Gani Ansari (in yellow) with best friend and groom Ram Narayan
NEPAL: I am Muslim and a journalist. But my Nepalese “blood brother”, or “mit” as it is known in our language, is a Hindu. Our friendship is known as a Miteri friendship – a special friendship decided by our grandmothers over 24 years ago as part of a unique Nepali tradition. These friendships were arranged as a way of transcending regional, religious or social differences.
My mit, Ram Narayan, and I were both five years old when our Miteri relationship was solemnised. Our grandmothers thought we looked alike and had agreed that Miteri relations between us would be a good idea.
We had to sit together and eat the same sweets from the same plate. It is believed that doing so makes the friendship long-lasting.
Examples of peace and harmony continue to exist all over the country in small gestures. It is these simple acts, prompted by generosity and large-heartedness which keeps our country from splintering violently. Check out some of these acts in the past, which will simply touch your heart.
MUMBAI: Mumbai-based Ilyaz Shaikh, 27, and his 24-year-old wife Noor Jahan were on their way to the Sion Hospital at dawn on Thursday, when Noor Jahan went into labor. According to a report in the Mid Day, the taxi driver asked them to get out when he heard Noor Jahan screaming in pain, as he did not want her to have the baby in his vehicle.
“We were so worried. My wife was close to delivering the baby and all we could see was a Ganpati mandir. As soon as we got down outside the temple, some women, who were sitting in the verandah of the mandir, rushed to help us. We didn’t even have to ask,” Ilyaz, an embroidery worker. Ganpati is another name used for the Hindu god, Ganesh.
PESHAWAR: Muslims, Christians and Sikhs joined Hindus in a rare Diwali celebrations in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. The event was organised by All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement Chairman Haroon Sarab Diyal at the premises of ancient Gor Khattree monument here on Saturday night.
Diyal said the “objective of holding this unique gathering was to give a message to the outer world that mutual co-existence does exist in Pakistan where every one is free to live his life in accordance with his wishes and religious norms.” He said Hindu community has decided to organise Seerat- un-Nabi conference in Peshawar on the occasion of the Prophet’s birthday next month.
MOOM: Nazim “Raja” Khan toiled over the construction of a Shiva temple in a Punjab village, a thought nagged at him. There he was, a Muslim, building a Hindu temple. Yet there was no mosque nearby where he could worship. “We had no place where we could offer namaz (prayers),” says the 40-year-old. “It wasn’t nice for our relatives when they visited.”
Earlier this year, he approached the temple administrators and told them: “You Hindus will soon have your new temple. And you already have an older one. But we Muslims have no place to worship, nor money to buy land. Would you give us a small area of your land?”A week later, he had an answer. The temple management had decided to hand over nearly 900 sq ft (83 sq m) of vacant land next to their temple.
Purshottam Lal, an ayurvedic medicine practitioner who sits on the temple management panel, explains: “It was a very genuine demand. It was unfair that while we all share our joys and sorrows together, [the Muslims] didn’t have a mosque.”
The Sikh community is contributing funds for the mosque, which shares its wall with their gurdwara, making for a rare example of communal harmony between the three religions in a land where minorities often complain about victimisation.
NEPALGUNJ: In the spirit of “communal harmony” and interreligious dialogue, hundreds of Muslims have joined Hindu believers to celebrate the feast of Dashain. The feast is underway now in Nepal, and is one of the most important observances for local Hindu tradition, connected to the worship of the goddess Durga. In Nepalgunj, a town in the western part of the country, the occasion has special significance thanks to the presence of Muslim leaders and faithful who have exchanged gifts, embraces, and good wishes with the Hindus.
LUCKNOW: Sahaduddin (Sameer) Ahmed and his friend Abdul Kalim observed fast on the first day of Navratri.
“If Hindus and Muslims start celebrating festivals together, there will never be a Dadri. If I keep rozas, I also observe fast on Navratri. In my village, Hindu festivals Holi and Diwali begins from our house. On every Bada Mangal, I organize bhandharas,” said Sameer, whose grandfather Bashir Ahmed and PVC Hamid were brothers. The two families live next door in Ghazipur.
“Dadi always says that no religion talks ill of other religion. Until and unless we start respecting each other (Hindu and Muslims), outsiders will draw advantage. It’s high time that we get united,” says Sameer.
Kalim, a second year BA (Hons) student at LU, said: “Hindu-Muslim unity in our country was exemplary to the West. Unfortunately, religion is being used to divide communities and societies. We will continue to spread communal harmony in our own ways,” said Kalim
For Diwali, Sameer is already read. “I will visit people who cannot afford to light a ‘diya’ in their house because of any reason. If I make few Hindu families smile, I will feel live in peace,” said Sameer.
KURUMBAWADA: People of Kurumbawada, a village in Maharashtra, less than 5 km from Belagavi district in Karnataka, grew up celebrating Hindu and Muslim festivals with the same enthusiasm. The village has over 150 Muslim families and 200 Hindu families.
Haridas Koli and Javed Kalamba claim that they were surprised when they were told that they followed different religions simultaneously. They did not believe when they were told that Ganesha Chaturthi is a Hindu festival and Muharram is considered a sacred month only by Muslims.
“We keep the idol in Muharram Khana, a place which is used by the Muslims during Muharram. If a Muslim is conducting the aarti, he also chants the Hindu shlokas. Even we know verses from the Quran,” says Haridas, who is a farmer by profession.| Javed says that every religion propagates peace and brotherhood and that his village is a model that shows that people of different religions can live without any quarrels. The people of the village celebrate most of the Hindu and Muslim festivals together, and they are gearing up for Bakrid, which falls a day after the day of the mahaprasad.
SHIVRAJPUR: Aneesh Quereshi, his wife and three children have been performing the puja of the elephant-headed deity for last five years at their Shivrajpur village home in Gujarat’s Panchmahal district.
Shivrajpur village sarpanch Kanubhai Soni said, “This has set up a unique example of brotherhood and communal amity. The Hindu people staying in the village visit Quereshi’s home for darshan at the time of aarti and puja of the idol.”
Deputy sarpanch Satish Sharma said the celebration has been going on in their village, having a population of nearly 5,000, with a lot of camaraderie between the two communities. Almost whole of the village participates along with Quereshi in the immersion of idol in Dhadhar river every year, he added.
KHARAGPUR: Muslims in West Bengal’s Kharagpur have decided to cancel Muharram procession this year and donate the money for the treatment of a Hindu neighbour, who is a cancer patient.
Samaj Sangha Club, which organises Muharram procession in Kharagpur’s Puratan Bazar, will raise Rs 50,000, the amount needed for the celebration, for Abir Bhunia (35), a mobile recharge shop owner who is suffering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. They have already given him Rs 6,000.
Bhunia is undergoing chemotherapy at Saroj Gupta Cancer Centre in the southern fringes of Kolkata and needs Rs 12 lakh for a treatment that includes bone marrow transplantation.
“Muharram processions can be organised every year. But we have to save the life first,” said Amjad Khan, secretary of Samaj Sangha.
Mohammad Bilal, a member of the Muharram committee of Puratan Bazar, said God would be satisfied “if we serve the people”. “He is suffering from cancer and fighting with death. We should stand by him.”
RAJASTHAN: A three-day festival is organised at the Dargah of Narhar – also known as Dargah of Sharif Hazrat Hajib Shakarbar – situated near Chirawa in Jhunjhunu district, about 200 km from Jaipur. “This festival is being organised here for the last 300-400 years and people of all communities come here. A main aim of this celebration is to promote Hindu-Muslim brotherhood,” said dargah secretary Usman Ali Pathan.
People from many states including Maharashtra, Bihar, Delhi, Haryana, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh visit the dargah during the festival. “Thousands of Hindus come here and offer flowers, chadar, coconut and sweets in the shrine,” he said. Over 400 shops come up in the vicinity during the festival time. Qawalis, skits and dance dramas are organised on the night of Janmashtami, similar to the ones held in temples.
THRISSUR: In a refreshing development, the hall attached to temple at Eravathur near Mala became the venue for the Eid prayers on Wednesday for the devotees from the nearby mosque which is still remaining flooded.
The office-bearers of the Purappullikkavu Rathneswari Temple run by SNDP Yogam happily volunteered when they realized that priests at the nearby Kochukadavu Juma Masjid were looking for a place to organize the community prayer session on the Eid day.
“We thought offering the temple hall for Eid prayers will be an expression of the secular lineage of this land. We had also arranged all other facilities like water for cleaning for the devotees who had come for offering prayers,” said P K Sabu, who is the president of SNDP Union Mala.
About 200 Muslims had assembled to offer prayers at the temple hall. “We were very happy to hold the prayer session there, and we spent about two hours there,” Khalid said
India is a land of festivals, where often people from different communities and religions come together to celebrate festivities irrespective of their faith or community. Spreading love, compassion and harmony — the festive season can often be the force that brings people closer beyond faith, and this year – like many others – we have witnessed some beautiful examples.
Muslims around the world and in India celebrated the important Eid al-Adha on Saturday. But when heavy rainfall stalled Eid celebrations in Uttarakhand, people from the Sikh community came forward. The Muslims in Joshimath were unable to offer namaz on the holy day at Gandhi Maidan in town, instead, so they prayed inside a gurudwara instead.
Mumbai Police too shared another heartwarming image of Hindu-Muslim communities celebrating two festivals – Eid and Ganesh Chaturthi – together in the city. Tweeting out a photo of Muslim devotees offering namaz in a Ganpati mandap, they highlighted “the essence of Mumbai” at Ganesh Murti Nagar, Cuffe Parade.
A similar scene was noticed in Gujarat. To spread the message of communal harmony, for the first time a Ganpati pandal was erected next to Bala Pir Shrine near Udhna Darwaja at Navsari Bazar in Surat. Members of the Hindu community celebrating the Ganesh Chaturthi were seen wishing Eid Mubarak to their Muslim brethren on Bakrid.
On the holy occasion of Bakrid, a few Muslim women were seen performing aarti at a Ganpati mandap in Mumbai. To celebrate the Supreme Court’s historic ruling on Triple Talaq, the women from Sion Koliwada offered obeisance to Lord Ganesha.
DALLAS: Urvi Dalal, who is Hindu, and her husband Nadeem Walji, who is Ismaili, were visiting from Manhattan, New York. Urvi and Nadeem said they decided to spend their Imamat Day in Dallas to celebrate with family and friends. One of their friends, Kamini Mamdani is also Hindu and married to an Ismaili, Malik.
Urvi shared, “It’s so nice to celebrate as a family and for the kids to be with their grandparents. Their grandparents remember when he (Mawlana Hazar Imam) became Imam and now when they look back at today they’ll remember sharing the day with their grandchildren.”
I felt a sense of camaraderie as I connected with interfaith families that day. Many were excited to be celebrating with family and friends. It was evident that the common thread which bonded interfaith families was their love for family and humanity.
KERALA: The Lakshmi Narasimhamurthy Vishnu Temple, in Punnathala, invited Muslims for a vegetarian iftar party. Some 500 Muslims, including men women and children from the area, attended the iftar. As unusual as it sounds, the temple authorities held the iftar as a token of appreciation to the members of the Muslim community, who had contributed to the restoration of the century-old temple. The Iftar was a part of the week-long Punaprathishta (restoration) of the idol and Naveekarana Kalasham (renovation) at the temple. The restoration ceremony which began on Monday will conclude on Sunday.
Cherusseri Unnikrishnan, the temple committee president said that the people of the village live like a family and religion has never come between as a dividing factor.He also recalled that not just financial contribution, youths from Muslim community had joined hands with the Hindus during the restoration works.
DELHI: Kush Kumar Singh, a doctor by profession, is Faizal’s flatmate. Strangers to each other until a few years ago, the two have been sharing the space for the last three years. In Gaffar Manzil, a predominately Muslim colony, Faizal underlined, “There is only one Kush, one Hindu resident. So most people know about him.”
There is also a larger reality that Faizal pointed out – Hindus and Muslims may form the two largest constituents of the country’s citizenry, but they rarely live as neighbours, let alone sharing a roof. This is particularly true in North India.
“Living in a Muslim colony for the last three years,” he said, “has not made me less of a Hindu but it has certainly made me open up to Muslims. It helped my neighbours to open up too. Just as I have never lived among Muslims, they also have never lived with a Hindu. So there are perceived notions about each other.”
MALDA: A group of Muslim youths took the body of Biswajit Rajak, 35, a Hindu who died on Monday, to the crematorium and even chanted the name of Hari (equivalent of Ram Naam Satya Hai) following the Hindu tradition. They carried his body on their shoulders for a distance of 3 kms to the crematorium, and performed all the traditional Hindu rituals including consigning the ashes to the nearby river and taking a dip in the river after the cremation.
Rajak’s family is are so poor that they could not pay the crematorium and associated charges. When his family could not arrange his cremation on Tuesday, villagers gathered at his house and requested Biswajit’s father Nagen Rajak to allow them to cremate his son. Even the moulavi of the local mosque also went to the crematorium. The Muslim neighbors paid the money necessary for his last rites. The Rajaks are one of the two Hindu families in the village of about 6,000 residents.
“The common people are not really bothered. Helping a family in distress and chanting some Hindu names can’t take away my religion,” said Ayesh Ali, a villager who participated in the last rites. The Muslim neighbours of Rajak also paid for his treatment and arranged to send him to a hospital in Kolkata.
JAMMU & KASHMIR: From Muslims cleaning up and organising puja at a temple to 1,000 specially-designed ‘Herath’ greeting cards, this Shivratri Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims bonded and reached out to each other, with social media providing a rare platform to relive past memories.
“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,” said Rashid Dar, a local.
“I miss water-soaked walnuts that Pandits would offer to Muslims in neighbourhood. For ‘salam’, I would visit Pandits the next day after herath,” recalled Ashraf Kishoo on Facebook.
“Around 1,000 greeting cards were delivered to Pandit families. The card highlights the poetry of Lal Ded, equally revered by Muslims and Pandits. It carries the picture of a stone temple of Mansbal that was restored with the help of locals. The idea is highlight the rich culture the State has nurtured for centuries,” Works Minister and government spokesman Nayeem Akhtar said.