnya goddess.
Hindus fast on these days and go on a pilgrimage to Kheer Bhawani, a well known
spring-girt temple at Tulmula dedicated to the Goddess Rajnya Devi. After a bath in the cool stream nearby, incense and candles
are burnt at the altar of the goddess.
counterpart of Kheer Bhawani, is Devibal in Anantang, which is also a spring-girt
temple. This temple is visited on these Ashtamis by Hindus living in
neighbouring areas. A
belief connected with these ancient shrines is that their water changes colour
according to the state of the society. It has been known to become black before
a disaster or calamity.