Bandipora, Oct 24: Kaloosa village in north Kashmir's Bandipora district has upheld the decades-old bond of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood and mutual harmony despite all the fray and constant turbulences.
Dotted with old-fashioned houses and walnut trees with leaves shed, a handful of Kashmiri Pandit families, who stayed back and continue to live in their humble houses in this decrepit village on the outskirts of the main town, have kept intact the traditions and customs and haven't let the old bond of friendship with Muslim community living alongside them to wither.
“We have them (Muslims), and without their participation in our festivals, our joy is not complete. The spirit of the celebration of any festival is incomplete without them,” said Chaman Lal Koul, a Kashmir Pandit, who lives in Kaloosa.
A retired teacher who taught scores of local Muslims during his career, Koul said, “We celebrate all our auspicious, sad, and bad days together. Their wholehearted love and support for our religious rituals, be it of birth or death is undefeated.”
On Saturday, when nonagenarian Pandit Moti Lal Bhat passed away, a large number of Muslims could not hold back their tears and accompanied the Kashmiri Pandits to the crematorium.
For Koul this was not unusual or a first.
“This has been happening throughout my life and for this, we can't thank our Muslim brothers enough,” he said while preparing to pray in the nearby temple for Diwali.
“Today as we celebrate Diwali, Muslims have arrived with gifts and their blessings. They come to us and share our joy too. This has been the greatest ritual and we celebrate it together with them,” Koul said. “The Muslims feel our loss and when we face any eventuality it's akin to losing a limb for them.”
Koul who was visited by a long-term friend, Prof Ismail Aashna, on Diwali, said, “The Muslim community has been part and parcel of our lives. “They miss those Pandits who migrated to other places.
Many people join or meet them at their present places of residence in Delhi, Banglore, and other places and share old memories. They miss them badly.”
In the evening as they lit the bonfire, around a dozen Pandits from five households were joined by Muslims while they offered Pooja at the nearby temple.
“They come and see us praying. They also share sweets. Later, we have individual celebrations at our homes,” Koul said. “Even on Shivratri and other festivals they join us. Without their participation, our joy is incomplete. Even the spirit of the celebration of the festival is incomplete.”
Ismail Aashna, who was in Kaloosa a few days ago mourning Moti Lal's demise was preparing to leave Koul’s house but before leaving he said, “Muslims and Pandits are one. No power on earth can break our bond.”
Quoting author Radha Krishnan, he says, “No matter how long the darkness of the night lasts, the light eventually has to come.”