The Tullamul tradition

This annual festival has a meaning and a message for us

Suneel Wattal
Srinagar, Publish Date: Jun 19 2018 10:04PM | Updated Date: Jun 19 2018 10:04PM
The Tullamul traditionFile Photo

Tullamul - the name that resonates on every Kashmiri Pandit's tongue. So much so that folks would avow by it while affirming something, ‘Tullamul naagich dreiy’ being a very common oath-word. The holiest of holy temples for the Kashmiri pandit community is situated around 30 kms north of Srinagar and is an inherent part of our culture and social fabric. Most of us have grown up with monthly Tullamul trips on Ashtami (eighth day of the bright fortnight of a lunar calendar). In fact Ashtami has a high relevance in Kashmiri almanac. Signifying the day of the goddess, almost every community member round the globe observes vegetarianism on this day. The prime Ashtami is the one falling in Jyestha month termed as ‘Zyetha Aeatthum’, which is the date for annual fair at Tullamul.  

 

In olden times, people would travel to Tullamul in a boat – ‘Doonga’. It was an organised excursion and would possibly take them a couple of days to reach the shrine, after cruising over Jhelum, and then navigating through backwater streams of the area. This practice was outmoded with the advent of better means of transportation, it is just a ninety minute drive as of today.

 

After entering the campus, the visit would start with a customary dip in the adjoining stream (used to be compulsory, even if you have had a bath just before starting from home), and then a ritual with the offerings bought from the halwai shop. We had two rows of halwai shops on either side of the complex, with every family maintaining relations with a designated shopkeeper. These shops provided offerings, earthen lamps, sugar candy ‘kand and nabad’, halwa for prasad and took care of the food and lodging requirements of their clients. We also had local Muslims from adjoining villages selling milk and ‘venna’ for offerings. ‘Venna’ is a bunch of pleasantly smelling green leaves and used to be found in abundance in this area. I still remember the aroma wafting in the air the moment our bus would cross the Duderhoume bridge (the site of present Mini secretariat near Ganderbal). 

 

The campus is strictly vegetarian. No one (including even Muslims from adjoining areas) enters the complex after consuming non-vegetarian food. The revered shrine houses the heptagonal spring of the Goddess. It  is believed that the spring had a mulberry tree ('tulle kul') at the centre, which would have withered over time, and has been replaced with an ornate marble temple sometime in 1920s, housing the ancient statues which were recovered from the spring bed while cleaning the same. Since the temple is in the centre of the spring, the priest has to walk over a detachable wooden plank to access the sanctum sanctorum. As small kids, we would eagerly await the display of this acrobatic feat, which would happen a few times during the day. 

 

The uniqueness of the spring lies in the changing colour of its water. The water displays hues from light green, bluish, milky to brownish, pink or even black. Irrespective of any possible scientific reasoning, it is a firm belief among the local populace that the colour of the water signifies the environmental situation of Kashmir. A dark colour is a bad omen whereas a light colour is an indication of good times. People say that the water had turned black during 1947 and 1990s. Social media was also full of pictures depicting a deep pink colour at the onset of recent floods and 2016 unrest. During the good old peaceful days, we would mostly come across a pure milky or light greenish tinge.  

 

The complex is cobbled with dressed stone and full of overgrown Chinar trees. The trees provide shade and resting pedestals for the pilgrims. During summers, many pilgrims would sleep in the open compound at night, the bedding comprising of reed mats – ‘waguv’ and blankets provided by the halwais.  This has now been replaced with tents specially provided for the peak rush during mela time.

 

Although the shrine was almost deserted post the 90s exodus, the footfall has started increasing in the last decade. A lot of yatris, traversing the Baltal route for Amarnath yatra, park here for a day on their return. Busloads of Kashmiri Pandits visit from Jammu each year at the time of Mela. With the situation becoming better, more and more pandits have started visiting the shrine. This year ‘Zyetha Aeatthum’ falls on 20th June. While adequate arrangements are being made for the comfort of pilgrims, some of us are anxious to view the colour of the spring that day, praying for a pleasant milky hue to rid Kashmir of its problems and bestow peace and tranquility on this land. 

 

swattal@gmail.com 

 

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