Low-key ‘Herath’ in Kashmir: Pandits pray for better days, return of migrants
Srinagar: ‘Herath’ (Maha Shivratri) celebrations remained a low-key affair in the Kashmir valley on Wednesday.
Non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits, who are struggling to keep their age-old traditions alive, said they badly missed the hustle-bustle that was once associated with the festival and prayed for the return of ‘good old days’.
“Markets would buzz with festivities on Herath before migration. There used to be a festive atmosphere everywhere and we miss the good old days. Now, we struggle to keep our traditions alive as just around 800 non-migrant Kashmiri Pandit families live in the Valley presently. We can now only pray for peace, better days and return of migrant Kashmiri Pandits,” Hindu Welfare Society Kashmir (HWSK) president Chunni Lal Bhat told The Kashmir Monitor.
He said the festivities this year were all the more low-key due to various reasons.
“This year the festivities are simpler because the Covid-19 threat is still looming large. On top of that, successive governments have cold shouldered us. Several non-migrant families are internally displaced and face many issues ranging from rehabilitation to employment. Unfortunately, nobody listens to us,” said Bhat.
Bhushan Lal, a resident of Habbakadal in the old city, said they had been left to fend for themselves.
“We came across announcements that trout will be available everywhere but it was hard to find. These days, mutton too is not available. When there was an elected government, people at the helm would at least listen to our grievances irrespective of whether the same was resolved or not. Now, nobody even listens. We have been left to fend for ourselves,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bhat said the Herath celebrations in the Kashmir valley were distinct.
“In the rest of the country, Maha Shivratri will be celebrated tomorrow but our festivities begin a day in advance. We will perform a nightlong pooja from Wednesday evening to commemorate the marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati and then observe ‘salam’ on Thursday. We visit friends and relatives for ‘salam’ to extend Herath greetings,” he said.
“We also cook fish, nadru (lotus stem) and other delicacies including mutton on the festive occasion. During pooja at home, we pray to Lord Shiva and Parvati with offerings of walnuts that are placed in ‘watuk’ (earthen pot). Walnuts are later distributed among friends and relatives,” Bhat added.