A SLICE OF HEAVEN?

  • Aamir Ali Bhat
  • Publish Date: Oct 10 2017 9:24PM
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  • Updated Date: Oct 10 2017 9:24PM
A SLICE OF HEAVEN?

Mattan village is a shining example of Kashmiriyat. 

 

Mattan, a village about 6 km from Islamabad in South Kashmir, is famous for the iconic Martand Sun Temple, one of Kashmir’s oldest. More important, it is a shining example of communal harmony and the spirit of brotherhood. Here, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims live together in love, peace and mutual respect. 

Walk around the village and you see Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus sitting together on shopfronts, roadsides, parks and the lawns of the Martand temple and the village gurdwara. Across the complex that houses Martand, Vishnu and Devi temples as well as the gurdwara is a shrine of Shah-i-Hamadan – it is as good a symbol as any of the syncretic culture that has long defined Kashmir, of Kashmiriyat.

Mattan is home to 70 Sikh, 200 Hindu and about 800 Muslim families. They share in good and bad times, their weddings and mournings, their Eid, Holi, Diwali and Baisakhi.

“Our village is a perfect example of how members from different religions can live together in a peaceful manner, respecting each other’s faith,” says Master Prem Singh, sitting with a group of Sikhs and Pandits in the lawn of the Martand temple. Sitting beside him, Master Charan Singh, former district secretary of, Gurdwara Pranpandk Committee (GPC)of Anantnag chips in: “We are one. You will not see brotherhood like this anywhere else. I have travelled through the valley but I have not found a village with the same love, peace and respect of Mattan.”

It has not always been smooth sailing, of course. There was a clash between the Pandits and the Sikhs in 2013 over the raising of the sacred banner, the Nishan Sahib, at the gurdwara. “But within an hour, we spoke with each other and resolved the matter,” says Charan Singh.

Ashok Kumar Sidha is president of Martand Trust. His family had migrated to Jammu in the early 1990s, only to return in 1996. Sidha owns a house and a store in Jammu but he prefersstaying in his native village. “I was fearful when I returned to my village in 1996. I had come for only three days. When Muslim and Sikh neighbours heard about my arrival, they came to meet. They hugged me. Their response gave me hope. I went to Jammu and brought my family back,” says Sidha, who now lives in a building owned by the trust.

Mattan was home to around 600 Hindu families before the Pandit migration of the 1990s. All but 20 families had left after Ravinder Kumar Khah, a 37-year-old, works in government Telecommunication Department, from Mattan was killed by unknown gunmen in Achabal, Anantnag,in March 1990. But many have returned over the years. According to Martand Trust, there are around 200 Pandit families in the village now, some residing in rented houses and others in the Martand Trust building.

“When we returned, Peer Jeelani sahib, the head imam of Jamia Masjid Mattan, announced our arrival from the pulpit. He advised people to give respect and hope to the Pandits. He himself arranged a party for us on Eid,” Sidha recalls.

Not that the villagers needed any prompting. “Muslims and Sikhs respect our Surya Mandir. They often visit here and feed the sacred fish in the pond. When we migrated from here, they took good care of our religious monuments,” says a Pandit villager, Saligram Bawanoo.

Many of the Pandits came back to Mattan when they were offered government jobs, often staying with their old Muslims neighbours. “When my daughter came here for her posting, she stayed with my friend Muhammad Rafiq Wani’s family for four years. They gave her so much love and care, she never felt the absence of her father,” Bawanoo says. 

Of the Pandits who never left Mattan is Omkar Nath, a retired teacher. “When I thought about migration, my Muslim and Sikh friends came to me, weeping and beseeching me not to leave. They told me if anything were to happen, they would die before me. They told me, ‘We live together and we will die together’,” he says. Sitting at Omkar Nath’s shop, fellow shopkeeper Farooq Ahmad Dar says, “When Nath Sahib married off his sons in Jammu, he invited us and we attended marriage ceremony, they respected us, showed us good hospitality.”

Omkar Nath married of his Son, RakeshNath, in march 2002, where he invited his Muslim and Sikh neighbors and friends. "Although, bride was a migrated pandit living in Jammu. So, I preferred to threw wedding party of my son in Jammu. Later, I brought my daughter-in-law to mattan village, and again threw small wedding party at my home and invited nearby neighbors, because all my neighbors and friends did not attend my sons wedding party in Jammu," says, Omkar Nath.

Their Muslim neighbours are glad the Pandits came back to the village. “We are brothers,” saysBashir Ahmad Ganie, a butcher, pulling one of his Sikh friends close. “We felt very goyod when some of our Pandit brothers returned in 1996. We want all of them to return.”