''Herath'' celebrated with religious fervour in Kashmir

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Srinagar, Mar 6 (UNI) The main festival of the Kashmiri pandits -- ''Herath'' (Maha Shivratri) was celebrated throughout the valley by members of the pandit community who participated in night-long prayers.

Today is ''salam'' when the members of the community, after night- long prayers in their homes, greet each other and also receive their Muslim brethren.

Emotional scenes were witnessed at Sheikhpora in the central Kashmir district of Badgam where 15 Pandit families were celebrating the festival for the first time after getting into the flats allotted to them.

A number of muslims, particularly elders, were seen greeting the Pandit families on the occasion today.

The turmoil for years has separated our bodies but our soul remains one, Muslims and Pandits said in one voice after greeting each other.

However, adequate security forces had been deployed in and outside the flats, constructed for Pandit families.

Out of 30, only 15 families have so far started residing in the flats, official sources said.

Reports of Herath celebration were also received from other parts of the Kashmir valley where Muslims greet their Pandit brethren.

The divisional authorities had made all arrangements to ensure supply of essential commodities including fish, vegetables and walnut for the Pandit families.

Majority of Kashmiri Pandits, working in different government and semi government departments, are celebrating the festival with their families in other parts of the country, including Jammu, Delhi, Mumbai and Udhampur.

In Kashmir, the people generally consider 'Herath' as the marriage day of Lord Shiva with 'Uma' while outside Kashmir, it is taken as the day when Lord Shiva manifested in human form on earth to bless his devotees and redeem them.

Shivratri in Kashmir is popularly known as 'Herath'. All through the ages people have given various meanings to 'Herath'.

Some trace it back to the times of the Pathan occupation of the valley, when alien rulers forced the people to celebrate the festival in the summer month of 'Asada', instead of 'Phalguna'.

They said the forced alteration in the timings of these celebrations brought a lot of misery in the valley. There were inexplicable changes, snowfall in the summer months that resulted in crop failure and consequent famine.


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