After 17 Yrs, Pandits To Commemorate River
27 August 2007
The Indian Express
Jammu: For the first time in 17 years, the Kashmiri Pandits will commemorate River Vitasta (Jhelum) at its source at Verinag in South Kashmir on September 25 this year. The community has been commemorating the river for thousands of years on the 13th day of the bright fortnight of Bhadon, which falls between August and September. On this auspicious day, scents, garlands and eatables are offered to Goddess Vitasta. However, after the exodus in early 1990s, the tradition could not be continued. Now this year, once again, Kashmiri Pandits have decided to commemorate the river at its source, which is at Veth-Votru in Verinag. To facilitate the yatra to Verinag, the Vitasta Devsathan Prabandak Committee (VDPC), chaired by Moti Lal Kaul, called a meeting a few days ago. General Secretary of VDPC, R K. Bhat, told The Indian Express that the programme has been received well. 'Many Pandits, especially from Verinag, are enquiring about the registrations for the yatra, which will proceed from Muthi migrant camp on September 23,' Kaul said. Many Kashmiri Pandits are upbeat about this yatra as this will be for many, their first visit to the state after the exodus. 'Vitasta is not just a river for us, it forms the centre of our existence, and everything in our lives, from festivals to our daily chores, depend on this. This is first time after 17 years that I am going to visit my village Chinigund in Verinag,' said J L Pandita, a Kashmiri Pandit. Witness to the turbulent history of Kashmir for centuries, Vitasta finds its mention in the Rig Veda and Mahabharata. Of the 60 sacred rivers mentioned in the 6-8th century AD Sanskrit text Neelamata Purana, Vitasta holds supreme significance. Kashmiri scholars say that the tradition of commemorating the river originated before the war between the Pandavas and Kauravas in Mahabharata, as the river finds its mention in the epic.