Dyuti Khulbe brings out a story of Kashmiri Muslims of a north Kashmir village, who are helping build a Pandu temple, the second-largest temple of Kashmir after Shankaracharya while making monthly contributions.
“Aham Brahmasmi,” says Naik Baba climbing upstairs that lead to Pandu Mandir in Lagama. “It means, ‘I am one with the Universe.’ And, therefore, I am one with the nature that includes trees, animals, water, air and humans.”
He takes a pause to catch his breath, smiles and continues, “When it is in the fundamentals of beings to be in unity, there is no distinction between Hindus and Muslims.”
Lagama village, located 4 km from Uri on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway and with Pakistan 20 km away, is quite a low-key village which did not see the frenzy during the internal displacement of Kashmiri Pandits.
It was the village that remained unaffected and where Kashmiri Pandits looked for refuge.
“My family did not want to leave Kashmir during the 1990s. Lagama, known for its brotherhood and unity, was the only place where we could have moved and resettled our lives,” says Dimpy, a former resident of Srinagar.
The importance of Lagama village stems out of its Kashmiri Pandit population and the fact that it is, along with Bandi village, the only Hindu-majority village in Kashmir.
The population of Lagama village is around 2000 to 2500 of which 70-80 families are Hindu.
The Hindu-Muslim unity of the village, which was quite popular, recently came to light with the renovation of the Pandu temple.
“The people of our village firmly believe in the saying ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’ Even during the years of militancy and the internal displacement, the people of our village kept their commitment of loyalty to each other,” says an elderly local vendor of Lagama.
The plan to renovate the Pandu temple into Kashmir’s second-largest temple after Shankaracharya came to being three years ago when Naik Baba travelled all across from Bhubaneshwar, Odhisha to Uri, Kashmir.
“The land where the Pandu temple stands is considered an ancient holy spot where Pandavas are said to have resided for a while. The Pandu Mandir Committee held a meeting on 21 June 2015 where the committee members, with the help of Muslim brothers, took the initiative to revive the temple,” Naik Baba says.
Approximately Rs 37 lakhs have been spent on the construction of the temple where local villagers donated graciously on a monthly basis for three years.
“Our Muslim brothers too offered their help in the making of the temple. They also participated and seemed to be happy in our day of happiness,” says Naresh Singh Sharma, who was born and brought up amidst peace in Lagama.
Talking about growing up in Lagama, Akmal Chacha, who uncertainly assumes himself to be in between 75 to 80 years of age, says, “Since my childhood, we go to each other’s house to just sit and chat like in our own families. We enjoy a lot during the weddings as it is the time when we all get engaged in work and our village is just one big family making arrangements for the wedding together.”
Akmal Chacha is the elder of the village who owns a tea shop.
The temple was inaugurated by the Deputy Commissioner Baramulla, Nasir Ahmad Naqash, who also later joined the Langar meal of the temple.
He felt happy that people of Lagama took the initiative of reconstructing the ancient Pandu temple.
The importance of places like Lagama, which teach us the fundamentals of unity and simplicity, is somewhere being forgotten and lost amidst the conflict that runs in the Valley.
People of Lagama are determined to not let the conflict affect their peaceful lives.
“There is strength in unity and weakness in the division,” says Akmal Chacha who reminisces his father’s wise words. “I don’t think that the conflict will be able to touch us as long as we stand together.”