Socio-Cultural and Religious Traditions of Kashmiri Pandits by Piyaray Raina, a NeeRoh Inc(USA) publication, has just been released. The author appropriately calls himself Saddhak for this book could not have seen the light of day without real Sadhna. This work is a first of its kind, an endeavor to crystallize the essence of the hoary traditions that make the Kashmiri Pandits what they are, and put it between the soothing blue covers of a handsome volume, compact and slim for its 562 pages, elegantly bound and superbly printed.
Mr. Raina makes no claims to originality, yet what he has done is original by putting the whole gamut of the religious and socio-cultural traditions in one tome, neatly explaining the nuances of each tradition, ritual and festival in simple language. This monumental work is divided into two sections.
Section One deals with Gyanakanda. It is exhaustive and touches on almost everything from religious philosophy and theology, to Kashmiri Shaivism and the yogic sadhna thereof, to cosmology, Panchang (the calendar that guides the daily lives of Pandits)rishisushis and Gotras, to social events, festivals, pilgrimages, shrines, temples , saints and savants. It takes you to your origins in the valley of Kashmir and recreates the flavor and the spirit of some of the most cherished traditions that now are only a subject matter of the dreams of Pandits in exile and in the wide scatter they find themselves. The chapter on Social Customs describes in nostalgic detail everything from the traditional dresses to the food habits and Kashmiri cuisine, and the elaborate, and sometimes nerve wracking, wedding and yagneopavit ceremonies, including the nachun(dancing) and wanwun(singing) that goes with them while that on Festivals enumerates month wise festivals- the major ones like Shivratri and Janam Ashtami and the minor, but in no case less captivating, like the Kaw Poornima to celebrate the birthday of crows and the Tila Ashtami to bid farewell to winter with the bonfire of Kangris(firepots), and the austere custom on Sonth of looking at a thali filled with rice, bread, milk, yogurt, flowers, pen and inkpot, , currency, a picture of the deity, etc. first thing in the morning and thaNavrehaureh, that heralds the Kashmiri New Year and with it the new hope of spring. The pictures of temples and shrines are tantalizing, while those of marriage and thread ceremonies so vivid.
Section Two deals with Karmakanda - the details of private worship (the daily, yearly or once-lifetimetinme worship) and liturgical functions for the performance of the rituals - the Homa( Havan) and the Puja (prayer) - with all the mantras, recitastutiesstutis and strotas) and hymns both in the Devnagri and Roman script, and faithfully translated, and the Kriya( karmic action) fully explained. Those of us who went through the whole karmic rituals almost mechanically, without understanding anything about them will wake up to their simple meaning and deep symbolism that make them so unique. If you did not understand the why and how of a ritual like the birthday puja, that you have been performing every year all your life, or the Shivratri puja with the full assemblage of the pots and pans, materials and consumables, and all the paraphernalia that go with it, or the meaning and significance of the last rites for the departed, you have it all there, made so simple, easy and practical.
This work is replete with references, notes, appendices and a glossary of Sanskrit words. The text is supplemented and greatly enriched with sketches, diagrams (for example the ones on pages 318 and 371 detailing the placement of Kalash, Panhbutas and Agnikund for the Havans, and page 398 showing the placement of the pots and pans for Shivratri), maps, pilgrimage routes and pictures that brings out in full the geologist in the author side by side with the spiritualist, the ritualist and the Saddhak. The thousand names of mother Bhavani (Bhavani Shastarname), translated in the end, are an icing on the cake.
Though this work is no treatise on any particular aspect of the religious or socio-cultural traditions, it has something interesting and, at places, arresting for every one and can be an easy reference book. This book should serve the long pending need of the Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora, whether it is to perform the rituals or observe the festivals in the absence of our priests, or to understand the basic tenets of our religious and cultural traditions, and their symbolic significance.
Published by : NeeRoh, Inc, 550 Barnesley Ln, Alpharetta, GA, USA 30022 email@example.com
Printed by: Thompson Press (India) Pvt. Ltd.
US$ 35.00 USA
US$ 40.00 Canada
US$ 45.00 Europe
US$ 50.00 All other regions
Allow upto 4 weeks for delivery. Each book weighs 3.5 lbs.
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Mailing Address: NeeRoh, Inc., PO Box 4138, Alpharetta, Georgia 30023 United States of America http://kp-culture-and-religion.blogspot.com/
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