Niyaz Feast:  A beautiful tradition of bygone days
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Niyaz Feast:  A beautiful tradition of bygone days

Many beautiful traditions and values have evaporated from our social fabric. And the great tradition of Niyaz is no exception to it

Post by MUSHTAQ HURRA on Monday, November 28, 2022

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Our fathers, forefathers and ancestors had no mansion type houses to live in, had no hefty sums of money deposited in banks, had no degrees and certificates to their credit, had no precious outfits in their wardrobes to put on and had no luxury cars to travel in. Yet, they had everything worth living a cheerful, jovial, gleeful and purposeful life. They had the most valuable treasures available at their feet. They had contentment, gratitude, peace of mind and absolute satisfaction. Their big hearts were fountains of love, sympathy, empathy; and there wasn't an iota of arrogance, hatred, pride and jealousy. Our social fabric was then abundantly brimming over with generosity, philanthropy, apportionment, open-handedness and munificence. Unprecedented and exemplary compassion of our antecedents was the hallmark of our true human stature and eminence, called kashmiriyat. Destitute and needy would never go empty handed, even from homes of the poorest of poor. Giving alms to needy was like a norm of our society. Our predecessors were the embodiments of charity, magnanimity and benevolence.


There was strong and saccharine social binding, holding people together as a family. Even neighbours of other religions and faiths were equally important stakeholders of this social cohesion. Hindus and Sikhs were never thought to be strangers; and religion would not cause breaches in our social solidarity. Inviting neighbours, friends and relatives to simple but impressive feasts, was a permanent custom of our villages. A marriage in a home would mean invitation to all households of a village. Besides marital occasions, our ancestors used to arrange special feasts, called Niyaz (A meal offered to relatives, friends and poor; to win the pleasure of Allah). There was no distinction made between rich and poor; invitees were called in all and sundry. 


I vividly remember that Niyaz was almost performed in every household of our Mohalla. Completion of harvest would free Kashmiri villagers from the yoke of agricultural slavery. Preparations of Niyaz were started during early summer months. Since sheep rearing was a common practice in villages and probably continues to be a major source of our agrarian economy though a bit diminished now, and almost every family had its own flock of sheep. A good-looking lamb was chosen to be slaughtered for the sacred purpose. The lamb was specifically pampered and fed well. Children used to adorn these rams with special bells.  Even shepherds at alpine meadows would never look at the lamb with evil eyes. Special fodders like bran, oilseed and tree foliage was fed in abundance to the ram to make it fat and corpulent.




Niyaz would always begin with special prayers - Zikr (Repetition of chanting of Allah's attributes) and Duroods called Khatmi Shareef. A group of piously and learned elders, led by a Molvi sahab, would recite special verses and supplications to ward off the family from possible evils and ills. Before serving feast to invitees, a special cuisine called Haaeziri was prepared by cook (Waza). Liver and other internal organs viz kidneys and lungs of the ram were cooked and served to the group reciting Khatam. The practice is still in vogue in our villages. Wazwan was served to the invitees. But, children of Mohalla would get their share first. Our modern wazwan has undoubtedly turned lavish, but our ancestors would never cross the limit of decency and moderation. Number of dishes served would never exceed the limitations of integrity and etiquettes. Haves and haves-not would eat from the same plate. Every household of the village would organise such feasts. The Niyaz, thus, would strengthen mutual bonding of love and brotherhood, between the people different caste, creed and complexion.


But, now, all this has vanished into the thin air. We have become gluttonously gourmands. Neither Niyaz nor other social occasions bind us tight in the bond of love and affection. Even our wazwan has become extravagantly immoderate. It is of course the crown of our heritage and culture. But, we have added unnecessary hauteur and showoff to it. From less than a dozen of dishes and cuisines, it has gone beyond two to three dozen cuisines or even more. And thus, our modern Wazwan is sending shivers down the spine of poor people. Will such feast win us the pleasure or wrath of Allah? We need to ponder a bit about it.


Ah! Our ancestors - Their ways were lovely, reverent and righteous. We now arrange sumptuous parties and feasts for our dear ones, but, hardly invite those who are not in the list of our favourites. Poor and destitute are ignored like untouchables.  We spend extravagantly, but the beautiful charity like Niyaz is a bygone custom, now. It was more than a religious obligation for us. It was an effective way to eliminate the possible chances of social disintegration and disorganization. We have neither pleased our Lord nor His creations. Losing values to modernization, is indeed a curse. 


Many beautiful traditions and values have evaporated from our social fabric. And the great tradition of Niyaz is no exception to it. I won't deny the fact that we haven't ceased to donate. But, the tradition of Niyaz had other dimensions which are missing in secret charitable and philanthropic gestures. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has urged us to make Salaam (Islamic greetings) and Tu-aam (Serving meals to people) a tool of spreading love among people. Even Prophet Muhammad (SAW) Himself used to invite people to special feasts at His residence. I wish the practice of Niyaz is restored and brought back to our social setup with the same spirit. 


(Author is a Teacher and a Columnist. He can be reached at