Pageant of Flowers

Pageant of Flowers

Thousands mourned whole night on the lawns of grand Masjid

In our childhood it used to be grandiose of all grand pageants. In wee morning hours, much before Habib Sheikh arrived to broom the lane leading to our home, enthusiastic visitors – children, men, women, old and young, some known and some unknown, used to arrive at our home to watch the great carnival of flowers, folk music, folk dances, school, police and military bands and  military  and police  parades.  

Nine windows of top floor of our house opened towards the street, where from the carnival was to pass hours later.

The lane side windows were a lofty vantage point, for watching the grand spectacle of colours and music. The visitors to our home vied for getting a place on the lane side windows. Like monkeys on tree branches some hung from the window sills to get a glimpse of the procession.

On the one mile or so Long Street from the Mujahid Manzil, once symbol of resistance  to the Martyrs graveyard this was true about all houses. From all parts of the city people started pouring in the Ward 4, and as time ticked by huge crowds gathered on both the sides of the road.  

On this day, the rooms on the first floor of our house facing the main street were reserved for guests of my uncle. Some of his elderly friends, who had been witness to macabre of 13 July 1931 remembered the day with soaked eyes.  On this day soldiers of the Maharaja had shot dead unarmed civilians like ducks outside the Srinagar Central jail. Sad about the day, they recounted how bodies of the martyrs were brought to the Jamia Masjid by slogan raising and chest pounding crowds and kept  overnight in the Masjid  with their relatives by their side. Thousands mourned whole night on the lawns of grand Masjid.  The funeral prayers- nimaz jinaza was led by Mirwaiz Molvi Yusuf Shah. They remembered   scenes at the burial grounds just three hundred yards from our house. For these eye witnesses, the procession was not just a ritual but a day for rededication to the cause for which these people had laid their lives. Nevertheless, for children, it was once a year festive day- full of excitement and thrill. 

The procession started from the Mujahid Manzil by 8 A. M and reached our Mohalla by about 11 A.M. Much before the starting of the procession, the tankers sprinkled waters on the roads at regular intervals. A pose of red and blue turbaned police men in advance cleared the street of the people. This was followed by a flower bedecked truck fitted with loud speakers playing patriotic song. The most popular songs played were:

Shaheed ki jo Maut hai woh Qaum ki Hayat hai

Lahoo jo hai Shaheed ka woh Qaum ki Zakaat hai,

And song from Dilip Kumar’s film Shaheed:

Vatan Ki Raah Me Vatan Ke Naujavan Shaheed Ho 

Pukarta hai yeh zameen o aasman shaheed Ho

Then the grand carnival started, with march-past of a few contingent of men in olive green-perhaps Kashmir militia followed by contingents fine-fettle police. These were followed by march-past by some premier schools of the city including my alma mater. Most attractive feature were police and school bands – our school band outsmarted all schools. 

Prime Minister, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad and his team of ministers on a flower bedecked truck used to be the main high light of the carnival. His truck was followed by band of folk musicians playing clarinets and drums, then folk dancers atop flower bedecked trucks and horse driven carts….