y neighbour across the road, Azim, stops me and my hand cart in front of our respective houses.
Az sha Kreyshan?” She asks. “Yes.” I answer while continuing with the momentum of pushing the hand cart down the slope from Surateng to Kralyar. Behind me I hear her shouting, “Mitha, Kheyvu batta patta ha shu Kreyshan.”
For some years I have been entrusted with the responsibility of organizing a hand cart for carting Krishna’s tableau from Bod Mandir. A band saw on Surateng in front of fire brigade is my sourcing agency at Rs.5.00.
I am about to reach Vishwa Bharati School when I see a familiar voice blurting out announcement for the afternoon’s ‘Veedh Baghwan Jaloos’ from an auto rikshaw. The task efficiently carried out for a number of years by Avinash Jan(Tikoo) has now found a younger voice in shape of Bita(Bal Krishen) Sipoy. He modulates his announcements with interesting variations. The bland announcements for greeting the Shobha Yatra assume the tones of musical notes in his voice.
Inside the temple, Nera Kak is giving final touches to the ensemble that will decorate the Bal Gopal’s cradle, which will eventually form the part of the accessories to be put on the hand cart. He is also prepared with his tools and ropes to make the hand cart road worthy. And while other members of the organizing team are in their respective homes energizing themselves with the assortment of apple, egg plant, potato and green chili pakodas, the ever selfless activist Nera Kak is busy giving final touches to the Bal Govind’s tableau.
Around same time and simultaneously, similar preparations are underway across many temples that dot the topography of Rainawari. Some of them will decorate a divine photograph of Radha and Krishna, while a few will make up the innocent young toddlers to depict the lord in his childhood. They all will then converge soon in Bod Mandir to lend grandeur to the expression of people’s devotion and belief. Meanwhile, the procession route of the Shobha Yatra is being adorned with the choicest of Sarees and other fabric unhesitatingly taken out of the closets by women. The arches and the make shift banners being put across roads and the labyrinthine streets are lending Rainawari a great festive look. The whole of Rainawari looks like a new bride decorated in all the energizing and happiness radiating colours.
The Shivji Temple Welfare Committee, headed by Gopi Nath Akhoon is all set to flag off the procession. A traditional aarti is performed and the Bod Mandir compound reverberates to the high pitched cries of, “Namo Parvati Fateh- Sanatam Dharam ki Jai.” Soon there is a mad scramble for holding the ropes that pull the hand cart. It takes the authoritarian commands from Chaman Lal Pandit and Kashi Nath Akhoon to restore the order. The young boys are visibly disappointed at being deprived of the chance to pull the ropes. They will soon forget about that. The procession has been now joined by some more tableaus form other temples, particularly situated in Naidyar, Ghat and Bagh Jogi Lankar. The small journey up to the corner of the lane that leads to Dembi mohalla is smooth. It is also the first stop for the procession. The yatra is not supposed to take a detour and go inside the Dembi locality. The whole Dembi clan and others living there are out on the road in full strength with an abundant quantity of flowers. A puja is performed here and the procession moves on. The road hereafter is decorated with choicest of buntings, colourful gates and a liberal sprinkle of flowers. The wide Kralyar road is looks smaller because of the kiosks offering fruit and drinks to the people that have been put on the both sides of the road. The Kralyar chowk also sees the swelling of people in the procession and the rising of the passions. There are a lot of young boys dancing with gay abandon now. The sloganeering also assumes a particular pattern now. The slow and staid, though melodious, “Sariy waintav Radhe Sham- Badi Badi waitav Radhe Sham,” suddenly gives way to more adrenalin pumping, “Panj nara Pandva to Chhatta nara- Jai Hind and Namo Parvati Fateh.” There are some places where a section of revelers become particularly hyper in the expression of their faith and nationality.
I have often wondered about the usage of Panch Nara Pandava slogan in a purely religious procession. Though, I couldn’t understand it at that time, but it now makes a lot of sense to me. The slogan was assertion of our national identity, which has been under constant threat in Kashmir. If Veed Baghwan was a symbol of our religious identity, some political slogans used during its journey were a statement challenging the pan Islamic aspirations of the majority.
The fervour is reaching a crescendo and the tableaus turn left towards Motiyar. The narrow lanes will now pose some challenges to the free movement of the hand carts. There is no let down in the passion and fervour. The procession is now nearing Jeevan Sahib where the tableau from Vital Sahib will join it.
To my generation in Kashmir, dancing didn’t come naturally. The shaking of legs and that too clumsily would be forced upon us only during the ‘Mainzrat” of a brother, sister, relative or a friend. We always felt a little awkward during such occasions. The blushes and embarrassment was always there for every one to see.
Today, however, is different. All of us surprise ourselves with impromptu gyrations and improvised choreography. There is no looking behind or concern for awkwardness or the presence of your elders. Any open space on the road and you break into a jig. You are also become recipient of different types of fruits, milk drinks with Babriol and uninterrupted shower of flower petals being sent down from windows and verandahs of the houses lining the route.
The Veedh Baghwan will move through Motiyar, Moghul Mohalla, Kocha Nidan, and Upper Kralyar to reach Kalwal Mohalla. From thereon, it will touch Karpora Khushki, Misha Sahib, Naidyar before crossing the DAV School bridge to enter Kenue Mohalla. It will negotiate the long narrow lanes of Bagh Jogi Lankar to reach the Jogi Lankar Chowk. In between Gopal Swamy and Kandh Swami will come out to offer their obeisance and prayers to the Bal Govind. At Jogi Lankar the different tableaus will branch off towards their respective origins and the remaining ones will take the road in front of post office to reach Kralyar via Bagi Deaji.
The six hour journey of the demonstration of our faith, devotion and existence will soon reach its conclusion. There will be hardly any body in the Bod Mandir to receive the homecoming of Bal Govind. The tired devotees will be home to treat themselves to a sumptuous meal of assorted pakoras. For Nera Kak, the long day is still ahead. He will not get time to go back to his home. He has a task to perform. A couple of hours later, hundreds of men, women and children will swarm the Bod Mandir complex to be regaled by the velvet soft and divine voice of legendry Gupa Bachha. Nera Kak will have to ensure all arrangements are in place.
Kamal Hak is a displaced Kashmiri Hindu living in NOIDA for last 22 years. Besides frequently commenting upon various contours of Kashmiri Pandit struggle in exile, he is a Panun Kashmir activist for last two decades. As National Spokesperson of Panun Kashmir, he gets the opportunity of articulating Kashmiri Pandit cause before various forums
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