Sunday, November 10, 2013


             ( Tahar distribution ..A water colour by  Bansi Parimu)                            

                                ( Tahar in a plate)                                           

TAHAR or Yellow Rice  ( cooked in Turmeric powder ,   common salt  and laced with Ghee or  Mustard oil  heated up to flashpoint temperature   )   is a symbol of kashmir’s  composite culture . Kashmiri  Pandits cook it  on Birthdays or  for  offering it to Deities , and  also    to express   gratitude or thanksgiving   . They  eat it  within the family and distribute this TAHAR  to neighbours  on birthdays  apart from carrying it to  Ashrams of saints  so as to  distribute it to devotees  as Prasaad . They    do not use onions for preparing  TAHAR  or yellow rice. .

It is  a treat to eat TAHAR or  yellow rice on birthdays  after the  Puja  by a PUROHIT and the  Prasaad of Tahar is distributed as small  palm pressed  yellow  rice balls called  “Tahari Meutt ” in kashmiri. Before being distributed to family members , some quantity of this Prasaad is first offered to birds. This  TAHAR    is also  relished with   Curd and  spicy  vegetarian ( Cheese or potatoes  ) or non vegetarian   (generally  Liver cooked with potatoes  Called  Oallu Tcharvun  in Kashmiri .) dish..
  Kashmiri Pandits would also celebrate Adshad-Navum (the ninth day of the month of Ashad)  as  birthday of Goddess Sharika. People would go to Hari Parbat  shrine of Goddess SHARIKA with  TAHAR AND TCHARVUN(  cooked Yellow rice and dish made of  liver )   and distribute the same to devotees over there .It is believed that Hari Parbat  is  the abode of Sharika  or the  benefactor Mother  Goddess  of Srinagar . For Ragneya Goddes of  Tulamula  or kheer Bhawani ,  vegetarian food is cooked or offered  which usually consists of TAHAR  with   dishes made from CHEESE  or POTATOES  ( generally DummAlu ).

 TAHAR is also prepared  by kashmiris  when something untoward had to happen but luckily did not happen or some one was saved from some trouble or misfortune or accident  . I vividly remember that our   ladies would   immediately cook Yellow rice or TAHAR as thanksgiving to almighty .  I also  remember my mother preparing  Yellow rice and feeding the birds  after moving  the Rice laden plate  two three times over my head.  At this time she would  say softly  .

“ Gutsch Tche Ballai Door "


"Let every evil be away from you  ”.

This tradition of TAHAR  continues  in kashmiri Pandit community even after their  migration from kashmir  valley. TAHAR cooking continues to be an  essential part of some important  rituals and Religious ceremonies. TAHAR is also taken ( for distribution to devotees  as Prasaad ) to various  Ashrams built in memory of  Highly venerated  saints like Gopi Nath ji , Reshi Peer and  Swami Nand lal  Ji  .  

Muslims  also prepare it for Thanksgiving or Shukraana or Niyaaz . Some families invariably cook it on Fridays and carry to mosques for distribution after Prayers . Kashmiri muslims   addPraan ( A variety of onion ) to it  and cook  large quantity  and quite often  distribute it publicly on roadside  or inside Ziyarat of saint. . I saw Yellow rice or TAHAR being distributed  at Tsraar Sharif Ziyarat  last year .Two photographs   clicked at Tsraar Sharif ziyarat  by me are uploaded below.


 I found the tradition TAHAR cooking and its public  distribution  continuing in kashmiri Muslims up to this day.
 It was a common scene  in Rainawari or any part of  Srinagar city   to see men rushing to receive TAHAR when   some family  brought the same  on Roadside in a big silver plate .   Something like a stampede would be created by people  to receive  TAHAR .

Preparation  of   Tahar or yellow rice is not  confined to Kashmir only. I found it in many cultures in India and came to know  about its significance in many cultures across various countries of Asia ,  Europe and Africa.

 Some religious scholars link cooking of Yellow rice in India with  Basant Panchami . This festival  is related to the yellow  bloom of mustard flowers  .  In India ,Celebrants  of this festival  would Perform Puja  , Cook  Sweet yellow rice and    wear new garments preferably with  yellow colour .

.A careful study of various cultures reveals that Yellow rice is also cooked widely in Plains of India  and other countries  world over. I quote  a few  …..

(1)   In Tamil Nadu and Kerala  Pongal and Onam festivals  are celebrated  with cooking of special rice made yellow with a pinch of Turmeric  . This yellow rice is considered auspicious  and is also showered on newly married couples . It is offered to the deities and used as an oblation in the sacred fire of Hindu ritual.

(2)   Srilankans  eat  yellow rice ( using  Turmeric ) which is exactly kashmiri TAHAR . They also add  cardamoms, cashew nuts , lemon juice , green leafy vegetable and cloves  to this rice .

(3)    Yellow rice  is a traditional  South African recipe and is eaten with Mutton  having spiced gravy .

(4)    In Thailand , Rice made yellow with a pinch of turmeric is prepared on  festivals . Now saffron is also used as a colouring agent .It is enjoyed with curries of all kinds as well as seafood, fish, and even chicken dishes.

(5)   Yellow rice, made yellow with tumeric or saffron, is very popular and  a staple dish in Spain.
(6)    For  Rosh Hashanah  or  celebration  the Jewish New Year, which is a wonderful tradition, People prepare Special rice made yellow with a pinch of Turmeric or Saffron.
(7)   Narenj Palao  of Afghanistan  is a sweet  rice dish made with saffron . Pieces of  orange peel, pistachios, almonds and chicken are also added to this yellow rice .Further Lamb Kebab with yellow saffron rice is a popular afghan food .
(8)   Dami Baghali -Turmeric Rice With Yellow Fava Beans and Caramelized Onions is a popular Iranian Food.

(9)    People in  Indonesia , celebrate  their auspicious occasions  by preparing  Tumpeng which a The cone shaped yellow  rice surrounded by assortment of  local dishes . The rice is made yellow by Boiling it in Turmeric or saffron. This TUMPENG is cooked  for  cheerful and happy festivities and celebrations, such as  of birth, engagement, Marriage, Eid, Christmas etc.

(10) People in Bali  prepare yellow rice known as KETAN  for religious ceremonies . They also offer this rice to Gods and deities . Bali is  an island and a province of Indonesia  and  home to most of Indonesia's Hindu minority.

So Long so much for TAHAR…………… I conclude this post with a quatrain composed by great  Iranian Sufi post BABA TAHIR

Beneath the tyranny of eyes and heart I cry,
For, all that the eyes see, the heart stores up,
I'll fashion me a pointed sword of steel,
put out mine eyes, and so set free my heart.


*Baba Tahir (. 1000-1060 AD) is the most revered and respectable early poets in Iranian literature. Most of his life is fogged up in mystery. Born in Hamadaan , he was also known by the name of Baba Taher-e Oryaan (The Naked). This name leads one to believe that he may have been a roving dervish. Legend tells that he was a woodcutter by profession .Baba Tahir Oryan's mysticism, philosophy, and feelings are captured in quatrains of simple and uniform metre. He is considered as one of the most eminent, erudite mystics and sentimentalists of his time.

 (  Photographs and Text by Autar Mota 10.11.2013 )



About Bansi Parimu's painting at top  , Dr Sashi Shekhar Toshkhani adds :

 "Ta'ha'r is cooked for both banishing of evil spirits and thanksgiving.This painting by late Bansi Parimoo shows a group of Kashmiri Muslims distributing Ta'ha'r as a thanksgiving affair.  It  is a lurking vestige from  kashmir's  Hindu past. "

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