Kashmir, often called the “Paradise on Earth,” has a long history of religious diversity, multiculturalism, and ideological inclusiveness. The coexistence of Buddhism and Hinduism before the advent of Islam, followed by a harmonious blend of Muslims and Hindus, is a testament to the region’s legacy of peace and respect for pluralism.
Kashmir’s Unique Interfaith Exchange
Before the winds of change, people from various faiths lived in harmony in Kashmir. Vijay Kumar Malla, a Hindu, sang soulful hymns praising Prophet Muhammad. At the same time, maestros like Gulzar Ganai, Tibet Baqal, and others celebrated Hindu deities through devotional songs, such as Bhajans and Leelas.
The Role of Scholars and Sages
Scholars and poets like Mir Ghulam Rasool Nazki were crucial in bridging the gap between religious communities. They explained the subtleties of Shaivism and Hindu Philosophy to their Muslim counterparts. The lodges of sages like Krishan Joo and Laxman Joo Razdan were sought after by people of all religions for spiritual guidance and blessings.
Mahatma Gandhi’s Perspective
Even during the tumultuous 1747 partition of India, when communal tensions were rampant in other parts of the country, Kashmir stood as a beacon of coexistence and peace. Mahatma Gandhi noted the indistinguishable unity between Hindu and Muslim Kashmiris, united by a common language and culture.
The Era of Betrayal and Communalism
However, with the rise of insurgency in Kashmir, the legacy of pluralism has been betrayed, leading to the departure of Kashmiri Pandits. External forces exploited this to fuel communalism, dividing communities that once shared meals and celebrated each other’s festivals and mourning.
Navigating Challenges to Preserve Kashmir’s Pluralism
Kashmir’s legacy of pluralism faces challenges in the modern era, but its rich history of coexistence and harmony provides valuable lessons for the world. Nurturing the spirit of unity and mutual respect while countering extremism is essential to preserve Kashmir’s unique cultural tapestry.
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