<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Twenty-seven years after the turmoil began in Kashmir, hundreds of local Muslims gathered at the ancient Nand Kishore temple in the Valley’s Sumbal area and held a symbolic puja to mark Mahashivratri festival in the absence of Kashmiri Pandits.Carrying banners and placards, Muslims stood in solidarity with the migrant Kashmiri Pandits appealing to them to return to their homes so that they could celebrate the next Mahashivratri together.Forty-two-year-old contractor Imtiyaz Hussian Parrey was among the first to arrive at the temple to send a clear message of amity and brotherhood to the Pandits who were forced to flee Kashmir in 1990. Donning a skull cap, Parrey, a devout Muslim, cleaned the temple premises and the sanctum sanctorum before offering flowers and fruits to the Shiv Lingam.“We performed puja in our own simple way since we are Muslims and do not know much of Hindu rituals,” said Parrey.Since there are no Pandits living in Sumbal, local Muslims brought a Hindu priest from the neighbouring area to oversee the temple reopening ceremony and rituals. The priest also performed the mandatory prayers to mark the Mahashivratri also known as Herath, the biggest festival of Kashmiri Pandits.“No religious function has been held in this temple for the last 27 years,” said Parrey.Figures released by Kashmir Pandit Sangrash Simiti (KPSS), an apex body of non-migrant Pandits, reveal that there are 808 Kashmiri Pandit families comprising 3,451 people who stayed put even after the militancy and continue to live at 232 different places in the valley.KPSS figures reveal that 637 Pandits have been killed by militants since 1990. However, state government figures reveal that only 219 Kashmiri Pandits were killed in the state since 1989.“There were 50 to 60 Pandit families living in Sumbal before the turmoil. All of them have migrated and there is no Pandit living here. We feel incomplete without our Pandit brethren and that is why we have come here to invite them to come back to their homes,” said Jahangir Ahmad, a local resident here.Outside the sanctum sanctorum, hundreds of Muslims distributed walnuts and sweets to mark the festival. “Pandits used to distribute walnuts on this occasion. Today we have fulfilled this ritual on their behalf,” said Showkat Hussain, another resident.A Lonely Temple Situated on the banks of Jhelum, Nand Kishore temple also known as Nandraza temple in Kashmiri houses a holy Shiv Lingum that has been placed at the trunk of the gigantic Chinar which ascends through the roof of sanctum sanctorum.

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Muslims gather at historic temple to mark Mahashivratri