Kashmiri Pandit group to celebrate Hindu New Year ‘Navreh’ with Muslims

Srinagar: Amid the din created by ‘The Kashmir Files’, a group of displaced Kashmiri Pandits is seeking to reconnect with their birthplace. The occasion is Navreh, the first day of the New Year as per the Kashmiri Hindu calendar, which falls on April 2.

The group intends to reinvent the fervour surrounding the day along with their local Muslim friends and supporters, which had been missing after their forced exodus 32 years ago. Coming together under the banner of JK Peace Forum, the ensemble of Kashmiri Pandits, local Muslims, Sikhs and Christians will celebrate the day to spread the message of ‘Partnership for Peace, Dignity for All’.

“The aim is to relive the memories of an annual religious and cultural gathering, which has been affected by the three-decade-old turmoil in the Valley,” Satinder Singh, JK Peace Forum general secretary, said.

“Kashmiri Pandits are peace-loving people who have always believed in cohesiveness. This Navreh we want to relive that spirit,” Singh said.

“Together for peace. Respect and dignity for all,” the Forum’s chairman, Satish Mahaldar, said. “This is what we want this Navreh to be all about. As Navreh marks the beginning of a New Year, we want to make a beginning for peace and togetherness,” he added.

Much before the advent of terrorism in the Valley and the forced exodus, Navreh was a celebration in which the local Muslims would also participate. The major celebration used to be held at the Mata Sharika temple, atop the Hari Parbat hillock in the centre of Srinagar city.

Thousands would congregate there to offer prayers and then the community members would throng the Mughal Gardens. After the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley, the temple went silent and the celebrations stopped.

Now, for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370, a big event is being held on April 2 to celebrate Navreh. And to make this event a success, the local Muslims have especially pitched in.

Mohammad Ali, JK Peace Forum vice-president, said: “We are doing this for Kashmir and for the Kashmiri Pandits, who have suffered. We have to bring them back and this event is one of the steps to give them the confidence to return and live in Kashmir. We are giving full support to the event.”

Ali is one of the Kashmir-based leaders who has been very actively pursuing the reconciliation agenda. He says the violence has hurt Kashmiris the most and the time has come to begin steps for healing.

“Our Kashmiri society has suffered immensely. Through this event the older generation wants to relive the past and for the new generations, who are not aware of these celebrations, it is important for them to know about them,” Ali added.

After the puja, the forum will hold a ‘Navreh Milan’, an inter-community get-together at the Sher-e-Kashmir Park in Srinagar, where Kashmiri Pandits, local Muslims, Sikhs and Christians will interact with one another. Around 3,000-4,000 people are expected to join the gathering, Mahaldar said.

“The purpose of the celebration is to establish a bridge between the two broken communities of Kashmir. We all belong to this land and there is a growing feeling that it is high time to come together once again,” Mahaldar, who has been actively involved in reconciliation efforts, said.

“We, displaced Kashmiri Pandits, yearn to come back and celebrate our festivals and rituals in the same way we used to three decades ago,” Mahaldar said.

After the ‘Jyeshtha Ashtami’ celebrations at the Kheer Bhawani temple in Kashmir’s Ganderbal, which is held in June every year, the Navreh event is going to be another Kashmiri Pandit religious festival, which will see a large participation of the displaced community in Kashmir after their exile.

The Navreh event will see the participation of Hindus from across the country and a few thousands are expected to do the puja at the Mata Sharika temple this year, Mahaldar said.

The very fact that the event is taking place on a big scale shows that things are changing in the Valley, says Monika, a displaced Kashmiri Pandit, who will be performing the ‘puja’ at the Hari Parbat temple for the first time on Navreh.

For Monika and thousands of other displaced Kashmiri Pandits like her, reconnecting with the moorings is what they yearn for and the local Muslim support for events such as Navreh gives them hope.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Sambad English staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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