GOMOH: It’s a language traditionally associated with sacred Hindu texts. But about 100 Muslim girls in two Jharkhand schools have shattered the stereotype about Sanskrit, choosing the classical language over Urdu and Persian, saying it is much easier to learn and score good marks in. Dozens of these girls in customary headscarves chanting Sanskrit hymns from the Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagwad Gita is a common sight at the schools in Gomoh, a sleepy hamlet in Jharkhand.
So, do the parents object? “No, not at all,” said Shalu Nisha, who is preparing for her class X examinations at the Government Girls High School. “In fact, they insisted that I take up Sanskrit instead of Urdu for my matriculation,” she added.
KOLHAPUR: Setting a unique example of communal amity, Hindus and Muslims gathered at mosques in Kolhapur region on the occasion of Ganesha festival on Friday. Ganesha statues are placed inside mosques and devotees from both the communities participate in the festivity with great fervour. On Friday, Muslim devotees said the Ganesh deity was installed in at least half-a-dozen mosques in the region during the 10-day-long festival. Later, members of the both the communities take part in the immersion of the idol. ”
In Siro Taluka village in Kolhapur we have the idol of lord Ganesha placed inside the mosque. For the past 50-60 years we have been performing this ritual here. We have such idols in six to seven mosques. Hindu and Muslims take part in the immersion of the idol together. This way we are trying to spread this message of amity among the people of the whole country to live together in peace,” said Mansoor Sheikh, a Muslim devotee.
“See, for the past 40-50 years we have been celebrating the festivals of Hindu and Muslims like Muharram (a Muslim festival), Ganpati, Navratri ( Hindu festivals) together with religious amity. We celebrate all these festivals together with brotherhood and love. No violence occurs here and we celebrate every festival with great fervor and zeal,” said Mahesh Janvekar, a Hindu devotee. At the end of the 10-day-long festival, the idols of Lord Ganesha are taken in grand processions and immersed in water bodies such as wells, ponds, rivers and the sea. Ganesha Chaturthi is the most important festival in Maharashtra, and it is also celebrated with devotion in other states of southern India like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
SRINAGAR: Under the majestic chinar in a cremation ground, Mohammad Yasin Dar, 55, has lit a bonfire to stay warm on a nippy February morning. He has spent a larger part of his days at the place for 10 years. A devout Muslim, he has embarked on an unusual mission—to perform last rites of the dead of Kashmir’s minuscule Hindu population.
“Earlier, it was a pathetic situation here. There was no one to cremate bodies of Hindus as everyone was afraid. Cops would ferry the dead in dingy vans and lit the pyre in a callous manner,” said Dar. “I had a dream in which a Hindu goddess commanded me to restore her temple in the cremation ground. As I had no means, I told the management to do it else I would not stay here,” quipped Dar.
PATTOKI: “That is an interesting shrine,” said Iqbal Qaiser, as he pointed towards the minaret rising from the middle of Pattoki. I later found out that the shrine was but a small part of a huge complex. The grave of the saint around which this shrine was raised was located in one corner of the courtyard. “The shrine belongs to Peer Abbas. He is popularly known as Kutiyan wali sarkar (the master of dogs)” The wali here signifies female. Almost all Sufis are referred to as females in iconography. This is in relation with God who is represented as a male figure. In Sufi poetry, a devotee, or a Sufi, presents himself as Heer, the legendary Punjabi folk lover, to Ranjha, the protagonist of the legend and a symbol of divinity in the Sufi tradition. This Sufi tradition also borrows from the Bhakhti tradition of Hinduism, in which Radha is represented as an ideal devotee approaching her God, Krishna, the male figure.
There are of course direct comparisons between Peer Abbas’s idiosyncratic association with dogs and Shaivism. For example, Lord Shiva, in his terrifying form, ugra, is accompanied by a pack of dogs, while he is depicted as mendicant ascetic. In Tantrism, Shiva, in the incarnation of Bhairava, is depicted either with the face of a dog or has a dog as his vehicle. In Bhairav temples all over India, devotees offer prayers to the statues of dogs or living dogs. Dogs wander inside and outside the temple of Kalbhairav in Varanasi, and are garlanded by worshippers. Others present them with food offerings as a form of worship.
In the Sufi tradition, death anniversary of a saint is celebrated with much pomp and fair as opposed to birthdays. The celebration is known asurs. This is because it is believed that after his death the Sufi becomes one with the divine existence, a concept similar to Monoism of Hinduism. This union is represented as a marriage ceremony where the divine is understood to be the husband (Krishna or Ranjha) while the bride (Radha or Heer) is the Sufi.
KARACHI: Pakistani students formed a human shield around the Holi celebrations at the Swami Narayan Temple so that Hindus could celebrate their festival with abandon.
Hindus, who make up almost 2% of Pakistan’s population of around 180 million, are the largest minority in the country. Most of them live in the country’s Sindh and Punjab provinces.
The National Student’s Federation (NSF) carried out this exercise to show their solidarity with Pakistani Hindus, to promote the protection of religious minorities, and advocate interfaith coexistence.
GOTKINDHI: In a classic example of communal harmony, members of the New Ganesh Tarun Mandal in Gotkhindi, a small village in Walwa taluka of Sangli district, have been installing the Ganesh deity inside a mosque in the village for the last 31 years.
The mandal members, both Hindus and Muslims, are also equally proud of the fact that villagers have never objected to the move. In fact, the Muslim villagers offer namaz at the mosque and then follow it up with an aarti for Lord Ganesh. Similarly, Hindus can be seen celebrating Eid with equal zest.
Subhash Thorat, one of the founders of the New Ganesh Tarun Mandal in Gotkhind says, “Our village is small and in 1979, the facilities here were very limited. There was no pandal or tin shed like we see in the Ganesh festivals now. So we installed the idol out in the open. But on one of the festival days, it started raining heavily. We wanted to shift the idol to protect it from the rain. That’s when our Muslim residents came forward and asked us to shift the idol inside the mosque.”
That was 31 years ago and every Ganesh Chaturthi, the idol gets installed in the mosque. “Even after all these years, we don’t set up a separate pandal during the festival. The move has helped strengthen Hindu-Muslim bonds in the village,” says Thorat.
MANGALAGURU: A few youngsters belonging to the Hindu community calling themselves ‘Friends of Bakrabail’ distributed sweets to the Muslim brothers on the occasion of Milad-un-Nabi a which marks the birth of the Prophet.
The Bakrabail village is situated near to Salethur at the Kerala border in Dakshina Kannada district. Every year during the feast, Muslims from the nearby Madrasas organise a rally, which convenes at Bakrabail junction. This year a group of youth called ‘Friends of Bakrabail’ showed their heartedness by distributing sweets and refreshments to all present at the rally. This act of showing communal harmony and brotherhood among different religion has been appreciated by all.
BELLA VISTA: When Kartik Mohandas breaks his Ramadan fast he meditates while his Muslim friends recite Islamic prayers. “Fasting exists in most messianic religions. Navratri is a period where Hindus fast for nine days and hold festivities on the 10th day. So fasting is not specific to any culture.”
“I have only one phrase and it comes from a vedic [Sanskrit] text, vasudhaiva kutumbakam, which means “the world is my family. Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, they all had their revelations out in the desert after fasting. There’s got to be something to it, some experience that they went through.”