Monday, March 9, 2015



(Mundan or the first hair cut of the child being performed at Tsraar Sharief Ziyarat in kashmir
( Photo Autar Mota )
Zarra- kaa -saai ( Zarkaasaai ) or the first hair cut of the child was another important ceremony performed by kashmiris across the religious divide . It was performed upto a maximum period of three years and at times even upto 5 years from the birth of the baby.

Kashmiri Pandits performed this ceremony at Temples or shrines of highly venerated saints while Muslims visited Ziyarats and Dargaahs for zarkaasaai . For Pandits Kheer Bhawani shrine , Jwala Ji Temple at Khrew or Haari Parbat were preferred centres while Muslims would go to Hazrat Bal , Ziyarat of Said sahib near UNO office Dalgate , Tsraar Sharief , Baba Reshi , Baba Shukardin’s Ziyarat Overlooking Wular lake and many more shrines and Ziyarats .
About Zarkaasaai, kashmiri scholar and poet late Moti lal Saqi once informed me as under;- 

“ This word Zarkaasaai has come us from two Sanskrit words JATA and KARTAN. This ceremony has been with kashmiris since the Vedic period . It is one of the strongest proofs of our past linkage and identity . Our history says that we also performed this ceremony on river Banks . 
Kashmiri Pandits consider Gangabal lake below Harmukh Peak as equivalent to River Ganga . Quite often they would keep the Tonsured hair safely inside their house with walnuts and immerse it in some sacred river or lake at appropriate time. Sometimes they would carry it to GANGABAL lake for immersion. And this ceremony is performed across various cultures world over . A HOMA or HAVAN was an essential part of this ceremony in kashmiri Pandit families .
It used to be a great festive occasion in Muslim families . A day for Charity and visit to Dargaah or Ziyarat . Muslims would keep the hair Tufts in a bag and Bury it . It is a spirit of sacrifice . How beautiful the child looks with those soft tufts and how religiously we are prepared to sacrifice that lovely look and see his head tonsured. VANVUN was an important tradition in Zarkaasaai ceremony performed by Pandits and Muslims . “

 I quote Anand Kaul from his “The  Book Kashmiri Pandit”,

“ On the occasion  of Mundan ( Zarkaasaai ) of the grandchild , DURRI  BATAAH  is taken by the daughter’s parents to her house . It consists of new clothes to her , her son ,her husband and other close relations   and also   cash  of the amount of TET.”

 Walter Lawrence In his Book ‘THE VALLEY OF KASHMIR ‘  mentions ,

“ In the third year the ceremony of shaving the child’s head ( Zarkaasaai ) takes place , this being very joyous occasion . The day before the ceremony , the child’s hands and feet are coloured red with Mehndi ( Henna ) and this is known as Mehndiraat . A great feast is prepared by paternal aunt.  For services on this day, the paternal aunt receives gifts ( Zang )consisting of rice ,salt .Guests and relations feast heartily on Wari ( prepared from rice , fat ,ginger , caraway seeds, assafoetida, oil etc. ) prepared by paternal Aunt. The child’s hair is carefully buried under a tree ”

I vividly remember how kashmiris would not allow the Barber to touch hair of a child with scissor or Knife unless a ZARKAASAAI ceremony was performed . And kashmiri Pandits in particular would see that the Barber does not use shaving Knife or Ustaraa for the ZARKAASAAI tonsuring .A pair of scissors were used for Zarkaassai . A knife was used by Pandits only on the day of hair cut performed subsequently on Mekhala or Yageopavit ceremony. Muslims straightway went for the ZARKAASAAI tonsuring with a barber’s knife.
In kashmiri Pandit families , when a child (who had not performed his Yageopavit ceremony) was taken for a hair cut , the person accompanying would invariably inform the barber not be use Knife while carrying out final finish of the hair cut . The barber was advised to use a pair of scissors only for the hair cut of the child. Mothers would remind children about this aspect whenever they went to the Barber’s shop for a hair cut. 

Here is the VANVUN ( Traditional folk singing by women in a Group on religious ceremonies and festivities ) that kashmiri Pandit women would sing on Zarkkaasai ..

Zarra Kaasiyo Shalmaar Gosha
Maej Tchheii Poshan Maala Karaan ..

(At that elegant Shalimar garden ,

I shall perform your first hair cut .

Here sits your mother 
preparing Flower Garlands for you )

Kashmiri Pandits would also sing Vanvun when the Barber entered the house for Zarra Kaasaai

Muss az kaastuss bihithh Zoon Dabbe 

Sabbe munz az chanda Bharyo 

Maamun onunuss Keimkhaab Pataa 
Jataa krishanuss karri Ho Ho

( O Barber ! ensure 

that you cut his hair while he sits at that moonlit Attic .

I shall pay you to your pocket’s fill.
Look! How his Mama ( maternal uncle ) has brought a piece of 
expensive Kemkhaab cloth ,
He shall lull Krishna with long hair to sleep “

Vostaa kaar dapaan Kyaah Karaa varrii Haenni

Me Gatchha Larrii Haenn zooni Daebbi Saan..

( Here says the Barber that the Masaala Tikki ( Vaerr ) is of no use to him ,

He wants the building to be given to him along with the Moonlit Attic.)

Vostaa kaar dapaan Kyaah Karra daaneuss
Mei Haai Goss vanni-hom Jaageerus…

(The Barber says what for does he need the Paddy stock,
He wants entire village Vannihaama in Jaageer for the hair cut )

( These lines were heard by me from kashmiri Pandit Ladies at Mattan in Anantnaag District in 1987 during a Zarkaasaai Ceremony )
I quote some lines from the VANVUN ( Traditional folk singing by women in a Group on religious ceremonies and festivities ) that Muslim women would sing on Zarkkaasai . 

Bismillah karithh Zarraa Kaassiyo
Issm e Aazam Paraayo….

( With Bismillah , I hereby start your first hair cut ,

Here I recite first that Great Name ( Lord ) “

Vostaa Kaar Oyaa Hyaathh Roff Suundh Khoora 

Nabi saeb Raatchhh Chhuyii Shuirr Paanus ..

( Here comes the barber with his silver knife ,

Dear prophet is there to protect you my Child )

(These lines have been heard by me from an old lady who had come for Zarkaasaai ceremony of her Great Grand son at Tsraar Sharief Ziyarat in 2010.  I was privy to the Zarra-kaasai ceremony performed at Tsraar Sharief Ziyarat by a Muslim family from a nearby village . TAHAR was lavishly distributed by the family to devotees at the shrine. )

Vanvun is no longer a part of this ceremony now . City dwellers no longer perform the ceremony with the traditional Gaiety and festivity . Yes the tradition still survives in rural areas of Kashmir.
Zarkaasaai was a day of festivities and feasting time for close relations of the family after the tonsuring and religious rituals associated with it were over . Kashmiris would invariably prepare, eat and distribute TAHAR ( yellow rice ) . Kashmiris believed that the hair of the child could also be used by some enemies or evil minded persons for sorcery that could harm the child and accordingly it was always ensured that the same is kept in a bag before being properly disposed off as per respective religious practices .

This ceremony Known as Mundan or Chudakarna in rest of the country was another important samskaara in kashmiri Pandit families . kashmiri Pandits would select some auspicious day and proper Muhurrat for this ceremony that was performed in presence of their family priest . Apart from other relatives , Both mother and father of the child had to remain invariably present during the ceremony .

I end this post with the popular folk song sung in kashmiri families . During festive occasions like Mekhala , ( Yageopavit ceremony of the child by Kashmiri Pandits ) ,Khatanhaal ( Circumcision of the child by kashmiri Muslims ) or marriage , married women would dance and sing in their parental home . It was a sudden demonstration of affection , solidarity and an emotional attachment . They sang…

Pomparo shamaahuss karuu Gathhaa 

Rathhaa Vundaai Maalinyo..

Me Chhum Baaijaanin Sathhaa 
Rathhaa ha Vundaai Maalinyo..

“O Moth! Go and dance around the burning Candle ,

Here I die with love for my parental home .

Let My Brother be always there for me ,
Here I die with love for my parental home .”

( Autar Mota )


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