Muslim Priests At 900-Yr-Old Shiva Temple In Kashmir
8 July 2009
: Situated on the banks of the icy Lidder river, a 900-year old Shiva temple is the only Hindu shrine in Kashmir valley which has Muslim priests. After the migration of Kashmiri Pandits from a nearby village, two Muslim priests - Mohmmad Abdullah and Ghulam Hassan kept the doors of the Mamalaka temple open and bells continued to toll. 'We not only took care of temple but also held 'aartis' everyday,' Ghulam Hasan told a correspondent. Besides ensuring the safety of the 3-feet-long black stone 'shivaling', Abdullah and Hassan have ensured no devotee goes without prasad even for a single day. Built by Raja Jai Suria, the temple was once a must stop over for pilgrims going to the Amarnath cave shrine in South Kashmir Himalayas. The temple was for long run by a local association of Kashmir Pandits headed by Pandit Radha Krishen. After his migration from Kashmir in 1989, the temple became a property of the state archaeology, archives and museum department and a protected monument. While leaving, Pandit gave the charge of the temple to his friend Abdul Bhat, a Muslim, and asked him to keep the gates of the temple open. Keeping the promise, Bhat took care of the temple till his transfer from the area in 2004. After that Mohammad Abdullah and Ghulam Hassan were entrusted with the task of maintaining the temple. 'We have faith in Lord Shiva. We not only maintained the temple, undertook repairs but also ensured that the temple remains fully functional despite threats from the militants,' they said. 'We have fulfilled our task of guarding this shrine for Kashmiri Pandits. It is theirs. We wish they return and take back the control of the temple,' they said. The temple, which has images of Ganesha, Parvati and Hanuman carved in stone, also houses a natural spring. During the last four years, the number of Hindu devotees to the temple has increased slightly, they said adding these include some visiting Kashmiri Pandit families that left the area as well as tourists.