Baltal – The annual Amarnath Yatra to the holy cave shrine in the south Kashmir Himalayas has been a shining example of Hindu-Muslim bonhomie as the local population has not only welcomed, but assisted the hundreds and thousands of Shiva devotees in their arduous journey of faith.
The support of the local Muslims has been instrumental for a smooth conduct of the pilgrimage year after year, irrespective of the political atmosphere or security scenario in the rest of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Muslims put up tents for the yatris to stay, provide palanquins and pony services for those devotees who cannot undertake the difficult trek to the 3,888-metre-high cave shrine housing a naturally formed ice-lingam — the edifice of Lord Shiva. And they are also the first responders in case of any emergency.
The services have more to do with keeping the traditional communal harmony alive than the economic aspects.
“The necessary arrangements and other things that we need are taken care of by our Muslim brothers. From cleanliness to the ‘prasad’, pony, palkis — all the help is rendered by local Muslims. This brotherhood is an example for the world. I have not witnessed a better example of brotherhood than this anywhere else and I travel across India,” Sadhu Nagaraj, here for the yatra, said.
A local who works as a caretaker for the belongings of the pilgrims said they provide their services for free because of the age-old brotherhood.
“We come here for the yatris. We keep their bags, cameras, mobile phones here and take care of those for free. This is our brotherhood. We are keeping Kashmiriyat alive,” he said.
Expressing satisfaction over the support of the Muslims, a pilgrim said the locals have left no stone unturned to make the yatra successful.
“The locals have provided a huge support. They have left no stone unturned. If we seek one item from them, they provide two,” the yatri said.
For the locals, the yatra is also an opportunity to earn their livelihood.
“We come here when the yatra starts. We earn our livelihood for the month by carrying the bags of the yatris up to the holy cave and back. The yatris cannot carry the heavy bags, so we carry those for them,” a man who carries the pilgrims’ bags on his shoulders for a to-and-fro mountainous journey of about 25 kilometres said.
“We carry the pilgrims, especially the older ones, on palkis. We carry them on our shoulders. It also provides us an opportunity to earn our livelihood,” another local service provider who carries the yatris on palanquins said.
For many locals, the yatra symbolises Hindu-Muslim unity.
“We Muslims help the Hindu community members. It symbolises our unity,” one of them said.
Another appealed to Hindus across the country to come for the yatra, saying there is no danger or trouble in Kashmir.
“We are ready to welcome you and lend you every help,” he added.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.