Kashmiri Pandits Celebrate ‘Maha Kumbh’ in Kashmir After 75 Years
Since I have been living in Srinagar for the past month, friends and acquaintances have made a habit of sending me links to articles on what’s happening in Kashmir.
One of these informed me that the ‘Dashar Maha Kumbha’ is to be organised in Ganderbal district of Kashmir, at the confluence of rivers Jhelum and Sindh, for the first time in 75 years.
About 25,000 Kashmiri Hindus Gathered
AK Kaul, a convener of Kashmir Mahakumbh Mela Celebration Committee was quoted in the article, explaining the religious importance of the place.
There is a very small island at the confluence of Jhelum and Sindh (Indus). And there is an old Chinar tree on the island, under which resides a Shiva Lingam.
On Wednesday was the main Kumbha Snan. I joined the throng of a few thousand Kashmiri Pandits, mainly from Jammu. Mr Kaul, who was in attendance, estimated about 25,000 pilgrims had come along.
Most of the pilgrims were elderly, but a decent number of youth also came to take a dip in the holy Sangam.
Veer Singh Dhar, a state government employee, came from Badgam while his family lives in Jammu.
Local Muslim Men Were Selling ‘Sacred Herb’
Three Bhandaras were running for the pilgrims, all run by Jammu people. A medical camp, ambulance, water and electricity arrangements, and police were provided by the state.
A makeshift foot bridge was built by covering boats arranged in a row from the bank of Jhelum to the sacred island with wooden planks. Locals who arranged the bridge charged ten rupees per pilgrim to go and worship Shiva Lingam on the other side. Some of the local Muslim men were selling a local sacred herb offered to Shiva to the pilgrims.
The BJP Makes an Appearance
It was the kind of religious gathering we see in any other part of the country, except for two things.
Firstly, some of the elderly Kashmiris visiting the valley seem to be sentimental about their roots. They did not confine themselves to the fete arena, but visited the village nearby. One reminisced:
The other unusual thing about the gathering was the presence of a BJP camp at the venue. No other political party made their presence felt.
Mixing Politics With Religion?
Their district president Desh Kumar Nehru took enormous pride in telling me that BJP wants Kashmiri Hindus to come back and live with their Muslim brothers.
The young General Secretary of BJP in Northern Kashmir, Shekh Waseem Bari, also gaily flaunted his Bhagwa BJP topi. He made a point of reminding me that Kashmir is the land of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood.
Upon calling the Jammu and Kashmir Congress spokesperson, Ravindra Sharma, to ask why did they not welcome the pilgrims in the valley, he answered that they did not want to mix politics with religion.
It is good to have them back in the valley but unlike BJP, we do not mix politics with religion. They are the ones who follow this tactic. They went to Kumbh, they were the ones who wanted Abhinavagupta Yatra to happen, and then they went on to oppose it themselves. They are playing this game. We don’t know if they are with the hair or with the hound.Ravindra Sharma
But politics and religion are already mixing. With the BJP government at the centre and BJP-PDP coalition ruling the state, Jammu and Kashmir is set to see a lot of fermentation on the Kashmiri Pandit front.
There is clamour about Pandit colonies, Kashmir Mahakumbha, and Abhinavagupta Yatra – let’s see what else is in the pipeline.
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