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Festivals of Kashmir

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 also. 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.

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.

Then comes Jeth Ashtami, succeeded in a month by Har Ashtami. These two days are the birthday and the incarnation day, respectively, of the Ragnya goddess. Hindus fast on these days and go on a pilgrimage to Khir Bhawani, a well known spring-girt temple. After a bath in the cool stream nearby, incense and candles are burnt at the altar of the goddess.

The counterpart of Khir Bhawani, is Devibal in Anantang, which is also a spring-girt temple. It is visited on these Ashtamis by Hindus living in contiguous 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.

Another Muslim festival of this area is Ramzan. During the month of Ramzan, Muslims abstain from eating or drinking during the day.

Rakhi or Raksha Bandhan in northern India is the day for brothers and sisters to renew the affectionate ties that bind them. On this day, the Kashmiri Hindus in Srinagar climb the temple of Shankaracharya on a hill top. This is believed to be an abode of Lord Shiva. But the more revered abode is situated in the far off, glacier-bound cave-shrine of Amarnath where pilgrims from all parts of India behold sacred pigeons - believed to be incarnations of Shiva and Parvathi. Those who cannot trek to Amarnath make it to Thanjivara cave - 3 km from the town of Bijibrara - to worship the Shiva lingam. The belief is that three pilgrimages to this shrine equal the merit gained by the Amarnath yatra.

Kashmiris also celebrate Janam Ashtami, on August, just eight days after Rakhi. Hindus fast on this day, hold religious meetings to propagate the teachings of the Gita. The Ras Leela of Lord Krishna is staged at some places.

On the 13th day of the lunar fortnight of Bhadon (Aug-Sep), they celebrate a festival named Vaitha-Vatur-Truvah which literally means: 'Vaitha for the River Jhelum-source-thirteenth day'. It is held at an ancient temple at Verinag, the source of the Jhelum, in which Hindus coming from all parts of the valley , participate along with some local Muslims. A big Havana ceremony is performed on the occasion.

Diwali, the festival of light, is also celebrated in this area. It is an occasion for the puja of the new moon of Kartik (Oct-Nov).

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.

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.

On the tenth of Asvin (Sep-Oct), Dussehra is celebrated to commemorate the victory of Lord Rama.

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.

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 , 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.

The Shivratrifestival 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. Three days before the festival, the worship of Shiva and Parvati starts. 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.

Festivals of Jammu

Lohri (13 January)

This festival heralds the onset of spring and is also known as Makar Sankranti. The whole region wears a festive look on this day.

Thousands take a dip in the holy rivers. 'Havan Yagnas' light up nearly every house and temple in Jammu. In the rural areas it is customary for young boys to go around asking for gifts from newly-weds and parents of new-borns.

A special dance called the 'Chajja' is held on the occasion of Lohri. It makes a striking picture to see boys along with their 'Chajjas' elaborately decorated with coloured paper and flowers dance on the street in a procession. The whole atmosphere comes alive with pulsating drumbeats.

Baisakhi (April 13 or 14)

The name Baisakhi is taken from the first month of the Vikram calendar. Every year, on the first day of Vaishakh, the people of Jammu, like the rest of northern India, celebrate Baisakhi. Also known as the "harvest festival", it is considered auspicious especially for marriages. Devotees who take a ritual dip every year, throng the rivers, canals and ponds. Many people go to the Nagbani temple to witness the grand New Year celebration.

The occasion is marked by numerous fairs and people come in thousands to celebrate the beginning of the New Year and watch the famous Bhangra dance of Punjab. For the Sikhs of Jammu, Baisakhi is the day their tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singhji, formed the Khalsa sect in 1699. The Gurudwaras are full of people who come to listen to kirtans, offer prayers and feast on the 'prasad' from the common kitchen ('langar').

Bahu Mela (March-April & September-October)

A major festival is held at the Kali Temple in Bahu Fort, twice a year.

Chaitre Chaudash (March-April)

Chaitre Chaudash is celebrated at Uttar Behni, about 25 km from Jammu. Uttar Behni gets its name from the fact that the Devak river (locally also known as Gupt Ganga) flows here in the northerly direction.

Purmandal Mela (February-March)

Purmandal is 39 km from Jammu city. On Shivratri, the town wears a festive look and for three days as people celebrate the marriage of Lord Shiva to Goddess Parvati. The people of Jammu also come out in their colourful best to celebrate Shivratri at Peer Khoh, the Ranbireshwar Temple and the Panjbhaktar Temple. In fact, if one visits Jammu during Shivratri, one finds a celebration going on almost everywhere.

Tihar (March-April)

Tihar is an interesting festival observed in Bhadarwah and Kishtwar in the months of Chaitra (March-April). Springs and baulis receive a spring-cleaning and this is followed on the next day by worship of nagas (serpents), to whom rice and floral offerings are made. Samkrant or the beginning of a month (in Bikrami era) is regarded as a sacred day by Hindus. Women bathe in rivers and observe a day's fast.

Jhiri Mela (Oct-Nov.)

An annual fair is held in the name of Baba Jitu, a simple and honest farmer who preferred to kill himself rather than submit to the unjust demands of the local landlord to part with his crop. He killed himself in the village of Jhiri, 14 km from Jammu. A legend has grown around the Baba and his followers congregate at Jhiri on the appointed day from every corner of North India; they revere him for his compassion, courage and honesty.

Navratra Festival (Sept-Oct)

Though the yatra to the shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi is a round-the-year event, the one undertaken during the Navratras is considered the most auspicious. In order to showcase and highlight the regional culture, heritage and traditions of the area during this period, the State Tourism Department has instituted the Navratra Festival as an annual event to be held during September / October for all the nine auspicious days of the Navratras. A large number of tourists pay their obeisance to the deity during this period. This festival showcases the religious traditions as well as the popular culture of the region among the millions of pilgrims who visit the Vaishnodeviji Shrine during this period.

Guru Ravi Das's birthday

Is celebrated with great enthusiasm in Jammu city. Public meetings follow Kirtans and Bhajans. Likewise, the Gurpurabs, Guru Nanak's birthday, Navroz and I'd are celebrated providing opportunities for the expression of good fellowship among various communities and castes. Buddha Jayanti , Mahavir Jayanti , Gandhi Jayanti and christmas are also celebrated here as in other parts of the country.

Hemis Festival in Ladakh

Tours and travel to the Ladakh region gives you a chance to be a part of the Hemis festival that is celebrated at the Hemis Gompa located at a distance of 45 kilometers from Leh, the capital of Ladakh. The Hemis monastery was constructed in the year 1672. This two-day festival is celebrated to mark the birth anniversary celebrations of the Buddhist guru Padmasambhava. This festival is one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist Gompa festivals in Ladakh and is celebrated with a lot of pomp.

During this festival the lamas and monks perform sacred mask dances that depict the destroying of evil forces and the celebration of good over evil. Lamas offer contradictory explanations as to the meanings of these dance performances. Special musical instruments that is the three-meter long brass trumpets are played during these dance performances.

This festival has a special cultural significance, as this is one time of the year when almost all the families from the nearby villages visit the monastery for this festival. This festival serves as a forum for rural families to socialize. Men wear colorful cummerbands and women wear bright headdresses and lots of jewelry.

Kashmir Hub offers details about the time and duration of the Hemis festival along with relevant information on tours and travel packages to the Hemis Gompa in Ladakh, Kashmir, India.

Sindhu Darshan Festival Ladakh

Kashmir Hub offers you tours and travel packages to visit one of the most colorful and attractive festivals of the Ladakh region in Kashmir, which is the Sindhu Darshan Festival. This festival is celebrated near Leh, the capital of Ladakh.

This festival is celebrated to honor the River Indus, which is locally known as the Sindhu River. It is believed that India has derived its name from this river. The Indus River is one of the longest rivers in the world. Indus is a trans-Himalayan The River has its source in southwestern Tibet and it flows into the Indian Territory near Leh in Ladakh. Sindhu is basically a Sanskrit word and the name of this mighty river is mentioned in the Rig Veda, that is one of the earliest chronicles of ancient India.

The River Indus signifies power, strength and permanence of the Indian civilization. This festival is celebrated with the aim of promoting cultural and communal harmony in India. The name of the River Sindhu has been mentioned in several ancient texts, that aptly demonstrates the historical and cultural importance of this mighty river.

A number of Buddhist stupas are found on the banks of the River Indus. According to legend Lord Buddha traversed the banks of this river accompanied by bhikshus. Tours and travel to Ladakh during the time of the Sindhu Darshan festival gives you a chance to see and feel the secular Indian culture.