Harmony wins over hate! Muslims shower petals, offer sharbat during Hanuman Jayanti procession
Kota/Bengaluru, Apr 18: Around the time glass bottles and stones were raining in north-west Delhi's Jahangirpuri during a Hindu-Muslim clash on Saturday, a procession of Hanuman devotees was having a shower of a different kind--of rose and marigold petals in Rajasthan's Kota, a little over 500 km from the national capital.
More than 2,100 km down south in Karnataka, a Muslim priest recited verses from the Quran to kick off the annual Rathotsava (chariot festival) at the historic Chennakeshava temple at Belur in Karnataka's Hasan district, following a syncretic tradition of bonding that has endured the onslaught of religious radicalisation.
As several states across the country--from Madhya Pradesh to Gujarat to Jharkhand and West Bengal--witnessed communal flare-up since the Ram Navami festival on Sunday, Kota and Belur savoured peace.
When hundreds of Hindu devotees, many wearing ochre clothes and saffron stoles, set out on a 2-km march from the Hanuman temple in Kherabad village in Rajasthan's Kota on Saturday evening, on a route that passed through Muslim habitations and had two mosques on the way, they would not have imagined they would be greeted with flowers.
As the cacophonous Hanuman Jayanti procession halted in front of a mosque in Kherabad in Ramganj Mandi town, Muslims led by a prominent member from the community, Tahir Ahmad, welcomed it.
Flower petals were showered lavishly on the procession and Muslim youths joined young members in the procession in exhibiting traditional martial art skills.
The Muslims, who had set up stalls outside the two mosques, offered cold water and sherbet to the Hanuman devotees, adding a dash of sweetness to the proceedings.
Ramganj Mandi Sub-Divisional Magistrate Rajesh Daga said the Muslims came out of the mosques to welcome the procession after offering the evening namaz during the holy month of Ramzan.
These heartwarming scenes unfolded around the same time when Delhi's Jahangirpuri was on the boil, with shots being fired, streets littered with stones and shards of glass, and vehicles ablaze.
At Belur's Chennakeshava temple, Syed Sajjad Basha, a Muslim priest from Dodda Meduru, chanted verses from the Quran on the first day of the two-day Rathotsava festival on April 13, adhering to a long-held tradition.
According to local authorities, it is not clear when the tradition of reciting Quranic verses began at the fair in the temple, which was built by Hoysala rulers.
However, the temple manual, which dates to 1932, has a mention of the tradition, which is being religiously followed.
Belur was the capital of the Hoysalas who ruled the present-day Karnataka between the 11th and 14th century CE.
The temple, a sculptural marvel, was consecrated by the famous Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana to mark his victories in 1116 CE against the Cholas.
Thousands of people had gathered for the Rathotsava that saw Lord Chennakeshava, one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, being carried out on a chariot after Basha read out the verses from the Quran.
Basha has recited the verses at the festival for 50 years now, like his forefathers before him. He wants his son and grandson to follow the tradition.
"I have been chanting Quranic verses at the festival for the last 50 years now. It is a prayer to Chennakeshava Swami to do good to all. All of us, whether Hindu, a Christian or Muslim, should live peacefully together," he said.
The recent communal tensions in Karnataka following the Hijab controversy had cast an ominous shadow over whether the temple will be able to continue with its long cherished tradition of a Muslim priest starting the Rathotsava with recitation of Quran after the state authorities issued a notice barring non-Hindu traders from Hindu religious fairs.
The notice, widely perceived to have been issued under pressure from the Hindu Right, was withdrawn in time, and Chennakeshava Swami's chariot rolled on the streets of Belur, after Basha's solemn rendition of Quranic verses.