Hindu Temple, Muslim Priests

4 May 2009
Tribune News Service


Mamal: This is a place where politicians need to come and take a few lessons in secularism. After militancy forced Hindus to migrate from the Kashmir valley in the 1990s, Muslims have been acting as “priests” and “caretakers” of the ancient Mamalaka Temple on the outskirts of Pahalgam. Not only has this 900-year-old Shiva temple with a two-foot “shivaling” been preserved in its original form, Mohammad Abdullah and Ghulam Hassan have ensured that all these years the temple did not go without “parshad” or “aarti” even for a single day. Besides the regular rituals, a daily prayer is held here in which the Muslim priests pray for the return of the Hindus, who had migrated. Built on the right bank of the Lidder river by Raja Jai Suria (1128-1155 AD), the 8 sq ft temple was a popular destination for everyone on a pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave shrine. Till 1990, the temple, a property of the Jammu and Kashmir State Archaeology, Archives and Museum Department and a protected monument, had Pandit Radha Krishan, who hailed from Ganeshpora, responsible for its maintenance. But with militancy rising in the 1990s, Pandit Radha Krishan was made to leave along with other Hindus of the area, abandoning the temple. Initially, Abdul Bhatt, who was close to Pandit Radha Krishan, looked after the temple for many years. Bhatt was transferred from the area about five years ago and ever since Mohammad Abdullah and Ghulam Hassan, both employees of the government, were entrusted the task of maintaining the building and its surrounding. However, not satisfied by merely keeping the temple clean, the two have ensured that the temple remains fully functional despite threats from the militants. The temple continues to be preserved in its original form in its eight-by-eight premises. It houses the entire family of Lord Shiva comprising Ganesha, Mata Parvati and Hanuman carved in stone. Besides, the temple has a natural spring that fills the holy pond. According to Abdullah, during the last two-three years, the number of Hindu devotees to the temple has increased slightly. These include some visiting Hindu families that left the area as well as tourists, who know about the place. Talking to The Tribune, he said, “We have guarded this place for the Hindus. It is their “amanat”. But now the situation has improved. We want that a Hindu priest should take over this holy place. Being Muslims, we tried to do whatever best we could to keep the temple functional, but it should ideally be run by a Hindu priest”. Further Abdullah and Hassan say their daily prayer includes a special mention to the Hindus when they say, “Lord, the heaven on earth is here in the valley. Please facilitate the return of our Hindu brothers from the hell outside”.