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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

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)

  • 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

SHARE
  • 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

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HPV Vaccination May Bring An End To Cervical Cancer In India by 2070

Combining high uptake of the HPV vaccine and cervical screening could eliminate cervical cancer as a public health hazard in 149 out of 181 countries by 2100 and up to 13 million cases of cervical cancer by 2050.

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cancer
Cervical cancer is the fourth-most common cancer among women, with an estimated 570,000 new cases diagnosed worldwide in 2018, of which around 85 per cent occur in less developed nations. Pixabay

Human papillomavirus (HPV) screening and vaccination must be taken up on a war footing in countries like India to prevent 15 million cervical cancer deaths among women by 2050, a Lancet research said.

Causing the second-highest number of deaths among Indian women among cancer variants, cervical cancer, in a majority of cases, is caused by HPV, a group of more than 150 viruses.

The efforts might even result in cervical cancer being eliminated as a public health hazard in India by 2070-79, according to the study, published in The Lancet Oncology journal.

Combining high uptake of the HPV vaccine and cervical screening could eliminate cervical cancer as a public health hazard in 149 out of 181 countries by 2100 and up to 13 million cases of cervical cancer by 2050.

Cancer
“Awareness about cervical cancer is extremely poor among common people; that makes containing the disease a challenge,” Anjila Aneja, Director at Fortis La Femme, New Delhi, told IANS. Pixabay

If the high coverage of HPV vaccination and cervical screening cannot be achieved globally, over 44 million women could be diagnosed with cervical cancer in the next 50 years with two-thirds of these cases and an additional estimated 15 million deaths, would occur in countries with low and medium levels of development.

“More than two thirds of cases prevented would be in countries with low and medium levels of human development like India, Nigeria, and Malawi, where there has so far been limited access to HPV vaccination or cervical screening,” said lead author Professor Karen Canfell from the Cancer Council New South Wales in Australia.

However, large disparities exist in cervical screening and HPV vaccination coverage among countries.

“Awareness about cervical cancer is extremely poor among common people; that makes containing the disease a challenge,” Anjila Aneja, Director at Fortis La Femme, New Delhi, told IANS.

“While societal barriers prevent women from seeking medical help in advance, women are forced to come out at a later stage when the disease has reached an advanced stage,” she said.

cancer
Screening and broad-spectrum HPV vaccines could potentially prevent up to 84-90 per cent of cervical cancers, the study said. Pixabay

However, Canfell says that despite the enormity of the problem, their findings suggest that “global elimination is within reach with tools that are already available, provided that both high coverage of HPV vaccination and cervical screening can be achieved.

Cervical cancer is the fourth-most common cancer among women, with an estimated 570,000 new cases diagnosed worldwide in 2018, of which around 85 per cent occur in less developed nations.

Screening and broad-spectrum HPV vaccines could potentially prevent up to 84-90 per cent of cervical cancers, the study said.

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“Diagnostic tests such as the pap smear are effective in identifying cancerous tendencies.

“However, these tests are available with a limited number of providers and largely within the cities. This makes screening sporadic and leaves out women who live in rural areas,” Aneja added. (IANS)