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THE WRATH OF GHAR DEVATĀ

Posted in hindus, india, JAMMU & KASHMIR, kashmir by Sandeep on December 31, 2019

And the Power of Myth
____________________________________
The year was 2003!

We were forced to sell our ancestral house in Sathu Bar Bar Shah for peanuts to the Muslim who had forcibly occupied it. Why? What made us so helpless? Let us start from the beginning.

The story begins in early Twentieth century.

Two young men, Madho Ram Fotedar, and his elder brother Thakur Das Fotedar, construct their own house at what was then the outskirts of Srinagar, in Sathu Bar Bar Shah, on a piece of barren land under the loving supervision of their elder sister who is a mother to both of them.

Time passes.

My grandfather, Kailash Nath, is born in this very house. He leads a life of penury but silent dignity in this loving home of his, which stands testimony to his travails. Bearing all his troubles with total surrender to his beloved Iśṭa, Amṛteśvar Bhairava, he dedicates most of his waking hours before and after work, to prayer and the Śaivist rituals with clockwork regularity. And he never forgets his Ghar Devatā, whose auspicious day, he always celebrates on the cold, wintry night of the month of Poh, dedicated to Him, the divine caretaker of a Kashmiri home.

More time passes.

Kailash Nath is a grandfather now. My father, my uncles, I and my brothers and sisters, his whole clan, live together in this very house. Each brick, each corner of the house, the smell of crumbling walls, are all a part of our extended bodies. My grandfather’s prayers have become long, now that he is retired. His day starts early as he enters the Ṭhokur Kuṭh at Brahma muhūrta and does not leave the company of the Bhairava until it is noon. The evenings too are spent in prayer and once in a while his spirituality overflows on to his grandsons.

I am one of them!

Silently, the Sanskāras fall like seeds on the fallow ground of the mind, unseen, unfelt, but ready to grow at some unknown future date. And then he passes away. I get married. My elder son is born there, in the same house!

Four generations by birth! Almost a century!

Meanwhile my dear uncle continues the traditions of the house. All the Śaivist rituals, all the Pūjās, all the traditions, are conducted with the same fervour.

Of course, he does not forget the Ghar Devatā!

Then 1990 happens! We all wonder as to where all our gods have gone. In utter dismay, we are all forced to abandon the house, a home to a total of five generations, four of which were born there. A mega-joint family is painfully broken up. Ultra-nuclear families take a forced, painful birth and are scattered all over the country. Some of them leave for foreign shores.

Why did the Ghar Devatā abandon us when we needed Him the most? Why was the Divine Mother silent? Why did Amṛteśvar Bhairava not come out of His deep meditations and show us the right path when we were at a loss to understand what we would do to survive?

Well, like the most of us, we too became unbelievers, at least the younger ones. Our gods were dead. The Darwinian world was a ruthless place were only the fittest survived.

So, we also started fighting our ruthless, lonely battles, for, we had either to survive or to simply die!

Now let us turn the clock back to the present time!

Stories from back home come filtering through. The initial buyer had sold it away to some other person. That person, a Muslim of course, had rented each of the rooms to Bihari labourers who kept on leaving rapidly for some unknown reason. After some time, it was rented out to the locals. They too left, and in quick succession, the house went from one Muslim family to another.

And now the house is abandoned!

Why?

In front of our house was a small school that was pompously called The Mahila Maha Vidyalaya. The ground floor had a row of shops that was rented out and one of the shops had a tailor master who was a friend of my grandfather. Both, whenever free, used to play chess together in the shop. They loved the game a lot and I too developed a fascination for this game as I joined them whenever I was free. This grand old man, the Muslim tailor master, is still alive and very much aware of the world around him.

And he has a story to tell regarding why our house has been abandoned.

It is the Ghar Devatā!

The story goes like this:

It was initially the Bihari labourers who had complained that they were seeing some ghost who would trouble them during the dark, cold nights of the harsh winters. Being unable to bear such horrific visions, they would leave. The local Muslims initially thought that it was some kind of superstition that Hindus usually suffer from; so, the house was subsequently rented out to Kashmiris, for, you see, the followers of the religion of peace, do not believe in the superstitions of Kafirs, wretched as we are!

But then, the problem started getting repeated. Particularly interesting was the story of the last occupant before the house was abandoned altogether in January this year. What actually happened?

The topmost floor of our house, the fourth one to be exact, called the Brāri Kānī in Koshur, where our Ghar Devatā used to have his food on the auspicious day, had been reconstructed just a year before we were forced to leave, and it had been given to me, my wife and our young son, Anshuman, to stay in. I had made a small library of my chosen books in the same room which I had grown so very fond of. The Ghar Devatā was requested to shift to an adjacent part of the Brāri Kānī, where he had His last meal in December, 1989, before we left for good.

So, the story goes, two members of the last Muslim family, were sleeping in the same room, on that fateful night early this year, the grand old tailor master swears, and when they got up in the morning, they found themselves lying in the verandah on the ground floor. Horrified, they could not explain as to how this could have happened after a fretful night of fearful nightmares. Being young, they were not aware of Kashmiri Hindu rituals and superstitions; so, they called the elder ones, and, in all seriousness the unusual occurrence was discussed in an assembly of the wise.

Our grand old tailor master was one of those elders!

After a lot of discussions, many agreements and disagreements later, the verdict was passed!

It was the Ghar Devatā of the Fotedar clan!

What clinched the judgment was the serious observation of the tailor master friend of my grandfather. He had seen his late friend celebrating this peculiar day in the dead of winter and heard many stories about this divine protector. The assembly reluctantly accepted what the tailor master had to say. He was the oldest and the wisest after all.

The house stands abandoned now!

What is my Ghar Devatā doing there, now that He is all alone?

We have not fed Him anything all these twenty-nine years.

Is He hungry?

Is He angry?

I do not know, but I seek His forgiveness.

After all He is a god and I am a mere mortal!

By -Dr. Sushil Fotedar

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