Kashmiri Pandit Ritual of Punn Deun
Kashmiri Pandit culture is very unique and this segment of Sanatan Dharma performs different rituals, ceremonies and traditions which distinguish this microscopic community from rest of Hindusiam. One such ritual observed and performed by the Kashmiri Pandits is called in Kashmiri parlance as Punn Deun. The KP’s have preserved their rites, rituals, ceremonies and traditions during their displacement or exile from their roots -Kashmir. But all the KP households do not observe and perform the pun ritual ,but only those KP households perform the Pann ritual who from their ancestry used to perform Punn ritual .Held around Ganesh Chaturthi, the ritual of Punn is filled with nostalgia for Kashmiri pundits .Around this time of the year ,when summer is showing its last bout of strength and autumn starts making its felt in the valley, Kashmiri Pandits celebrate a ritual called Punn (Kashmiri for thread) .Held around Ganesh Chaturthi, called Vinayak Chorum by KP’s ,deep fried wheat bread ,called roth ,is made and distributed among relatives ,neighbors and friends .The KP’s have kept all their rituals and festivals alive even in their exile and so they celebrate and observe pun ritual away from their native land of Kashmir .Punn can be celebrated on any of the four-five auspicious days over the second bright fortnight of Bhadun and even those families who member had passed away in the year ,they perform this ritual of punn on the last auspicious day .In pre-militancy days ,before 1990 ,if you happen to walk through certain neighborhood of Kashmir at this time ,a heady aroma would waft from houses ,just like the scent of vanilla which announces to that you are baking .This ritual of pun is celebrated and performed on the auspicious dates in the second bright fortnight of Bhadun and it culminates on purnimashi .This is a traditional celebration celebrated by Kashmiri Pandit families in the month of Bhadron(August/September) by preparing very delicious Roths of Wheat pan cakes which are fried in Desi Ghee .Some people consider it as a celebration of Bhagwan Mahavir Hanuman day .People in south India celebrate this day as Ganesh Puja celebration .Punn Duen and the distribution of Roth to the friends ,relatives and neighbors is a way to create and maintain social contact and link .The distribution of the Roth naveed among the people makes us aware about the well being of our kith and kin and thus it has great importance in connecting people .This day is celebrated with devotion ,to show respect to almighty God .The celebration also gives enjoyment in the form of get together for the family ,especially among children .For this celebration the whole house is cleaned particularly the kitchen and brass utensils are washed and cleaned thoroughly .The religious significance if this festival may have numerous interpretations but it has the same importance as our other festivals however pun deun remains at the top of the priority of the women folk .Actually the head lady of the family performs the puja with the participation of all family members .A thread is spun by an unmarried girl and the same is fastned with the ear by the head lady who performs the major role in pun deun.A utinsel of brass mainly Gudwa is kept full of water and green Dramun Grass is held by all the family members and after the Katha of Punn the grass is immersed into the pot which is full of water and three four Roths are kept at the head of the pot .Then at the evening the water and grass of the pot is immersed into a river or laid at the root of a plant .The ingredients such as wheat flour ,brown sugar ,ghee ,salt, vegetable oil ,yogurt (Zamut Dud) ,Khashikash seed ,cardamom etc are arranged in advance .For puja flowers ,Green grass i.e Dramun ,some fruits ,fresh walnut ,silver foil ,Nariwan and sindoor is arranged and all these things are used in puja .Kashmiri Pandits have a special place for Lord Ganesha being the son of Lord shiva and Parvati .He has been blessed by Shiva as the Siddhi Daata.According to Ganesh Purana ,the fourth day of bright fortnight of every lunar month is called siddhi Vinayak chaturthi .The fourth day of Badurapad Shukla bright half chaturthi is known as Maha Siddhi Vinayak Chaurthi ( as it is on this day that Parvati ,spouse of Lord Shiva ,created Ganesha for her protection) When this chaturthi falls on Tuesday or Saturday it is termed as Varad Chaturthi or Shiva Chaturthi and its importance increases .We observe this great arrival of Lord Ganesha for 10 days from Chaturthi to Chaturdashi by preparing’ Roth ‘(sweet thick Pancakes fried in ghee) and Laddoos from wheat flour .On this day ladies of the household get up early in the morning and a bath and get to the business of preparing Roths at a specially cleaned up space.First of all ,roths made from 1 -1/4 kg of wheat flour mixed with ¼ quantity sugar are rolled and fried in boiling ghee .These are kept apart as Lord Ganesha’s Prasad along with few Ladoo’s prepared out of above mentioned material .Then additional roths are prepared out of the above material .Then additional roths are prepared for all the family members ,daughter’s family ,close relatives ,and neighbors .After roth preparation is completed ,a metallic pot (Gadda) is placed at a specially cleaned up place as a symbol of Lord Ganesh .A mixture of green grass ,barley ,and flowers is prepared in a thali .A small quantity of above mixture is put in the pot .Then it is tied with mavli (Narvin) round its neck and using sindur tilk OM in Hindi is painted on this pot .Some milk and a coin are also placed on this pot .The ladies of the house put a small thread made from raw cotton (Hence the name pun) by an unmarried girl by the side of their Athahore or dehahor .All the family members assemble near this pot .A sindur tilak is applied on the forehead and senior household lady places the mixture prepared in the thali in the hands of all family members and gives blessings for their welfare. Everybody takes a seat and then senior lady recites a story of Bib Dharam Maej. After the story is narrated and listened to by all the family members with devotion, some prayers are offered to Lord Ganesha and then everybody puts the mixture in the pot as it symbolized Lord Ganesha. Roths are then distributed to all the family members along with a cup of Nunn Chai. Then roths are distributed to the married daughters inlaws, other near relatives, neighbors and friends. May Bib Dharam Mauj and Lord Ganesha remove all obstacles in the return and rehabilitation of KP’s to valley and may we continue to keep live all rituals and festivals.
(The author is a columnist, social and KP activist).