Kashmiris celebrate Shivratri with religious fervour

Kashmiri Pandits celebrate Shivratri with religious fervour

Devotees wait to offer prayers to Lord Shiva on the occasion of Maha Shivratri festival, at Aap Shambhu Temple in Jammu, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. (PTI Photo)

Maha Shivratri, locally known as ‘Herath’, was celebrated with religious fervour and gaiety across Kashmir with a minuscule number of Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus) visiting temples or offering ‘puja’ (prayers) at home on Friday.

The festival holds an important place among the Pandits, who celebrate it to mark the wedding of Lord Shiva with Parvati by cooking traditional Kashmiri food, especially fish. The occurrence of rain or snowfall on this day is considered to be a good omen.

The biggest gathering on the festival was held at Shankaracharya Temple overlooking the famous Dal Lake in Srinagar. The temple authorities at Ganpatyar and Hanuman Temple at Amira Kadal in Srinagar also held special prayers throughout the day. Hundreds of devotees thronged Mata Kheer Bhawani Temple at Tullamulla in district Ganderbal.

On this festival, the Pandits distribute soaked walnuts as a mark of respect to the Hindu deities. Anil Rania, a Kashmiri Pandit living in the posh Rajbagh area of the city said the rainfall on Shivratri was “overwhelming” and a good omen.  “Rainfall on the eve of Shivratri is the best possible thing we had prayed for. It has not just brought happiness but gives hope that bonding among all the communities will become stronger,” he told DH.

The festival is a symbol of communal harmony for ages. “In local parlance, the second day is known as ‘Salaam’ because it is on this day we get greetings from the Muslim brethren. Before militancy, it was a much-awaited day in the Valley after Eid,” Raina said.
Sanjay Tickoo, a resident of old city Srinagar had to remain awake for the entire night for puja. “Though we have prepared many dishes, especially fish, we can’t have it before 'Salaam',” he said.

According to history, the word 'salaam' got incorporated in Kashmiri Pandits' tradition when Jabbar Khan, an Afghan ruler, forced them to celebrate Shivaratri in July to see whether it would snow if the festival is celebrated in the summer.

Almost every year, J&K experiences light to moderate rains and snowfall on this day. This year as well, there was moderate rain in the plains and snowfall over the higher reaches of the union territory on the occasion of ‘Herath'.

Ghulam Qadir, who sells dry fruits near the city center Lal Chowk, feels nostalgic about festivities attached to Shivratri in Kashmir, where Muslims would supply everything needed for the rituals.

“Because of the migration of Pandits in 1990, we lost the composite culture. I have sweet memories of the pre-militancy era when there used to be a lot of excitement among Muslims, especially traders. I used to visit my friends and neighbours and join them over lunch or dinner. But now it is different as most of them live outside the Valley,” he said

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