Navreh is one of the lunar New Year celebrations of India, observed in Kashmir. Simply stated, Navreh is the New Year of Kashmir!
Do you enjoy New Year Celebrations? Yes, of course, everyone does! It is a world-wide phenomenon to relish the birth of new calendar year, every year with lots of fun. What if I say that new year comes more than once in a year! Yes, New Year celebrations occur very often in different parts of India. Most of the regions (read states) in India follow Lunar calendar and thus they have their new year on a different date than the rest of the world that follows solar calendar.
India, being a multi-cultural land is the home to colorful carnivals and holy celebrations. Lunar New Year is mostly a sacred and cultural fiesta. Lunar New Year, calculated on the basis of moon cycle, is celebrated as one of the most sacred festivals in different religions and communities. Lunar New Year is celebrated in accordance with the respective traditions and customs of the respective groups, tradition and cultural practices. Navreh in Kashmir is celebrated as New Year as per the traditions of Kashmiri Pandits.
The term Navreh is derived from the Sanskrit Words, Nava Varsha, which means New Year! Hindu new year called Vikram Samvat Nav Varsh is also celebrated around the same period as Navreh in Kashmir.
In the year 2016, Navreh falls on 7th April 2016.
Significance of Navreh Day
The day on which Navreh is celebrated has a lot of significance.
- Navreh marks the first day of the 5000 years old Kashmir’s lunar calendar, SAPTARISHI. The era of Saptarishi according to the Kashmiri Hindu calendar started on this very day.
- This day also marks the first day of the Iranian Calendar, and a similar festival called NAVRAOZ is celebrated in Iran, Northern China and many parts of Central Asia.
- It is the first day of the spring season.
- This day marks the first day of the Chaitra Navratri, which commences the nine day long Nava Durga Pooja. The 9th day is celebrated as Ram Navami.
- The same day is celebrated as lunar New Year in many parts of North India, such as Ugadi in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra, Chaitti in Himachal Pradesh etc.
- The holy books of Kashmir, Nilamat Purana and Rajtarangini show great significance on Navreh and consider this day as the most sacred day.
Navreh – The Height of Celebrations
Kashmir pays tribute to one of the greatest and most victorious kings, Lalit Aditya, by celebrating Navreh in a grand manner. An Arab Scholar, Alberuni has highlighted the pomp and sanctity of Navreh when second day of Navratri is celebrated to commemorate the victory of Kashmir’s famous king Lalitaditya.
Navreh, the Blossoming Spring
The dawn of the New Year in Kashmir is beautifully welcomed by the spring’s blossoms everywhere in Kashmir.
Blossoms are considered a sign of good omen. The leaps and bounds of Kashmir hilly regions, that remain covered by layers of snow during winters start melting away upon the arrival of the New Year Navreh. Kashmir bids adieu to winter and the fertile lands of the picturesque Kashmir region blooms with colorful blossoms of the mustard fields, apricots, orchids, almonds and many more wonders of nature.
Navreh and Kashmiri Pundits
In ancient days, Kashmir Pundits celebrated the New Year day as Navreh, which falls on the first day of the bright half of the first lunar month of the year, Chaitra, between mid of March to Mid of April. When the families of the Kashmiri Pundits migrated during 19th and 20th century, the people in plains also followed the footsteps of the Pundits in celebrating Navreh.
Kashmiri Pundits visit Srinagar on the eve of Navreh and go to Vichar Nag, a Sacred Spring, to take a holy bath there. It is believed that taking bath in this sacred spring removes all impurities and sins. Afterwards, when they return home, they eat the wye herb preparation along with rice powder cakes. In olden days, the Pundits discussed about the almanac too on this day of Navreh.
Navreh Pooja Thali
The festivity begins on the eve of the actual day of celebration.
Decoration of Pooja Thali
In the late evening on the eve of Navreh, the elderly woman from every family prepares the holy plate called Thali, as the major offering.
Paddy / Rice
The plate (a metal plate is used) is usually filled with paddy or rice (most of the villages use paddy).
Almanac and Kreel-Pach
A new almanac of the corresponding year is placed above the paddy or rice, along with the Kreel-Pach (a sacred scroll). The almanac details the auspicious days, list of festivals, timings, etc.
Wye – The Pure Herb
Wye is the holy ingredient, a herb grown in the marshlands of Kashmir. It also shares important place in the Pooja Thali. It is placed on the almanac.
The thali is decorated with colorful fresh flowers and dry flowers, namely rose, jasmine, crocus, marigold, etc.
Newly sprouted is also placed on the thali, the grass signifies good omen, a sign of fertility and wealth.
Edible Items placed in the thali
- A pot with cooked rice
- A cake made with wheat
- A cake / bread made from rice flour
- A small pot with curd
- A small pot with a pinch of salt
- Walnuts with kernels (in odd numbers)
Other Ingredients on Navreh Thali
- Pen, penholders and inkpot
- One gold coin and one silver coin
- Aromatic herbs and spices
- A mirror
The Pooja thali is decorated beautifully with these ingredients and it is seen as the first thing in the morning of Navreh day.
Until a few years ago, the holy herb Wye and the flowers placed in the Navreh Pooja thali used to be provided by an exclusive florist, called ‘Pusha’ (derived from the term ‘Pushp’ meaning flower). Pusha people usually belong to Islam religion and supplied the herb and flowers to the homes and was paid in cash, clothing, food, etc. However, this ritual has been changed over the years, and all ingredients used in the Navreh Pooja thali are purchased from the regular market.
After decorations, the thali is covered with a lid!
In addition, the picture of Goddess Sharika is also placed on the plate.
The New Year Ritual
On the New Year day, a young girl or a boy from the family wakes up during the sunrise. He or she lifts the lid of the Pooja thali; carry the thali to the head of the family, which is then carried to his wife and so on. Every member in the family look at the thali and the mirror placed in the thali as the first thing on Navreh.
Looking at the thali signifies wealth, health, prosperity, knowledge, unity, happiness and joy in the upcoming year. The young boy or girl who carried the thali receives gift.
- Later, all members in the family pick up at least one walnut from the thali, which is dropped into the river. After dropping the walnut in the river, every individual takes holy bath in the river. However, now, not all members in the family take bath in river. A few choose to return back home after throwing the walnuts into the river.
- After bath, people wear new clothes and a sacred thread is tied on wrist or they wear it on their neck.
- Later, Kashmiri Pundits celebrating Navreh visit the temple of Sharika Mata in Hari Parbat, a hill overlooking Srinagar. Here Goddess Shakthi under the name Jagadamba Sharika Bhagawati is manifested in the form of Chakreshwari. She sits in Shri Chakra here.
- Meanwhile, rice is cooked with ghee and turmeric, which appears gold in color.
- This rice is offered to the principal deity of Goddess Chakreshwari, Sharika, by the head of the family.
- After offering, the same rice is distributed as Prasad to the family members.
Just like any other festival, on this auspicious day, people cook sumptuous special meals for the lunch.
People meet their friends and families and greet others. Muslims meet Hindus and greet them. Many families invite Muslim families and friends as their guest for lunch on Navreh.
Elder’s gift cash to the youngsters and youngsters seek blessing from the elders.
Newly married brides celebrate the first Navreh after marriage with much enthusiasm. After completing the morning rituals on Navreh, they go to their parent’s home. These brides carry rice, bread, curd and sweets along with them. They believe, this brings good luck, harmony, happiness and peace to their families.
Being a holiday, people spend the rest of the day outdoors, visiting temples. They also go for picnic as a family.
Although Navreh celebration has lost its colors and gaiety in few places, the thali decoration ritual is still practiced by the families of Kashmiri Pundits. Navreh remains a very popular festival and celebrated lavishly by Kashmiris.