Kashmiri Pandits Celebrate ‘Maha Kumbh’ in Kashmir After 75 Years

Although most were elderly pilgrims, a number of youth visited the kumbh mela to take a dip in the holy Sangam.

4 min read
Hindi Female

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.

This Lingam was established there 1994 Bikrami Samwat, that means 510 years ago by Pandit Rishibhat Sahab.
BJ Dhar, Elderly Jammu Pilgrim
Although most were elderly pilgrims, a  number of youth visited the kumbh mela to take a dip in the holy Sangam.
A Jammu pilgrim. (Photo Courtesy: Pradeepika Saraswat)

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.

We Kashmiri Pandits have 6,000-year-old history. One can find the references to this place in Neelmad Puran. This Sangama has always been sacred for Kashmiri Hindus. Mortal remains of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were brought to this place.
AK Kaul

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.

I do not know much about the significance and history of this Kumbh. I read about it in a newspaper. And, since I never got a chance to go to the Prayag Mahakumbh, I came here to take a holy dip.
Veer Singh Dhar

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.

Although most were elderly pilgrims, a  number of youth visited the kumbh mela to take a dip in the holy Sangam.
Most of the pilgrims belonged to Jammu. (Photo Courtesy: Pradeepika Saraswat)

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:

I left Kashmir during the nineties. Now would this girl (points towards a local) ever understand what it was like living together, eating together? Would my sons who grew up outside this valley ever have an emotional connection with these willows and chestnut trees?
JK Dhar

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.

Although most were elderly pilgrims, a  number of youth visited the kumbh mela to take a dip in the holy Sangam.
Pilgrims line up to visit kumbh mela. (Photo Courtesy: Pradeepika Saraswat)

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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