Away From Homeland, KPs Struggle To Retain Traditional Ethos

Away From Homeland, KPs Struggle To Retain Traditional Ethos

21 August 2011
Rising Kashmir
Sonika Raina

Jammu: When 21-year-old Alka Bhat phoned her mother from Delhi Sunday morning, she was surprised to know that it was Zarrmasattam, the Kashmiri term for Janamashtami. Being away from their homeland, many of the Pandit youngsters like Alka watch the rituals and traditions of their community in exile with amusement and surprise, unaware of the underlying spiritual ethos. Many people believe the spiritual heritage of Kashmiri Pandits is on the path of continuous “dilution” as the Pandit youth are moving away from their traditions with every passing day. Pandits from Kashmir celebrate the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna on the eighth of the dark half of Bhadrapada, the sixth month of Hindu calendar, a day ahead compared to Hindus in rest of India. Janamashtami is considered as one of the most important festivals of Kashmiri Pandits. In the earlier times, the day used to start with Prabhat Pheris (religious processions) and during the day it was all fasting and feasting. Well decorated tableaus depicting Lord Krishna's life used to be paraded at many places throughout the valley. These yatras were known as Veda-Bhagwan. In Srinagar, the devout Pandits would go to Guptganga at Ishber near Nishat Bagh to have a dip in the holy waters of the spring there. During the Dogra rule, Janamashtami day was announced by gunfire from Hari Parbat Fort for the convenience of the devotees on fast. With most of the Pandit youth now busy working away from their homeland in different cities across India, they seem to have become spiritual orphans. They seem to have lost touch with their spiritual roots. “Here we have to celebrate Janamashtami with other people unlike the traditional way where we used to celebrate it a day ahead, ” said Kalpana Bhat, a private sector employee in Gurgoan. Shortcuts are preferred over traditional but elaborate rituals on most occasions be it rituals related to birth, death, birthdays or marriages. “Who has time for such long boring festivals? We go for some brief moments to the nearby temple next day when our other friends also go,” said Shweta Bhat, an engineering pass out from St Xavier’s College Mumbai. Chaman Lal Bhat, a keen observer of Kashmir affairs, feels following their migration most of Pandits seem to be slowly moving into a collective “spiritual amnesia”. “Today all of us seem to have forgotten our unique traditions-these days it is just money and show. Gloss has overtaken most of our functions while the spiritual side has taken a backseat,” he added. With the mass exodus already past two decades, Pandits are worried if they would be able to pre


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