Monday, January 3, 2011

Khich Mavas: a Feast for Yetis and Dogs

Tonight my family will be performing an ancient Kashmiri ritual. We are going to offer food to the strange beings that dwell in the high mountains and come down on this day to check if the truce that was offered by them long ago is still being honored or not. Kashmiri Pandits call the night called Khech Mavas or the Khichdi Amavas. On this day lentils cooked with rice are kept outside the door for the Yech to feast on. Yech is the operational word for YakhshasNagas and Pishachas - the mythical ancient demi-god residents of Kashmir. Khech Mavas is a yearly reenactment of the peace treaty that was arrived at by the demi-god and the humans. Humans would offer Yech food on this day so that Yech would not bother them in the tough winters. Humans would draw a circle around their house, a circle that Yech wouldn't cross and outside the peripheral door Khichdi would be kept. Locals would tell stories of a strange toupeed being that would visit each house to claim his food. It was believed that whoever manages to steal the golden topi off the Yech's head stands to attain all the riches of the world. Children, a bit fascinated and mostly terrified, would often try to sneak a view of this super being, they would stay up late into the night, eyes glued outside the window towards the door. Of course no one came. This was the day of feast for dogs. Dogs traditionally have a claim on a certain portion of Pandit's meal - a Kashmiri Pandit offers Hoon Myet or Dog Morsel, to a symbolic dog before commencing to have his meal. But on this day, dogs were treated extra specially, even garlanded and then offered food.*

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* 'Festivals of India' (India. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India (Republic). Ministry of Transport. Tourist Division - 1956). People in Nepal have a somewhat similar ritual.

Images: 
1. A screen cap from Yeti film from Ramsay Brothers' Ajooba Kudrat Ka (1991). Yech always reminded me of Yetis.
2. Photograph of Ladakhis by John Burke. Notice the cap and the dress.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Vinayak,

    Great insight on the ritual. For some reason, I couldn't understand the point implied in second image. Can you elaborate on this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As a kid I always imagined Yech as a furry creature with a fur cap. That dress in the pic looked interesting.

      Delete

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