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VITASTA ANNUAL NUMBER: Volume XXXV (2001-2002)

Preface

It is a pleasure and privilege to present this 35th annual number of the Vitasta, dedicated to Kashmiri Pandit Shrines in their Homeland, Kashmir. Many in our Biradari, within our country and across the shores, look forward to the Vitasta Annuals with great expectations. And I wish this presentation also accordingly came up to the mark. Whilst a dear baby to me, the constraints of age and related circumstances, now do stand in my way of performing on such a responsibility as the Editor-in-Chief of this prestigious publication. However, despite my initial hesitation, the persuasion of Kashmir Sabha members and its perseverant President, Brij Mohan Ji Misri, was unrelenting and therefore, I had to girdle up my loins again and fall in line for carrying out this literary Pilgrimage. But, as the saying goes, howsoever one may desire, the "Darshan" is granted only when there is a call from the Shrine itself. Exactly this is what followed. This Pilgrimage was really a peculiar one, late at the start and with all impediments and inclement incidents on the way, making the journey very tedious and tiresome, fraught with frequent breakdowns caused by episodes of helplessness and unpredictability; so it got prolonged, with due apologies, for much longer a time than what could be scheduled for it. All along during the preparatory period, my mind remained in doubt as to whether it was at all destined to have this pilgrimage accomplished. Such were the circumstances that took place one after the other during this period, all very depressing and disheartening. It is gratifying, however, to realise that, the "Darshan" after all having already been granted by now and the ray of hope having become visible at the end of the dark tunnel, the journey back will now be timely to reach you, the nectar and "Prashad" of this Pilgrimage. That is this volume of difficultly acquired and meaningful information, toiled up to the objectives that were laid for this literary Pilgrimage.

It was after a great thought that the theme for this publication was evolved as : Homeland Pilgrim Centres (Asthapans) of Kashmiri Pandits A Perspective for their preservation. It is almost thirteen years back that our exodus from our motherland was thrust upon us and since then we are uprooted from our ancient hearths and homes. Our exile is getting protracted and our cultural identity is at crossroads of survival and extinction. It is high time that we collectively strive hard to preserve our cultural identity and ensure that at not too longer a date from now we also return to our roots, as far as possible, in our Homeland with dignity and honour, safety and security, with rights and privileges that our Constitution provides us as Indian citizens and with freedom from discrimination and prejudice that have caused our internal displacement. The awakening and awareness about our Pilgrim Centres is therefore a natural prelude to this aspiration. The Vitasta, Kolkata, has been considered as a trendsetter in initiating, from a distance, some remarkable movements in our community. Accordingly, it is in the fitness of this consideration and very much timely to bring about the needed momentum towards the cause of preserving our ancient shrines in our Homeland. For a community with ancient roots, its culture has to be evolved from certain beliefs and faith of antiquity all of which may not find a mathematical proof. But these are engraved in our culture and tradition and that is our heritage. This heritage requires to be preserved not only in words but also by well-planned actions and efforts. Our Pilgrim Centers and Shrines are closely linked to our Cultural heritage. History reveals that our kings and queens did not pride in building great palaces or memorials for themselves but they were remarkably particular in having great temples built, which reflected the course of history and the attainments of our progress at that particular period of time. As such, our cultural development, intellectual attainment and history from ancient times is associated with the temples and shrines of past in our Homeland. Naturally, these temples were, besides centers of worship, the temples of our knowledge, literary pursuits and spiritual progress also. It becomes essential, therefore, to know as much as possible about these foundation pillars on which our Cultural Identity Structure rests. This knowledge and awareness can be rightly assumed as a requisite for the awareness and awakening about our Homeland Shrines and about their preservation. It does not require to be emphasized that our Shrines are in our Homeland, Kashmir. There is a specific Mahatmaya behind these which as well as details their location and surroundings, mountains, rivers, springs, the flora particularly Chinar and Mulberry trees. Our worship to these shrines is, in essence, an acknowledgment to our thankfulness to the totality that a shrine means to us; its spiritual significance, the belief and the particular location our "Devis" and "Devtas" have accordingly determined for these. There can, therefore, be no alternatives to our shrines in our Homeland, Kashmir.

As such, very thoughtfully, this vitasta Number has been so designed as to prove very valuable in achieving the above objectives. There are no two opinions that for such documentation the essential ingredients are the collection of authentic information and correct database. The preamble to the theme of this publication was so designed as to achieve historical background about our shrines and their origin and about their religious and spiritual significance based on recognised studies and researches. Each shrine has associated with it certain appropriate ritualistic observances meaningful to those times and these provide it a special identity. It is this identity to which our sentiments and feelings find an attachment. Though these are matters of faith and belief, all efforts have been made to provide and incorporate an acceptable logic, as far as possible, with our present knowledge. No one has written the last word of science. As our underlined scientific understanding improves, our beliefs and faith find enough relevance for their continuity and preservation or for their absolute discontinuation. Therefore, this Vitasta Number has initiated, as far as possible, emphasis on scientific understanding of the various aspects of our shrines; their origin, architecture and related specialties. All efforts were made to gather whatever possible information about their present plight; this being so very necessary for providing a realistic picture for any meaningful future action. Further, Kashmiri Pandits have got internally displaced historically and an effort has also been made to collect the available information as to how this identity has been preserved in our Diasporas at different historical periods. All these topics by themselves are matters of extensive research and therefore subjects for many more publications for detailed treatment. It suffices to mention that this publication is providing a very necessary beginning for further investigations that our other community centers and their publications will have to carry forward to enable a detailed insight into our rich heritage and for its preservation.

As was considered necessary, I approached personally various authorities on related subjects at Delhi, Jammu and various Camps where our uprooted Biradari members are scattered. All possible efforts were made to source detailed and authentic information on our Shrines in the vale of Kashmir; its capital Srinagar, its metropolitan towns and its districts to provide a total scenario. Various meetings and discourses were held at Delhi and Jammu for organising access to all available sources of information. Various Ashrams and temples that have been created as symbolic models of our shrines at Jammu, Delhi and Faridabad were visited by the undersigned to have on the spot information. It by itself became a process of bringing about awareness and awakening about our shrines and for creating a movement for their preservation. For this I am thankful to the Editors of Koshur Samachar, Delhi and Kshir Bhawani Times Jammu, Milchar Bombay and KOA, USA who extended all help and cooperation in this connection. It is unfortunate, due to inclement weather then, I could not reach Srinagar for personal assessment. But all efforts were made to have reliable information on this subject from there also. As a result valuable information became available from some of those who were approached though our expectations were pitched still much high and many promises have remained reserved for future efforts. Appeals for articles were made through the columns of the Koshur Samachar, the Kshir Bhawani times and the KOA websites and these had a good, though delayed, response. Our gratitude and gratefulness is due to these sister organisations for their cooperation and help.

The total matter received from others and collected personally has been classified under various Sections though it is not accurate; many contributors have as expected approached our theme in totality and as such they have catered to many aspects. However, based on the major emphasis in a particular article, it has been placed accordingly under a particular Section. Further, some repetition here and there was inevitable, which in such a thematic publication as this may not be avoidable. But each contributor has provided some additional valuable information and views and these have helped in making this publication broad based. Repetition is providing more emphasis particularly for our younger generations who are not aware of these shrines and their names. Personal approach was made in procuring contributions from original residents of such places about shrines in different parts of the valley. These details have been given important place in this publication since these are arising from their hearts and reveal their feelings and sentiments. Almost in all the articles the pain of being in exile and the nostalgia about our roots is abundantly evident. Based on the available material the contents have been divided in the following Sections.

Section I : Homeland Pilgrim Centres of Kashmiri Pandits in Exile Pertinent Origin : Gleanings from Legend, Tradition, Practice, History, Travelogues, Arts and Science

Section II : Homeland Pilgrim Centres of Kashmiri Pandits in Exile A Kaleidascopic View :
Our Shrines in General,
Their Past and Present Perspectives

Section III : Homeland Pilgrim Centres of Kashmiri Pandits in Exile Our "Ishta Devis" & The Like :
Hari Parbat, Kheer Bhawani, Khrew Amarnath and Sharda

Section IV : Homeland Pilgrim Centres of Kashmiri Pandits in Exile Some Memorable Shrines in Districts :
A Walk in Memoriam, Lest we forget these and consign these to Processes of Natural & Human Destruction

Section V : Homeland Pilgrim Centres of Kashmiri Pandits in Exile Symbolic Models in Diaspora :
Creating Alternative symbols of Hope in Exile, Preserving their Identity in Memoriam and Pouring out Rhymes in Nostalgia

Swami Vivekananda Ji had visited Kashmir twice and had experienced inspiring moments at these Shrines particularly Kheer Bhawani at Tulla Mulla. His memorable expressions and experiences are vibrating through all the Sections of this publication. Keeping his observations and utterances in view, perhaps Gods and Goddesses themselves ordained the present neglect and dilapidation of our millennia old Shrines and that of our community for a particular divine cause not known to us. This could be our sins or may be a sort of tapasiya at tempering us with shock, sacrifice, trauma and lesson so that we reform and rectify ourselves in exile and deserve inhabiting again in that abode of Gods and Paradise on Earth our Homeland Kashmir, to follow the footprints of the Rishis and Munis who had made our Homeland an abode of excellence. Swami Ji's words do provide us solace and also inspire us to dream of glorious times to come, in very near future. Ashrams in the valley, associated with the Rama Krishna Institution have stood the brunt of these thirteen years and considerable expansion is being given in the valley as also at Udeyawala, Jammu which is again a heartening development; pointing to good times coming.

It is gratifying to note that the publication of this Annual number of the Vitasta has coincided with the 75th Nirvan Jayanti of Pt. Krishen Joo Razdan, a great Saint-poet-philosopher that our Homeland has produced. His Bhajjans and Leelas and commentaries on our shrines in verse have made Pt. Krishen Joo Razdan immortal. We pay our respectful homage to this great son of Kashmir and dedicate this Number on Shrines of Kashmir to his memory also and as a proceeding of his 75th Nirvan Jayanti celebrations, on our own behalf.

The Shrine of Sharada has been our very important Pilgrim center of excellence and pride. Since 1947, it is in POK and has remained out of reach for us and is in neglect so far as our attention is concerned. The personal reports from those who managed to reach this shrine recently reveal that it is still being held in high esteem by the locals and is well protected as a sacred place. I had expected to receive a number of photographs of this shrine as were shown to me at Jammu but due to some communication gap these did not become available for being reproduced in this publication. However, deservingly, this Shrine has been given due emphasis as our "Ishta Devi" and it is expected that this publication brings about awakening towards a very important agenda of enabling more facilitation for regular visits and Yatras by the devotees to this Pilgrim Centre through Governmental measures and necessary arrangements. A thought requires to be given to this and public opinion mobilised for the same.

It does not require any special elaboration or further evidence to reveal that our Pilgrim Centres and Asthapans in our Homeland are in bad condition because of militancy and because, on this account, there are not enough devotees over there to take care of these. This publication has provided reasonably good knowledge on our Shrines and that is an achievement. Preservation of these Shrines is linked with our return to our Homeland; awakening has been aroused about their protection, maintenance and preservation in the interim period. At this juncture no list of concrete measures or suggestions has emerged for obvious reasons. Government action in forming a "Mandir Prabandhak Board" is a welcome step but nine months have passed that this Board was formed but no reports have yet become available about its performance, if any. We can only hope that it will look into the property matters of the land and premises that our Asthapans possessed particularly in districts. Our local Organisations in Jammu are duly representing our community as members of this Board and we expect that they will provide leadership in handling these complex issues of property matters caused by militancy and our exodus from the valley or those hanging for quite sometime with Aukaaf. A requisite infrastructure to follow these matters will be necessary for which considerable personnel and financial support will be needed. So the first step as envisaged at this stage is to have in near future, after the elections in the valley are over, a status report on such cases, based on authentic information and what it would require to build the desired infrastructure for handling such cases. The local units will do a yeoman's service to the community by highlighting these issues amongst all the units of Kashmiri Pandits spread globally, so that all become aware about the issues authentically and about the steps and finances that will be necessary for handling these matters.

Conclusively, it may be proposed that Governmental protection and support are very necessary in safeguarding our Shrines and the property these possessed in the valley. But for taking care of our such community assets we have to depend upon ourselves and the resources we possess. Logically, it is the agenda for our Federating Organisation (AIKS) which alone could organise action globally in developing the necessary infrastructure for preserving our Shrines in Kashmir and looking after the assets that are associated with these. But unfortunately AIKS is not appropriately functional at present to attend to such priorities. Lot has been written, with best intentions, about AIKS' take off, in the columns of the Vitasta and other community journals but no concrete steps have been taken by its leadership to shape it as a Federating Organisation. It has taken no organised steps for building the Organisation that is required for coordinating effectively the activities of its forty six affiliates for the minimum common agenda of the community, spread globally. Unless and until the concept of a Federating Apex Organisation is given desired shape and duly respected, one cannot think of a joint action plan for any of our community problem. AIKS was developed for this purpose, twenty-two years back, but it has yet to perform unto these objectives. So, any other appropriate Organisation in Jammu or Delhi can provide leadership to the issue of our homeland Shrines, their safety and preservation. It is a proper selection of a group of dedicated and sincere persons who can provide leadership on such matters as our Shrine preservation. It is with this in view that an article "Kheer Bhawani Construction Committee" has been included in this Number as a model of Coordinated dedicated Action. It is a model developed in the past, around fifty years back up to the conditions prevailing then. Circumstances have changed radically since then, but it holds good even under presently changed conditions. A community leadership is the answer and we have to look for this. I am hopeful that some solution will be soon found to our Coordination functions so that we have an Organisation and a leadership dedicated to the minimum agenda of the community. I again repeat that only AIKS can play this role and for this if need be it has to be so structured as to play the desired role effectively. It's functioning as one amongst the other affiliated units, with the same objectives, is not what can give it the desired identity of the Apex Unit. It has to determine its priorities and accordingly formulate its minimum agenda of coordination amongst its affiliates and for their implementation.

It is my great pleasure to acknowledge the overwhelming cooperation I received in having the thoughtful matter for this publication. I am especially indebted to Shri Sunil Fotedar at Texas, USA, Prof. C. L. Saproo, Delhi, Prof. R. L. Shant, Jammu, Shri Arjan Dev, Majboor, Jammu, Dr. M. K. Raina, Mumbai for enabling receiving articles and photographs. Thanks are due to Pt. A. N. Kaul Sahib, Ex-Editor-in-Chief, Koshur Samachar and Pt. T. N. Khosa, Editor-in-Chief of Kshir Bhawani Times for organising very useful meetings in this connection at Delhi and Jammu during the early preparatory stages of this publication. Copies of this publication have been printed for wider circulation as publicly requested as a community publication. These will be available at its cost price, from Kashmir Bhawan, Kolkata. I have no words to express my gratitude to all the authors who have contributed to this publication and made it come up to the objectives that were laid for it. I am thankful to Kashmir Sabha, Kolkata for necessary encouragement and financial support. A word of apologies is due to my valued contributors and admirers of the Vitasta for the delay that has taken place in bringing out this publication. I am also soliciting indulgence for any omissions or commissions that might have crept, in bringing out this publication. It requires to be emphasised that the views expressed herein are entirely those of the contributors and the Vitasta or Kashmir Sabha, Kolkata does not hold any responsibility for the same. The success of a publication can be measured by the purposeful impact it makes. Whilst hoping that this publication will arouse the desired awareness and awakening towards our Shrines in our motherland, Kashmir, and towards their preservation, I stand with prayers and best wishes for this sacred cause.

15th August, 2002 
Dr. B. K. Moza
 
 
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Views expressed by authors in Vitasta Annual Number are not necessarily of Kashmir Sabha, Kolkata.

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