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Any account of the customs and rituals of our community, without a mention of the Shivaratri festival, would be incomplete. This is the crown of our festivals, and is spread over a full fortnight of the PhaIguna month. It is a socio-religious function that is the very part of our life. On the first day of the dark fortnight, called Hurya Okdoh the wholesale cleaning of the house, painting and decorating begins with gusto. The pooja room called Thokur Kuth and the front door called Dar are specially cleaned, one for the pooja and the other to welcome Shiva and Parvati, whose communion is the real essence of Shivaratri. The first week up to the Hurya Satam, is busy time for washing, cleaning and collecting the required items. The eighth day called Hurya Aetham is the day of the presiding deity of the valley, Maa Sharika. On this day we have Havan at Hari Parbat and night long Keertan. This is followed by Hurya Navam, Dyara Daham, and Gada Kah. On these days apart from usual pooja, prescribed items of vegetables and/or fish and meat are cooked according to the custom of every home. Ladies go to their parents' house for bathing and washing and return to their own homes with new clothes, a new Kangri (fire-pot) with a silver tsalan dangling behind it. Twelfth day is known as Vager Bah and it is customary to have Vager pooja on that day, which is the first formal pooja of the Shivaratri. The thirteenth day called Herach Truvah is the day of the main pooja. The eldest member of the family keeps fast for the day. Vatuk is brought by the potter which comprises a 'No't', Resh Dul, Dul, Saniwaer, Macha Waer, Dhupu Zur, Sani Potul, assortment of Parva and Taekya. These are cleaned, filled with water and then arranged in the prescribed order in the pooja room. Nariwan and garlands are tied round these items. The No't representing the Kalasha and some other pots are also filled with walnuts. The actual pooja begins in the night when all the family members assemble in the pooja room for the purpose. The Vatuk, representing various Devatas and Bhairavas, is worshipped under the directions of the Kula-Purohita (the family priest). This is an elaborate pooja for a good three hours and is followed by a sumptuous feast. All the items cooked are first offered to the Vatak Nath.
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