During the holy fortnight of Herath or Mahashivratri, which is the biggest festival for the Kashmiri Pandit (Hindus) community, the Muslim residents of a Pulwama village, Achan, have taken the onus of rebuilding an 80-year-old temple for the only Hindu family in the vicinity. Achan village is just 15 kilometres away from Lethpora area of Pulwama where the suicide bombing killed 40 CRPF personnel.
There is only one Hindu family which lives in this hamlet. Bhushan Lal, a local, had approached mosque committee Muslim Auqaf group for rebuilding the temple which has a deep-rooted ancestry.
The Masjid committee at once agreed to their demand and started reconstructing the temple. The work, however, was halted after the Pulwama terror attack due to frequent shutdowns.
"We want to hear the temple bells chiming in the morning when the mosques are reverberating with Azan ( call to prayer). This temple was present here near the Jamia Masjid three decades ago. We want to bring alive that culture," Mohammad Younis, a resident of Achan, told NDTV.
Mohammad Maqbool, who is overseeing the restoration work of the temple, said that their efforts are aimed to make the Hindu family feel at home although a majority of the families from the minority community left the valley during the troubled 1990s.
"We do not want them to feel alone," Maqbool added.
For the lone Kashmiri Pandit family, the restoration of the temple is a great effort by the Muslim community aimed at bringing different faiths together.
"They (Muslims) equally respect the temple. They have taken care of us in the troubled times and we value our neighbours more than those relatives who migrated after 1990," Bhushan Lal added.
Despite the ongoing tension between India and Pakistan and the widespread violence in the valley, the Hindu-Muslim bonhomie came alive on the occasion of Mahashivratri when Muslims organised food and shelter services for Pandits who were seen thronging the temples in Srinagar and outskirts.
Mahashivratri or Herath is celebrated by the Kashmiri Pandit community as an ode to Lord Shiva with night long worship and cooking special delicacies. The festival is also believed to be a harbinger of good weather in Jammu and Kashmir.