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Acharaya Kshemraja

Posted in kashmir by Sandeep on November 30, 2020

Acharya Kshemraja -Prolific Shaivite Scholar
Ashish Zadoo
Sandeep Raj Koul

Acharya Kshemaraja was a Kashmirian who lived in Kashmir around 10th-11th century. He was the student of famous saint scholar Sri Abhinavagupta, the Shaiva yogi par excellence from Kashmir, who gave the precious jewels of Shaiva literature such as Tantraloka among others. He had many worthy disciples, chief among them was Acharya Kshemaraja.
Following the words of his Guru, Kshemraja spread the message of Shaivism in a way that it gets percolated to masses. Kshemraja composed some original works as well some commentaries on established texts and devotional hymns. His style and language were similar to his Guru Abhinavagupta. He wrote commentaries on texts of Kashmiri Shaivism. His original works include Paraparveshika and Pratyabhijnahridayam.
Kshemraja has referred his birthplace as Vijeshwara (Brijbehra). In his commentary on of Bhatta Narayana’s devotional work, Stava Cintamani, Two of his prominent disciples were Yogaraja and Vardaraja who in later years continued the legacy of their guru and contributed in spread of Shaivism. Beyond that he has not mentioned much about his personal life which was the trend during those days with only exception being Sri Abhinavagupta.
Under the able guidance of Abhinavagupta, he had mastered various percept’s of Tantra philosophy besides other relevant schools which included poetics, logic, philosophy, etc. With his many valuable works he turns seekers gaze inside to discover the blazing Prakasha within, which is fuelled by constant stream of Vimarsha.
Blessed with Anugraha of Param Shiva, seeking answers, one takes refuge of Parapraveshika. This work of Kshemaraja is like a drop of molten gold that purifies your intellect and sets it in motion resulting in the dawn of understanding of Kashmir Shaivism. With this seeker gets ready for Pratyabhijnahridayam, which further sharpens the understanding of Shaivite philosophy. It is indeed Hrdaya (heart) of the Pratyabhijna darshan which is savoured by devoted sadhaks.
He says in Pratyabhijna Hridayam:
“In this world there are some devoted people who are undeveloped in reflection and have not taken pains in studying difficult works (like Logic and Dialectics), but who nevertheless aspire after Samavesha with the Highest Lord which blossoms forth with the descent of Sakti.
Kshemraja gives seeker wonderful insights on Agama shastra in his work, Shivasutravimarshini. In this work he pours dollops of Prakasha aspect of Param Shiva which fortifies seeker’s devotion and cleans heart of any impurity or duality. Seed of Vimarsha sprouts with another master work of his, named Spandanirnaya. Here the aspect of Vimarsha takes forefront and leaves you with constant reverberation of your own being.
This takes you to what our beloved Swami Lakshmanjoo calls one-pointedness. Udhyamo Bhairavah. Udhyama means “Unmajjanrupah” as Kshemaraja puts it. It is spontaneous, sudden opening out of Consciousness. Important to note is that it does not mean any exertion on part of the yogi as the flashing forth of Supreme awareness is sudden and spontaneous. Once grace happens the seeker is in the amazing playground of Shakti where he is the player and not played anymore. Such a  blessed yogi is in Shiva-Consciousness in Samadhi and Vyutthana as well. “Na samadhivyutthana bhedah“. There is no difference. Jagrat, swapna or sushupti he is abiding in Turya in all these states. Such a yogi is just like Shiva, “Shiv Tulyo Jaayate”.
As is stated in Spanda Karika:
Tasmacchabdarthacintasu na savastha na ya sivah/
Bhoktaiva bhogyabhavena sada sarvatra samsthitah//
In the words of Prof Jaidev Singh, “whether in the word, object or thought, there is no state which is not Siva”. It is the experient himself who, always and everywhere, abides in the form of the experienced i.e. it is the Divine Himself who is the essential Experient, and it is He who abides in the form of the universe as His field of experience.
Shakti aspect of Supreme is perhaps best explored and understood by Kashmir Shaivism. The predominance of ananda in Shakti tattava is explained in its true sense by Shaivite masters. Kshemaraja commenting upon Utpaladeva’s Shivastotravali writes:
“Shakti thrown up by delight lets Herself go forth in to manifesattion”
(Further in Pratyabhijna Hridayam:
Free will is Swatantra Shakti of Lord which connotes absolute freedom of knowledge and activity as Kshemaraja points it out in Shiv Sutras. As astute as he was, with this statement he emphasises that Shiva in Kashmir Shaiv Darshan is not inactive as Brahman of Vedanta but it  has absolute freedom to know and act. He aslo explains that Swatantra of Paramshiva is the predominant attribute. There are many other attributes as Omnipresence etc. but they are possible with other entities as well. Absolute freedom of knowledge and activity is what is possible with Paramshiva only. This is what needs to be understood.
Whether you are a Shakti or Shiva devotee, you will find your calling in his works. With each work of your logic and reason is sculpted with masterly finesse to carve it out in its pristine form.
His contribution to the Kashmir Shaivism Philosophy cannot be ignored. He was amongst the very few disciples of Acharya Abhinavgupta, who apart from being a practising Yogi, contributed a lot to the propagation  and literature of Kashmir Shaivism.

My Kedartaal Travelogue

Posted in kashmir by Sandeep on October 11, 2020

High Mountains have their own Aura.  Their calmness permeate into one’s being and reinvigorate the body, mind and Soul. Standing Tall, kissing the skies , reflecting their beingness in the still turquoise waters of the Lakes inspires awe and respect and awakens the Humane nature of a man as well as evokes  Spritualism.

And these qualities of the High Mountains and Lakes attract the trekking enthusiasts like me and my Group of friends-who had opted to go for the Kedartaal Trek in the Higher Himalayas.

Our original plan was to visit Gangotri, Gaumukh and Tapovan in May this year. But, because of the ongoing Pandemic and the series of Lockdowns associated with it;  We had to defer our Trekking.

Then, in mid September, We came to know that the trekking will be allowed in the Gangotri as well as Gangotri National Park from 1st Oct 2020. I called up my trekking mates Sunil Raina and Ajay Chauhan.
Both of them were excited to know about the reopening of the treks in the Gangotri Region.

There were at least 6-7 friends who had shown their alacrity to join us for the trek. It was decided that instead of the Gaumukh-Tapovan Trek, we will go for the Kedartaal Trek from 2nd to 7th Oct 2020.

Akhil Koul, Sunil Raina and Ajay Chauhan had given their consent for the trek. Rakesh Bhat too showed interest to join us for this trek just 3-4 days before the commencement of our trek i.e 2nd Oct 2020.

Our Journey started from Haridwar. Our Tour Operator was ‘incredible Outdoors’ and this Company is Headed by Ashish Juyal.  In fact Ashish and two of his friends too joined us for this trek. For Transportation , a Tempo Traveller was arranged by Aashish.

We reached Gangotri in the late Evening of Friday , 2nd Oct. A Hotel/ Guest House was already booked for us.

On 3rd Morning, just Before our  trek, we paid our Obeisance at the Gangotri Temple.

We started our trek at around 10.00 in the morning. All my Trek mates were bubbling with Energy. Rakesh Bhat in Particular seemed more exited than the rest of us. I could understand his exitement as It was his first trek Ever! And that too ‘Kedartaal’- which is considered to be a difficult Trek in trekking circles.

Gangotri is situated at an elevation of more than 10000 feet above MSL. Many people from the plains do feel some symptoms of the Altitute Sickness even at Gangotri! Walking fast on such an Altitute makes one huff! 

It is always advised to walk slow and steady on the high Altitude treks.

Rakesh -because of the excitement- was walking quite fast. Then the actual ascend started. He walked a few steps and started Panting Badly! I was walking slow and was just behind him.
As I reached near to him, He asserted in a bit of disappointment,
‘I will not come with you. I don’t think I will make it to Kedartaal.’ He paused.
I was looking at him with amusement. In fact I knew that he will face difficulty because of his fast pace.

He further announced, ‘You go up. I will wait for you at the Hotel’.

I counseled him, ‘ You are panting because you are simply walking too fast! Slow down your speed and I am sure ,you will be able to make it to the top!’

He Believed my words and restarted his trek slowly and Steadily. He did not face any further difficulties during the entire Trek.

While we were treading to Bhojkharak; A shooting stone  fell from the top of the  Mountain cliff and hit the Right Hand of Ajay. Since Kedartaal comes in the Gangotri National Park; Herds of Himalayan Ibex could be found in this sanctuary. These Animals usually tread the high Mountains and sometimes their movement causes some loose Rocks to fall down. One such Rock had hit Ajay. Luckily for him, He escaped with a minor injury.

After 4-5 hours of our trek from Gangotri , we reached our first campsite Bhoj Kharak. This campsite is situated at an Altitute of around 3700 mts above MSL. One has to cross two tricky sections, that are also known as ‘Spider Walls’. A lot of Hype has been created by the trek Operators about these spider walls. However, we found them normal/easy and not v.difficult as has been propogated by some Trek Operators.

Our trek Organiser and his team that consisted of the cooks, porters as well as the Trek Guide-Ajit  did a stupendous job. I must say that the services offered by them was simply outstanding. The quality of the food was awesome. The suport staff was very helpful as well as Hospitable.

In the late Evening, all our group as well as the support staff celebrated with dancing as well as songs.

By 9.00 PM, we all went to our respective tents. We were alloted two tents. Sunil and Ajay shared one tent, while I, Rakesh and Akhil shared another. We were given sleeping bags that could withstand temperatures of Minus 10 degrees centigrade. We felt cozy in our tents, although the temperature outside was below freezing.

On 4th Oct, after having a delectable Breakfast, we headed towards our next campsite-Kedarkharak. This campsite is situated at an approximate Altitute of 4300 mts above MSL. It took us 4-5 hrs to reach this campsite. The vistas from Bhojkharak till Kedartaal is  simply enchanting. A Tricky Section of landslide area comes in between Bhojkharak and Kedarkharak. To escape this tricky section, our Guide Ajit advised us to cross to the other side of  Kedar Ganga. The point we choose to cross the Stream, the maximum depth of the water was around 3 feet deep. The waters were ice cold. Crossing and recrossing the Stream added a fun factor as well as adventure to our journey.

Just before the Kedarkharak campsite, a Herd of Himalayan Ibex greeted us. They didn’t seemed to shy away from us . We watched them as they locked their horns, or  drank water from the running stream , or were simply grazing and relaxing.

By 3.00 PM, we had reached our campsite at Kedarkharak, we were offered some snacks as well as coffee .we did witness some gusty cold winds on the first day. It did also snow there briefly for some minutes. But, the skies soon cleared up. For the next 2 nights , we were greeted by the sunny days and freezing nights!

In the evening, we sang some Bhajans, did pranayama on ‘OM’ as well as did meditation.
By 9.00 PM, we  were in our respective tents.

It must have been around 12 in the midnight, when Sunil in a stentorian voice raised the slogan of ‘Har Har Mahadev’! I am not sure, whether we were sleeping or not, but I did answer Back, ‘ Har Har Mahadev’!’.

‘Come out! It is not that cold outside. Also, the view of the starry sky is spectacular’ Sunil was trying to inveigle us . He had slept earlier than us and it seemed that He was in no mood to sleep soon!

Well…I ,Akhil and Rakesh too were not feeling that sleepy and we all decided to go out of our tents and join Sunil.
He was not wrong! We didn’t feel cold outside! It was indeed a starry night. Also the Moon was up!  Even the Mighty Mountains of  Brigupanth and Thalaisagar were visible. It was indeed a Breathtaking View.

We clicked some photographs ,Joked,  Laughed and after half an hour went back to our respective tents.
We were supposed to leave early by 8.00am towards Kedartaal. We woke up by 6.00 in the morning. It was freezing cold outside. The stream running close to our campsite had partially frozen. It must have been around -8 to -10 degrees centigrade. The freezing cold deferred our start by another 2 hours. Finally by 10 in the morning, we started our final ascend to Kedartaal.It was a Bright sunny Day. A section of the stream was still frozen!

The trek from Kedarkharak to Kedartaal is quite Rocky. It does not offer as picturesque views. However the views of the High Mountain Tops and distant Glaciers are much clearer.

After two hours, I and Ajay reached Kedartaal. This lake is situated at an Altitude of around 16000 ft above MSL.
Sunil, Akhil and Rakesh too joined us soon. The scintillating turquoise waters looked surreal. This Lake is an epitome of Beauty. It is surrounded by three big Mountains. Mount Thalaisar( 6904 mts) , Mount Meru(6672 mts) and Mount Brigupanth( 6772 mts) and they seem to be the Guardians of this Lake. Kedar Ganga-that meets Bhagirathi at Gangotri-has its source here. This Lake is considered to be the lake of Shiva and is held very sacred by the people of Uttarkashi.

We paid our Obeisance here and also had a dip in this beautiful holy lake out of reverence. We also offered pooja at the Banks of the lake.

We started back to Kedarkharak at around 2.45 PM.
By 4 or 4.30 Pm , we were at our Campsite. That Evening also, we did OM chanting as well as Pranayama.

We retired to our tents by 9.00PM. The Night was much colder than the previous one.

Next Morning, we went out of our Tents by 6.30. I had a look at the rivulet nearby. It was completely frozen. It was estimated that the night temperatures had plunged to -12 to -15degrees centigrade!

After having our Breakfast, we started our descend back to Gangotri.

While coming back towards Bhojkharak, I , Ajay and  Akhil opted to take the Landslide prone area stretch while as , Rakesh and Sunil opted to recross the Kedarganga Stream.

The landslide prone area stretch is around half a kilometer long. One has to be very cautious while crossing this section of the area. Just a couple of years back, a porter was killed by the landslide at this tricky Patch.

It took us only 4 to 4.30 hrs to descend back to Gangotri. Ajay collected the Sacred waters at the Banks of the Gangotri Temple. Since Sunil and Rakesh had opted to take the river route; they were late by an hour. They went straight to the Holy Gangotri Temple and thanked Goddess Ganga for our safe journey.

By 5 PM , we started our journey Back . We halted for the night at a Hotel at Uttarkashi. Next Morning, we started early by 5 am and reached Back to Haridwar by 2 P.M.

This journey will remain special for a few reasons:
1. It did not rain at all during our entire Trek. This has happened for the first time, although I have trekked several times .Had it rained, the trek would have become very slippery and thus difficult to tread.

2.Even though, it was Rakesh’s first Trek; he was able to complete it rather easily.

3. None of us face any sort of Altitute Sickness or got tired in the entire journey.

4. The Food offered to us during our trek was Luscious.

5. For 8 Trekkers; there was a suport team of 11 people.

And lastly, Whole day , It was Sunny at Kedartaal-which is a rare phenomenon. We were told that sometimes people had to wait for days, in order to get the clear views of the Mountains and the lake.

Apart from my Trekmates-who made this journey adventurous as well as spritual-I would also like to Thank Ashish Juyal and his team for making this trip a memorable one.

I strongly recommend this Lake to those who are adventurous, lovers of nature as well as  Devotees of Shiva!

Har Har Mahadev’!

Lal Ded

Posted in hinduism, hindus, JAMMU & KASHMIR, kashmir by Sandeep on August 29, 2020

Lalded or Lalleswari has dominated the linguistic, cultural and spiritual landscape of Kashmir since the last 700 years. Born in early 14th CE, she cultivated the moral and ethical tapestry in the minds and hearts of people. Her out pouring in the form of vaakhs, are part and parcel of Kashmiri day to day life. She can be called the pioneer of Kashmiri language, whose contribution to Kashmiri cultural and literary field remains unmatched and unparalleled.

While reassessing the life and times of Lalded, it is important to go through the journey of her life, which is arduous and uplifting at the same time. Her vaakhs are based on her own self experience; at one place she says;
*yim pad lali vany tim hridi ank
Brand on your heart what Lalla spoke in verse!*

Early Life

Lalded was born to a learned Brahmin family and after receiving her early education she was married off quite early as per the practice in those times. Her married life was short-lived and painful. This tragedy turned her towards spirituality. She found her Guru in Siddha Srikantha, from whom she learned Kashmiri Shaivism, also known as Trika and took upon herself the goal of self-realisation. Under her preceptor she mastered the ‘Oneness with Supreme Consciousness’, i.e, the union of Jiva with Siva. Once she got fully realised, she embarked on her mission to educate her fellow countrymen on the essential nature of Reality which she had duly understood. Her Guru gave her the Trika upaya, that was the mantra to focus within; a mantra that enabled her to master herself. She says;
*andryum prakash nyabar tshot um gati rot um tu karmas thaph!*
I diffused outside the light that lit-up within me And in that darkness I seized Him and held Him tight!

Coming of Lalded as Yogini

Lalded followed the same path which was earlier followed by Bhatta Narayana and Utpaldeva who lived in 8 CE. Their outpourings resonate and reverberate with the experience of divine presence in their personal lives. Lalded’s verses are original and authentic which gives us an idea of her pain, vairagya, struggles and the power of mystical wonders. It seems that Lalla had an intimate desire for divine servitude which was the goal of her earthly existence. Lalded must have followed the Shakta School of Kashmir Shaivism where the female ascetics, also known as Yoginis, were easily initiated. Her vaakhs give us an insight into Sthan Kalpana, i.e., to meditate on breath and awaken the latent kundalini shakti, that she practiced. This method of realisation in Trika is known as Shaktopaya, where external objects are not worshipped but one is withdrawn inside.

Om-kar yeli laye onum
Wuhi korum panun pan
Shwot trovith ts sath rotum
Teli Lal bah wotchut prakash sthan.
When by concentration of my thought I brought the Pranava (Omkar) under my control, I made my body blazing coal, The six paths I traversed and gained the seventh, and then did I, Lalla, reach the place of illumination.
In this verse Lalla is explaining about the practice of awakening of kundalini and activating of the seven chakras which ultimately merge in Sahasrara Chakra which is the final beatitude. As per Trika praxis, yogis offer themselves to the blazing fire of consciousness to terminate the devouring gross and subtle forms of differentiation’s and seek the undifferentiated nectar of oneness with Siva. On her self-realisation, She says,
*Suh yeli dyuthum nishe panas , Soruy suy ta boh no keh*
When I beheld him, that He was near me, I saw that all was He, and that I am nothing.

Appropriation of Lalded

There is a well-orchestrated attempt to appropriate Lalded into Islam. Fictitious claims are made that Lalded was influenced by Sayyid Mir Ali Hamdani and she accepted Islam. This ill-conceived view is presented by Muslim scholars who cannot accept that someone like Lalded who, even today, dominates the cultural and spiritual landscape of Kashmir, can be a non-muslim. Imaginary references are attributed to Lalded meeting Sayyid Hamdani which is deliberately floated to hurt the Hindus. According to Mohammad Azam Dedamari’s work, “Waqiyat-e-Kashmir”, Lalded died during the rule of Sultan Shihab-ud-Din that ruled Kashmir between 1355 to 1373 CE. By then Sayid Hamdani was nowhere near Kashmir. On similar lines, Prof Jiyalal Kaul in his seminal work has mentioned the visit of Sayyid Hamdani in 1380 to 1386 CE. Therefore, in these investigative works, both the scholars have refuted the so-called meeting between Lalded and Sayyid Hamdani. However, some self-proclaimed scholars made another attempt to convince people that she was influenced by Sayyid Hussain Samanani. False and misleading constructs are being made to show that Lalded accepted Islam so as to change the whole narrative. The false agenda does not stop here, but goes to another level when the vaakhs are twisted and distorted and then attributed to Lalded with the aim of appropriating her legacy. One is piqued at the fallacious claims but we have a task to keep Lalded alive as it is our duty not only to resist this subversion but also counter this malafide design.

Lalded as Liberator

The political and social landscape of Kashmir was in doldrums during the lifetime of Lalded. She, being a mystic, could see the moral degradation of society and the compassionate soul in her forced her to convey her anguish in whatever possible way she could. Hence her vaakhs are reflection of the society of her times. Therefore, Lalded acted as a moral compass to awaken the society around her and warned the people about the temporary nature of human life. Her vaakhs at the same time are terse and prophetic. These challenged the orthodoxy and the way of life. She gave a voice to women and deprived sections and that is why her legacy is still alive in the collective conscience of the people. Her teachings represent the precepts of Trika philosophy as enunciated by predecessors of Trika theology. She conveyed the same so that people revert to their roots and revive their spiritual inheritance bequeathed to them by mystics, saints and scholars of Trika. Her whole emphasis was on Self-Recognition or what we call as Pratyabhijina in Trika.
This issue of Naad is therefore, is dedicated to this greatest jewel of Kashmir who is not only a historical figure and a mystic but a Patron Saint of Kashmir, even Nund Rishi accepts her glory when he says,

Tas padmanporci lale, Tami gale amret chehyo
Soa saen’ avatar lov lale, Tyuthuy me var ditto dayo

That lalla of Padmanpora (Pampore), She drank, her fill of divine nectar
She was indeed an avatar of ours (dearly loved), Oh! God grant me the same boon.

By-Sunil Raina Rajanaka

The Lost Native

Posted in genocide, history, india, JAMMU & KASHMIR, kashmir by Sandeep on August 27, 2020

I have just retired from the Indian Defense Services, namely the Indian Army, and I am now in the process of reorienting myself in an entirely different world. After putting in about 30 years of service with the Indian Army, I have come to realize that one is only born as a fauji. Now that I am looking back, the previous years of my life are rewritten by the colours of service shades.
The other day I was wondering why I experience such a sense of unease with the civilian environment; after all, I was born and brought up in this environment. I have been educated and groomed around this setup, yet it makes me feel so out of place after my retirement. How has the military training of such a short period successfully remoulded my personality forever and managed to erase the previous impressions and beliefs I had? From what I can see, the norms have changed, so have the ways of life that seem to be acceptable. Is this rather newly developed idea and way of life going to be of any advantage to me, or shall it put me in distress of unknown dimensions? All these answers feel like they will come forth in due course of time, but one thing is for sure, I am finding myself in a different environmental pool in which floating appears to be difficult, and if I’m being honest, swimming across will also be a very hard task.

Anyway, I am (Retd) Colonel Hira lal Kher from rural Kashmir. My family belonged to the Khar family of Batsargam, Kulgam Kashmir. Batsargam was a small beautiful village that fell within the district of Kulgam, in the now infamous valley of Kashmir! There were about ten Hindu and four Muslim families that considered Bastsargam as home back then. With all the Pandit families having moved out of Batsargam, my village is no more the same as it used to be, and I would not mind if it is called something else now. It has now become the victim of the unpleasant change in its culture, demography, structure, form, and shape in every respect.
A small Hindu majority village in the entire district was made Hindu free within no time. Obviously, everything in the village has changed for the worse as far as Kashmiri Pandits are concerned. Most of the families in my village were small-time landlords. The primary profession of all the residents was farming. In the villages, jobs were taken up as additional sources of income, and in some sense, they were also considered a social status symbol. Education was not on the front burner for most families back then, but it had started gaining importance, and efforts were made to educate the children more and more.
There were hardly any private schools in the villages and towns around Batsargaam, and the source of education was mainly Govt schools. The teachers those days were highly committed even though they weren’t all that qualified. Many teachers were hardly educated, and their contribution was obviously negative as they used to create an environment of disinterest and poor performance. However, it is important to mention here that few of the teachers were highly committed, and whatever students of that time achieved in their life subsequently, a major portion of the credit goes to these class of teachers. Respected teachers like Bashir Ahmed ( Maths), Bashir Ahmed (Science), Deena Nath Ji( Maths), Bushan Lal ji (Science), Md Ayub ( Non Medical), and many more stalwarts who have made a great deal of contribution in laying the foundation of many successful professionals subsequently. So by effect, their contribution to the society in general, and individual students in particular, is praiseworthy. I have my personal gratitude to all these Gurus and salute them with humility.

This is similar to the story of the rest of the valley, that is why you would find an overall development in the field of education in Kashmir. There may be many more factors, but the contribution of a few teachers, especially those of science and maths are the major contributors to this development. We, the students of the valley, never felt out of place or inferior in knowledge when we moved out of the valley for further education or training. The other factors, like the cheap fee and free education for the poor, also contributed simultaneously. The fee was paid annually and was in the range of six to eight rupees. Many students did not pay, and it used to be written off for them. Similarly, uniform and books were provided free of cost. The overall support system was very kind and facilitating. All credit goes to the system that existed then, except for the enrollment of underqualified teachers within the establishment. Lots of incompetent, uninterested, and unfit teachers were employed during that time and subsequently. Although separate schools existed for boys and girls, coeducation was also accepted as a norm. Come to think of it the culture of Kashmir back in the day was based in progressive values while also balancing our local traditions.
A lot of teachers and allied staff were following the leftist ideology. These teachers were generally well-read and committed to their profession. Surprisingly most of these teachers joined Jamaat later and supported the separatist ideology. In fact, I am told that these teachers played a critical role in providing support to the anti-national movement while being part of the system and taking full benefits from it. Why these developments were not picked up by Govt agencies in general and the designated agencies that supposedly work for the security of the countrymen and women, is a million-dollar question. Anyway, the attitude of the elders to educate their children irrespective of sex was changing and changing fast. There are many logical reasons for this change. The disadvantages of not being educated were being realised more and more. One such aspect was letter reading and writing.
During my childhood, I had regularly observed the postman being requested by people on a routine basis to read their letters. These were letters that people received from their children who used to go outside the valley with the aim of earning some extra money during the winter season. This is the period of the seventies and early eighties; back then, these letters at times carried a lot of secrets of the families, and the local postman was privy to all these by default. That is why the postman was well received and respected during those days in rural areas, more because of character than the fear of letting the secrets out.

In 1982 I went to Madras for my engineering. At that time, it was superficially peaceful back in the valley, but a sense of discomfort had set in. This could be sensed by those who allowed themselves to be exposed to it. More importantly, the situation could be well-read by those who took a pause from the routine of life and allowed the mental faculty to analyse the existing environment and suggest alternatives. Such people took intelligent decisions about their future and left the valley in a planned manner. Such people did not go through the difficulties and troubles of the forced migration process. The majority of such people were from the cities and a few from the villages. The rest of the Pandit community refused to smell the coffee, although they drank it hard and raw later when the distress struck. Many threads of the incoming situations did exist, and all one needed to do is track one such thread. The Campus of the University of Kashmir was one such place, where the display of the fast-changing environment was free, open, loud, and clear. More than regular education, other ideologies were openly debated and propagated. It is during this time that open celebrations used to be held whenever the Pakistani Cricket team won a match against us, which was, unfortunately, getting more and more discomforting for nationalists.
During those days, there used to be protests all around the valley for every irrelevant issue, and we Pandits were the targets. Imagine, an incident of firing in Afghanistan would lead to a strike in the Valley, and the pandit students in the colleges would be invariably made the targets. Also, during these times, Hindus remained indoors to avoid trouble and considered each incident as an isolated case. I suppose the situation existing at that time was gaining momentum rapidly for future events to follow. This wave was neither read nor evaluated properly by the Pandit community and other minorities. Thus, the telltale signs of ensuing trouble were unfortunately ignored, and a heavy price was paid by all of us subsequently.

Kashmiri Pandits who are considered to be a community with special attributes could not understand how our central Govt pampered the then ruling family of the state. There were various speeches of Sheik Abdulla at various gatherings that almost threatened the merger of the state with Pakistan, and within the next few days, you would find the same Abdulla making a statement in Delhi that no power on earth could take Kashmir away from India. In those days, the Govt at the centre was intellectually inept and lacked foresight. It was as if they were all intoxicated during the day and sozzled during the night. It is this state of mind that made the politicians of the valley, in the beginning, think that the regions of Ladakh and Jammu did not matter and the fate of the state would be decided by the politicians of the Valley. This sense of false superiority is something that was expressed by the politicians loud and clear in the time to come. It became a monster that did a lot of harm, and this harm continued until the year 2014. It is this overconfidence that made Dr Abdulla state that even if Mr Modi comes to power many times, no power on earth can revoke Article 370 and 35A because he and his family had continued to get away with everything anti-national until then.
A certain section of people within the valley are well aware of who has harmed the valley the maximum and how. They also know that many parties like Pakistan, China, etc. are interested in finishing Kashmir once and forever if they are given a chance. It is clear to them that Pakistan and Afghanistan are both failed states, and no such country can do any good to the valley. Unfortunately, the intellectuals and moderates in the valley are shit scared of the rogue elements who are out there to target such people and their ideologies. I have no doubt about the intellectual competence of my community, but I am sure, in this regard, most of the community failed to pick up the leads.

What the Kashmiri Pandit community should not forget is that most of the Kashmiri Muslims are converted Kashmiri Pandits and that too not many years back. So the intellectual attributes of the Kashmiri Muslims, wise as they are, are no less than those of the Kashmiri Hindus. This was very evident from the status of the three regions of the state. Both Jammu and Ladakh were left behind in everything and that too, with the support of politicians from both these regions. Honestly speaking, the most suitable region when we talk of development is the Jammu region because of obvious reasons such as proximity, accessibility, and favourable weather, but Jammu was left high and dry. Apart from the dominant nature of Kashmiri politicians, it was the lack of commitment, foresight, dedication, and planning of politicians from the Jammu region that harmed the city. They are mainly responsible for neglecting Jammu. While the politicians in the valley recommended the opening of schools, politicians in Jammu were interested in opening local liquor shops. Obviously, the damage was done to the roots of the society, then expecting the tree and its fruit to be healthy and tasty is like chasing a wild goose.

I have seen quite a few of such scary incidents in Kashmir, which should have been eye-openers for the administration and should have stood out to the minorities of the valley. One such incident was the one which took place in Habba Kadal area post, at a ceremony where Dr Farook Abdulla was taking over as the president of the state party. Some people in the procession raised Pakistani flags during the ceremony. The atmosphere was full of undesired expressions to notice. Since not many Hindus were part of the procession, such activities were neither observed nor reported with the intensity and importance that they deserved. Moreover, there were people with the procession to moderate such activities. I was shaken up by the sheer number of people participating in the procession. My imagination of how destructive such a procession could turn if it was instigated haunted me for weeks. A few bad elements are more than enough… The next day while sharing the details with one of my friends, I was educated by him that procession management is an art, and these artists know how, where, and when to channelise it as per directions received from the organisers. It is a sort of harnessed energy for the purpose of displaying one’s strength, and at times it takes a destructive shape.

The other scary incident was when Mr. Z A Buttoo was hanged in Pakistan. The amount of loot, burning, and destruction that took place in Kashmir was more horrifying than an English World War movie. I witnessed the entire scenery unfolding in front of my eyes. There were mobs that looted shops, burned properties, and they were absolutely ruthless. Every village was on fire, and in some cases, close relatives participated in the process of destruction. The fire and smoke covered each and every village and town, it engulfed the valley. In fact, people participating in these activities were seen carrying the looted material. Suffice to say that telltale signs were bold and clear for the Kashmiri Pandit community to take note off, but these early warnings were unfortunately ignored. Those pandit families who read the situation well did not go through the hell of migration and established themselves well in advance. Thus a huge price was paid by almost the entire community. I am more surprised by the lack of foresight of the Pandit community from Srinagar, who were by and large mobile and could have planned and executed an early exit cum settlement outside the valley. I was studying in Srinagar and knew all too well that most of the Pandits from Srinagar were well connected outside the valley. It was not that hard for them to relocate in a planned phased manner. The villagers, however, had little time to think and were under the impression that the Indian Army would come for their rescue. They also had huge immobile assets such as land and cattle, which could not be disposed of so easily. It is also true that the magnitude and intensity of the crisis were kept secret by Kashmiri Muslims to such an extent that they did not inform their Hindu neighbours in advance. While everything appeared normal during the day, the situation underneath was highly turbulent. It is these turbulent currents that took the shape of a volcanic eruption, the magnitude of which surprised each and every one. In many cases, the Kashmiri Muslims participated in destroying the properties of their neighbours after looting them. Some even compelled the Pandits for the distress sale of their assets. The Govt at the centre during those critical years was practically nonexistent. There was no stability, and its survival was on a day to day basis or maybe less than that. It was during this period when a complete cultural transition took place with sonic speed.

In the late seventies and early eighties, audio systems in buses played Hindi movie songs, and people of all ages enjoyed listening to those numbers. A few years later, this music was replaced by the preaching of Islam. I used to observe these things. There are many observations of a similar kind during that time. Therefore, to say that everything was sudden is neither true nor practical. The situation got further momentum, and the recipe was cooked enough for a great taste of all-round death and destruction. Surprisingly the Muslim community eagerly waited for this dish to be served to them and liked the sweetness of the poison initially but never found a suitable antidote for reducing the pain that this sweetness caused to their community. The victims of the violence were the ignorant, the innocent, the simple, the noble, and the harmless. In the history of mankind, there is no parallel example of cruelty to a community that has never been involved in any kind of violence, even under distress situations. The previously recorded forced migrations of the same community, from the same place, at the hands of the same community is a testimony to this claim. No doubt, genocides have taken place in many parts of the world, but in those cases, both the parties were involved more or less, be it directly or indirectly. But in the case of the Kashmiri Pandits, who have a record of being peaceful and nonviolent, the action of planned killing with an aim to eliminate or convert the whole community is even worse than what we now call a genocide. Furthermore, it is important to mention here if the majority community of 97%, with some percent of it well-armed, threatens the minority of 3% it is a proof of them being cowards and fundamentalists. A level playing field would have shown different results and even then it would not have been justified to select the methodology of inhumanity and insanity.

I am surprised with no reaction from national and international human rights bodies. Nobody in the world took notice of it, and no action was initiated by national and international human rights organisations. Such organisations are not caged with the constraints of vote bank politics or other appeasement compulsions. The miseries continued thereafter, and this community continues to live deprived of all the constitutional guarantees of this nation in particular and international bodies in general. The emotional, social, and physical distresses continue. In spite of our relentless hard work to avoid getting sucked in this whirlpool, the deliberately manifested destructive eddy currents of pain and helplessness submerge us repeatedly. The mental pain, agony, physical distress, and fatigue that the community has been unnecessarily subjected to, needs to be recorded in all possible prints, forms and signatures and preserved to display for generations of humanity to come. It will be a document of mammoth dimensions and holocaustic effects that historians will get horrified to analyse. It will be a testament that will convey the absence of any government and nongovernment body during this period in the country. It will also stand as proof of biased decision making at international levels, including the UN. Kashmiri Pandits have all the rights to denounce the UN for not taking up their case at that time as it does for other communities on a regular basis. A small step by the UN at that time would have been of great help and would have saved a lot of human lives. It would have reduced the intensity of pain and destruction that the community went through then and continues to suffer through till this day. UN, as a body, must hold its head in shame for this serious neglect in which one of the world’s most peace-loving communities was planned to be eliminated. A group of scholars and volunteers need to put in this effort for the sake of the entire community and humanity as a whole.

After my retirement from the Army, I decided to visit some religious places in the valley, which we, as a family, used to frequently visit like Kheer Bawani, Manzgam, Nagbal, Martand, etc. Manzagam was my favourite place to visit as a young boy. We used to go there as a family and enjoy a couple of days of stay there. It was full of natural beauty. I was shocked to see the place being encroached. I was told that the intent of the locals was to encroach the entire temple property. If it hadn’t been for the efforts of Mr Kuldeep Raina, this religious place would have been taken over and converted. A lot of effort has been made, and many facilities are made available by the team that looks after this place, but the attractive surroundings are lost forever. Incidentally, the sadhu (Late Shri Sukh dev Giri) who used to be there in the temple did not migrate and was murdered brutally. Does it not indicate the scale of insecurity that prevailed at that time and the distress that the community was facing? If a saint in a temple cannot be spared, then one can imagine how bad the situation was then and how destructive a mentality existed.
On my return journey, I decided to take the route via my village to show it to my family, who had not seen it before as I got married post-migration. I used to tell them the stories of my beautiful village, but once we halted there, the situation turned out to be quite the opposite. My son refused to get down from the vehicle. It was very challenging for me to convince them that my village indeed was beautiful then, and the present form is totally different. Our stay that lasted just around five minutes’ was so draining that I have failed to put it in words. The place which belonged to me for generations and generations was now illegally occupied by outsiders, and it was me who was not welcomed there. Most of the places are either encroached or being misused. The area of Ganash Bal (Temple area) has lost its semblance of a temple, and the charm in the surroundings feel like a distant dream. It was a temple of meditation, with no buildings but an environment of peace and harmony with all the creations and elements of nature. There was no restriction for any one to visit or rest in its premises irrespective of faith and belief system. Its majestic tree cover was a constant reminder of power and supremacy of nature and the Almighty to all the visitors and devotees. The same place has now been converted to a village with an incredibly toxic environment, giving a feeling of visiting a radioactively affected area. In fact, worse than that. It was shocking to experience the ground realities. The exact assessment of the change can only be done by those who have lived there prior to our forced migration because the parameters of comparison are available for constructive analysis.
In my village, all the houses belonging to the Pandits had been burnt off in one go and just in one night. One could only find heaps of the ruminants of debris. All of the construction material that our families took generations to build were now of no use to the local population. The land encroachments were everywhere. I found the situation highly compromising, disgusting, annoying, frustrating, and intimidating. I could hardly recognise the place. The complete alignment, layout, and surroundings had changed. Apart from a few fading landmarks, everything had changed. What frustrated me the most was the casual behaviour of locals as if nothing had happened. It was a painful experience. Although my intention was to spend some time there, I was restless and distressed with the existing environment there. A place which is mine legally, socially, culturally and traditionally has been forcibly made alien for me and a sense of insecurity and discomfort has set in, which is frankly, just soul-crushing. The property that we as a family worshipped and looked after like a spiritual gift is now in ruins. My home is being misused and exploited by people who are neither known to us nor were part of the village. These people, disinterested and ill-behaved, have changed this heaven into hell, full of pain, destruction, and disbelief. I wish I had not taken up this tour as it has ended up shattering me emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I could not sleep for some time after this visit. The encroachment of land was to the extent that the village had lost its original orientation and alignment. The five minutes I spent in the place I once called home, felt like being put in boiling oil. I saw drugs being cultivated in the gifted land of this area. This area is the most fertile land and used to be the rice bowl of the valley. Now it has become a drug-producing area. I consider a drug menace the worst crisis on the planet. I am sure very soon there will be many addicts around that area. What a tragedy!
Most of the Islamic terrorist outfits have used drugs as a source of huge income, which they used for the purchase of arms and ammunition—what a tragic exploitation by an ideology.
It was a very draining, painful, shocking, distressing, horrifying, and maddening experience. Imagine the property on which our buildings existed 30 years back is being encroached, and semi-permanent structures are built by those who neither belong to the village nor are even remotely known to anyone in my family.
Assuming that this encroachment has taken place without the active support of the local community and administration in a structured manner is outrightly foolish and devoid of any logic. The fact is that the properties of Kashmiri Pandits in the valley are up for grabs and these are not isolated incidents, it is a pattern. This cannot be done by known people, so the other alternative is to settle unknown outsiders and name them whatever suits as per the situation. Well, if it is for the welfare of some community members, then locals should give them a place in their property. It appears that the aim is to allow encroachment on our homes by the Muslim community for some years, and then they would grab it. It must be happening all around the valley wherever the Pandits have their properties.

Who the hell says that state administration existed there for the last 30 years. If it existed, some action would have been taken, and the properties of the Pandit community could have been identified and freed from encroachers. Necessary legal action should have been initiated so that others would get discouraged from resorting to such activities. But nothing of that sort seems to be happening on the ground, although administrative orders to that effect exist.

When the men, material, and machinery are together out there to target a particular minority, tall claims of Govt Of India have no meaning. Because of poor response, or shall I say no response, from the administration, the Pandit community is in such distress, that they have to sell their properties. That serves the most desired objective of the local population in general and Islamic fundamentalists in particular. I was also told that maximum loot is done by the families who have one or more members in the police department because they fear no law. I don’t know how far it is true, but there are signs of such a phenomenon.
Staying there any further was neither healthy nor desired. The drive back to Srinagar was full of old memories of happy times and comparisons with the present situation. Although the village is physically there but its soul is dead. The reincarnation of Kashmir is possible only if conditions on the ground become conducive again. In its present form, THE NATIVE IS LOST FOREVER!

By:- Col. Hira Lal Kher

Nandkeshwar Bhairava – Protector of Devotees

Posted in hindus, india, JAMMU & KASHMIR, kashmir by Sandeep on May 23, 2020

Bhairava Illumination – Vimarsh XXVIII

Nandkeshwar Bhairava – Protector of Devotees

– Sunil Raina Rajanaka

Note – The Incarnation Day of Lord Nandkeshwar this year is on 22nd May 2020

Tantra is way of life among vast majority of Kashmiri Hindus. Infact it origination, nurturing and its propogation has been from Kashmir where this school got integrated with day today life of the inhabitants that whatever they do or follow has its origination in Tantra rituals. Because of the vastness of this school various saints, regents and scholar’s adopted its methodology to follow the path of self elevation.

Kashmiri Shaivities emphasised on mutual coexistence with nature and chose natural symbols as a part of worship. Kashmir has lot many symbols like springs, trees, rivers, mountains and lakes. All these natural places were venerated and special days celebrated in their honor. Other important aspects have been their litany of details in the form of Mahatamyas which explain both geographical, spiritual and historical accounts of these places. During reign of Parvaersen in 6 CE the new city of Srinagar was to be founded the mighty king invoked the blessings of Lord Shiva and consecrated eight guardian Bhairava’s in eight direction of Srinagar. All these eight Bhairava’s have jurisdiction over which their lordship is undisputed among Kashmiri Hindus. These eight Bhairava’s are clan deity of Kashmiri Hindu families who believe in super natural powers of them as they have been protecting them since centuries.

One of the prominent Bhairava is Nandkeshwar Bhairava whose worship is done by families of Seer village near Sopore, Ghoshbug , Vanpoh , Sumbal ,Gotengo , Vilgam among others .

The Lord is worshipped in the form of big Boonye (Chinar) in all places . Later on Pandit Trilok Koul created a painting of Nandkeshwar Bhairava. The masters envisaged the form of Nandkeshwar as;

 The Lord is seated on bloomed louts in padamasana indicating awakened kundalini

 Reddish in the form which indicates Kriya-Shakti and Rajo Guna

 His lower right hand is holding trident indicating control over three aspects of Shakti

 The right upper hand is holding rosary which indicates constant contemplation of supreme

 Lower left hand is holding bowl of blood indicative of devouring the wicked.

 Left upper hand holding Vajra as a tool for punishment for those who create turmoil.

As per legend of Nandkeshwar a young boy managed to sneak into the assembly of deities which was presided by Creator Brahma at the place near Manasbal lake subsequently in the assembly of gods the young boy managed to get divine blessings much to the annoyance of gods. Later due to the intervention of Lord Shiva the boy was granted permanent place among the Shiv-Ganas. The adjudication of this dispute among the gods and this young boy was resolved by Lord Shiva in Sumbal and since than Sumbal shrine is considered as Darbar of Nandkeshwar whereas the original place of residence is at Seer in Sopore.

Many devotees have shared spiritual and lifesaving accounts of Nandkeshwar Bhairava. One of the account is that during 1947 Pakistani Tribal invasion the residence of Seer prayed to the Lord for protection and later invasion got foiled. In another account in Goshbug temple of Nandkeshwar a miscreant had stolen the idol of Lord and hidden the idol in cowshed. In few days of time many of his livestock died miscreant went to muslim faqir who on knowing the sacrilege done by the miscreant advised him to place back the idol in the temple. This miscreant realized his mistake and sort the apology from Hindu believers. Later his remaining livestock survived. In another account a Moulvi in Seer use to dump egg shells at door of Temple to hurt the sentiments of believers. Once his son was taking a bath on the ghats of the temple suddenly he got caught in the whirlpool and was about to get drowned. Despite cry for the help no one came forward to help the boy. Exasperated Moulvi suddenly prayed to the Nandkeshwar seeking apology for his miss conducts. Suddenly to the utter surprise of everyone his son got saved and reached the shore safely.

The general belief among the believers is that any desecration or disrespect of Nandkeshwar is duly punished. The devotees at Sumbal temple offer turmeric rice along with goat- liver whereas residence of Seer village offer do not add turmeric in the cooked rice. Any bride who got married from these areas is offering goat sacrifice to the Lord and is known as Razkath as a thanks giving to the Lord and also seeking his blessings for better future and conjugal life.

The incarnation day of the Lord is celebrated on Amavasya of Jyeshta Hindu month. After 1990 turmoil and mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from Kashmir the temple dedicated Lord Nandkeshwar Bhairava is newly constructed at Vitasta Vihar, on Akalpur road in Jammu. Where devotees regularly pay obeisance to their favorite Lord whom they believe protected them from all evils. Let us pray Lord Nandkeshwar Bhairava and beseech him for our worldly and spiritual progress.

My Reminiscences of Broked Promises

Posted in hindus, human rights, india, JAMMU & KASHMIR, kashmir, kashmiri pandits by Sandeep on April 25, 2020

It was the peak winter month of January 1987 with a record snowfall in Kashmir. 1986 had been very harsh to a lot of Kashmiri pandit families, due to hidden and cowardly acts of burning their households,temples and properties mostly in Southern districts Anantnag etc during the rule of gull
Shah, brother-in-law of Farooq Abdullah.

Immediately, after opening of locks in ayodhya in February 1986; Some people
say these riots were engineered by Mufti Mohammad sayeed to get a hold on the chair of chief minister.
I was living with my entire family in my village Mazhom ,18 kilometres west of Srinagar. It is also a railway station now.

There were a total of 2 Kashmiri pandit families divided into 8 households, comprising of a total headcount of 34, from the oldest to the infant .Till then, living peacefully co-existed with about 1500 households of Kashmiri Muslim Brethren.

This peace and Harmony was Broken in an unprecedented engineered act of fire, when 2 houses belonging to Kashmiri Pandits were gutted by miscreants in the dead of night. Frightened, we ran helter-skelter consoling each other. villagers turned on the scene, and helped to douse and control the fire of the thatched roofs with all wood frames. Fire fighting staff came 3 hours later from pattan and fire was finally doused- but not the flames of fear and anxiety that we all suffered.

Next day onwards, a temporary police post was erected in our vicinity making us a target of dislike and suspicion amongst a few villagers, due to continued presence of unarmed local police. Some revenue personal and a deputy minister turned up within a fortnight asking one of our household heads to get new clothes prepared for their youth.
The Revenue personal was also conveyed that they were educated yet unemployed. They gave their assurance of help.

The assurance given at that point proved to be a just a lip service. No compensation or relief etc was given to us for the reasons best known to the authorities.

Rajiv Gandhi, had taken charge as prime minister in 1985 after the assassination of his mother Indira Gandhi in 1984, after which riots against Sikh community countrywide took place. Gull Shah government was dismissed in march 1986 and governors rule was imposed. Instead of promoting Mufti Syed as CM of the state, he was made rajya Sabha member and Union tourism minister. It is widely believed that this step was taken to make way for Rajiv Gandhi’s longtime friend Farooq Abdullah.

Interestingly, Farooq Abdullah’s Govt had been toppled by engineering defections of NC MLA’s previously. Gul Shah-his brother in law, had been installed as CM.It is believed that Mufti Syed orchestrated this in order to fulfill his underlying ambition of becoming the state CM.

An accord between Rajiv and Farooq was signed in Nov 1986 to the displeasure of senior Congress leaders that included Mufti syed as welk. Elections were declared to be held in 1987.

Before elections, Rajiv Gandhi visited Kashmir amidst a thick snowfall. A visit to gulmarg along with his friend and host,was on the itinerary. It was snowing heavily during that night and we noticed snow dozers clearing the road early in the morning , a hundred metres from my house. The police presence along the road showed up and most folks of the village gathered along the road to Gulmarg-that passed through our village. In addition to our main house, a hundred metres from this road, we had another small house cum grain store just on the roadside.

All our community folks queued alongside the edges of the Road to have a glimpse of the motorcade. At that time, My elder son was one and half years old and was distinguishable amongst the crowd due to his fair face and Apple red cheeks from a distance.
He was held by my younger sister . The pilot car appeared and the PM’s Jeep followed at a gap of about 200 meters. Rajiv Gandhi was at driver’s seat himself and Farooq Abdullah by his side. The Wives of both leaders Sonia and Molly were settled in the middle of the SUV. Going at a slow speed due to snowy road and presence of people along its edges .

No sooner did the PM’s Jeep reached near my house, an old KP lady- shobhavati- in a traditional KP attire almost jumped in front of the PM’s vehicle , to the shock of everybody present there!
Rajiv Gandhi applied brakes to a halt. The security personnel immediately appeared and threw a ring around his vehicle. He inquired about the lady and her problems. she tried to explain in Kashmiri. Being very near to this scene, Rajiv Gandhi waved at me asking to tell him what shobhavati was saying ,which I precisely told him .
I told him that her house has been damaged by the fire and her 32 year old son is still unemployed , and that no relief was provided to her as a fire victim.

” wajahat ko bulao” , ordered Rajiv Gandhi.
A long motorcade of bureaucrats and politicians and other personnel was lined up behind his SUV and some of their occupants had got down ,struggling among villagers gathered there, to reach near PM’s vehicle.
Farooq Abdullah as usual turned vociferous at the peak of his volume,hurling choicest indecent abuses in the name of revenue authorities and divisional commissioner. “Yiman chhuv na kenh dyutmut”? ( have you not given them anything ?You have left this shabbiness at the roadside) Farooq’s wife was along with Sonia Gandhi in the rear seat.

Somehow, Sonia Gandhi caught a glimpse of my son with apple red cheeks and waved at my sister-who was holding him- to come near. Taking that one and half year old kid in her lap, she loved him and then handed over to Rajiv Gandhi who too fondled him and asked ” kiska bachha hai”? I responded and took the child from him. In the meantime some secretary had reached near PM with a stenos pad in his hands.

“write down a house and a job for her son” PM of India ordered amongst the hundreds present there. Many more people tried to ask favours among the crowd. To all those Farooq Abdullah asked to keep their applications ready. On their return journey these would be collected and acted upon. I don’t know what fate fell on all the other applications and demands,but one thing I know for sure; Prime minister of India Rajiv Gandhi’s orders on spot, in presence of a large crowd of machinery and media were not carried out, making our small community of 34 people in that village a topic of mockery and fun.

I wonder if he and his office ever used to bother to take note of follow up action on promises made while touring , to innocent people, who chose them to high office. The only thing I remember is many villagers congratulated me because king and queen of the country had put their hands on my son’s head, so a sign of auspiciousness.

Soon however ,my son ,his whole family and his whole community were forcibly exiled from their ancestral homeland that left me wondering whether it brought auspiciousness or misfortunes…..

By-Sh. Virendra Bhat ji

Dilapidated House and A Temple

Posted in kashmir by Sandeep on March 31, 2020

A number of temples and Houses belonging to the minority Kashmiri Hindus are in Shambles in the Kashmir valley.

Reminiscences of Sheen Bhagwaan(snow man@ Kanataal).

Posted in kashmir, travel by Sandeep on February 2, 2020

The snow looked fresh, But, I was told , it was a couple of days old.There were intermittent patches of soggy grass at the edges of the snow.The snow facing the sunny side of the Mountain had thawed.I sauntered for a while, just to have a good look of the Vistas, and then I knelt down and grasped the snow with both my hands.I pressed it hard and made it like a ball-a small snow ball.I threw it up in the sky and watched it fall down as it hit the Bough of the Devdar.It broke into many parts.some parts fell down on the bed of snow and a part of it became a sort of powdery-ice and disappeared in the thin air.

I again took some snow in my hands, pressed it again and made yet another ball.This time, I rolled it on the snowy-surface and with each turn, the ball became bigger and bigger.I made a couple of big Snow balls, each ball as big as a Football. I was doing all this to make the *Sheen Bhagwan* or Snowman- like I used to do in my childhood at Kashmir.

The Kashmiri pandits used to call the Snow-Man as Sheen(snow) Bhagwan(demigod); while the Muslims called it as ‘Sheen(Snow) Mohnuy(man).

Back in The valley, I used to make a big Snow-Man as there used to be enough snow to make the big torso and the big head of the Snow-man. I also used to make the outstretched arms of ‘SheenBhagwan’.we used to put coal in place of the eyes of the Snow-Man. It used to take many days or weeks for the snow man to melt completely.

But things were different here.

I had to supplant tiny twigs in place of the coal, in order to make the eyes of the Snow-Man. And , When I tried to put a peice of a thicker twig for Nose, It just crumbled. I re-made it once again.This time without a nose.

While, I was making The ‘Sheen-Bhagwan’,The renewed feeling of holding the snow in my hand put me in a reverie. I could see and hear my late Grandmother telling me, “sheenas syeth ha Dyazi Aatha “(Snow will burn your hands).I was literally feeling again my hands burning.Nevertheless , I was enjoying the Child’s play along with my Son as my wife was amusingly looking at us.

There were few apple tress on those steps of Kanatal. Those step-fields disappeared somewhere down in the valley.Few steps were covered with snow. Many tourists, like me were just enjoying the snow.

Far-Far away, The spectacular, snow-capped, redoubtable Himalayas stood a witness to all of our activities.I stayed there for some time and tried to capture and live the moment.

Soon, It was time to go.

Though, The snowman which I made was far from being called a perfect.Yet its imperfection was just perfect to titiliate and activate some of my childhood memories.

And relive the winter of Kashmir….

Holocaust Day protest at Jantar Mantar (19/1/2020)

Posted in genocide, hinduism, hindus, india, JAMMU & KASHMIR, kashmir, kashmiri pandits, politics by Sandeep on January 22, 2020


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!


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