Fair And Festivals In Kashmir

Lohri Festival
Lohri festival is celebrated on the 13th of January to welcome the onset of spring season and the end of the winter season. The people rejoice on the harvesting of the winter crop at the time of Lohri. Lohri celebrates fertility and the sparkle of life. Lohri is celebrated mainly at night, when people gather round the bonfires. Sweets, puffed rice and popcorn are thrown into the flames and the fire is worshipped. The day of Lohri, in the Hindu month of Paush or Magh, is very auspicious as it marks the entry of Surya (sun) in the 'Makar Rashi' (northern hemisphere).

During the Lohri festival, devotees take a holy dip in the holy rivers/water bodies in different parts of the state. The people of Jammu and Kashmir perform havans and yagnas in their homes and temples. In the rural areas, young children ask for gifts from newly wedded couples, new parents and their own elders. Another feature of the Festival of Lohri in the state of Kashmir is the performance of the special Chajja dance. Young boys prepare 'chajjas' with colored paper and flowers and dance on the street, to the beats of drums. A number of traditional songs and dances further add to the festivities of Lohri.

Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha
Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha are the most famous Muslim festivals in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. If you have to experience the real fun and celebrations of Id, you have to be in Kashmir where the dominant population is of Muslims. Although, the festival is also celebrated in part of Jammu as well. Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of fasting month of Ramadan. During this day, instead of five-time namaz, people have to offer namaz six times. The day is very auspicious for all Muslims, they wear new clothes and attend many grand feasts. Eid-ul-Azha is equally important festival, which is more prominent for the Qurbani (sacrifice). People sacrifice goats, sheep and some even Camels.

The New Year day falls on first Navaratri - 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.

Durga Ashtami
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.

Vikrami Samvat
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.

Urs or Ziarats
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 Anantnag (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 Baisakhi, 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 Tullamula 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.

The counterpart of Kheer Bhawani is Devibal in Anantnag, which is also a spring-girt temple. This temple is visited on these Ashtamis by Hindus living in neighboring 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.

The Muslim festival, Muharram, marks the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the prophet's grandson, who was murdered at Karbala. Huge taziyas made of paper and wood are taken out in procession.

Guru Nanak Dev
The Birthday of Guru Nanak Dev in November is a very auspicious day for the Sikhs. They visit Chati Patshahi, near Hari Parbat. Epistles from the Granth Sahib are recited throughout the day.

Khichri Amavasya
A typically Kashmiri festival known as Khichri Amavasya falls in the month of Posh (Dec-Jan). Kashmir is believed to have been the abode of Yakshas in ancient times. The Yaksha spirit is invited to relish Khichri (rice cooked with dal and ghee). It is believed that during the night the yaksha comes and tastes the Khichri served neatly in the attic along with a fish.

Gori Trai
In the month of Magh (Jan-Feb) comes the Gori Trai, on the third day after the new moon. The family priest brings gaudy scroll paintings for the children. Saraswati Puja is offered on the day.

Basant Panchmi
Basant Panchmi is another festival celebrated in Kashmir. During this time, bird-loving Kashmiris cook yellow rice, prepare small balls of it and throw them on the roof for crows and other birds.

Shivratri or Herat
The Shivratri festival or Herat, which falls in Feb-Mar is also celebrated by Kashmiris. It lasts for about a fortnight. Hindus spring-clean their houses during this fortnight, wear new clothes, and buy utensils. Women go to their parents homes to get the 'festival money', as they call it. The worship of Shiva and Parvati starts three days before the festival. It is said that Shiva and Parvati were wedded on Shivratri. The offerings in this worship are walnuts soaked in earthen utensils. The four parts of the kernel represent four yugas. After some days, people are seen carrying baskets containing these nuts to be distributed among relatives and friends