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.
Amarnath, a sacred site that draws large numbers of Hindus
AMARNATH: Defying curfew restrictions on Wednesday, local Muslims risked their lives to rescue the Amarnath Yatra pilgrims injured in a road accident on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway No.1 A and carried them to hospitals.
The driver of the mini-bus carrying the pilgrims died of injuries after the vehicle met an accident near Bijbehara town in Anantnag district.
Though Sikhism is a distinct religion separate from Hinduism and Islam, we are sharing this story in the spirit of communal harmony
Kuldeep Singh Saini, a mechatronics engineer developed the app Ramadan 2016 which helps keep a track of the direction of prayer, iftar (meal after sunset), sehri (pre-dawn meal), prayer timings, and has been downloaded more than 500,000 times.
Kuldeep, 27, was always intrigued by how the workers at his father’s garage diligently observed the various religious customs during the Holy Month of Ramadan, and had always wanted to make it easier for them to do the same. Armed with basic coding knowledge and a fair experience in app development, he started working on a Ramadan App in 2015. He started by researching religious practices by talking to the workers in his father’s garage. It took him two months to finish work on the UI and UX, while the actual coding took him another two months.
SRINAGAR: When Rakesh returned home to his small village in Northern Kashmir, he didn’t expect things to be the same. After 16 years, he was the only Kashmiri Pandit choosing to head back to Arin. But what he found was far worse than what he had imagined. His land, his house, even the village’s cremation ground had been grabbed by the local land mafia.
It was Arin’s Muslim residents who became his support system. “They said I must assert my right. If someone has made fraudulent documents to become the owner of my property, it will not work. The people have supported me in every way, and I am very thankful,” says Rakesh. The land mafia has already built a shop and a house on the cremation ground. The villagers recently got together to stop the construction on a second house here.
PURTAGERI: In Purtageri north Karnataka, Hindus are helping Muslims restore a mosque that was on the brink of collapse.
It’s a century-old mosque that’s been crying for attention since last October. The roof of the mosque started leaking and a portion of it was badly damaged in the heavy rains that lashed many parts of north Karnataka last year.
But with the rains setting in, a rare show of communal harmony was displayed to the entire country. Hindus have taken the lead to pitch in with donations and construction material to re-build the damaged mosque in remote Purtageri, a village near Gadag in north Karnataka, about 400 kms from Bangalore.
There are about 150 households in Purtageri of which only about 10 families are Muslim, who are daily wagers or agricultural labourers. Hence, they couldn’t afford the renovation of their only place of worship. But Hindus from the neighbouring historic town of Gajendraghada donated willingly and work is now on in full swing with donations to the tune of about Rs 1 lakh. Some Hindus who couldn’t donate in cash or kind, have volunteered to help with the masonry and labour.
Often, we read about a religion and get influenced by its ideals. But how often does it happen that in a country like India, where religion plays such an important role in defining your identity and place in society, a Hindu boy not just got inspired by a Muslim leader but also wrote an entire book on Him.
“When I was a kid, our teachers would tell us to read books as part of our course. Since those days I spent a lot of time reading. I read Muhammad’s biography too and I thought that I should write about this amazing personality,” he says.
Highly influenced by the Quran and Muhammad’s ideas, Rajeev Sharma says there is no other book that talks about peace and harmony better than the Quran. In the future, he is planning to translate it in Marwari too.
Having translated other Hindu religious books in Marwari, Sharma’s first experiment with a different religion has already created a stir. “I want to create libraries in all the villages of India. Books are the best thing one can have and children should inculcate the habit of reading,” he says.
Holi has a Muslim history as well. Revered Sufi saints like Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia and Ameer Khusro in their chaste Persian and Hindvi poetry have adored the ‘pink’ festival generously.
Emperor Bahadurshah Zafar, whose Holi phags (songs) are even relished today and who allowed his Hindu ministers to tinge his forehead with gulal on the day of the festival each year, writes: “Kyon mo pe mari rang ki pichkari, Dekho kunwarji doon gi gari…” (Why am I with colour sprinkled – By me now you will be abused).
During the Shahjahani tenure of Delhi, Holi was known as Eid-e-Gulabi (pink Eid) or Aab-e-Pashi (shower of colourful flowers), and truly so owing to its carnival spirit and hysterical rejoicing for both the major Indian communities.
The umaras (nobles), the rajahs and the nawabs all exchanged rose-water bottles and sprinkled scented water on each other along with the frenzied beating of nagaras (big drums).
This enlightened spirit percolated in the Mughals right from the time of Akbar. Even Jahangir is shown holding Holi festivities in his autobiography Tuzk-e-Jahangiri. Many artists especially Govardhan and Rasik have shown Jahangir playing Holi with Noorjahan, his wife. Mohammed Shah Rangila, in a remarkable painting, is shown running around the palace with his wife following him with a pichkari (water spout).
Emperor Jahangir celebrating Holi with the women of the zenana
In Alam Mein Intikhaab Dilli, Maheshwar Dyal writes,
“Holi is an ancient Hindustani festival which is played by every man and woman irrespective of religion and caste. After coming to India, the Muslims also played Holi with gusto, be it the Badshah or the Faqeer.”
Holi would be celebrated on the same scale as Eid in the Red Fort or Qila e Moalla (Exalted Palace). It was called Eid e gulaabi or Aab-e-Pashi (Shower of Colourful Flowers), with everyone joining in.
NATHOWAL: Sikh and Hindu community members from helping Muslims repair an old mosque and even have a second storey constructed. In fact, the non-Muslims are bearing more than 65% of the expenses.
Nathowal has a population of around 7, 000 of which around 500 are Muslims. Around 50 members are those of Hindus.
Says Mansa Khan, a contractor and president of Jamia Masjid at Nathowal, “All three communities lived in peace here even before Partition. During Partition, 10 to 12 families migrated to Pakistan but 50 families stayed back as our Sikh brothers didn’t allow them to leave. Today, our relations are only stronger.”
“During our festivals we get utensils from mosque. Also, we celebrate festivals of all communities in including Diwali, Dusshera, Rakhi, Eid and Gurupurab,” says Gurpreet Singh, a youngster from the village.
Khalil Pawne, Fahad Dabir, Nawaz Dabir, Rahil Dabir, Shaban Khan, Maqsood Khan, Farooque Khan, Mohammad Kasam Shaikh in funeral procession
THANE: Putting humanity over religion, a group of Muslim youths from Mumbra set an example when they carried out the funeral rites of a 65-year-old neighbour, Waman Kadam, who died on Sunday night in his Almas Colony tenement. Kadam was employed as a building watchman.
When Kadam’s two sons, who are from his first wife, and relatives were reluctant to come over at night to help the ailing widow, Vitava, in her hour of need, she requested the youths to help her cremate him. Khalil Pawne, Fahad Dabir, Nawaz Dabir, Rahil Dabir, Shaban Khan, Maqsood Khan, Farooque Khan, Mohammad Kasam Shaikh promptly set out to look for a pundit to conduct the funeral rituals and even got a death certificate from a doctor.
“My husband would never have thought that his last journey would be with so much honour. There were 40-odd Muslim youths in the funeral procession. We have known them since they were knee high; now, they turned out to be sensitive and responsible adults,” said Vitava.
The ongoing uprising in Kashmir has relaxed only minutely, but festivity engulfs Loswani village. At least a thousand people — both Muslims and Sikhs — started arriving at the bride’s house early on the wedding day.
“We did not invite anyone, they came on their own,” says Nisha’s aunt. “They stayed here for the whole day, but didn’t eat anything.”
The bride’s sister Neha has many Muslim friends, both male and female, at her college in Pulwama town. “Each one of them worked very hard for the wedding,” she says. Her female friend smiles and hugs her. “She was wearing a sari, everyone thought she was a Pandit lady,” says Neha.
“But even then, many people came and we had a very good time.” She speaks frankly about the monetary support that people offered for Nisha’s wedding, some as much as Rs200,000: “They said she is our daughter as much as she is yours.”
Young girls do the bride’s make-up, men decorate the house and women — Muslims outnumbering the Pandits — perform wanwun, or traditional folk songs.
NEW YORK CITY: The Manganiyar Seduction begins in almost complete darkness — light bulbs faintly illuminate 36 human-sized rectangular boxes on a large four-tier set. Then the sound of a khamacha, an Indian stringed instrument, breaks the silence. Slowly, lights come up on one of the boxes to reveal the musician sitting cross-legged, dressed in white with an orange turban.
“They have the Muslim saints and they worship Allah,” Abel says. “And then they also have their … Hindu goddesses. And they sing to both,” he says. “Like, there would not be any difference if they were to sing a Sufi Islam mystic song or if they were to sing a Hindu mystic song. It would be with the equal amount of devotion.”
The Indus is one of the oldest and longest rivers in Asia. Though it originated in the Tibetan Plateau in China, much of it flows across Pakistan. Various religions and cultures have thrived here: Animism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Islam. Each of these religions were indigenised.
Historically, the strand of Sufism which emerged on the banks of Indus (especially in Punjab and all the way across Sindh), consciously eschewed religious orthodoxy and, at times, even rebelled against it.
The poetry and music that emerged from Sufi circles along the river is therefore largely a result of the theological, political and social tensions between Sufis and the orthodox ulema and clerics.
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.
KOLKATA: Shahid Ali is a Muslim priest who will perform the rituals at a Durga Puja this year. But that’s not the only reason we’re writing about him. Like the deity he will worship, Shahid and the humble locality he stays in, are a symbol of the victory of good over evil, of humanity over divisive faith and of the secular mind over zealous theocrats.
Balwant Singh, a member of the puja committee, says: “Shahid fasts for all four days and performs puja according to Hindu shastras“