Kashmiri Pandits: From Gens Religiosissima to Religious Scarecrows || Bhushan Parimoo || LIVE IMAGE

What happened in Kashmir the other day has never happened ever before in the long annals of  the history of Kashmir . The incident was marked by the laying of the foundation stone of the Sharda Temple near the actual Line of Control between India and Pakistan inKarnah tehsil , at the last village   Tithwal at a distance of  73 kilometres from the district headquarters Kupwara Kashmir.

The uniqueness of this rare happening was that a Muslim woman, Dr. Darakshan Andrabi Chairperson Waqf Development Committee of Union Ministry of Minorities affairs and BJP National Executive Member  laid the foundation stone of the Sharda Temple under the auspices of the Save Sharda Committe headed by Shri Ravinder Pandita. The high point of this  rare happening was a Muslim woman offering Hawan oblations to the sacred fire amidst chanting of Slokas in Sanskrit according to the Vedic rites prescribed in the holiest Hindu scriptures.
 
The event  witnessed by scores of people and a horde of media channels to cover this historical event has, however, not produced the euphoria across the wider section of the Kashmiri Pandit society.    

It is difficult to gauge the event. In the least,however,  it offers two views.  One, that signals new amity between the Hindus and Muslims of Kashmir that remained wrecked in recent decades following the onset of militancy and rise of radical Islamic fanaticism in the Valley, and  the  second,  an event that indicates to  signal  the dilution of the tenets of both the Islam and Kashmiri Brahmanism in the Valley.  Now that such a thing has happened,  it  raises the question whether what has been done meets the religious approval of the tenets  of Islam and  the Brahminical practices of the Kashmiri Pandits.  

 The development on one hand appears to  augur well for the restoration  and return of   peace in the blood soaked Valley as the two communities , through this significant  secular and modern religious act, seem to have buried their acrimony that has plagued relationship between them in the recent decades.  However, on the other hand the conservative adherents of the respective beliefs may have looked at this never- before religious performance  as  blasphemy for both the Muslims  and the Pandits of Kashmir. 

Even more important question arises, if what has been done has the religious sanction of both the communities and a nonafide approval of the majority of people from either of the faiths.


Notwithstanding the peculiar situation that has arisen in the religious history of Kashmir as a result of this inter- religious performance,  many on either side would argue that what has been performed is both unheard and unknown previously. And perhaps many more may think that modern values of life  must get rid off the redundant orthodox religious practices to enable people from both the religious faiths to come out of  the pernicious doctrines of religious bigotry. 

There however, arises a more potent  question whether such a thing happened with the religious compromise arrived between the two  religious groups with some kind of political approval and sanction from the powers that be. 

Given the irrefutable and unique religious act that the Kashmiri Pandits have committed in the instant case, it is pertinent to glean through some  historical observations on the religiosity of the Pandits for anyone to come to a conclusion  on what  all has happened from the Kashmiri Pandit point of view. 

A century ago observed, Francis Younghusband: " In spite of the splendid  Moghals, brute Pathans, bullying Sikhs and rude Dogras, the Kashmiri Pandits ever remained the same." It has been argued that 'the same Hindu who did not dare to complain when they saw their wives, their children and everything held most dear carried off by their fierce conquerors,  their home devastated by fire and sword; their temples destroyed, their idols demolished; these same Hindus displayed some sparks of energy when it became a question of changing their religious customs for those of their oppressors.'

'Seven centuries of  Muslim rule, during which time the conquerors tried alternatively cajolary and violence in order to establish their own faith and their own customs amongst the conquered did not suffice to shake the steadfast constancy of the Kashmiri Brahmans. Bribes of dignities and honours and the fear of annoyance and loss of position had no effect on the Kashmiri Pandits. 

Indeed the majority population had to yield and had even been forced to adopt some of the religious and civil practices of the Kashmiri Pandits'.

Giving a similar view,the far famed Orientalist and the man Kashmiri Pandits  owe Rajatarangini to, Aurel Stein too has called the Kashmiri Pandits " Gens Religiosissima" meaning people who are strictly superstitious in their religious conduct because they guard with jealousy the pure traditions of their religion. Till date the Pandits are known to adhere to the performance of all ceremonies in all exactness of detail in accordance with Vedic rites under the direction  and guidance of a priest.

But alas, the contrary has been done at the Titwala ceremony. History informs us that the Kashmiri Pandit preferred to give his neck during the tyrannical  Pathan rule but did not abandon his religion. It belies the faith of the community as one struggles to understand  that  how a Muslim woman could lead his religious practice. Is it that the Pandits are now reduced to religious Scarecrows and the community is done with its age-old faith and religious belief. 


The mitigating circumstances must compel the community for an introspection than  be allowed to be taken as hostage of some sort of new religious conversion.

No one can take  Kashmiri Pandits for a ride and  least to be used as fodder of  any type of political expediency. Save Sharda Committee owes an answer to the community for allowing this religious trespass and Shri Ravinder Pandita in particular, who heads the initiative, must come out with a categorical stand if he is not bartering the community's religious ethos for cheap publicity.  

Perhaps, the Kashmiri Pandits have never stooped so low even during the times of Sikandar Butshikan as have now they been to reduced to by the 'Titwal Fiasco'  that has put the religious faith of the community at stake like never before.

Bushan Parimoo
(The writer is a Jammu based environmentalist and a regular contributor to this Website.)
(Feedback at: blparimoo@gmail.com)

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