Opposition to Abhinav Yatra shows ignorance of young Kashmiri Muslims

Rajni Shaleen Chopra
Rajni Shaleen ChopraJun 13, 2016 | 14:43

Opposition to Abhinav Yatra shows ignorance of young Kashmiri Muslims

The disconnect of the new generations of Kashmiri Muslims with the intellectual and scholarly magnificence of their motherland is tragic. This disconnect has been illustrated most poignantly in the recent vociferous opposition to Abhinav Sandesh Yatra in the Valley.

The opposition to the Abhinav Sandesh Yatra was politically driven, but it was rooted in ignorance.

Kashmiri Muslims are immensely proud of their Kashmiriyat. The absence of the Pandits in the Valley is regarded as a collective wound by Kashmiri Muslims. Across the towns and villages of Kashmir, Muslims have looked after many Pandit shrines. Admittedly, this has not been possible in all cases.

The Kheer Bhawani mela has become a symbol of communal harmony as local Muslims make all the arrangements.

Such is the value placed on Kashmiriyat, that even the Kashmiri resistance leadership has never opposed any traditional religious yatra, mela or festivity of the Kashmiri Pandits.

The Shri Amarnath Yatra, a great pilgrimage for all Hindus, is eagerly awaited in the Valley every year. Prayers and celebrations at the Kheer Bhawani Temple are another annual ritual.

Every year, thousands of Kashmiri Pandits arrive in the Valley to pray at the Kheer Bhawani Temple in Ganderbal district of Kashmir in mid-June. The mela has become a symbol of communal harmony as local Muslims make all the arrangements for the devotees including setting up of stalls for flowers and other offerings.

Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits equally revere Lal Ded, the saint-mystic who was a Kashmiri Pandit. Her verses, in colloquial Kashmiri, are commonly quoted by all Kashmiris in conversation.

Then why the strident opposition to the Abhinav Sandesh Yatra?

This disconnect is the result of the Valley’s separation from its glorious historical and cultural legacy. Many Kashmiri Muslims are not aware of who Abhinavgupt was.

This was evident in the statement of National Front chairman Nayeem Khan over the Abhinav Sandesh Yatra.

Khan called the Abhinav Sandesh Yatra a new move of the RSS, and a cultural and religious aggression on Kashmiris. "This Abhinavgupt is unknown to every Kashmiri and has no religious importance," Khan said in a statement issued to the Kashmir media.

Scholars of Kashmir would be appalled at his statement. Kashmiri writers, poets, thinkers and others proudly proclaim that Kashmir has been a land of such intellectual and scholarly magnificence that it was called Sharda Peeth.

Prof Rehman Rahi, one of the most loved poets of Kashmir, wrote the official anthem of Kashmir University, called the KU Tarana. He lovingly paid obeisance to the towering intellectual heritage of Kashmir, which saw no distinction between Hindu and Muslim.

The Kashmiri youth sing in the Tarana: This is the land (where) Abhinava Gupt's ocean of knowledge surges high…


Having studied Kashmiri psyche to some extent, I can say the following with conviction. If the Kashmiri Muslim politicians were familiar with Acharya Abhinavgupt and his most marvelous intellectual legacy, they would welcome the celebrations dedicated to one of the greatest saint-philosophers of their land.

There is renewed focus on Acharya Abhinavgupt because we are now in his millennial centenary. Note what Pratap Bhanu Mehta, one of India’s most admired intellectuals, wrote about Acharya Abhinavgupt in The Indian Express in January 2016:

"There are moments of intellectual achievement that are beyond measure. In any reckoning of Indian intellectual history, one figure whose achievement is almost unparalleled is Abhinavagupt. Although usually described as a Kashmiri Saiva philosopher, the range of his work and its originality defy easy classification. He lies at the centre of so many currents of intellectual thinking: Aesthetics, literary criticism, dramaturgy, music, tantra, yoga, devotional poetry, cognitive science, emotions, philosophy of mind, language. His incandescent brilliance transformed every subject he touched."

This extraordinary saint-philosopher has receded from the collective memory of Kashmiri Muslims because he wrote in Sanskrit.

For centuries, Acharya Abhinavgupt has survived largely in the portals of south Indian Shaivik Tantrism. According to Kashmiri folklore, Acharya Abhinavgupta entered into communion with Param Shiva almost 1,000 years ago in Bhairava cave, situated at Beerwah in Budgam district, Kashmir. 

Hence, a Kashmiri Pandit organisation played a pivotal role in organising the Abhinav Sandesh Yatra. The yatra started from Kanchikamkoti in Tamil Nadu. After travelling across the country, it was scheduled to reach Srinagar in the first half of June.

Acharaya Abhinavgupt Sheshadri Samroh Samiti proposed that the yatra should end at Bhairava cave at Beerwah in Budgam. This is where the fight started.

Over the last one month, tempers flared in the Valley over the proposed yatra. Some local political organisations threatened to take to the roads if the yatra was allowed into Beerwah.

Anjuman Mazharul Haq, a Muslim religious organisation from central Kashmir, warned the Pandits against holding the yatra. Its patron Moulana Syed Abdul Lateef Bukhari said that the yatra would disrupt communal harmony.

Moulana Bukhari said that according to revenue records, the cave was used by Muslim saint Mian Shah Sahab for prayers. "Muslims consider this cave as their holy place. If Pandits take law into their hands and forcibly perform prayers and yatra, it can disturb traditional amity and communal harmony," he said.

Dukhataran-e-Millat chairperson Aasiyah Andrabi stated that Centre was misusing religious sentiments to satisfy its political motives. "By proposing yet another yatra to a place which has no historical relevance for Hindus, it confirms how the RSS is plotting to link Hindu religious sentiments to the land of Jammu and Kashmir," she said.

National Front chairman Nayeem Khan said that Kashmiris would prefer gallows instead of allowing the yatra to go ahead. "Abhinav Gupt cave is not a historical or heritage site," Khan said.

Tension was so high that in order to avoid any law and order situation, all the entry points to Beerwah were sealed by the police and paramilitary forces with rolls of concertina wires.

The government spokesman and education minister Naeem Akhtar had to make a statement that no such yatra would be allowed. "This has been made clear already by chief minister and deputy chief minister," he said.

The Abhinav Sandesh Yatra finally concluded at the ancient Jyestha Devi Temple in Srinagar. The preventive action taken by the J&K government was essential.

The scholars and intellectuals of Kashmir hold the colossal legacy of Abhinavgupt in great regard. The highly prestigious J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages is planning to organise seminars and symposiums to mark the centenary celebrations of this prodigious philosopher-saint.

Despite all the turmoils that have rocked the Valley, the essential Kashmiriyat remains beautiful and all-encompassing.

It is the Kashmiri scholars themselves – Muslim and Pandit alike – who will be the foremost custodians of the astounding, breathtaking legacy of this great Kashmiri – a philosopher, a literary giant, a mystic, a musician, a poet, dramatist, theologian, and logician.

Ace intellectual Pratap Bhanu Mehta says that Abhinavgupt is for deep-sea divers, not for those who skate on surfaces. Writes Mehta, "To confront Abhinavagupt is to confront an intellectual relentlessness about self-knowledge that our frenzied world has lost."

The marvelous intellectual and scholarly attainments of Acharya Abhinavgupt, one of the greatest Kashmiris of all times, is world heritage.

May the Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims fully claim this great intellectual heritage and be the leading lights to rediscover Acharya Abhinavgupt for the world.

Last updated: June 13, 2016 | 14:43
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