Culture

Only 300 Pandits visit Kheer Bhawani this year, Australian ‘Shiv Bhakt’ regular for a decade gives a miss too

 

June 12, 2016

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The celebration is all around, for the Mela the temple compound is decorated with lights, in the Tulmul area of Ganderbal. Kashmiri Hindus (Pandits) from around the world have gathered at the temple of Godess Bhawani, built around the sacred pool fed by a spring.

People light up diyas, earthen lamps and the fragrance from incense sticks, and the families meet.

In the shade of a century-old mighty Chinar, in the premises of Khir Bhawani, George Van Den Barselaar is resting on a chair.

An engineer by profession, 64-years old Barselaar is a follower of Kashmiri Shivisim.

“Every spiritual life is a journey and mine began in Kashmir in 1972,” he says. Gorge was 31 when he first visited Kashmir, and fell in love with Kashmiri Shivism. He studied it for a decade under the guidance of Swami Lakshmanjoo.

“I was born in a Christian family that was not rigid in practicing religion. In Kashmir I became associated with Shivism and helped Swamiji’s trust in publishing books and circulating them in America and Australia,” he says, opening a book to find a photograph of himself.

“This is young me, when I was a student of Shivism,” he says, wearing a smile on his wrinkled face.

George believes that all religions have the same theme that “God is one”, but different approaches. And Kashmir Shivism, he insists, “is the best path for meditation”.

He visits Kashmir almost every year to be at Ishwar Ashram trust at Nishat, Srinagar. His wife too has visited the place. He comes to set-up a bookstall at Khir Bhawani, for books on the life and teachings of Lakshmanjoo.

“History has it that many Kashmiri Muslims are actually third fourth generation Hindus. I feel very bad for the younger generations of Kashmir because they are losing touch with their traditions; the departure of Kashmir pandits has disturbed the social setup completely,” he says.

Kheer Bhawani has been Kashmiri Pandits’ vital connection to Kashmir. And reduction in the number of visitors is the only change Barselaar has noticed at the temple after 1990.

“Except the decline in the number of devotees visiting the temple, there is no change here. There is no change in the way they (devotees) do their religious rituals here,” he says.

Kashmir, he feel is best place for meditation, cool, calm and colorful. The air is filled with piousness and natural surroundings give an arrangements of nature to enlighten yourself with.

“East is going to the west,” he continues, “and the west is coming to the east. Despite their rich traditional and cultural values, people here, unfortunately, tend to follow the West. It is a cause of concern”.

Present Day

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People light up diyas, earthen lamps yet again, and the fragrance from incense sticks spreads around, the families meet each other, yet again. But his year the turnout is extremely low.

On inquiring, a pilgrim says that the Pandit organisations in Jammu had a meeting, and decided not to come, because a police officer was kidnapped. It seemed as an excuse. The reason, it feels, is the lack of sense of security, and prior commitments of a community scattered.

George Van Den Barselaar was nowhere to be found.

 


1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. George van den Barselaar

    August 25, 2017 at 3:22 PM

    This article may be interesting, but the embellishments of the writer are quite misleading.

    For the record, please note the following corrections.

    At the time of this interview, George van den Barselaar was attending the annual festival at Kheer Bhavani shrine, which is held each year on Asthami in May/June. He was sitting under a chinnar tree, and not surrounded by candles or lamps.

    George came from a devout Catholic family (not Methodist), who were very liberal, and who all learned and practiced Transcendental Meditation for more than 40 years. He started TM in 1972, and later, at the age of 31, with the permission of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the TM program, George went to Kashmir to study with the renowned Shaivite Saint and Scholar, Swami Lakshmanjoo.

    All legitimate spiritual traditions lead to God. Kashmir Shaivism, is a particular tradition, the practices of which can be adopted by anyone, irrespective of caste, creed, color or gender. One of its teachings – The Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra – poses 112 practices for achieving the state of Bhairava.

    The rest of the article is somewhat embellished, but not enough to be misleading.

    God bless…
    George van den Barselaar
    Friday 25th August, 2017

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