Herath Retells Communal Harmony Story In Kashmir

17 February 2015
Greater Kashmir
Arif Shafi Wani

Srinagar: Temples in Kashmir wore a festive look on Tuesday as Mahashivratri, known as Herath in local parlance, was celebrated with religious fervor and amity across the Valley. All roads led to Shankaracharya temple atop 'Sulaiman Teng' here-the main venue of prayers, as devotees climbed a serpentine road leading to the hillock overlooking the summer capital. According to Hindu mythology, Mahashivratri is celebrated to mark the marriage ceremony of Shiva and Parvati. Braving cold, devotees comprising mostly of Kashmiri Pandits and tourists from Hindu community offered prayers at the temple. 'We prefer to celebrate Mahashivrati in Kashmir every year. This year we made special prayers for Kashmiris who lost their lives or property in the devastating floods last year,' said Amit Aggrawal, a tourist from Mumbai, after paying obeisance at the temple along with his family. 'I prayed that this auspicious festival should make resilient Kashmiris stronger to restart their lives after the floods. I hope this occasion helps maintain the unique communal harmony among all religious faiths in Kashmir,' said Usha Raina, a Kashmiri Pandit. Many Kashmiri Muslims had also gathered outside the temple to exchange greetings with devotees. Muhammad Amin, an auto rickshaw driver of Habba Kadal hugged his friend, Vidhu Sharma, a businessman from Udhampur who had set up a free community langar outside the temple. 'I know Vidhu for the past 25 years. We ensure to greet each other on our respective festivals,' Amin said as Vidhu offered him tea and sweets. 'I have developed special bond with people of Kashmir. This is a unique place which despite challenges has maintained communal harmony,' said Vidhu. Besides Shankaracharya, prayers were held at various temples in Srinagar and other districts in Kashmir. As per their tradition, many Kashmiri Pandit families had cooked special dishes. 'We had prepared special a fish dishes besides Yakhni (dish made of curd). Many guests including some of my Muslim friends had lunch today with my family,' said Kumar Wanchoo, a Kashmiri Pandit living at Jawahar Nagar locality here. 'Religious festivals strengthen our traditional communal harmony,' he said. Noted historian Prof Fida Hasnain said Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits have been celebrating each other's respective religious festivals from centuries together. 'Even during the regime of Muslims kings including Zainulabidin, Sultan Shahab-ud-din, Sultan Sikandar and Yousuf Shah Chak, Kashmir Pandits celebrated their religious festivals including Herath with fervor. These rulers made special arrangements for celebration of these festivals,' Hasnain said.