Saturday January 20, 2018
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Muslims preserve Hindu temple in Kashmir

A move toward brotherhood and religious harmony

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Mushtaq Ahmad Sheikh sweeps the Shiva temple in Payar, a village in southern Kashmir Source: Benarnews
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In a rare display of inter-communal harmony, Muslims in a southern Kashmiri village have been taking care of a centuries-old temple since an insurgency forced the resident Hindu population out more than two decades ago.

Mushtaq Ahmad Sheikh and some fellow Muslims are the ones who safeguarding and keeping up the Shiva temple in his native Payer. The village in Pulwama district lies some 45 km (28 miles) from Srinagar.

Sheikh and other Muslims sweep the temple clean almost every day. Even back in the 1990s, when the regional insurgency was at its peak and militants targeted temples, Sheikh said he and others protected and preserved the structure.

It reveres Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction.

“I honor the temple as much as I do the mosque,” Sheikh, a government employee and caretaker of the Shiva temple, told BenarNews.

Payer Temple Source: Twitter
Payer Temple
Source: Twitter

Pulwama is considered a hotbed of militancy. The district accounted for much violence at the height of the insurgency, which goes on today. Kashmir has been the focus of a decades-old dispute between India and Pakistan, which both have territorial claims over the Himalayan region.

“I’m here to ensure its protection and upkeep even if our Pandit brothers are living outside the state for over past two decades,” Sheikh said, referring to local Hindus who were uprooted by inter-communal bloodshed.

“Even during the worst of times, when temples were randomly vandalized by miscreants, with the active support from my neighbors, I ensured there was no damage to the temple,” he added.

Related article: A toast to communal harmony: Bihar Muslims donate land for world’s largest Hindu temple

According to official data, 208 temples have been damaged or burnt over the past two decades of insurgency in Kashmir.

Last December, the well-known Jwalaji temple in Pampore, a town in Pulwama, was gutted under mysterious circumstances.

Happy Pandits

According to local residents, Pandits, most of whom now live outside Muslim-majority Kashmir, occasionally come to the temple in Payar to worship, and they go home happy and satisfied because it is maintained so meticulously.

Famous saffron feild of Pulwama
Famous saffron feild of Pulwama

“Although no Pandit family has lived in this village for more than 20 years, the minority community members, especially from south Kashmir, occasionally come here,” Bashir Ahmad Sheikh, a retired government official from Payar, told BenarNews.

Domestic and foreign tourists also visit the site quite often, he said, because the temple is famous for its elegant architecture and engraved figurines of Shiva.

“They come here and show lot of interest in learning about its history,” he added.

Challenging task

The maintenance and protection of the temple, situated on the roadside near a rivulet, had been a challenging task until the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) fenced it from all four sides in 2002.

“Before that, it was increasingly difficult to prevent stray dogs and livestock from entering the premises. Now its main gate remains closed and nobody is allowed to visit the temple without permission,” local shopkeeper Altaf Ahmad Mir said.

During unrest that rocked Kashmir in the summer of 2010, a group of youths clashed with security forces near the temple, but village elders managed to prevent them from damaging or desecrating the religious site.

“In the 1990s, a period when temples were increasingly targeted by miscreants, groups of locals took turns to guard the temple day and night,” Mir told BenarNews.

‘No discrimination between mosque and temple’

Members of the minority Pandit community praise the work and devotion shown by the Muslim villagers in keeping up and protecting the temple to Shiva.

“Our Muslim brethren never discriminated between mosque and the temple. They have safeguarded the temple like their own place of worship all these years,” Avtar Krishan, a retired lecturer from Pulwama, who now lives in Jammu – the predominantly Hindu portion of the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir – told BenarNews.

“Protection of the temple, even during the turbulent times, sends a strong message to the world community that Muslims and Pandits lived like brothers until the insurgency forced the minority community members to flee,” he added.

Anil Kumar, a pharmacist from Anantnag district, echoed Krishan’s views.

“Kashmiris are well-known for their religious harmony and hospitality,” he told BenarNews.

“And our Muslim brothers have demonstrated that tradition by protecting the temple from miscreants’ attacks repeatedly.”(BenarNews)

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  • Pritam Go Green

    Other Muslims need to learn from these people. We all are first of all humans .After that religion comes .So, irrespective of all our dissimilarities we all should respect each other cultural diversities.

  • Shubhi Mangla

    Hope it helps to strengthen communal harmony

  • Pashchiema Bhatia

    Glad to know that at least somewhere Muslims are showing reverence to Hindu religion. Humanity is way beyond religious bigotry. Hope the Hindu extremists and jihadis get to learn something from it

  • Pritam Go Green

    Other Muslims need to learn from these people. We all are first of all humans .After that religion comes .So, irrespective of all our dissimilarities we all should respect each other cultural diversities.

  • Shubhi Mangla

    Hope it helps to strengthen communal harmony

  • Pashchiema Bhatia

    Glad to know that at least somewhere Muslims are showing reverence to Hindu religion. Humanity is way beyond religious bigotry. Hope the Hindu extremists and jihadis get to learn something from it

Next Story

All You Need To Know About India’s Strategic Chabahar Port

The Chabahar Port is a seaport in Chabahar, which is on the Gulf of Oman, near Iran-Pakistan border.

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Chabahar Port is of great international significance in terms of trade, especially for India. Wikimedia Commons
Chabahar Port is of great international significance in terms of trade, especially for India. Wikimedia Commons

By Ruchika Verma

  • The Chabahar Port is of great strategic importance for India
  • It is in Iran and is being built and operated by India
  • This port will increase India’s trade with Central Asia and Europe

The Chabahar Port is a seaport in Chabahar, which is on the Gulf of Oman, near Iran-Pakistan border. Chabahar is the trans-shipment and logistics hub for the Makran Coast and Baluchistan province of Iran.

Chabahar Port is built and operated by India. Wikimedia Commons
Chabahar Port is built and operated by India. Wikimedia Commons

The tension between India and Pakistan is nothing new. There are several instances where both the countries have tried to obstruct each other’s political or economic agendas. This obstruction, along with other strategic reasons, resulted in the India and Iran’s deal on the Chabahar Port, which is crucial because of several reasons.

Here are few things about it you may not have known before :

  • Under the Trilateral Transit and Transport Agreement of 2016, the Chabahar port is the gateway to the Transport Corridor between India, Iran and Afghanistan, which allows multi-modal goods’ and passengers’ transport.

Also Read: India and Iran sign agreement to develop Chabahar Port

  • The agreement also states that India will develop and operate two berths in the first phase of the port. The contract is for 10 years and extendable. This time period excludes the first two years as they will be used for construction.
Chabahar Port will make India's trade with Afghanistan easier. Wikimedia Commons
Chabahar Port will make India’s trade with Afghanistan easier. Wikimedia Commons
  • The Chabahar Port’s first phase, which was developed by India, and inaugurated by Iran on 4th December 2017, is of great strategic importance as it makes it easier for India to conduct trade with Central Asia and Europe.
  • Iran’s Chabahar port is also important for India’s trade because of Pakistan’s reluctance in allowing India to send goods to Iran and Afghanistan through its land territory.

Also Read: Gwadar Port: China Turning Pakistan Port Into Regional Giant 

  • The development of Chabahar Port will increase the momentum of the International North-South Transport Corridor whose signatories include India, Afghanistan and Russia. Iran is the key gateway in this project. It will improve India’s trade with Central Asia as well as Europe.
    The Chabahar Port has also reduced Afghanistan’s dependence on the transit road, which went through Karachi. Now, trade can be conducted via Chabahar Port too. Islamabad has accused India of trying to use this development as a means to destabilise Pakistan.

    The Chabar Port is the said to be the counter to the Gwadar Port. Wikimedia Commons
    The Chabar Port is the said to be the counter to the Gwadar Port. Wikimedia Commons
  • The Chabahar Port also acts as a counter to the barely 100 km away, Gwadar port in Pakistan, which is developed by China. However, Iran has defended that Chabahar is not a rival to Gwadar and Pakistan is invited to join in its development.
  • In October 2017, India sent its first shipment of wheat to through Chabahar to Afghanistan, in order to test the viability of the route.
  • India will also construct a 900-km Chabahar-Zahedan-hajigak railway line that will connect Port of Chabahar to Hajigak in Afghanistan. It will also connect Mashad in the north, providing access to Turkmenistan as well as northern Afghanistan.This project is worth $1.6 billion.

    India will supply $400 million worth of steel rails to Tehrain. Wikimedia Commons
    India will supply $400 million worth of steel rails to Tehran. Wikimedia Commons
  • It is being said that India will supply $400 million of steel rails to Tehran. There are also possibilities of setting up a fertilizer plant through a joint venture with the Iranian government.