May 1999 News

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Temple bells ring after 10 Years in Srinagar

1 May 1999
By: Muzamil Jaleel

SRINAGAR: Film crew back to shooting in the Valley; Hindus and Muslims consoling each other after a militant blast, if these can be seen as tentative signs of a return to normalcy, then another significant one has to be added to the list: after a decade of silence, temple bells have begun to ring in Srinagar.

And today, the Rameshwaram Shiv Temple of Jawahar Nagar was unlocked, electricity restored, its bells rang for the first time after Shivratri in 1990. Loudspeakers were repaired and cranked up to broadcast Mahima Paar. And where the old signboard, missing all these years, stood is now a new one -- donated by a Muslim artist.

Behind this is the Hindu Forum, an apolitical community of Kashmiri pandits who stayed put in the Valley while their friends and relatives migrated in 1990. This community is just over a few hundred with only two pujaris. One has been permanently stationed at the Zeethyar temple near Raj Bhawan while the other, Ratan Lalji, flits from temple to temple as the gates get unlocked.

Today's puja was attended by dozens of men and women from the community. Incidentally, this temple shares a wall with a Gurudwara and there are several mosques in the neighbourhood. ``The Forum is repairing the temples that were damaged owing to lack of proper care during these years of closure,'' a Hindu Forum member said.

The group first performed special havans at Ram Chander temple, Barbarshah in downtown Srinagar, Gunpatyar temple, Ganpatyar, Shavala Aashram, Chotabazar besides Chakreshwar temple (Parbat) at Devi Aangan in the heart of the city.

There's nothing earth-shattering about all this, say many Hindus. ``The Pandits who remain to live here are all elderly people who are here to sell their property and these efforts will hardly make any sense,'' says Chuni Lal Vishan, a leading educationist. ``There is absolutely no chance of the return of Kashmiri Pandits, the message is clear,'' he said. ``The younger generation has mixed with people from other states.'' Still, the sound of thebells has come as music to many.

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