After 27 years, in this Shivratri Kashmir witnessed a different picture as hundreds of local Muslims gathered at the ancient Nand Kishore temple in the Sumbal area on the banks of Jhelum. The Muslims held puja to celebrate Mahashivratri in the absence of Kashmiri Pandits.
They cleaned up the temple and organised puja. The Muslims appealed to the Kashmiri Pandits to return to their homes so that they could celebrate the next Mahashivratri together. The placards read, “Let’s celebrate next Herath (a term used by Kashmiri Pandits for Shivratri) together in the valley.”
A local Rashid Dar said, “We have 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.”
The first one who arrived at the temple was forty-two-year-old contractor Imtiyaz Hussain Parrey. He cleaned the temple premises and the sanctum sanctorum and then offered flowers and fruits to the Shiv Lingam.
Parrey said they offered puja in their own way since they are Muslims and don’t have much knowledge about Hindu rituals.
No Kashmiri Pandits living in the Sumbal area, so the local Muslims brought a Hindu priest from the adjacent area. The priest watched over the temple reopening ceremony and also performed the mandatory prayers to mark the Mahashivratri, the biggest festival of Kashmiri Pandits.
Parrey stated for the last 27 years no religious functions has been held in this temple. He said they did their best to keep the tradition alive. As per the tradition, they also distributed walnuts.
Kashmir Pandit Sangrash Simiti (KPSS), the higher body of non-migrant Pandits revealed the figures that militants killed 637 Pandits since 1990 while state government figures revealed that only 219 Kashmiri Pandits were killed.
Another resident Jahangir Ahmad said, “There were 50 to 60 Pandit families living in Sumbal before the turmoil. All of them have migrated and there is no Pandit living here. We feel incomplete without our Pandit brethren and that is why we have come here to invite them to come back to their homes.”
This is the first time that the Muslims in the region came together to appeal the Kashmiri Pandits and the positive side is no political party was involved in the whole heart-warming arrangement.