Navreh Mahaotsav

Rajesh Dhar
Navreh, according to the Hindu Calendar, is observed on the first day of ‘Shukla Paksha’ in the month of ‘Chaitra’. It usually falls in the month of March or April of the Gregorian Calendar.
This year, Navreh will be observed on (Wednesday) March 22.
Navreh is the lunar new year which is celebrated in Kashmir and many other parts of the country. This coincides with the first day of the Chaitra (spring) Navratras.
This day finds mention in Rajtarangini and Nilamat Purana of Kashmir and is regarded as sacred in Kashmir as the Maha Shivratri. The celebrated Arab scholar Alberuni has written that Kashmiris celebrate the second of Navaratras to commemorate victory of their greatest and famous king–Lalitaditya (8th century) with great festivity and religious gaiety. The first was a festival as the New Year in its own right. And the day before Navreh i.e. March 21 the Indian history records the great contribution in saving the Hindu culture by a Kashmiri Pandit Shreya Bhat as early as the 15th century.
Srivara, the famous poet- historian of mediaeval Kashmir, has also mentioned this Chaitra festival in his Rajtarangini.
It is observed as the New Year’s day in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka (as Ogadi), in Maharashtra and Goa as (Gaudi Parva), by Sindhis as Cheti-Chand and in the northern parts of India as Chaitra Shukla Di i.e. the first day of the lunar fortnight of Chaitra. In Delhi and northern parts of India, parohits in temples release before the assembled devotees the new almanac after morning prayers and dwell upon its highlight.
In Kashmir, the day is celebrated with great enthusiasm and sanctity. It is on the eve of Navreh that the Kulguru of a Pandit family gets a new almanac (nachipatra – Sanskrit: Nakshetra-patri) and an illustrated scroll (Kreel Pach) with a sacred picture of Ma Sharika on it and some sacred verses. Formerly the Nachipatri used to be in the form of a tolled scroll but now it has taken the form of a small booklet known as Jantari. Just one day before Navreh, Kashmiri Pandits in Srinagar used to visit a sacred spring Vichar Nag (downtown) and take a holy dip in its waters to cast off the wintery sloth and impurities. After returning home from Vichar Nag round pieces of Wye herb are taken along with homemade rice powder cakes as prasad before breakfast. In olden times, astrologers and astronomers would assemble here to discuss and prepare a new almanac. May be this is the reason why this place is known as Vichar Nag.
Late in the evening, the housewife gets a big Thali (metal-plate) and fills it up with rice or paddy. In villages, mostly paddy is used. After arranging it nicely, the new almanac and Kreel-pach are placed on the rice. Besides dry flowers, a few fresh flowers are also placed on the rice. Wye, a special weed which resembles arabi in shape and which grows in the marshes and is regarded to be very sacred and pure, is also kept on the thali. Among other things placed on the thali are newly sprouted grass, a little curd, walnuts in odd numbers and their kernels, a pen, inkpot and pen-holders and a pot containing a little salt are placed on the thali alongwith silver and gold coin and a lump of cooked rice in a small pot, a wheat cake and a small bread made of rice powder are also placed on this rice. All these things are arranged aesthetically on this small mound of rice. This Thali is then covered with another metal plate for the night. Formerly, the flowers and herb W’ye used to be provided by a florist who was known as Push after Pushap, i.e. the flower, and he used to be a Muslim. He was paid in cash and kind on the ensuing New Year day. Now all these things are procured from the market.
Early morning on the New Year day, a boy or a girl gets up at dawn and, after taking the lid off the thali, takes it to the head of the family and his wife and then to others in such a way that every member of the family gets a glimpse of the things kept in the plate and looks into the mirror as the first thing in the morning. This signifies as prayer for food, wealth and knowledge in the coming year. The bearer of the plate gets a rupee or more from every member of family.
Every member picks up a few walnuts kept in the thali and drops them in the river, where he goes to take a bath. This seems to be a thanks giving affair
that the people have come out of the dreary wintry cold and its allied ordeals safe and sound as the Maharashtarians do when they drop coconuts into the sea on Rakshabandhan day which is turbulent during the rainy season. After a bath and donning new clothes and a new sacred thread, Hindus in the city throng temples, especially the Hari Parbat which is Shakti shrine known as Chakreshwari. Later on, the head of the family offers turmeric coloured rice prepared in ghee known as Tahri to Ma Sharika, the principal deity of Chakreshwari which is afterwards distributed as Prasad among all the family members.
From this day, Nav Durga Puja commences in Kashmir.
On Navreh, sumptuous dishes are prepared and friends and relatives who come to offer greetings are also entertained. Newly weded brides go to their homes donning new clothes, and carry a pot of curd, bread, sweets, etc as these are thought to be auspicious. New brides and youngsters are given some money by their elders.
According to mythology, Lord Shiva created the Universe on Navreh. On the third day, His Consort (Parvati) paid a visit to Her parent’s home ‘Malyun’. So, all Kashmiri married women go to their ‘Malyun’ for an hour or two, conveying good wishes for the new year, and then return to their homes. That is ‘Zang Tri’.
Meanwhile, this year, Sanjeevani Sharda Kendra (SSK) Anand Nagar, Bohri, Jammu will be celebrating 3-day ‘Navreh Mahaotsav 2023’ on March 21, 22 and 23 with a pledge to leave no stone unturned in ensuring peace and harmony in the pious land of Kashmir.
While dedicating day-1 of celebration i.e March 21, I salute Tyaag (Sacrifice) of Shreya Bhat in making huge sacrifices for preserving our culture and day-3 of celebration i.e, March 23, I salute Shaurya (Valour) of Lalitaditya in defeating Turkey and making the day Vijay Divas and March 22 as ‘Sankalp Divas’, reads the pledge.