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Kashmir: Love flowed as 100 Hindus came to native village after 35 years

Hindus and Muslims in the temple premises Sanjay Pandita (second from left in Blue kurta) and Bilal (wearing skull cap)

Ehsan Fazili/Srinagar

When the Dehradun-based Sanjay Pandita was boarding a flight from New Delhi to Srinagar on a June weekend, 35 years after his family had fled the violence-hit Kashmir, he was anxious. He was embarking on a mission to relive life in his native village, Murran, in the Pulwama district of South Kashmir.

His family – wife and two sons – and nearly 100 more Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus) whose families once lived in Murran joined him in his journey. They had left their homes, land, and everything in the village in 1989-90 following the eruption of Pakistan-based violence in Kashmir. Pandita, 65, who worked with LIC, and had since settled in Dehradun, wanted to spend a few days with their Muslim neighbours. They all wanted to experience what they missed by not living in their picturesque village.

This initiative was the brainchild of Sanjay Pandita, Chander Mohan Bhat, and Sanjay Koul, who live in different parts of north India. They took the occasion of the festival at the local temple of Brarimaej (Goddess) on which Hindus organized a Hawan (sacred fire). It was not held for 35 years.

Brarimaej Temple in Murram, Pulwama, Kashmir

Murran village was once home to 80 Pandit families was left with 35 at the time of mass exodus of the community. Today only five families live in the village which is located 43 km from capital Srinagar and 5 km from Pulwama town. The latter was an epicenter of terrorism and uprising till a few years ago.

This year the festival fell on June 10-11 and Pandita and others yearning decided to make a fresh beginning with reviving the tradition of hawan at the iconic temple in Murran after 35 years. They wanted to give themselves a chance to relive life in their native village given the return of peace in Kashmir.

Within one and a half months the plan shaped up and all arrangements were finalized. A few native Hindus who would occasionally revisit their village were of great help in communicating with the locals to make arrangements.


Muslim women of Murran enjoying musical performance (Chakri) by local band in Brarimauj Temple

Sanjay Pandita told Awaz-the Voice that he was overwhelmed to see Muslims welcoming them with open arms. “It was the reunion of natives as never before; there was no adulteration in our affection,” he said describing how local Muslims – men women, and youth – with tearful eyes and in an emotional outpouring greeted them.

It is like a reunion of brothers who had separated during the winter of 1989-90 (the period when terrorism rocked Kashmir and Hindus fled after some selective killings and announcements from the mosques asking Hindus to convert, flee, or die.), he said.

“All the Muslims greeted us with open arms, hugging and crying uncontrollably …..it was a decisive moment in which we all felt loved and showed with affection. Muslims  also entered the temple premises before and during the Hawan to ensure that everything needed for the religious ceremony was in place”, Sanjay Pandita told Awaz-The Voice.

Local Musical band singing bhajans inside the temple

“The local Muslim baradari and the youth of Murran extended a welcome that surpassed all expectations, infusing the gathering with an unprecedented warmth. Their efforts were indispensable, as they meticulously arranged every detail, from the thorough cleaning of the premises to enhancing the temple’s ambiance with an exquisite touch of beauty,” Sanjay said.

Adding to the vibrancy of the occasion, a local musical group performed an array of bhajans. All Hindus and Muslims joining the musical night in the temple premises where bhajans and sufi numbers rent the air, “As their melodies soared, the atmosphere became profoundly divine, enveloping everyone present in a sense of spiritual bliss,” write Sanjay in a note.

The visitors were touched when the local Awqaf committee of Babahaji Mosque orchestrated a reunion of Muslim and Hindus within the mosque premises over a simple cup of tea.

Banner put up by local youth to welcome the Hindus

“Members from both communities gathered in large numbers, and the air was thick with emotion as they reminisced about the days gone by, days filled with shared experiences and deep-rooted bonds. The scene was one of heartfelt reunions, a powerful testament to the enduring strength of their shared history,” wrote Pandita.

Even though arrangements for lodging the 100 people had been made inside the temple premises, “many of us have been staying in the houses of Muslims. I feel as if the clock has turned back”, Sanjay Pandita said.

 “A group of almost 100 women also came to meet us as we arrived in the village. There were emotional scenes of re-union”, said Sanjay Pandita, known by his nickname of Nika Laal to the elders and his peers in the village.

Sanjay Pandita with Bilal Ahmad

“All of them recognized me and others; they remembered our nicknames and everyone was calling me Niklalam”. As the Hawan was organized on June 10-11, Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims from nearby villages came over to meet their friends and scquaintances and some out of curiosity.

The locals brought walnuts, almonds, the special Kashmir-grown dry fruits, and especially the long ‘Kashmiri chilly which is known for its colour and low pungency for their guests.

The Muslims came to the temple for a vegetarian meal by joining the Hindus. Sanjay was emotional as he left the village to board his flight to Dehradun but he was happy to have reconnected with his roots.

Bilal Ahmad, a local Muslim told Awaz-the voice that he was in school when he saw Hindus leave in hordes. He recalled his Hindu friends amd the shared memories of his childhood. He said he was also told by his parents how the Hindus and Muslims lived in peace and as neighbours till the gun arrived in Kashmir.

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Bilal said, “An apple orchard is incomplete if only one variety is grown; it would flourish and yield higher if there are varieties of apple trees.” His allusion was to the need for Hindus to return.

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