In a spirit of brotherhood, villagers clean Nand Kishore temple in Bandipora for puja.
Muslims have cleaned up and organised a puja at a temple and 1,000 specially-designed ‘Herath’ greeting cards have been produced: this Sivaratri, Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims are bonding strongly, and social media is providing the platform to relive past memories.
For the first time since hundreds of Pandit families migrated out of the Valley in the face of raging militancy in the 1990s, villagers, young and old, of Sumbal village in Bandipora, 30 km from Srinagar, converged on the Nand Kishore temple in the shade of mighty Chinars, early in the morning. They carried brooms and water containers.
“We decided to clean up the premises of the temple for the Pandits. We want them to perform puja with all reverence and without any sense of insecurity,” said Rashid Dar, a resident.
Several people carried placards that said: ‘Let’s celebrate next Herath (a term used by Kashmiri Pandits for Sivaratri) together in the valley’, an apparent reference to the return of Pandits.
The Sumbal area witnessed growing militant activity this year, with nearly six reported encounters so far.
Scores of Muslim netizens in the Valley greeted Pandits on the occasion.
“I miss the water-soaked walnuts that Pandits would offer to Muslims. For ‘salam’, I would visit Pandits next day after herath,” recalled Ashraf Kishoo on Facebook.
Those Pandits who stayed back, to keep the tradition alive, kept water-soaked walnuts for Muslim neighbours.
More than 3,000 families decided to stay back despite the militancy. The Kashmiri Pandits’ herath was different from the rest of the country. Pandits would cook both fish and meat dishes on the occasion.
In another gesture, the government mailed through post offices specially designed herath greeting cards.
“Around 1,000 cards were delivered to Pandit families. The card highlights the poetry of Lal Ded, equally revered by Muslims and Pandits,” State Works Minister and government spokesman Nayeem Akhtar told The Hindu.