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One Country, Many New Years

As we enter the year 2020, let us explore the unique New Year traditions across different parts of India and appreciate the strength of our diversity.

02 Jan 2020

Indian Cultures

The big 2020 is finally here, and as the world crosses this milestone, India will celebrate various New Year festivals in the months to come. Though the exact dates may vary, most of these festivals fall in March/April of the Gregorian Calendar. The regions which follow a Solar Calendar consider New Year as the ‘Sankranti’ of the first month of Solar cycle commonly known as ‘Vaisaakh’. Generally, this day falls during 14th or 15th of the month of April. Those following Lunar calendar consider the period between two ‘Purnimas’ (full moons) as one month and the month of Chaitra (corresponding to March-April) is considered the first month.Local calendars in India fall under both these categories like Nanakshahi calendar, Parsi calendar, Hindu calendar, Islamic calendar, and many more.

Most New Year days correspond with the harvest season as India has historically been an agricultural country. Vaisaakhi is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in North India to mark the New Year. For Sikhs, it holds added significance as this was the day chosen by the tenth Guru- Guru Gobind Singh Ji- to establish the ‘Khalsa Panth’. Vaisaakhi is celebrated with much aplomb, dancing, singing, wearing new colourful clothes and attending kirtan in Gurudwaras like the Golden Temple. Vaisaakhi celebrations also remind us of the sombre history of Jallianwalah Bagh massacre which happened on this day in 1919.

Maithili New Year (also known as Jude Sheetal or Pahil Boishakh) is the celebration of the first day of the Maithili new year. It is celebrated in Bihar and parts of Nepal that fall under a common region known as Mithila. This day usually falls on 14 April on Gregorian calendar and Maithils celebrate by cooking Hilsa fish and rice. This is also called Nirayana Mesh Sankranti and Tirhuta new year. The occasion is celebrated in keeping with the Maithil Panchang, a calendar used in the Mithila region. This coincides with Pohela Boishaakh celebrated in West Bengal. Colorful displays of arts and crafts, along with music shows mark the ‘Nobobarsho’ (New Year) celbrations.

The famous Bihu dance is performed to celebrate Bohag Bihu (Assamese New Year) which lasts for seven days usually beginning on 14th April. This festival also adheres to the marking of a New Year by the harvest season and coincides with Vaisaakhi. The same day is also celebrated as Vishu festival in Kerala, Mangalore and Tulu Nadu (the regions where the language Tulu is spoken) where the first month of the year is called Medam. The day is celebrated with fireworks, wearing new clothes (Puthukodi), and the eating a special meal called Sadhya which is traditional meal prepared with multiple sweet and savoury dishes, typically served on a Banana leaf.

Ugadi or Yugadi is the New Year celebration of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka. It is observed in these regions on the first day of the Hindu lunisolar calendar month of Chaitra. Traditional sweets and 'Pachadi' (sweet syrup) – made with raw mangoes and neem leaves – are served with the Ugadi meal. On the same day, the Marathis celebrate the New Year asGudi Padwa by decorating Maharashtrian households with ‘Gudis’ which literally means flags erected around the household. Gudi Padwa is also associated with the arrival of spring and the harvesting of Rabi crops.

Nowruz (also known as Navroz/Navroz) is the Iranian and Persian New Year, which is celebrated worldwide by various ethno-linguistic groups. In India- Parsis, Kashmiri pandits, Zoroastrians, and some Muslim communities, celebrate Nowruz. Nowruz is the day of the vernal (spring) equinox (equinox occurs when the center of the visible Sun is directly above the equator) and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the first day of the first month (Farvardin) of the Iranian calendar.It usually occurs on March 21 or the previous or following day, depending on where it is observed. On equinox, the day and night become exactly equal in terms of number of hours. On this day, families gather to observe the rituals and celebrate the coming of spring together.

The Islamic New Year (Arabic: Raʿs as-Sanah al-Hijrīyah), also called the Hijri New Year or Arabic New Year, is the day that marks the beginning of a new Hijri year, and is observed by Muslims on the first day of the month of Muharram. Since the Islamic calendar (which follows the lunar cycle) is usually 11 or 12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar year, the date of Islamic New Year can vary. In 2020, the day will fall on 19th-20th August.

Sindhis mark the New Year with the celebration of Chetri Chand (also known as Cheti Chand). The festival date is based on the lunar cycle of the lunisolar Hindu calendar, it being the first day of the year and the Sindhi month of Chet (Chaitra). It typically falls on or about the same day as Gudi Padwa, Bohag Bihu, and Ugadi. The festival marks the arrival of spring and harvest, but in Sindhi community it also marks the birth of Uderolal in year 1007, after they prayed to Hindu god Varun Dev to save them from the persecution by the tyrannical ruler Mirkhshah. Uderolal (also known as Jhulelal) confronted and reprimanded Mirkhshah and became the champion of the people in Sindh, both Hindus and Muslims. Among his Sufi Muslim followers, Jhulelal is known as "Khwaja Khizir" or "Sheikh Tahit". Uday Chand, Amar Laal and Laal Sain are a few other names Jhulelal is addressed by.

There are many traditions with different names that mark the New Year for Indian people in various regions. Though the calendars, the languages, the rituals and their significance may be diverse, many festivals overlap, and so does the celebration. As we enter 2020 according to the Gregorian calendar, let us feel excited in anticipation of our very own local New Year festivals coming up in a few months and hope to celebrate together without the boundaries of caste, class and religion. Everyone deserves a ‘Happy’ New Year, let’s make it happen with compassion and love.

One Country, Many New Years

As we enter the year 2020, let us explore the unique New Year traditions across different parts of India and appreciate the strength of our diversity.

Indian Cultures

The big 2020 is finally here, and as the world crosses this milestone, India will celebrate various New Year festivals in the months to come. Though the exact dates may vary, most of these festivals fall in March/April of the Gregorian Calendar. The regions which follow a Solar Calendar consider New Year as the ‘Sankranti’ of the first month of Solar cycle commonly known as ‘Vaisaakh’. Generally, this day falls during 14th or 15th of the month of April. Those following Lunar calendar consider the period between two ‘Purnimas’ (full moons) as one month and the month of Chaitra (corresponding to March-April) is considered the first month.Local calendars in India fall under both these categories like Nanakshahi calendar, Parsi calendar, Hindu calendar, Islamic calendar, and many more.

Most New Year days correspond with the harvest season as India has historically been an agricultural country. Vaisaakhi is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in North India to mark the New Year. For Sikhs, it holds added significance as this was the day chosen by the tenth Guru- Guru Gobind Singh Ji- to establish the ‘Khalsa Panth’. Vaisaakhi is celebrated with much aplomb, dancing, singing, wearing new colourful clothes and attending kirtan in Gurudwaras like the Golden Temple. Vaisaakhi celebrations also remind us of the sombre history of Jallianwalah Bagh massacre which happened on this day in 1919.

Maithili New Year (also known as Jude Sheetal or Pahil Boishakh) is the celebration of the first day of the Maithili new year. It is celebrated in Bihar and parts of Nepal that fall under a common region known as Mithila. This day usually falls on 14 April on Gregorian calendar and Maithils celebrate by cooking Hilsa fish and rice. This is also called Nirayana Mesh Sankranti and Tirhuta new year. The occasion is celebrated in keeping with the Maithil Panchang, a calendar used in the Mithila region. This coincides with Pohela Boishaakh celebrated in West Bengal. Colorful displays of arts and crafts, along with music shows mark the ‘Nobobarsho’ (New Year) celbrations.

The famous Bihu dance is performed to celebrate Bohag Bihu (Assamese New Year) which lasts for seven days usually beginning on 14th April. This festival also adheres to the marking of a New Year by the harvest season and coincides with Vaisaakhi. The same day is also celebrated as Vishu festival in Kerala, Mangalore and Tulu Nadu (the regions where the language Tulu is spoken) where the first month of the year is called Medam. The day is celebrated with fireworks, wearing new clothes (Puthukodi), and the eating a special meal called Sadhya which is traditional meal prepared with multiple sweet and savoury dishes, typically served on a Banana leaf.

Ugadi or Yugadi is the New Year celebration of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka. It is observed in these regions on the first day of the Hindu lunisolar calendar month of Chaitra. Traditional sweets and 'Pachadi' (sweet syrup) – made with raw mangoes and neem leaves – are served with the Ugadi meal. On the same day, the Marathis celebrate the New Year asGudi Padwa by decorating Maharashtrian households with ‘Gudis’ which literally means flags erected around the household. Gudi Padwa is also associated with the arrival of spring and the harvesting of Rabi crops.

Nowruz (also known as Navroz/Navroz) is the Iranian and Persian New Year, which is celebrated worldwide by various ethno-linguistic groups. In India- Parsis, Kashmiri pandits, Zoroastrians, and some Muslim communities, celebrate Nowruz. Nowruz is the day of the vernal (spring) equinox (equinox occurs when the center of the visible Sun is directly above the equator) and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the first day of the first month (Farvardin) of the Iranian calendar.It usually occurs on March 21 or the previous or following day, depending on where it is observed. On equinox, the day and night become exactly equal in terms of number of hours. On this day, families gather to observe the rituals and celebrate the coming of spring together.

The Islamic New Year (Arabic: Raʿs as-Sanah al-Hijrīyah), also called the Hijri New Year or Arabic New Year, is the day that marks the beginning of a new Hijri year, and is observed by Muslims on the first day of the month of Muharram. Since the Islamic calendar (which follows the lunar cycle) is usually 11 or 12 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar year, the date of Islamic New Year can vary. In 2020, the day will fall on 19th-20th August.

Sindhis mark the New Year with the celebration of Chetri Chand (also known as Cheti Chand). The festival date is based on the lunar cycle of the lunisolar Hindu calendar, it being the first day of the year and the Sindhi month of Chet (Chaitra). It typically falls on or about the same day as Gudi Padwa, Bohag Bihu, and Ugadi. The festival marks the arrival of spring and harvest, but in Sindhi community it also marks the birth of Uderolal in year 1007, after they prayed to Hindu god Varun Dev to save them from the persecution by the tyrannical ruler Mirkhshah. Uderolal (also known as Jhulelal) confronted and reprimanded Mirkhshah and became the champion of the people in Sindh, both Hindus and Muslims. Among his Sufi Muslim followers, Jhulelal is known as "Khwaja Khizir" or "Sheikh Tahit". Uday Chand, Amar Laal and Laal Sain are a few other names Jhulelal is addressed by.

There are many traditions with different names that mark the New Year for Indian people in various regions. Though the calendars, the languages, the rituals and their significance may be diverse, many festivals overlap, and so does the celebration. As we enter 2020 according to the Gregorian calendar, let us feel excited in anticipation of our very own local New Year festivals coming up in a few months and hope to celebrate together without the boundaries of caste, class and religion. Everyone deserves a ‘Happy’ New Year, let’s make it happen with compassion and love.

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Kerala kids show the way to solidarity and harmony

They dressed in an Islamic ensemble at a carol service to show their support for the anti-CAA protestors

31 Dec 2019

X'mas carol service in solidarity with Indian Muslims

People all over the country are protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and students have come to the fore of the movement taking charge and leading the struggle against the fascist Act.

But last week, youngsters too expressed their solidarity with the minorities and the marginalized, when at a Christmas carol service in Marthoma Church, in Kozencherry, Kerala, they came wearing Islamic attire to stand by protestors fighting against the CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Six youth wearing Muslim attire – skull caps; and eight girls wearing the hijab participated in the carol service.

Speaking to the Deccan Herald, Father Daniel T Philip of the church said that Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem as refugees and even Jesus Christ had to be a refugee. “Theology should always be contextual. Hence the carol song was composed based on a theme to express solidarity with the refugees,” he stated saying that no one at the parish expressed displeasure about the decision.

 

 

While some did suggest that it would have been better if the dress code had a mixture of all religions, the gesture and the stand taken by the church was appreciated by many.

MP for Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor took a dig at the Prime Minister’s comments about identifying protestors from their clothes in a tweet. He said –

 

 

The video posted by @jijoy_matt has garnered over 70,000 views, over 2,000 likes and has been re-tweeted around 900 times by tweeple all over India. Though this isn’t the first time that members of different religious communities have expressed solidarity for one another, the current step by the church comes as a huge support for the minorities who are set to be affected gravely if the CAA and NRC are implemented nationwide. It is a welcome step towards solidarity, especially when the minorities fear being left ‘stateless’ by the CAA.

Kerala has been very vocal in its refusal to toe the line and ply with the Centre for the implementation of the Act and the NRC. There have been massive rallies throughout the State condemning the government’s decision to impose the same on the citizens of the country.


Related:

New Year’s resolution: Defend the Constitution
They came wearing clothes of harmony: Mumbai's Dec 19
Resistance, revolution and resolve: How Indian students led the anti-CAA protests

Kerala kids show the way to solidarity and harmony

They dressed in an Islamic ensemble at a carol service to show their support for the anti-CAA protestors

X'mas carol service in solidarity with Indian Muslims

People all over the country are protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and students have come to the fore of the movement taking charge and leading the struggle against the fascist Act.

But last week, youngsters too expressed their solidarity with the minorities and the marginalized, when at a Christmas carol service in Marthoma Church, in Kozencherry, Kerala, they came wearing Islamic attire to stand by protestors fighting against the CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Six youth wearing Muslim attire – skull caps; and eight girls wearing the hijab participated in the carol service.

Speaking to the Deccan Herald, Father Daniel T Philip of the church said that Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem as refugees and even Jesus Christ had to be a refugee. “Theology should always be contextual. Hence the carol song was composed based on a theme to express solidarity with the refugees,” he stated saying that no one at the parish expressed displeasure about the decision.

 

 

While some did suggest that it would have been better if the dress code had a mixture of all religions, the gesture and the stand taken by the church was appreciated by many.

MP for Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor took a dig at the Prime Minister’s comments about identifying protestors from their clothes in a tweet. He said –

 

 

The video posted by @jijoy_matt has garnered over 70,000 views, over 2,000 likes and has been re-tweeted around 900 times by tweeple all over India. Though this isn’t the first time that members of different religious communities have expressed solidarity for one another, the current step by the church comes as a huge support for the minorities who are set to be affected gravely if the CAA and NRC are implemented nationwide. It is a welcome step towards solidarity, especially when the minorities fear being left ‘stateless’ by the CAA.

Kerala has been very vocal in its refusal to toe the line and ply with the Centre for the implementation of the Act and the NRC. There have been massive rallies throughout the State condemning the government’s decision to impose the same on the citizens of the country.


Related:

New Year’s resolution: Defend the Constitution
They came wearing clothes of harmony: Mumbai's Dec 19
Resistance, revolution and resolve: How Indian students led the anti-CAA protests

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Christmas is for Everyone

A Sikh girl recounts what Christmas means to her and how observing Christmas this year means looking for hope in these dark times of strife.

25 Dec 2019

Christmas

Growing up, my parents had one goal- to send their children to the best schools possible, sometimes going out of their middle-class means to accomplish that. My brother and I studied in convent schools as a consequence because they had the best teachers. I remember our parents tried to get us to go to a more elite school once but I ran out of there because all the kids had ‘pagers’ (communication devices used in the 90’s before cellphones arrived).

So, we stayed at the convent school with fellow middle-class students, from the ages of 3 to 16. We attended the Moral Science lectures, we learnt about Jesus, we learnt all the prayers and parables, and we celebrated Christmas as the biggest festival of the year. This tradition continued when I went to study in Manipal University. We would have Secret Santa gift exchanges, sometimes a faculty member would surprise us by dressing up as Santa and distributing sweets, and our Christian friends from the local community in Mangalore would invite us home for a delicious feast.

Christmas was also an elaborate event at all the workplaces I have been with over the years. There would be excel sheets for Secret Santa, Google forms, wish-lists, and the joy of finding your name in the huge pile of gifts in the cafeteria. More than anything, Christmas was a reminder that good things are possible in the world.

Last year my spouse and I took a scooter ride to Mount Mary Church in Bandra, Mumbai, on Christmas Eve. The streets were filled with people in festive clothes- singing, laughing, exchanging gifts, and inviting each other to Christmas parties. As I hummed along Christmas carols, a Sikh woman sitting behind her Hindu partner, celebrating a Christian festival, it was the most normal thing in the world. Celebrating Christmas has never been subject to one’s religion.

The normalcy of syncretic Christmas celebrations in India extends back to the Mughal era when Emperor Akbar was introduced to Christianitythrough the Jesuit missionaries he invited to his court from Goa. Around the same time, there was also a large thriving community of Armenian Christian merchants, jewellers, and bankers living in the Mughal capital of Agra and when the Jesuits expressed a wish to build a church here, Akbar obliged and donated generously for a chapel which is still known as Akbar’s Church. Christian influence found its way into paintings and Sufi literature of the era. Christmas themed artwork had been found in the Mughal court as well.

For the Christian community in India, this year’s celebrations are sombre at best in light of the Anti-CAA/NRC protests and ensuing police brutality across the country. Navin W Noronha, a comedian who runs the ‘Keeping it Queer’ Podcast says, “It's going to be a sad Christmas. My partner and I decided not to decorate the house. We'll be doing lunch with my family, who are also not decorating their homes or making a big celebration party this year. It's simple- if people can't pray in their mosques (referring to police entering mosque in Jamia, Delhi), I don’t see how it's okay to go on acting like everything is okay.”

Everything is not okay, and this year, as I ride to Mount Mary Church on Christmas eve, I know that I will see many of the samefaces on the streets in forthcoming protests. The Christmas spirit will give us strength, hugs will be exchanged, healing will be gifted, and the singing of Christmas carols will light us up with warmth.As we wish each other on Christmas this year, maybe the gift of peace is all we need to believe that good things are possible in the world.

Christmas is for Everyone

A Sikh girl recounts what Christmas means to her and how observing Christmas this year means looking for hope in these dark times of strife.

Christmas

Growing up, my parents had one goal- to send their children to the best schools possible, sometimes going out of their middle-class means to accomplish that. My brother and I studied in convent schools as a consequence because they had the best teachers. I remember our parents tried to get us to go to a more elite school once but I ran out of there because all the kids had ‘pagers’ (communication devices used in the 90’s before cellphones arrived).

So, we stayed at the convent school with fellow middle-class students, from the ages of 3 to 16. We attended the Moral Science lectures, we learnt about Jesus, we learnt all the prayers and parables, and we celebrated Christmas as the biggest festival of the year. This tradition continued when I went to study in Manipal University. We would have Secret Santa gift exchanges, sometimes a faculty member would surprise us by dressing up as Santa and distributing sweets, and our Christian friends from the local community in Mangalore would invite us home for a delicious feast.

Christmas was also an elaborate event at all the workplaces I have been with over the years. There would be excel sheets for Secret Santa, Google forms, wish-lists, and the joy of finding your name in the huge pile of gifts in the cafeteria. More than anything, Christmas was a reminder that good things are possible in the world.

Last year my spouse and I took a scooter ride to Mount Mary Church in Bandra, Mumbai, on Christmas Eve. The streets were filled with people in festive clothes- singing, laughing, exchanging gifts, and inviting each other to Christmas parties. As I hummed along Christmas carols, a Sikh woman sitting behind her Hindu partner, celebrating a Christian festival, it was the most normal thing in the world. Celebrating Christmas has never been subject to one’s religion.

The normalcy of syncretic Christmas celebrations in India extends back to the Mughal era when Emperor Akbar was introduced to Christianitythrough the Jesuit missionaries he invited to his court from Goa. Around the same time, there was also a large thriving community of Armenian Christian merchants, jewellers, and bankers living in the Mughal capital of Agra and when the Jesuits expressed a wish to build a church here, Akbar obliged and donated generously for a chapel which is still known as Akbar’s Church. Christian influence found its way into paintings and Sufi literature of the era. Christmas themed artwork had been found in the Mughal court as well.

For the Christian community in India, this year’s celebrations are sombre at best in light of the Anti-CAA/NRC protests and ensuing police brutality across the country. Navin W Noronha, a comedian who runs the ‘Keeping it Queer’ Podcast says, “It's going to be a sad Christmas. My partner and I decided not to decorate the house. We'll be doing lunch with my family, who are also not decorating their homes or making a big celebration party this year. It's simple- if people can't pray in their mosques (referring to police entering mosque in Jamia, Delhi), I don’t see how it's okay to go on acting like everything is okay.”

Everything is not okay, and this year, as I ride to Mount Mary Church on Christmas eve, I know that I will see many of the samefaces on the streets in forthcoming protests. The Christmas spirit will give us strength, hugs will be exchanged, healing will be gifted, and the singing of Christmas carols will light us up with warmth.As we wish each other on Christmas this year, maybe the gift of peace is all we need to believe that good things are possible in the world.

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A Mahim Dargah revered by Mumbai Police

As Mumbai celebrates a 10-day mela at Mahim Dargah to honour the death anniversary of Sufi Saint Makhdoom Ali Mahimi, Mumbai Police offers the first chaadar at this shrine, keeping alive a centuries old syncretic tradition.

14 Dec 2019

Mahim Dargah

As the residents of Mahim gear up for the annual 10-day mela held in honour of Sufi saint Makhdoom Mahimi entombed at the Mahim Dargah, the Mahim Police is the first to pay obeisance at the Dargah by offering the first “chaadar/sandal chadhaava” honouring a tradition which started almost a hundred years ago. The precedent was set by a 1911 Gazette that mandated police officers of the area to offer the first Chaadar/sandal (decorative cloth covering for tomb) at the 10-day festival. According to local residents, Mahimi has been the patron saint of the Mumbai police since the 15th century.

Makhdoom Ali Mahimi Shafi'i (1372–1431 A.D) was a saint and scholar of international repute. He lived during the time of the Tuglaq dynasty and that of Sultan Ahmed Shah of Gujarat, and was married to the Sultan's sister. He is widely acknowledged for his scholarly treatises, liberal views and humanitarian ideals. He was born into a family of Arab travellers from Iraq who settled down on the island of Mahim (which is one of the seven islands which later combined to form the present city of Mumbai). He was later appointed the Qazi (Head Muslim cleric) by the Sultan of Gujarat.

Mahimi was the first Indian scholar to write a critical explanation/commentary of the Qur’an called ‘Tafsirur Rahman’, in addition to writing over 100 books of which only a small number are available in libraries today. Mahimi is said to have been a man of great intelligence and sound legal knowledge who would often offer consultation to the local police in solving cases in the 15th Century. He was revered by both Muslims and Hindus during his lifetime and was buried in Mahim after his death in 1431. The burial site became the holy Mahim Dargah where devotees from all over the country come to offer prayers regardless of their religion.

The mela which started on December 8th this year, marks the death anniversary or Urs of Makhdoom Ali Mahimi. The Mahim police station, about 200 metres away from the dargah, was built in 1923 on the site where Mahimi is said to have lived. A green steel cupboard in the Senior Inspector's room is said to contain some of the saint's possessions. During the ten days of the fair held each year to honour Mahimi, the office is thrown open for devotees.

“The full Mumbai police follows Makhdumi Baba,” said Basheer Baba, 55, who is among the dargah officials overseeing the festivities. “Nobody can break that bond. There should be more chances like this of Hindu-Muslim love.”

In true Mumbai fashion, the processions and devotees flow towards the Dargah while speakers blare out loud music. Noise Pollution activists and local residents, including the Dargah committee, have made appeals to keep the noise levels to the permissible 55 decibels during the day and 45 decibels during the night. The security arrangements include 120 volunteers alongwith officers from police, railway, traffic police and BMC, and 40 CCTV cameras.

While Muslims comprise only around 2% of the police force in Mumbai, it is heartening that they revere Makhdoom Ali Mahimi and have kept up the hundreds of years of tradition at the Urs mela at Mahim Dargah.

The question of Muslim under-representation in the police force lingers. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figures of 2013, there are about 1% Muslims in the Maharashtra police against the national average of 4%. The police is meant to be the first step of outreach for citizens, and it can also be the first barrier. The gender/religion/caste- compositions do matter in determining accessibility and sensitivity.

Whether the faith of Mumbai police in the Mahim Dargah translates into their sensitivity to handle communally charged situations, or if it promotes internal camaraderie- may not be clear, but what is clear- is that an example is set for the people to see and follow. To see these examples of syncretic traditions followed by the authorities, is rare and thus important. If you are a Mumbai resident, do try and visit the mela, to offer prayers, or to enjoy the various stalls and entertainment sections. Either way, you will witness an event of communal harmony every year, God willing, for years to come.

A Mahim Dargah revered by Mumbai Police

As Mumbai celebrates a 10-day mela at Mahim Dargah to honour the death anniversary of Sufi Saint Makhdoom Ali Mahimi, Mumbai Police offers the first chaadar at this shrine, keeping alive a centuries old syncretic tradition.

Mahim Dargah

As the residents of Mahim gear up for the annual 10-day mela held in honour of Sufi saint Makhdoom Mahimi entombed at the Mahim Dargah, the Mahim Police is the first to pay obeisance at the Dargah by offering the first “chaadar/sandal chadhaava” honouring a tradition which started almost a hundred years ago. The precedent was set by a 1911 Gazette that mandated police officers of the area to offer the first Chaadar/sandal (decorative cloth covering for tomb) at the 10-day festival. According to local residents, Mahimi has been the patron saint of the Mumbai police since the 15th century.

Makhdoom Ali Mahimi Shafi'i (1372–1431 A.D) was a saint and scholar of international repute. He lived during the time of the Tuglaq dynasty and that of Sultan Ahmed Shah of Gujarat, and was married to the Sultan's sister. He is widely acknowledged for his scholarly treatises, liberal views and humanitarian ideals. He was born into a family of Arab travellers from Iraq who settled down on the island of Mahim (which is one of the seven islands which later combined to form the present city of Mumbai). He was later appointed the Qazi (Head Muslim cleric) by the Sultan of Gujarat.

Mahimi was the first Indian scholar to write a critical explanation/commentary of the Qur’an called ‘Tafsirur Rahman’, in addition to writing over 100 books of which only a small number are available in libraries today. Mahimi is said to have been a man of great intelligence and sound legal knowledge who would often offer consultation to the local police in solving cases in the 15th Century. He was revered by both Muslims and Hindus during his lifetime and was buried in Mahim after his death in 1431. The burial site became the holy Mahim Dargah where devotees from all over the country come to offer prayers regardless of their religion.

The mela which started on December 8th this year, marks the death anniversary or Urs of Makhdoom Ali Mahimi. The Mahim police station, about 200 metres away from the dargah, was built in 1923 on the site where Mahimi is said to have lived. A green steel cupboard in the Senior Inspector's room is said to contain some of the saint's possessions. During the ten days of the fair held each year to honour Mahimi, the office is thrown open for devotees.

“The full Mumbai police follows Makhdumi Baba,” said Basheer Baba, 55, who is among the dargah officials overseeing the festivities. “Nobody can break that bond. There should be more chances like this of Hindu-Muslim love.”

In true Mumbai fashion, the processions and devotees flow towards the Dargah while speakers blare out loud music. Noise Pollution activists and local residents, including the Dargah committee, have made appeals to keep the noise levels to the permissible 55 decibels during the day and 45 decibels during the night. The security arrangements include 120 volunteers alongwith officers from police, railway, traffic police and BMC, and 40 CCTV cameras.

While Muslims comprise only around 2% of the police force in Mumbai, it is heartening that they revere Makhdoom Ali Mahimi and have kept up the hundreds of years of tradition at the Urs mela at Mahim Dargah.

The question of Muslim under-representation in the police force lingers. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figures of 2013, there are about 1% Muslims in the Maharashtra police against the national average of 4%. The police is meant to be the first step of outreach for citizens, and it can also be the first barrier. The gender/religion/caste- compositions do matter in determining accessibility and sensitivity.

Whether the faith of Mumbai police in the Mahim Dargah translates into their sensitivity to handle communally charged situations, or if it promotes internal camaraderie- may not be clear, but what is clear- is that an example is set for the people to see and follow. To see these examples of syncretic traditions followed by the authorities, is rare and thus important. If you are a Mumbai resident, do try and visit the mela, to offer prayers, or to enjoy the various stalls and entertainment sections. Either way, you will witness an event of communal harmony every year, God willing, for years to come.

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Humanity over hate: Muslims lay to rest destitute Hindu woman

Daulatiya Devi, 70, whose body was found in a dilapidated house was cremated with traditional Hindu rituals

09 Dec 2019

hindu -muslim unity

Hope is the antidote to despair it is said. Re-affirming faith in the doctrine, at the time when silent tension is simmering in the Hindu and Muslim communities after the Ayodhya land dispute verdict, an uncle and nephew pair from Maner, Patna have displayed another example of humanity and communal harmony.

Chandu Khan and his nephew Javed Khan, members of the Muslim community, cremated an elderly Hindu woman, Daulatiya Devi, not just according to Hindu customs and rituals, but also prepared for ‘Dashkarma’ and ‘Brahmbhoj’.

Daulatiya Devi, who stayed alone in Meera Chak area after the demise of her husband, did not have any children or relatives to look after her. She used to survive on alms gathered from people in the area, after she could no longer run the small grocery shop due to old age. She passed away last week, and her body was found in a ruined house, orphaned.

The news of her death spread to nearby areas. That is when Chandu Khan from Qazi Mohalla stepped up to the occasion and decided to conduct her last rites. He called his nephew Javed to help with the funeral. Given that she was Hindu, Javed was cautious at first, but got reassured after visiting the Ward Councilor Amol Bajaj with his uncle. They performed the funeral and rituals as per Hindu customs at the Ganga Ghat in Haldi Chhapra. Chandu Khan lit the funeral pyre. This move by was appreciated and supported by everyone from the community.

This humane act by Chandu and Javed has reignited the ‘sufiyana tehzeeb’ that India is known for.

But this is not the first incident where communities pitted against each other (as per popular narrative) have come to each other’s rescue. In Ahmedabad this year, three Muslim brothers in Gujarat laid to rest their father’s friend, a Brahmin, as per Hindu rituals.

In Assam’s Kamrup district, a group of Muslim villagers performed the last rites of a Hindu man who had stayed at his Muslim friend’s residence with his family for the past 25 years.

There is no dearth of incidents in India that portray Hindu-Muslim harmony and communal respect. It is only due to fascist propaganda that the harmony spread at the grassroots does not make its way to us so as to portray the reality that humanity has continued to pervade over hate.

The right wing regime has always demonized the minorities – be it by making them targets of lynch mobs or bringing about amendments to the law to weed them out of the country altogether. Chandu and Javed’s act has not only shown their tolerance and benevolence, but has also chipped away a little at the undignified story spun around them by practicing humanity over hate.


Related:

Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb: Muslims help with Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations
Building Harmony: Sikh gives 900 sq. ft. land for mosque in violence hotbed of UP
Hindus and Muslims help renovate a gurudwara in Pakistan
Why Mohammed Kaleemulla is the ‘go-to- person for temple restoration

Humanity over hate: Muslims lay to rest destitute Hindu woman

Daulatiya Devi, 70, whose body was found in a dilapidated house was cremated with traditional Hindu rituals

hindu -muslim unity

Hope is the antidote to despair it is said. Re-affirming faith in the doctrine, at the time when silent tension is simmering in the Hindu and Muslim communities after the Ayodhya land dispute verdict, an uncle and nephew pair from Maner, Patna have displayed another example of humanity and communal harmony.

Chandu Khan and his nephew Javed Khan, members of the Muslim community, cremated an elderly Hindu woman, Daulatiya Devi, not just according to Hindu customs and rituals, but also prepared for ‘Dashkarma’ and ‘Brahmbhoj’.

Daulatiya Devi, who stayed alone in Meera Chak area after the demise of her husband, did not have any children or relatives to look after her. She used to survive on alms gathered from people in the area, after she could no longer run the small grocery shop due to old age. She passed away last week, and her body was found in a ruined house, orphaned.

The news of her death spread to nearby areas. That is when Chandu Khan from Qazi Mohalla stepped up to the occasion and decided to conduct her last rites. He called his nephew Javed to help with the funeral. Given that she was Hindu, Javed was cautious at first, but got reassured after visiting the Ward Councilor Amol Bajaj with his uncle. They performed the funeral and rituals as per Hindu customs at the Ganga Ghat in Haldi Chhapra. Chandu Khan lit the funeral pyre. This move by was appreciated and supported by everyone from the community.

This humane act by Chandu and Javed has reignited the ‘sufiyana tehzeeb’ that India is known for.

But this is not the first incident where communities pitted against each other (as per popular narrative) have come to each other’s rescue. In Ahmedabad this year, three Muslim brothers in Gujarat laid to rest their father’s friend, a Brahmin, as per Hindu rituals.

In Assam’s Kamrup district, a group of Muslim villagers performed the last rites of a Hindu man who had stayed at his Muslim friend’s residence with his family for the past 25 years.

There is no dearth of incidents in India that portray Hindu-Muslim harmony and communal respect. It is only due to fascist propaganda that the harmony spread at the grassroots does not make its way to us so as to portray the reality that humanity has continued to pervade over hate.

The right wing regime has always demonized the minorities – be it by making them targets of lynch mobs or bringing about amendments to the law to weed them out of the country altogether. Chandu and Javed’s act has not only shown their tolerance and benevolence, but has also chipped away a little at the undignified story spun around them by practicing humanity over hate.


Related:

Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb: Muslims help with Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations
Building Harmony: Sikh gives 900 sq. ft. land for mosque in violence hotbed of UP
Hindus and Muslims help renovate a gurudwara in Pakistan
Why Mohammed Kaleemulla is the ‘go-to- person for temple restoration

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Half and Half: A community that is both Hindu and Muslim

The Cheeta-Merat(Kathat)community of Ajmer, Rajasthan practice a unique syncretic religion combining Hinduism and Islam

07 Dec 2019

RajasthanImage Courtesy: theindianfeed.in

With a population of almost 400,000, the Cheeta-Merat a.k.a. Kathat community is spread across 160 villages in Ajmer and Bewar towns of Rajasthan’s Ajmer district. The Cheeta and the Merat are two separate clans who intermarry with each other. Most of them are small peasants and landless labourers. They call themselves Chauhan Rajputs, and identify their religion as ‘Hindu-Muslim’, or either ‘Hindu’ or ‘Muslim’ or simply ‘Cheeta-Merat’. The community supposedly descended from Prithviraj Chauhan. The popular theory about the Cheeta-Merat is that their ancestor Har Raj voluntarily converted to Islam at the hands of the renowned Sufi, Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer. This is why, it is argued, he is also known as Pir Har Raj, having received the honorific title of Pir, which is used for a Muslim saint.

The Kathat community is said to follow the footsteps of Pir Har Raj who accepted three rules of Islam- khatna (male circumcision), dafan (burial after death), and eating Halal meat. The Kathat people have mixed Hindu-Muslim names, follow Hindu as well as Muslim traditions, celebrate all festivals, and even have weddings with both Nikah (Muslim wedding ceremony) and Pheras (Hindu wedding ceremony) as rituals.

A majority of the community is dedicated to maintain the syncretic Hindu-Muslim traditions, citing the promise that their ancestor, Pir Har Raj, is said to have made to a ‘Muslim Sultan’. To abandon the Islamic customs that their ancestor had adopted, they believed, would be to go against his wishes. However, things began to change from the mid-1980s, when both Hindu and Muslim revivalist organizations entered the Cheeta-Merat belt in order to win the community to their respective folds.

In an eye opening documentary shared by PSBT India, the confusion and dilemmacreated by Hindu and Muslim organizations is as clear as it is disturbing. As Radhika Saraf, a young photographer from Mumbai who spent time with this community, puts it, “It seemed as if the Kathat community were elastic, being stretched on both sides until it would finally break. This community is on the edge, under attack and soft target to accomplish what Hindu and Muslim sectarian groups seek- power and mass.”

So, on one side, as children are educated about the Quran in Madrasas, slogans of “Dharamaantaran band karo (stop religious conversion)” erupt from the schools funded by Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The children of the community have been reduced to pawn pieces in this decades-long chess game of religious divide.

The core Kathat community is adamant to hold on to their syncretic and harmonious ways. “We say Ram-Ram to Hindus and salam to Muslims. We hold a laddu in each of our hands”, says resident Salim Khan commenting on the contradictory appeals of Hindu and Muslim revivalist groups competing with each other.

For some Cheeta-Merats a new, more distinct Hindu, particularly Rajput, identity is also a means for asserting a claim to upward social mobility and a quest to be more accepted by the surrounding Hindu community. The pressure exerted from VHP and the Muslim Jamaat organizations is tremendous- with bribery, coercion, social banishment, all in play.

What is happening to the Kathat community can almost be used as a small-scale primer to understand the overall communal tension in India. In fear of losing their identity, most factions cling even closer to the radical and aggressive beliefs of their respective religions because any ambiguity hurts them. Religion becomes more than their personal choice as it determines social standing and ties to their community, also enabling them to feel accepted and secure in their immediate society. Religion brings people together in a unit which can defend them against external attack. With the possibility of literal or figurative attacks rising, everyone feels the need to belong to a team to feel safe. If they were all to follow the example of the Kathat community and practice traditions from two religions, they would end up being a battleground too. So what results is overcompensation and a sense of competition from religious groups borne out of fear, to ‘preserve’ their numbers.

In the Cheeta-Merat community, while the VHP conducts “Shuddhi (purification rituals)” and “Ghar waapsi (returning home)”, while reciting ‘Dharamaantaran band karo’ in the same breath, logic and irony take a blow. The Madrassas meanwhile influence the children to accept Islam exclusively and cut ties with families who have aligned themselves to Hinduism by not getting their children circumcised. Confusions come to a head when the offspring reach marriageable age and they realize no family is willing to wed their daughter to them unless they are circumcised and then last-minute circumcisions are carried out before the wedding.

It is not easy to polarize a tightly knit community but the fundamentalism from both sides has made a dent over the last 30 years. As the Kathat people struggle to retain their simple and harmonious lives, the tug of war rages on. Resident Buland Khan states simply, “Some of us are Muslims and others are Hindus, like me and my nephew here. But still we live together in harmony. We interdine and we intermarry. Religion is a personal issue and does not affect our relations.” If only this could become every Indian’s mantra!

Related:

Hindus and Muslims help renovate a gurudwara in Pakistan
Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb: Muslims help with Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations
“Allah and Ram are one”: Muslim youth who cleans mosques and temples
Maulvi inaugurates temple that Muslims helped restore after demolition
In Tamil Nadu, Hindus observe ‘Allah Festival’ on eve of Muharram

Half and Half: A community that is both Hindu and Muslim

The Cheeta-Merat(Kathat)community of Ajmer, Rajasthan practice a unique syncretic religion combining Hinduism and Islam

RajasthanImage Courtesy: theindianfeed.in

With a population of almost 400,000, the Cheeta-Merat a.k.a. Kathat community is spread across 160 villages in Ajmer and Bewar towns of Rajasthan’s Ajmer district. The Cheeta and the Merat are two separate clans who intermarry with each other. Most of them are small peasants and landless labourers. They call themselves Chauhan Rajputs, and identify their religion as ‘Hindu-Muslim’, or either ‘Hindu’ or ‘Muslim’ or simply ‘Cheeta-Merat’. The community supposedly descended from Prithviraj Chauhan. The popular theory about the Cheeta-Merat is that their ancestor Har Raj voluntarily converted to Islam at the hands of the renowned Sufi, Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer. This is why, it is argued, he is also known as Pir Har Raj, having received the honorific title of Pir, which is used for a Muslim saint.

The Kathat community is said to follow the footsteps of Pir Har Raj who accepted three rules of Islam- khatna (male circumcision), dafan (burial after death), and eating Halal meat. The Kathat people have mixed Hindu-Muslim names, follow Hindu as well as Muslim traditions, celebrate all festivals, and even have weddings with both Nikah (Muslim wedding ceremony) and Pheras (Hindu wedding ceremony) as rituals.

A majority of the community is dedicated to maintain the syncretic Hindu-Muslim traditions, citing the promise that their ancestor, Pir Har Raj, is said to have made to a ‘Muslim Sultan’. To abandon the Islamic customs that their ancestor had adopted, they believed, would be to go against his wishes. However, things began to change from the mid-1980s, when both Hindu and Muslim revivalist organizations entered the Cheeta-Merat belt in order to win the community to their respective folds.

In an eye opening documentary shared by PSBT India, the confusion and dilemmacreated by Hindu and Muslim organizations is as clear as it is disturbing. As Radhika Saraf, a young photographer from Mumbai who spent time with this community, puts it, “It seemed as if the Kathat community were elastic, being stretched on both sides until it would finally break. This community is on the edge, under attack and soft target to accomplish what Hindu and Muslim sectarian groups seek- power and mass.”

So, on one side, as children are educated about the Quran in Madrasas, slogans of “Dharamaantaran band karo (stop religious conversion)” erupt from the schools funded by Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The children of the community have been reduced to pawn pieces in this decades-long chess game of religious divide.

The core Kathat community is adamant to hold on to their syncretic and harmonious ways. “We say Ram-Ram to Hindus and salam to Muslims. We hold a laddu in each of our hands”, says resident Salim Khan commenting on the contradictory appeals of Hindu and Muslim revivalist groups competing with each other.

For some Cheeta-Merats a new, more distinct Hindu, particularly Rajput, identity is also a means for asserting a claim to upward social mobility and a quest to be more accepted by the surrounding Hindu community. The pressure exerted from VHP and the Muslim Jamaat organizations is tremendous- with bribery, coercion, social banishment, all in play.

What is happening to the Kathat community can almost be used as a small-scale primer to understand the overall communal tension in India. In fear of losing their identity, most factions cling even closer to the radical and aggressive beliefs of their respective religions because any ambiguity hurts them. Religion becomes more than their personal choice as it determines social standing and ties to their community, also enabling them to feel accepted and secure in their immediate society. Religion brings people together in a unit which can defend them against external attack. With the possibility of literal or figurative attacks rising, everyone feels the need to belong to a team to feel safe. If they were all to follow the example of the Kathat community and practice traditions from two religions, they would end up being a battleground too. So what results is overcompensation and a sense of competition from religious groups borne out of fear, to ‘preserve’ their numbers.

In the Cheeta-Merat community, while the VHP conducts “Shuddhi (purification rituals)” and “Ghar waapsi (returning home)”, while reciting ‘Dharamaantaran band karo’ in the same breath, logic and irony take a blow. The Madrassas meanwhile influence the children to accept Islam exclusively and cut ties with families who have aligned themselves to Hinduism by not getting their children circumcised. Confusions come to a head when the offspring reach marriageable age and they realize no family is willing to wed their daughter to them unless they are circumcised and then last-minute circumcisions are carried out before the wedding.

It is not easy to polarize a tightly knit community but the fundamentalism from both sides has made a dent over the last 30 years. As the Kathat people struggle to retain their simple and harmonious lives, the tug of war rages on. Resident Buland Khan states simply, “Some of us are Muslims and others are Hindus, like me and my nephew here. But still we live together in harmony. We interdine and we intermarry. Religion is a personal issue and does not affect our relations.” If only this could become every Indian’s mantra!

Related:

Hindus and Muslims help renovate a gurudwara in Pakistan
Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb: Muslims help with Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations
“Allah and Ram are one”: Muslim youth who cleans mosques and temples
Maulvi inaugurates temple that Muslims helped restore after demolition
In Tamil Nadu, Hindus observe ‘Allah Festival’ on eve of Muharram

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Communal Harmony triumphs, Imam Inaugurates Kali temple

Sabrangindia 05 Dec 2019

In a heartwarming incident of love and empathy, the residents of Basapara, in Birbhum district of West Bengal, have proved that harmony always triumphs over hate and disinformation.

A Kali temple that was demolished two years ago for a road-widening project, was inaugurated on October 27th by the Imam of the local mosque, who not only came forward to help but also raised 7 lakh rupees to redevelop the temple.

Speaking exclusively to SabrangIndia, the Imam, Hafez Nasiruddin Mondal said that though he never imagined the Muslim community to be inaugurating the Kali temple but the thought of both Hindu and Muslim communities coming so close for an event made him extremely proud and happy.

Kashinath Kundu, the Chairman of the Temple Committee said, "They came to us first, offering help. When we told that we don't have any money apart from the land they said that they will help out in every possible way if we come forward and partake in the redevelopment."

The Deputy chief of Basapara Panchayat said, " though the media is creating propaganda to distract the public, we haven't fallen in that trap. Our only focus should be on the administration and development."

Communal Harmony triumphs, Imam Inaugurates Kali temple

In a heartwarming incident of love and empathy, the residents of Basapara, in Birbhum district of West Bengal, have proved that harmony always triumphs over hate and disinformation.

A Kali temple that was demolished two years ago for a road-widening project, was inaugurated on October 27th by the Imam of the local mosque, who not only came forward to help but also raised 7 lakh rupees to redevelop the temple.

Speaking exclusively to SabrangIndia, the Imam, Hafez Nasiruddin Mondal said that though he never imagined the Muslim community to be inaugurating the Kali temple but the thought of both Hindu and Muslim communities coming so close for an event made him extremely proud and happy.

Kashinath Kundu, the Chairman of the Temple Committee said, "They came to us first, offering help. When we told that we don't have any money apart from the land they said that they will help out in every possible way if we come forward and partake in the redevelopment."

The Deputy chief of Basapara Panchayat said, " though the media is creating propaganda to distract the public, we haven't fallen in that trap. Our only focus should be on the administration and development."

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Building Harmony: Sikh gives 900 sq. ft. land for mosque in violence hotbed of UP

Sukhpal Singh Bedi had earlier also given up land for a road in the village

03 Dec 2019

Sikh man

There is no place for hate in India. Far away from the chest-thumping Hindutva that has reached a fever pitch in the country, a 70-year-old man is quietly setting examples on communal harmony in the quiet town Purqazi in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzzaffarnagar district, Rediff.com reported.

Sukhpal Singh Bedi, a Sikh cloth merchant who has been living in Purqazi for more than five decades, donated a 900 sq. ft. plot to build a mosque on the eve of Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary celebrations. Bedi, a social activist, handed over the property to Nagar Panchayat Chairman Zahir Farooqui at the event.

"This is the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak. Sukh Pal Singh Bedi wanted to do something special to celebrate Guru Nanak's birthday and so he donated the land to build a mosque," Town Panchayat Chairman Zaheer Farooqui told Rediff.com.

"There are many masjids in our town, but this one will be special as the land has been donated by a Sikh to celebrate his religion. There is total communal harmony in this town. We celebrate each other’s festivals." Farooqui added.

"Sukh Pal Singh is not very rich where money is concerned, but his heart is rich. He is a cloth merchant, an ordinary man like you and me,” Farooqui expressed heartwarmingly.

Purqazi is a small town in UP’s Muzzaffarnagar, almost 800-km from the long disputed Ayodhya temple site, with a population of about 30,000 of which two-thirds are Muslims. The town has less than 200 Sikh families. The border town that falls between UP and Uttarakhand, is famous for its Suli Wala Bagh, where 500 freedom fighters were hung by the British in the First War of Independence in 1857.

Bedi was born in Delhi three years after Independence. His family moved to Purqazi when he was three and he has been living there ever since, running his cloth business that he started in 1967. He reminisced on the phone to Rediff.com about how he had once travelled to Mumbai once in the eighties.

"Our Guru told us that all people are equal and we must respect all religions and that is what I am doing," says Sukh Pal Singh Bedi. "It is our Guru's 550th birth anniversary and Sikhs are celebrating the world over. I wanted to do something special to commemorate the event and I am sure my deed must have made my Guru happy. "When I decided to donate the land I consulted my family. They all agreed that it was for a good cause and I must do it. They all supported me," he said happily.

Bedi, who has worked his whole life towards propagating peace had also 20 years ago given up land when the town needed it to build a road. "God gives us everything, we must use it for the good of the maximum people possible," Bedi said. "We must always share whatever we have because everything is given by God. Nothing belongs to us."

It is really touching to see such instances of social harmony emanating from the hotbed of violence that UP has always been. In 2017, UP topped the list of states with maximum communal violence 195 incidents of communal violence related to religious factors, land and property disputes, gender related offences, social media related issues and other factors. This, after UP CM Yogi Adityanath claimed that there had been no riots in his two years as CM from 2017 – 2019. Communal incidents in UP had increased 47% from 133 in 2014 to 195 in 2017, Business Standard reported. According to a Huffington Post report, India ranked fourth in the world in 2015 after Syria, Nigeria and Iraq for highest social hostilities involving religion.

During Yogi’s tenure, towns like Shabbirpur, Bulandshahr, Saharanpur and Kasganj among others witnessed incidents of communal violence.

The situation in UP’s Ayodhya is still tense after the Supreme Court’s verdict that the disputed land in question be given for the construction of the temple and that the Muslims be given a 5 acre plot in the city for the construction of a mosque.

While UP has been embroiled in incidents that upset social unity with lynchings on the rise and caste related offences, it is inspiring to see people like Bedi who are working hard towards keeping equality alive and keep communal hatred at bay.

 

Related:

UP’s dis-honourable dad kills daughter for loving the ‘wrong’ man
Uttar Pradesh records highest crimes against Dalits: NCRB
Hindus and Muslims help renovate a gurudwara in Pakistan
Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb: Muslims help with Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations
“Allah and Ram are one”: Muslim youth who cleans mosques and temples
Maulvi inaugurates temple that Muslims helped restore after demolition
In Tamil Nadu, Hindus observe ‘Allah Festival’ on eve of Muharram
Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb: Muslims help with Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations

Building Harmony: Sikh gives 900 sq. ft. land for mosque in violence hotbed of UP

Sukhpal Singh Bedi had earlier also given up land for a road in the village

Sikh man

There is no place for hate in India. Far away from the chest-thumping Hindutva that has reached a fever pitch in the country, a 70-year-old man is quietly setting examples on communal harmony in the quiet town Purqazi in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzzaffarnagar district, Rediff.com reported.

Sukhpal Singh Bedi, a Sikh cloth merchant who has been living in Purqazi for more than five decades, donated a 900 sq. ft. plot to build a mosque on the eve of Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary celebrations. Bedi, a social activist, handed over the property to Nagar Panchayat Chairman Zahir Farooqui at the event.

"This is the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak. Sukh Pal Singh Bedi wanted to do something special to celebrate Guru Nanak's birthday and so he donated the land to build a mosque," Town Panchayat Chairman Zaheer Farooqui told Rediff.com.

"There are many masjids in our town, but this one will be special as the land has been donated by a Sikh to celebrate his religion. There is total communal harmony in this town. We celebrate each other’s festivals." Farooqui added.

"Sukh Pal Singh is not very rich where money is concerned, but his heart is rich. He is a cloth merchant, an ordinary man like you and me,” Farooqui expressed heartwarmingly.

Purqazi is a small town in UP’s Muzzaffarnagar, almost 800-km from the long disputed Ayodhya temple site, with a population of about 30,000 of which two-thirds are Muslims. The town has less than 200 Sikh families. The border town that falls between UP and Uttarakhand, is famous for its Suli Wala Bagh, where 500 freedom fighters were hung by the British in the First War of Independence in 1857.

Bedi was born in Delhi three years after Independence. His family moved to Purqazi when he was three and he has been living there ever since, running his cloth business that he started in 1967. He reminisced on the phone to Rediff.com about how he had once travelled to Mumbai once in the eighties.

"Our Guru told us that all people are equal and we must respect all religions and that is what I am doing," says Sukh Pal Singh Bedi. "It is our Guru's 550th birth anniversary and Sikhs are celebrating the world over. I wanted to do something special to commemorate the event and I am sure my deed must have made my Guru happy. "When I decided to donate the land I consulted my family. They all agreed that it was for a good cause and I must do it. They all supported me," he said happily.

Bedi, who has worked his whole life towards propagating peace had also 20 years ago given up land when the town needed it to build a road. "God gives us everything, we must use it for the good of the maximum people possible," Bedi said. "We must always share whatever we have because everything is given by God. Nothing belongs to us."

It is really touching to see such instances of social harmony emanating from the hotbed of violence that UP has always been. In 2017, UP topped the list of states with maximum communal violence 195 incidents of communal violence related to religious factors, land and property disputes, gender related offences, social media related issues and other factors. This, after UP CM Yogi Adityanath claimed that there had been no riots in his two years as CM from 2017 – 2019. Communal incidents in UP had increased 47% from 133 in 2014 to 195 in 2017, Business Standard reported. According to a Huffington Post report, India ranked fourth in the world in 2015 after Syria, Nigeria and Iraq for highest social hostilities involving religion.

During Yogi’s tenure, towns like Shabbirpur, Bulandshahr, Saharanpur and Kasganj among others witnessed incidents of communal violence.

The situation in UP’s Ayodhya is still tense after the Supreme Court’s verdict that the disputed land in question be given for the construction of the temple and that the Muslims be given a 5 acre plot in the city for the construction of a mosque.

While UP has been embroiled in incidents that upset social unity with lynchings on the rise and caste related offences, it is inspiring to see people like Bedi who are working hard towards keeping equality alive and keep communal hatred at bay.

 

Related:

UP’s dis-honourable dad kills daughter for loving the ‘wrong’ man
Uttar Pradesh records highest crimes against Dalits: NCRB
Hindus and Muslims help renovate a gurudwara in Pakistan
Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb: Muslims help with Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations
“Allah and Ram are one”: Muslim youth who cleans mosques and temples
Maulvi inaugurates temple that Muslims helped restore after demolition
In Tamil Nadu, Hindus observe ‘Allah Festival’ on eve of Muharram
Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb: Muslims help with Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations

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Hindus and Muslims help renovate a gurudwara in Pakistan

The gurudwara in Pakistan’s Sindh has no Sikh population and had been shut since partition

03 Dec 2019
Hindu-Muslim
Image Courtesy: mensxp.com


In another show of solidarity and communal harmony, the followers of Guru Nanak (Nanak Naam Lewa) have helped renovate and reopen a gurudwara at Janoji, Pakistan that had been lying closed since Partition. But what makes the renovation special is that there is no Sikh population in Janoji and the entire renovation was carried out by members of the Hindu and Muslim communities.

The gurudwara is in the Salehpat district in Sindh, Pakistan. Sindh has the highest population of Hindus and they continue to follow the Nanakpathi culture and are followers of Guru Nanak in spite of not being Sikh.

The gurudwara was opened on Friday as part of the celebrations marking the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak said Dewa Sikandar, a member of the Pakistan Hindu Council to The Indian Express. Apart from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, a Bhagwad Gita has also been installed at Gurudwara Baba Nanak.

“Gurdwara Baba Nanak has been reopened after a year of renovation work, which was carried out with the help of donations from Nanak Naam Lewa Sangat. The Hindu community living in Sukkur and Khairpur districts contributed and nearly Rs 6 lakh was spent to renovate the two-room gurdwara,” Sikandar told the paper.

“The local Muslim villagers arranged langar for the devotees. They prepared lunch and karha prasad and also decorated the gurdwara for opening day. Nanak Naam Lewa Sangat chanted Waheguru prayers as well as aarti,” Sikandar said, adding that Hindus in Sindh are ardent followers of Nanak and call themselves “Nanakpanthis”.

However, since there is a proper ‘maryada’ (ritual) to be followed for the sewa of the Guru Granth Sahib, Sikandar said that it would be taken to the main Salehpat gurudwara and brought back to the newly renovated gurudwara in Janoji once a year, till they find a permanent ‘granthi’ (ceremonial reader of the Holy Book). He added that a caretaker will live at the gurudwara and the Bhagwad Gita will continue to remain there.

Sikandar said that senior People’s Party Pakistan (PPP) leader Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah, who was recently arrested in a corruption case by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Pakistan also contributed Rs. 2 lakh to the gurudwara’s renovation.

This is just another example of communal harmony that has come to the fore in recent times. In India’s Kozhikode, a mosque committee postponed their celebrations to participate in a Hindu girl’s marriage. In West Bengal, India, a maulvi inaugurated a Hindu Kali temple that was renovated with the help of the Muslim community. In Tamil Nadu, Hindus observed ‘Allah Festival’ on the eve of Muharram. All over India, on the day of Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary, Muslims gave a grand welcome to Sikhs by participating in celebrations. Pakistan promoted inter-faith harmony by deciding to re-open 400 Hindu temples.

The opening of the Kartarpur Corridor by Pakistan has been hailed as a step forward in promoting inter-country peace. The incidents of communal harmony have been around for years, but have somehow been overshadowed and pushed on the sidelines by the politically charged communal hatred rhetoric that has always been used by partisan members of right-wing groups who have sought to paint a negative narrative of the minorities.

But we, as an organization that promotes harmony not hate, will strive to always bring you the real picture and make sure that you, the citizens, are not colored by views that work towards damaging the social fabric of the country.


Related:

Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb: Muslims help with Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations
“Allah and Ram are one”: Muslim youth who cleans mosques and temples
Maulvi inaugurates temple that Muslims helped restore after demolition
In Tamil Nadu, Hindus observe ‘Allah Festival’ on eve of Muharram
Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb: Muslims help with Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations

Hindus and Muslims help renovate a gurudwara in Pakistan

The gurudwara in Pakistan’s Sindh has no Sikh population and had been shut since partition

Hindu-Muslim
Image Courtesy: mensxp.com


In another show of solidarity and communal harmony, the followers of Guru Nanak (Nanak Naam Lewa) have helped renovate and reopen a gurudwara at Janoji, Pakistan that had been lying closed since Partition. But what makes the renovation special is that there is no Sikh population in Janoji and the entire renovation was carried out by members of the Hindu and Muslim communities.

The gurudwara is in the Salehpat district in Sindh, Pakistan. Sindh has the highest population of Hindus and they continue to follow the Nanakpathi culture and are followers of Guru Nanak in spite of not being Sikh.

The gurudwara was opened on Friday as part of the celebrations marking the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak said Dewa Sikandar, a member of the Pakistan Hindu Council to The Indian Express. Apart from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, a Bhagwad Gita has also been installed at Gurudwara Baba Nanak.

“Gurdwara Baba Nanak has been reopened after a year of renovation work, which was carried out with the help of donations from Nanak Naam Lewa Sangat. The Hindu community living in Sukkur and Khairpur districts contributed and nearly Rs 6 lakh was spent to renovate the two-room gurdwara,” Sikandar told the paper.

“The local Muslim villagers arranged langar for the devotees. They prepared lunch and karha prasad and also decorated the gurdwara for opening day. Nanak Naam Lewa Sangat chanted Waheguru prayers as well as aarti,” Sikandar said, adding that Hindus in Sindh are ardent followers of Nanak and call themselves “Nanakpanthis”.

However, since there is a proper ‘maryada’ (ritual) to be followed for the sewa of the Guru Granth Sahib, Sikandar said that it would be taken to the main Salehpat gurudwara and brought back to the newly renovated gurudwara in Janoji once a year, till they find a permanent ‘granthi’ (ceremonial reader of the Holy Book). He added that a caretaker will live at the gurudwara and the Bhagwad Gita will continue to remain there.

Sikandar said that senior People’s Party Pakistan (PPP) leader Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah, who was recently arrested in a corruption case by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Pakistan also contributed Rs. 2 lakh to the gurudwara’s renovation.

This is just another example of communal harmony that has come to the fore in recent times. In India’s Kozhikode, a mosque committee postponed their celebrations to participate in a Hindu girl’s marriage. In West Bengal, India, a maulvi inaugurated a Hindu Kali temple that was renovated with the help of the Muslim community. In Tamil Nadu, Hindus observed ‘Allah Festival’ on the eve of Muharram. All over India, on the day of Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary, Muslims gave a grand welcome to Sikhs by participating in celebrations. Pakistan promoted inter-faith harmony by deciding to re-open 400 Hindu temples.

The opening of the Kartarpur Corridor by Pakistan has been hailed as a step forward in promoting inter-country peace. The incidents of communal harmony have been around for years, but have somehow been overshadowed and pushed on the sidelines by the politically charged communal hatred rhetoric that has always been used by partisan members of right-wing groups who have sought to paint a negative narrative of the minorities.

But we, as an organization that promotes harmony not hate, will strive to always bring you the real picture and make sure that you, the citizens, are not colored by views that work towards damaging the social fabric of the country.


Related:

Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb: Muslims help with Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations
“Allah and Ram are one”: Muslim youth who cleans mosques and temples
Maulvi inaugurates temple that Muslims helped restore after demolition
In Tamil Nadu, Hindus observe ‘Allah Festival’ on eve of Muharram
Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb: Muslims help with Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations

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Pakistan sets a better example of secularism than India in these difficult times

28 Nov 2019

kartarpur

The mood inside the Punjab Banquet Hall in Surrey was upbeat on Sunday, November 24 afternoon, as people of Indian and Pakistani origin started pouring in to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji, the founder of the Sikh religion.

Among the audience was the Pakistani Consulate General in Vancouver,Dr. Mohammad Tariq. The organizers from Akal Sewa Foundation had invited him to honour the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in absentia. After all, Khan has recently opened the corridor leading to Kartarpur Sahib, where Nanak had spent the final years of his life. The place had been separated from the Indian Sikhs because of the religious division between India and Pakistan in 1947. Though the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara is very close to the Indo-Pak border, it had remained inaccessible to the Sikhs on the Indian side.

Since this year marks the 550th birth anniversary of Nanak, Khan had indicated, some time ago, that he would open a corridor for the convenience of the Sikh pilgrim on this auspicious occasion. The Sikhs have been praying for years, as a part of their daily ritual, for a direct access to all their historic gurdwaras in Pakistan,which were separated from them during partition.

Khan’s gesture has not only won the hearts of the Sikhs all over the world, but has raised hopes for friendly relations between the two hostile neighbours, which have fought two major wars. There were tensions between the two sides early this year, following a suicide attack that left 40 Indian soldiers dead in Kashmir. The right wing Hindu nationalist BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP) government had instantly blamed the attack on Pakistan-based Kashmiri insurgents, who have been fighting for the right to self-determination. India had launched surgical strikes, aimed at the alleged bases of militants inside Pakistan. Even at that time, Khan had displayed exceptional leadership after one of the Indian Air Force pilots captured by Pakistanis was returned to India to give peace a chance.

It was not surprising to see so many Sikhs coming out on Sunday, at the Surrey event, to express their gratitude to Khan. Two weeks ago, Dr. Tariq was also honoured by the management of the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple Surrey-Delta, during the celebration of Guru Nanak Devji’s birth anniversary, to recognize Khan’s efforts.

Unfortunately, the BJP supporters continue to remain sceptical of Khan. Its apologists claim that Khan is trying to win over the Sikhs and encourage them to fight for a separate homeland. So much so, thatNavjot Singh Sidhu, an opposition Congress party leader, who was partly instrumental in the opening of the Kartarpur corridor, came under vicious attack by the BJP supporters, who accused him of hobnobbing with an enemy. They not only branded him as ‘anti-national’, but some of them also threatened to kill him. Both Sidhu and Khan have a rapport as both are former cricketers whose paths had crossed many times.

Perhaps, blinded by hatred, the Hindu Right has chosen to gloss over the fact that Pakistan government has decided to restore 400 temples to Hindus as well. Ironically, Pakistan, which is a theocratic Islamic state, has tried to set a better example, while India, that is otherwise known as world’s largest secular democracy, has largely responded with either hateful rhetoric or cynicism.

The Kartarpur development coincided with the shameful verdict delivered by the Indian Supreme Court. The apex Indian court unanimously gave the disputed land of Ayodhyato the Hindus. It is the same site where an ancient mosque once stood, before December 6, 1992, when Hindu mobs, instigated by the BJP leaders, razed it to the ground. The BJP has been claiming that the mosque was built by the Muslim rulers after destroying a temple,which stood at the birthplace of Lord Ram, one of the most revered Hindu gods. Even though that remains debatable, the Indian judiciary fell into the trap of majoritarian politics and gave a verdict that works for BJP. The Indian courts have, so far, failed to convict the leaders involved. Rather than giving any justice to the aggrieved community, the Supreme Court asked the Muslims to build their mosque elsewhere and gave the land to the Hindus.

Whereas the Indian judiciary dashed all hopes of minorities, especially Muslims, who continue to face violence at the hands of BJP foot soldiers, Khan has established that secularism cannot necessary be guaranteed by a constitution but with a strong political will. A case in point is the sacking of a Pakistani minister,FayyazulChohan, by Khan in March. Chohan was removed from the post of Information minister for a hate speech against Hindus, while the BJP government continues to patronize ministers, MPs and MLAs who have been spewing venom against minorities with impunity.

It is time that the world recognizes Khan’s actions, which speak louder than words, and gives him the Nobel Peace Prize. Of course, he is just another politician and not a perfect soul, but that also applies to other recipients of this esteemed prize. Some of them caused major embarrassment by their actions after getting the award.

 

RELATED ARTICLES:

  1. Build Peace and Friendship on the Foundation of Kartarpur
  2. On 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak DevJi- Hope, Faith live on
  3. Ayodhya Verdict: Has Faith Prevailed Over Justice?
  4. Ganga-Jamunitehzeeb: Muslims help with Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations
  5. Can Imran Khan’s words heal Indo-Pak ties?

Pakistan sets a better example of secularism than India in these difficult times

kartarpur

The mood inside the Punjab Banquet Hall in Surrey was upbeat on Sunday, November 24 afternoon, as people of Indian and Pakistani origin started pouring in to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji, the founder of the Sikh religion.

Among the audience was the Pakistani Consulate General in Vancouver,Dr. Mohammad Tariq. The organizers from Akal Sewa Foundation had invited him to honour the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in absentia. After all, Khan has recently opened the corridor leading to Kartarpur Sahib, where Nanak had spent the final years of his life. The place had been separated from the Indian Sikhs because of the religious division between India and Pakistan in 1947. Though the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara is very close to the Indo-Pak border, it had remained inaccessible to the Sikhs on the Indian side.

Since this year marks the 550th birth anniversary of Nanak, Khan had indicated, some time ago, that he would open a corridor for the convenience of the Sikh pilgrim on this auspicious occasion. The Sikhs have been praying for years, as a part of their daily ritual, for a direct access to all their historic gurdwaras in Pakistan,which were separated from them during partition.

Khan’s gesture has not only won the hearts of the Sikhs all over the world, but has raised hopes for friendly relations between the two hostile neighbours, which have fought two major wars. There were tensions between the two sides early this year, following a suicide attack that left 40 Indian soldiers dead in Kashmir. The right wing Hindu nationalist BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP) government had instantly blamed the attack on Pakistan-based Kashmiri insurgents, who have been fighting for the right to self-determination. India had launched surgical strikes, aimed at the alleged bases of militants inside Pakistan. Even at that time, Khan had displayed exceptional leadership after one of the Indian Air Force pilots captured by Pakistanis was returned to India to give peace a chance.

It was not surprising to see so many Sikhs coming out on Sunday, at the Surrey event, to express their gratitude to Khan. Two weeks ago, Dr. Tariq was also honoured by the management of the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple Surrey-Delta, during the celebration of Guru Nanak Devji’s birth anniversary, to recognize Khan’s efforts.

Unfortunately, the BJP supporters continue to remain sceptical of Khan. Its apologists claim that Khan is trying to win over the Sikhs and encourage them to fight for a separate homeland. So much so, thatNavjot Singh Sidhu, an opposition Congress party leader, who was partly instrumental in the opening of the Kartarpur corridor, came under vicious attack by the BJP supporters, who accused him of hobnobbing with an enemy. They not only branded him as ‘anti-national’, but some of them also threatened to kill him. Both Sidhu and Khan have a rapport as both are former cricketers whose paths had crossed many times.

Perhaps, blinded by hatred, the Hindu Right has chosen to gloss over the fact that Pakistan government has decided to restore 400 temples to Hindus as well. Ironically, Pakistan, which is a theocratic Islamic state, has tried to set a better example, while India, that is otherwise known as world’s largest secular democracy, has largely responded with either hateful rhetoric or cynicism.

The Kartarpur development coincided with the shameful verdict delivered by the Indian Supreme Court. The apex Indian court unanimously gave the disputed land of Ayodhyato the Hindus. It is the same site where an ancient mosque once stood, before December 6, 1992, when Hindu mobs, instigated by the BJP leaders, razed it to the ground. The BJP has been claiming that the mosque was built by the Muslim rulers after destroying a temple,which stood at the birthplace of Lord Ram, one of the most revered Hindu gods. Even though that remains debatable, the Indian judiciary fell into the trap of majoritarian politics and gave a verdict that works for BJP. The Indian courts have, so far, failed to convict the leaders involved. Rather than giving any justice to the aggrieved community, the Supreme Court asked the Muslims to build their mosque elsewhere and gave the land to the Hindus.

Whereas the Indian judiciary dashed all hopes of minorities, especially Muslims, who continue to face violence at the hands of BJP foot soldiers, Khan has established that secularism cannot necessary be guaranteed by a constitution but with a strong political will. A case in point is the sacking of a Pakistani minister,FayyazulChohan, by Khan in March. Chohan was removed from the post of Information minister for a hate speech against Hindus, while the BJP government continues to patronize ministers, MPs and MLAs who have been spewing venom against minorities with impunity.

It is time that the world recognizes Khan’s actions, which speak louder than words, and gives him the Nobel Peace Prize. Of course, he is just another politician and not a perfect soul, but that also applies to other recipients of this esteemed prize. Some of them caused major embarrassment by their actions after getting the award.

 

RELATED ARTICLES:

  1. Build Peace and Friendship on the Foundation of Kartarpur
  2. On 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak DevJi- Hope, Faith live on
  3. Ayodhya Verdict: Has Faith Prevailed Over Justice?
  4. Ganga-Jamunitehzeeb: Muslims help with Guru Nanak Jayanti celebrations
  5. Can Imran Khan’s words heal Indo-Pak ties?

Related Articles


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