Helped by Muslims, Hindus throng Kashmir shrine

Discussion in 'Religion & Culture' started by ejazr, May 30, 2012.

  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Helped by Muslims, Hindus throng Kashmir shrine - NY Daily News

    Srinagar, May 29 — Scores of Kashmir Pandit devotees thronged the Khirbhawani temple shrine in Jammu and Kashmir Tuesday amid emotional scenes of Hindu-Muslim amity.

    Using buses, taxis and even two-wheelers, Hindus paid obeisance at the holiest Hindu shrine of Mata Khirbhawani in Tullamulla village, 24 km from summer capital Srinagar in Ganderbal district.

    Elaborate security arrangements had been made by the authorities as most devotees arriving at the shrine were Hindus who had left the Kashmir Valley in the early 1990s with the outbreak of separatist violence.

    Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also paid obeisance at the shrine and interacted with the devotees who gathered around to speak to him.

    Rare scenes of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood were witnessed as locals in Tullamulla village served milk in earthen pots to the Pandits, keeping up the centuries old local tradition.

    'It is precisely due to the devotion to Mata and love for our Muslim brothers that I have been coming here regularly all these years,' said Ashok Koul, 42, who came from Jammu with his family.

    Muhammad Shafi Baht, 52, a local Muslim, said: 'The scene at the Mela has remained unchanged despite the political upheavals. Muslims in Tullamulla have always eagerly waited for the festival each year to be of some help to the Pandit brothers.

    'This is what keeps the basic fabric of our eclectic society alive.'

    Till midday Tuesday, more than 20,000 devotees had prayed at the temple shrine.

    'My prayers now go out for our future generations. They must not lose sight of the great culture and heritage Kashmir has been famous for. Our generation is irrelevant anyway,' said B.L. Zutshi, 75, who came from Dehra Dun in Uttarakhand.

    The Jammu and Kashmir Dharmarth Trust, which manages the shrine affairs, had set up free kitchen for the devotees. The departments of public health engineering, electricity, and food and supplies set up camps to facilitate the passage of the devotees.
     
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  3. ejazr

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    The Hindu : News / States : Pandits flock to Kashmir valley to celebrate Kheer Bhawani

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    Thousands of devotees on Tuesday thronged the temple of Ragnya Devi, a revered goddess of Kashmiri Pandits, to celebrate the annual festival of Kheer Bhawani.

    Nestled in the shade of mammoth Chinar trees in this village in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, the temple witnessed massive crowds of devotees, most of them Kashmiri Pandits, who made the journey from across the country.

    Walking barefoot, the devotees carried rose petals and offered tribute to the goddess as men took a dip in the stream close to the shrine.

    “I am so happy that I came here. I prayed for peace and harmony. I was glad to see young boys, both Muslims and Hindus, making arrangements for the festival of the Mata,” said Santosh Kaw, a Kashmiri Pandit who is visiting the temple after 27 years.

    Kaw, who lived in Chanapora locality of Srinagar, left the Valley for New Delhi in 1990 at the peak of militancy.

    “This is a festival of Hindus but what I saw here is an example of brotherhood between Hindus and Muslims,” said Raj Kumar, another Kashmiri Pandit, who was born in Srinagar’s Karan Nagar locality but moved to Jammu.

    As devotees jostled with each other to move closer to the main temple complex, the chants of hymns echoed through the temple compound.

    With the improvement in the security situation in Kashmir at the turn of this century, the confidence of the Kashmiri Pandits saw a boost with more members of the community paying occasional visits to the Valley.

    This is evident from the rising number of Kashmiri Pandit devotees attending the Kheer Bhawani festival every year, with more than one lakh attending the festival last year alone.

    Omar vouches of Pandits’ return

    Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Tuesday said that a sense of security and economic safeguards were the basic elements which will help in return of Kashmiri Pandits to their native land.

    “Before bringing back Kashmiri Pandits, we have to instill a sense of security in them. We are making all our efforts in this direction,” Omar told reporters after visiting the Kheer Bhawani temple here.

    He said economic package in the shape of employment to the youth of the Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley is an important step to help return of these families.

    While the atmosphere of peace and security is gaining ground gradually and the state government has implemented half of the employment package for Kashmiri Pandits, the situation is becoming more and more palatable for their return, he added.

    The Chief Minister said the state government is taking up the issue of enhancing financial support to Kashmiri Pandits to enable them construct their residential houses in the Valley.

    He said the remarkable increase registered in the number of Kashmiri Pandits visiting Kheer Bhawani during last few years is an encouraging phenomenon.

    “Government would continue to work to improve the facilities for the large number of devotees visiting Kheer Bhawani,” he added.

    The Chief Minister said Kashmiri Pandits are integral part of the culture and ethos of Kashmir and Kashmiriyat.

    He said that their return to the Valley is the cherished goal and desire of the government and the civil society.

    Mr. Omar said the gradual improvement in the security situation and generation of economic avenues for this community would give required boost to the endeavours of the government to achieve this goal.
     
  4. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    A very nice article on the same story on Kashmir Pandits and local Muslims

    Tehelka - “This year the spring water is clear, Kashmir is at peace”

    Pradeep Kisroo, 28, has come from Muthi in Jammu to pay obeisance at the Hindu shrine of Mata Khirbhawani, considered one of the holiest here. It is the second time he has visited the temple since his family fled Kashmir in early 90s. Touched and inspired by his visits Pradeep Kisroo now he wants to come back permanently and settle among his “own people”.

    “Kashmir is now peaceful. I have this intense feeling that I have come back home,” says Kisroo, a teacher, who originally hails from Tulamulla. “My parents had also come last year. They found the same old environment of Hindu-Muslim amity in which they had grown up. They want to come back”.

    Kisroo’s family is not alone. There are hundreds of others who have turned up for this annual pilgrimage, the biggest Hindu festival in Valley after Amarnath yatra. The numbers have grown over the past two decades. From a trickle at the height of militancy in early nineties to the thousands this year, the number has been directly proportional to the degree of normalcy in Valley. Even though the pilgrimage has not been attacked but that was because fewer pandits visited the shrine in the nineties and that too under heavy security.

    Sushil Khushoo, 35, attests to this fact. “I have been to Khirbhawani several times in recent years. But this year it is different, it is very peaceful,” says Khushoo, a businessman who has also come from Jammu to visit the temple which is located near a natural spring. “If this peace holds, many Pandits will feel encouraged to come back”.

    There was an unbroken throng of devotees around the temple singing devotional songs in Kashmiri. They pray for boons and prosperity and offer milk and kheer to the goddess Ragnya Devi. Eateries around prepare strictly vegetarian food. There are loonche (local bread), samosas, pakoras on offer.

    However, the large numbers of the Pandits present a challenge for the local police personnel charged with the security of the shrine. They keep a strict vigil on the crowd. Every new entrant to the shrine precincts is frisked. But compared with the previous years the atmosphere this year is relaxed. The devotees are freely moving around. Many migrant Kashmiri Pandits who hail from the place went to visit their ancestral houses and met their Muslim neighbours.

    “All my Muslim neighbours came to welcome me. I was overwhelmed with joy and emotion,” says Kisroo who lives at Batapora locality of the village. Kisroo has come here with his wife who has also come for the second time. “ It was nostalgic visiting my home, where I was born”.

    Mela Kherbhawani, as it is locally known, has a significance for the local Muslims also. “We usually invite our relatives on the occasion. And we also restrain from cooking mutton. None of us will visit the shrine precincts if we have eaten meat,” says Zahoor Ahmad, 37, a teacher at a local government school. Besides, the mela comes as a boon for the local economy. Flowers, earthen lamps and other things used in puja are sold by Muslim shopkeepers. “We also offer the pilgrims milk in earthen pots which is a tradition going back centuries”.

    Unlike yatras to Amarnath and Vaishnodevi where Hindus from all across the country visit the high altitude shrine, Khirbhawani is almost exclusively a Kashmiri Pandit affair. And over the past two decades, the visit to the shrine has become an annual nostalgia trip. “I come here to experience the joy of being back in Valley,” says Surinder Raina, 45, who has come from New Delhi. “The feeling is really great”.

    The spring at Khirbhawani is among the most sacred in Valley. For Kashmiri Pandits it divines the situation of Valley. Different colours are manifestations of different events. Shades of black in the water signal the approaching disaster. And as the Pandits folklore goes, the waters of the spring were darkest in 1990 when the outbreak of militancy led to the mass migration of the community from Valley.

    “This year the water is clear,” says Raina. “Kashmir as you know is finally at peace”.

    Sheikh Ghulam Muhammad, Chief prayer leader of the local Grand Mosque has witnessed the annual mela for the 80 years of his life. But seeing the pandits return to celebrate the festival over the past two decades has been a painful experience. “I can’t bear to see that pandits no longer live among us, in our localities,” Muhammad says. “I wish they return to their homeland and Kashmir becomes old Pir Vaer (Garden of Saints) again where all communities live in harmony with each other”.
     

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