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History was again repeated after a gap of 75 years at Shadipora Prayag in Wakura tehsil of Central Kashmir district Ganderbal where thousands of Kashmiri Pandits drawn from different parts of country participated in century’s first Dashhar (Maha Kumb) at the confluence of river Vitasta (Jhelum) and Sindh (Indus).
The entire area of Shadipora was agog with festivities as devotees started thronging the Prayag from early in the morning with Sun rise and the rush continued upto the evening as the Dashhar festival which is the outcome of celestial configuration of planets started at 5.33 am and continued upto 5.24 pm.
Thousands of devotees, majority of whom belonged to Kashmiri Pandit community, who had come from different parts of country, took a holy dip at Prayag which has a great religious significance as per Hindu mythology, performed pooja archana and also participated in religious rituals.
As per roughly estimated figures, the number of devotees who visited to participate in Dashhar festival was from 15,000 to 20,000 and the rush continued throughout the day. The authorities had made elaborate arrangements for the devotees who visited the Prayag to participate in this unique type of festival today.
Various organizations including Dashhar Celebration Committee headed by Pt. Omkar Nath Shastri, a religious scholar, migrants from Jagti camp etc had installed free langers for devotees. Various Muslim organizations including Shia community people, People’s Republican Party and local sarpanches had installed stalls and welcome gates to greet the devotees.
For the facilities of the devotees, a temporary bridge was constructed by Tourism Department besides installation of make shift toilets and bath rooms by municipality. The arrangements were being monitored by DC Ganderbal, Tariq Hussian Ganai himself who had given instructions to all concerning departments to ensure that the devotees visiting to participate in the holy festival may not face any inconvenience.
The Tourism Department had kept boats readily available for the pilgrims who had to take a dip in holy water to deal with any catastrophe. The Celebration Committee has highly appreciated the role of administration and locals in rendering all help and assistance to pilgrims.
At 4.30 pm a Samohik Shrad was performed for those who had left this world during last 27 years of turmoil by the Celebration Committee under the supervision of Shastri Ji and other religious scholars.
There was such a huge rush of pilgrims at Shadipora Prayag that people had to wait in long queues for taking a dip at Prayag. This was for the first time that such a huge rush was witnessed at any Hindu shrine in Kashmir valley in last 27 years of turmoil, locals of the area claimed.
Abdul Razak a local resident and a social activist whose organization had also installed a stall to welcome pilgrims at Shadipora said that majority community is eagerly waiting for return of their Pandit brethren as Kashmir is incomplete without them.
“We crave for the day when the Pandits will return to Valley and the same atmosphere prevails here which existed prior to 1989-90”, he added.
Mir Ghulam Rasool, president People’s Republican Party (PRP) whose party had also installed welcome stalls for Pandit brethren at Shadipora said, it is high time when the Kashmiri Pandits should think of their return and start a fresh life in Valley so that old days of glory return to Kashmir once again.
He said PRP has always supported the Pandits return and it will not hesitate in taking a lead in this regard along with civil society of Kashmir as both communities have played a great role in enriching the civilization of Kashmir and keeping Kashmiryat alive for centuries together.
It may be recalled that last time Dashhar had took place at Shadipora Prayag on June 4, (Wednesday) in 1941 when Maharaja Hari Singh was ruling the undivided J&K State. As Shadipora Prayag is confluence of two rivers Vitasta which is linked to Goddess Parvati and Sindh which flows from holy cave of Amarnath are sacred rivers for Hindus of Kashmir and it has same religious significance for Kashmiri Pandits as per religious scriptures as the Allahabad Kumb has for entire nation.
According to Hindu mythology, the Dashhar at Shadipora takes place when there is celestial configuration of 10 planets and this time this particular combination took place after a gap of 75 years. The religious scholars’ term this combination as auspicious for the State and nation as a whole and taking a dip in the waters at Shadipora Prayag is also considered religious to atone sins.
The festival in 1941 was celebrated after a gap of 30 years. Before that the celestial configuration had taken place in 1911 as per the records available in Archives and Archeology Department of J&K and the festival was celebrated in Valley.
During the Dashhar in 1941 Maharaja Hari Singh the ruler of undivided J&K had declared public holiday in Baramulla, Anantnag and Muzaffarabad districts of Kashmir valley as per the records available.
The Government at that time had spent Rs 200 on rescue boats, Rs 500 on lighting arrangements and Rs 500 on unforeseen expenditures. Besides 100 Maharaja’s guards were put on duty for security of yatris and medical officers of Sumbal and Ganderbal were given strict orders to take care of the yatris in the festival.
About one lakh pilgrims had taken part in this festival in 1941 as against 40,000 as expected by the Government due to which there was a terrible outbreak of disease and 3063 people were treated by the Government doctors.
One 16 year boy had then lost his life while a boat had over turned near Sumbal during the festival.