Although it may be politically incorrect and even chauvinistic in these days of a shrinking world and expanding knowledge, I have to say that I take pride in my Bhatta (Kashmiri Hindu) identity. We have some of our own idiosyncrasies though.
There are many reasons for this feeling but I should start by saying that respecting our own identity and community does not preclude us from respecting others or questioning ourselves.
- Our social and cultural mosaic is a mix of Vedic rites, Shastric mores, religious tenets, scriptural dictates and community traditions.
- Ours is a sophisticated and intellectual community, both law abiding and peace loving. Albeit on the flip side, these virtues may have given cause to our intellectual arrogance and physical timidity.
- Ours is a highly literate community with academic and professional endowments but also somewhat conceited and inward looking.
- Our ancestors were a galaxy of historians, mathameticians, literarians, scientists, philosophers, theologists, sages and saints, even though we maybe lacking on the spiritual side now. We were the writers of one of the first history books in the world.
- Ours is a community for which the first priority is the education of its members and children but this has made us somewhat prejudiced against many other paying vocations.
- Ours is a community which believes in secular behavior while remaining inside our Hindu faith. Yet the same secular ethos morphed us inside a composite culture wherein we were not recognized, instead denigrated.
- Ours is a community which believes in Dharma, but sometimes we take it to the extent of being stoic and inert.
- We have ascribed Godliness to nature and the forces of nature such as springs, streams, rivers, trees, forests, rocks, hills and mountains. While qualifying us as worshippers of God’s creation and nature lovers, we also get steeped in rituality.
- Our community believed in Sufi ethos which made our views and outlook transcendental, accepting the validity of Islamic precepts while following Hindu tenets. We have suffered even for our noble beliefs.
- Ours is a community which reveres and honors its ancestors by regular obeisances and “Shradds” but then again, we have only added to our rituals. On the whole, we respect our elders and seniors and revere our ancestors.
- Ours has been and remains a community which respects its womenfolk and such respect has kept them liberated from many unnecessary inhibitions. That is why our community has produced great poets, saints, seers and queens who have bequeathed to the succeeding generations of women, wider vision as well as higher purpose and missions in life.
- We enjoyed living in wide and extended joint families, sharing with each other the tribulations and rewards of life. These familial knots have started to break due to various reasons of which migration is the main. Sometimes, we even see inhuman and unethical neglect of our elders who have been left at the mercy of circumstances after their forced exodus from Kashmir due to terrorism.
- Mostly hailing from a middle class economic background our community imbibed moderation, contentment and satisfaction.
- Our religious functions were chaste and divine based on Vedic injunctions and we celebrated them all with childlike simplicity but we have changed them into expensive social galas after our exodus from the valley.
- We have several rich ancient, historical sites and monuments in the valley which speak of the grandeur and magnificence of Bhatta culture. The Monuments at Martand, Awantipora, Trall, Hairwan, Ishbar, Pattan and Palhalan speak volumes on ancient Kashmiri Pandit architecture and style.
- We have scores of fresh water lakes in the valley as well as large glaciers that we would trek regularly to.Our state feeds the rivers of Punjab. We cradle the spring of Verinag the source of river “Vitasta’ (Jhelum).
- We built our houses, premises and estates strictly as per Vedic tenets with due respect for direction, geographical and agro-climatic needs. This way our knowledge may have preceded the much hyped science of Vaatsu.
- We had a chain of clan functions corresponding with the change in seasons and this added color and vibrancy to our social matrix but after our exodus from the valley we tend to forget ‘Pan”, “Gadbatta”, “Zangtrai”, “Diardaham”, “Bishamaatham”, “Kawpunim”, “Heirath”, “Nawreh”, :Baisakhi”, “Ramnawmi”, “Jeethashtami”, “Shrawanpunim””Athum”, “Jeethashtami”, “Sankrati”, “Punim”, and such dates on our calendar.
- We celebrated “Voharvod” (birthday) for all members of our family with meticulous attention and firm faith whereby Puja was performed by a Brahmin who invoked the blessings of the Lord for the long life and prosperity of the person and the community.
- Our birth, death and wedding ceremonies are developed to the requirement and feel of the occasions.
All said, overall, I am a proud member of the Bhatta community with its rich traditions, ancient heritage and divine legacy. Give me some feedback about your feelings.
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