I am a Gen-X girl. Fast and forward. My individuality and style defines my culture and work. Also being a secular, I am first an Indian. Caste, creed and colour therefore take a backseat for a person like me. But my lifestyle, culture, background, habits etc are also a part of me. They have a strong role in making me who and what I am.
I am a Kashmiri Pandit, a person who belongs to a sect of Hindu Brahmins originating from
Kashmir. The religious philosophy of Kashmiri Hindus is rooted in Kashmir Shaivism, a school of Shiva philosophy that originated near Kailasha in Himalayas around 400 AD.
History has been a witness to a number of hardships borne by our community. During the spread of Islam in the Kashmir Valley around and after 1343 A.D, the Hindu community was subjected to a number of atrocities, which included forced conversions, destruction of temples, burning of religious books and no rights whatsoever. These Hindus could neither use vermillion nor wear the sacred thread nor the Sarees and other dress.
Sultan Ali Shah, through Government instructions, ordered a search of Pandits and all of them were forced to adopt Islam. It is believed that under the stormy religious conversion, carried out by Sikander and his son, Ali Shah, only 11 families of Hindus were left in Kashmir. The rest were converted, killed or had been forced to migrate.
The scenario improved in the reign of other kings who were a bit linient towards Hindus. However as they say history repeats itself, history did repeat and this time in a more ugly way. In 1989-1990, in the name if jihad, Kashmiri pandits were brutally killed, raped and looted. They were given warnings to leave Kashmir at once or face dire consequences. In exile, thousands of Kashmiri Pandits have died due to change in environmental conditions. Kashmiri Pandits were forced to live in hostile conditions in make-shift camps in Jammu/Delhi. During summers, the average temperature of Kashmir would generally be in thirties while in Jammu/Delhi, it is in forties. Think of 45ºC and 6-8 people living in a tent. The habitat change resulted in sun-strokes, anaemia etc. which caused many deaths. Moreover, deaths happened due to snake bites as slum-like conditions of camps became the breeding ground for snakes. Even after 21 years, some are still living in camps.
Talking about my family, we left Kashmir and came to Jammu, thinking that we will go back once things get normal. Well, things never got normal and we never went back to our hometown, we started our lifes in Jammu from scratch. I was just one year old back then, so I never really understood the meaning of all this. I never understood the pain my parents and relatives felt, I never understood their longing and strange fascination with Kashmir. I got bored and irritated with numerous and continuous discussions and reminiscences about Kashmir. As I grew up and finally understood the importance of it all, I could see a reflection of all these feelings in a blurred 96 year old eyes (my Grandpa's) He still dreams of his hometown and the happy days he has spent there. It was then I began to understand it all, what is must feel like to leave your home, your things, your memories and everything else that was yours and never get back.
According to statistics Out of one million Hindus who lived in Kashmir in early 20th century..only a handful are left…not even 4000….the rest are living scattered physically, emotionally and mentally somewhere with a lost identity and a dream……Kashmir…….. their homeland…
And it was not all that easy to simply merge and get on with life in Jammu. We were always considered outsiders by the people of Jammu and were a butt of many a jokes amongst them. Growing up in such an environment was not at all easy. My early teen years at school were so horrible that when I look back and think about that time, I almost pity myself. I had no individuality whatsoever, I always tried to blend into someone that was not me. I felt ashamed of being who I was, because I hated being pitied or judged. This was one of the most important reason of writing about this particular post, to highlight this fact that I am proud of who I am. I started writing this piece of write-up way back in January but left it mid way and forgot about it. Recently after watching Rockstar and the whole first-time-kashmiri-pandit-wedding rumours associated with it, I was reminded of it and decided to post it on my blog.
Though less in number, we have a rich and varied heritage. Varied customs and mouth-watering cuisines. My upbringing has been a proper Kashmiri one. With mostly all the rituals being followed and the Kashmiri language being spoken at home. Though I converse in Hindi, English or broken Kashmiri with my family and relatives, I can speak the language quite well. And I am very proud of the fact, as many of the Kashmiri kids cannot speak the language neither do they make any effort to try and learn.
I do not blame them. After the migration in the year 1989-90, Kashmiri families have been scattered in different parts of the country and abroad. To raise kids in such an atmosphere is a difficult task indeed. As it is, today’s kids hardly have any time from there busy schedules. Moreover, inter-caste marriages also play an important role in the dilution of kashmiriat from the new generation.
I will not brag and say that I know the A-Z of the diverse Kashmiri culture. No. I do not. But I can share with you the little knowledge that I have. This basically will include the basic lifestyle, some rituals I am familiar with, cuisines, music, art and craft, literature etc. And it will come in the next post of mine (taking into consideration the size of this post)
Some beautiful lines I found on the internet and thought of sharing :
May be the winter of jan 1990
in Kashmir was so cold ,
it turned the emotions of many into ice.
that is the reason, they could not
see me breathing heavily until
I was out of breath…
May be the cold was so severe
that even their eye lids froze
and their vision got blurred
and that is why
they could not see my dead body..
May be the winter was so harsh
that it impaired the Ears,
it killed their conscience,
may be that is why ..no body…
……..Nobody heard my screams…
P.S The historical and statistical data has been taken from different websites online!