Sunday, May 12, 2013

Butt Butshikan

Butt Butshikan

Islam came to valley in 1320 with Rinchans conversion to Islam.  And with advent of Sayyid Hamdani, the Islam gained more prominence in the politics of the valley. The Islamic zeal gained fanatical proportions with Suktan Sikandar, the infamous Sikander Butshikan (Sikander Destroyer of idols)
Butshikan launched relentless campaign to convert the local population of Kashmir into Islam and destroy the religious symbols of Hindus. Tons of Januas (Sacred thread worn by Hindu Bhramins) were burnt. The cities were burnt and many temples destroyed or attempted to be destroyed. The famous sun Temple at Martand, built by the Great King Lalitdatiya was destroyed too. It is said the temple was so big and grand that even after employing all tactics, Sikander and his men could not completely destroy the temple and thankfully the remains of the temple still stand at Mattan and even the ruins clearly highlight the grandeur of the temple.

The fanatical zeal of Islam continued for centuries with occasional respites during the rule of Zani-ul-Abidin, more lovingly called as Budshah, Akbar and Sikhs. Lakhs of Hindus were forcibly converted and all the identity of Kashmiri Pandits would have been wiped out had it not been the courage and determination of our ancestors who managed to stay Hindu, preserve their 5000 year old culture and rebuild their places of worship. Our ancestors preferred to give up their lives than to give up their faith.
Let’s not forget that this is not the first exodus of Kashmiri Hindus. 1990 exodus was the seventh exodus in last 700 years.  But each time our ancestors did not let their desire to be back in their motherland die down. It is said during Afghan rule only 11 Hindu families were left in the valley, while all other Hindus had fled. But the families which fled did not forget their motherland and ensured that their religious shrines, their customs, their language remained intact.  

Inspite of being just 3% of the population, the Hindus of the valley safeguarded their temples with zeal. Almost all towns and villages had temples which were well maintained inspite of the meagre income of Hindus.
Post 1990 exodus, what we the Kashmiri Hindus have achieved in 20 years, was not even achieved by the Islamic fanatics, Shah Hamdan, Afghans and Sikander Butshikan in 700 years.  We are on verge of destroying our proofs of existence in Kashmir by sheer neglect and selfishness.  We sold our land, houses and other properties in Kashmir. Yes, it was more to help over the tide financial crisis most of the families were going through.  But what made many of us to sell the temples that belonged to community, our ancestors, our identity and our pride. 

I many times wonder that Panun Kashmir call of “ sethyum te pethyum’ (seventh and last exodus), does not end up in its literal meaning. I hope and pray that Kashmiri Hindus have not decided against going back because if the valley will be bereft of any Hindus, there can’t be any questions of any exodus.
Today our Kashmiri identity is reduced to roganjosh, Haakh, occasional Kehwa and a formality trip to Kashmir with our new borns, who can’t even speak Kashmiri. We visit as tourists, behave like tourists and come back as tourists from our real home to current postal address.

Our elders just 23 years back sacrificed everything of theirs to keep us safe and save our identity. They chose life of hardship even when an easier option of conversion was available to them. And when it is the time for us to express our gratitude, we seem to be hell bent on destroying the same identity which our elders preserved for 5000 years.
I have seen many prominent Kashmiri Pandits updating their blogs, facebook pages with stories and anecdotes of their childhood visits to their neighbourhood temple or prominent Kashmiri Hindu temples. They pretend to get emotional too, but I can guarantee that most of them will have no clue of the current condition of the temple they so fondly pretend to remember

Circumstances and choice forced me to visit Kashmir quite frequently in last few years. And lately I started visiting the temples of Kashmir, while I started with the famous ones; I also started visiting not so famous ones.
The trips to these temples have been eye openers for me.  These temples which one proudly stood as our symbols of our existence, faith, determination and proof of our courage, are today in conditions which only can bring tears to one’s eyes and make the entire community ashamed of itself.  I could feel my ancestors cursing themselves to have produced such progenies. I could feel the sarcastic smile of Shiva, which said I don’t need you to take care of me, but then don’t pretend that you love me. Don’t tell world that you are a proud Kashmir Pandit and a Shaivite

Yes, community has seen enough hardship post exodus, and we have worked very hard to rebuild our lives. And by the grace of the God, most of you who are reading this blog, are doing quite well on both professional and personal front.  Most of us earn 6 figure salaries, hefty bonuses and have multiple properties across India. But what have given back to our roots, our motherland, our temples, where our religion grew and created our identity.
Recently one of my friends told me that what is the use of the temples when the devotees don’t live there. I hope many of you who don’t stay with your parents don’t apply same analogy to them. What is the use of the parents when I don’t live with them?  What was the need for Guru Teg Bahadur to give up his life for us, when we were not even his followers, nor lived with him? Sikhs even today maintain their Gurudwars in Paksitan, even when there are no devotees. Mount Kailash is still revered even though it is in China and inaccessible to most of the Indians, except for a short period, where select few hundred visit by taking a hazardous trip through an inhospitable terrain and country. The crusade was led by Europeans, for a holy place they never lived or indented to live in. Even today Pandits of Varanasi complete their Janau (sacred thread) rituals by taking seven steps towards North, a symbolic gesture of having returned from Kashmir with knowledge, even when there are no institutions of Vedic learning left in Kashmir.

Kashmir is still part of India and easily accessible to all. And we have already given up our claims to our religious places.  

What have we Kashmiris done to claim our temples, our religious identities? We do occasional havans, where we behave more like greedy humans, collecting as much food we can for home. We have created grand replicas of the famous shrines of Kashmir and visit them as picnic spots. Yes, we need replicas, but those replicas should be pale in comparison to originals. To me these grand replicas portray a community that has given up hope and desire to go back.

It is time that we wake up and start claiming what is rightly ours. It is time we start building our temples back, re-establish to the world that the first claim to Kashmir lies with us, the original inhabitants.
Wake up before history forgets Sikander Butshikan and labels us as Butt Butshikan