Archive for the ‘Nostalgia’ Category

Quran Bozanowun – A Solemn Tradition

Posted: December 2, 2014 by kashmirsufis in Nostalgia

For me and my siblings, the house of Oatanji was a sanctified place. That, I believe was true about all our chatahal-mates. At home, we were taught not to go to chatahal without performing ablutions.
It was a very humble house, like many other houses in our Mohalla. Made of four inch square and two inch thick half-baked bricks – named as Maharaja Seer (Bricks). The mud-roof of the chatahal, like most of the houses blossomed during springs and summers and during winters covered with thick blankets of snow, with long icicles looking like chandeliers lent a celestial aura to it. In keeping with elitist tradition, this house also had a ‘Tehsi-ba’ar’. Our chatahal was in the ground floor of the house – it had three windows and for purposes of light, even the latticed windows with oiled newspapers pasted remained open during chilly winters. Squatting on wa’gow or hay-mats when we parroted our lesson full throat, Oatanji, sitting near of the windows watched every one of us with prying eyes. She also had her eye fixed on the Tehsi-ba’ar (Main door), to watch truants. I am amazed, how in the din of noise we learned our lessons.
Notwithstanding, having an angelic face, she inspired awe in all children. She had an eagle’s eye, spotted children playing pranks even while her eyes were fixed on the Holy book. Past week, I wrote that graduating from the Qaida to learning thirtieth para- Ama-Sipaer, as we called the Para Amma Yatasa’aloon was an important occasion- an occasion that was always observed with solemnity and fervour. Learning the La Yuhibbullah, the sixth para of the Holy book was seen as an important milestone – till this stage pupils attended Chatahal with a copy of a para (Juz) of the Quran in cotton ghilaf. And graduating to Wa Iza Samiu, the seventh (juz) of the Quran was yet another important occasion in learning of the Holy Book. And from now on the pupil would start reading directly from the Quran.
In Kashmir, this stage in the learning of the Holy Quran was known as Quran Haun”. It was another important occasion, observed with festivity and solemnity. A fresh copy of leather bound Holy Quran preferably of Taj Company, Lahore was bought from a leading bookshop Ghulam Muhammad Noor Muhammad Tajreen Kutab in Maharaj Gung. And brocade or green velvet ghilaf, was got stitched for the holy book. The child in new clothes, as on first day to the Chatahal was accompanied by his kith and kin on this day also. The children were served Kahwa or Taharee. Some distributed tea and loaves of bread in the Mohalla, as was done by some families on every 6th or 11th of Muslim Calendar. The affluent gifted a pheran-shalwar suit of Cashmere cloth to the Oatanji.
Of all the festive occasion Quran Bozanowun was a tough time for the bride at the bridegrooms’ house. On third or fourth day of marriage, the bride was asked to read a ruku from the holy book in presence of an Oatanji or an okhan saeb. The bride was then gifted a golden ring or a gold coin by mother-in-law. If in reading the verses, she committed a mistake she was asked go for galtan (revision)……

Of ‘Thursday Paisa’

Posted: December 2, 2014 by kashmirsufis in Nostalgia

Those days admission of a child — girl or boy – to a Quran ‘Chatahal’ used to be a day of great solemnity and celebration. On the first day, the child in his best dress accompanied by every family member, near-relatives and sometimes joined by children of the Mohalla, was taken to the Quran Chatahal, almost in a parade. A domestic help or a family member with a fuming samovar of Kahwa filling the air with aroma of cinnamon and cardamom and a basket full of best baked Kashmiri Kulcha used to be part of the occasion. Often the first Arabic qaida for the child was wrapped in green velvet, or a brocade. The child in his own right felt no less than a bridegroom or a bride…Many a time some elder member of the family sat with the child in the Chatahal.
There were couple of Quran Chatahals in our locality. Most of them were run by ‘Otanjis” in their personal accommodations. These female Quran tutors were epitomes of austerity, virtue and piety. Draped in pherans almost touching their knees and headscarves covering every strand of their hair-they carried their own aura and for children most of them were no less than proverbial Ded Mouj. For us their humble houses were no less than citadels of learning. The shrill voices of children parroting Arabic alphabets in unison sounded as melodious as highland streams at night.
Children like me who were bad at parroting where mortally afraid of daen-moor ‘pomegranate twig’ that Oatanji used for cane charging those boys who failed to learn the lessons. A lash with this stick was as terrible as whiplash from bullock whip. It caused pain and a bluish imprint on the body-that stood as reminder for many days. Nevertheless, these Otanjis were blessed ladies – they taught God’s word to hundreds of children not for monetary benefits but seeking Allah’s blessings. I remember, it was one paisa later on raised to one Anna that we paid to Oatanji on every Thursday – we called it braswari-paisa. Friday used to be a holiday.
Graduating from the qaida to the next stage of learning the Holy Quran was always an occasion to celebrate. I have very impressions that instead of starting from Alif Laam Meem – the first verse of the holy Quran, Oatanjis started teaching thirtieth portion, Ama-Sipaer, as we called the Para Amma Yatasa’aloon. Starting learning the thirtieth portion in itself was a great occasion for the family to celebrate. On this day some families invited neighbours for relishing a cup of Kahwa and Kulcha – some offered ‘rooight” – a mega-size bread of flour and dry fruit as niaz at Hazratbal. And a samovar of kahwa was also taken to chatahal for children. I remember Oatanji was given rupee one or two as a hadiya. After completing the 30th portion, Oatanji started teaching the first one of the Holy Book, and completion of every portion up to the sixth, La Yuhibbullah, was observed with solemnity, with offering of hadiya to Oatanji. I remember, till sixth portion children went with a copy of single portion to chatahal and not entire the Holy Book. It was mostly after sixth part that learners started learning from the Holy Book – the occasion was called “Kashmir Quran Haun”. It was another major occasion for the family to rejoice.
The Quran Haun and Quran Boznowun- were two other important occasions of our cultural milieu during our childhood.