Navreh is an important Kashmiri festival, celebrated by Kashmiri Pandits as New Year with all delight and freshness. It is dedicated to their Goddess Sharika and pays honor to her during the Navreh festival. It is celebrated with great enthusiasm and sanctity.
Navreh falls on the first day of the month of Chaitra that falls around March or April. The name “Navreh” came from the Sanskrit word “Nava Varsha” which means new year. Many Kashmiri Pandits who migrated to the plains before the 19th century also celebrate this festival. It is filled with different rituals and customs.
The family’s priest (kulguru) presents a religious almanack (nachipatra) for the next year as well as a scroll (kreel pach) of the local deity on the eve of the new year. On the eve of Navreh, a traditional huge dish (thali) is loaded with rice and offerings such as an almanack, scroll, dried and fresh flowers, wye herb, young grass, curd, walnuts, pen, ink bottle, gold and silver coins, salt, cooked rice, wheat cakes, and bread. The family members assemble on the first day of the new year, uncover the thali, and view it on a holy day.
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The rice and coins represent our daily bread and prosperity, the pen and paper, the pursuit of knowledge, and the mirror retrospection. The calendar represents changing time, while the Deity represents the Universal Constant, and the two combined serve as a reminder of time’s consistency. The bitter plant is a reminder of life’s unpleasant aspects, which is accepted with positivity. Wye, a bitter herb, is commonly eaten with walnuts to add a sense of wholeness to the admixture.
Each participant takes a walnut to toss into a river after seeing (darshan) the thali. As a symbol of gratitude, the walnuts from the thali are thrown into the river. The family members then travel to the temple, and give turmeric rice in ghee (Tahar) to the goddess, and ask for blessings.
In Kashmir, the Nav Durga Puja begins on this day. Large Havans are conducted at the end of the Navratra days in several temples, particularly at Durga Nag at the feet of Shankaracharya hill and Shailputri Devis Mandir in Baramulla, which are both lovely springs. Thousands of pilgrims visit Vaishno Devi and other Devi shrines in Jammu and Kashmir over these days. Maa Durga is revered in Srinagar’s Hari Parbat fort and Jammu’s Bahu fort. In Kashmir, as in the rest of India, the nine days of spring Navaratras are regarded in high regard.
On this day, friends, relatives, come to greet with Navreh Mubarak (a happy new year). Kashmiri musicians and minstrels used to come to regale their patrons and receive bakshish a few decades ago. Navreh celebrations have lost some of their merriment and colour as a result of growing expenditures, but the event remains popular among Kashmiris living in and outside Kashmir.
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