The 6th annual celebration of Kashmiri Hindu Heritage Day was celebrated at the City of North Miami Public Library on January 30, 2016. A large number of Kashmiris along with their friends from across different cultures were present, The mayor of North Miami who graced the occasion, was welcomed by Mr. Gopinath Raina.
The venue was decorated with paintings, calendars, photographs, and traditional arts and crafts from Kashmir. As the guests strolled in, they took time to admire the booths which were full of information material on Kashmiri culture, music, clothing, literature etc.
At the other end of the hall, there was a spread of traditional home-made Kashmiri dishes, including pulao, matz, and palak paneer. Guests were able to savor these foods as they perused the educational stalls, mingled with one another, and generally reminisced about the years gone by.
The program began with the arrival of the City Mayor, Dr. Smith Joseph, at 1:30 pm. After felicitating the chief guest, Gloria Chism welcomed the guests and spoke very warmly about the event. She asked all in attendance to keep in mind the way the people of Kashmir had suffered at the hands of terrorists from across the border.
The cultural program began with Universal Prayers performed by Kashmiri children in attendance, with translations provided by Priyanka Shakher. This was followed by a dance performance by three of our girlsShehjar, Sakshi, and Saanvito the Indian patriotic song, Vande Mataram. The pride of the young girls and the power of music didn’t leave a dry eye in the hall.
At this stage, the Chief guest, the Mayor of the city of Miami, Dr. Smith Joseph, was warmly received by Mr. Gopinath Raina with a bouquet. Mrs. Renuka Kaul then introduced the Mayor who spoke extempore about his Haitian roots and the importance in realizing that in spite of our different backgrounds, we’re all one people, and that the celebration of one culture amounts to a celebration of all cultures. His words had a salutary effect on all those present.
Dr. Smith Joseph then presented a certificate thereby officially declaring January 30, 2016 as Kashmiri Hindu Heritage Day in the city of North Miami.
After the din of the Mayor’s declaration and resounding speech subsided, the program continued with a classical Bharatanatyam dance performed by students of Geeta Dias’s Bollywood Dance Company.
Since the theme of the program was Saints of Kashmir, their dance was a dedication to the teachings of Sage Abhinavgupta, whose philosophy of aesthetics expounded the inherent mysticism of Bharatanatyam dance. Ms. Dias’s students also included a traditional Kashmiri rouf as part of their routinesomething that brought smiles to the faces of many of the guests and a wondrous round of applause.
The highlight of the program was a speech by 10-year-old Sachate Kaul on the history of Kashmiri Shaivism. The initiative that Sachate took to learn about his Kashmiri identity was truly heart-warming. His speech was followed by a guest dance performance by Venezuela Danza y Tambor, a group that put on a lively and colorful show of Venezuelan music and rhythms. Their dance was followed by an original poem by Mrs. Neha Ganju Tanna called “Eak Chitti,” reminiscing about life in the Valley and subsequent exodus of Kashmiri Hindus. Her words were powerful and poignant, and took many of the guests back down memory lane. The wistful expressions were plain to see on the faces of everyone in the audience who grew up in Kashmir.
The end of the program included a presentation of the Kashmiri Shaiva School of Thought. Nina Shakher introduced the long line of Kashmir's Shaiva saints and mystics, portrayed by Kalhan Raina, Savit Kaul, Kunal Patel, Kabir Kaul, Sachet Kaul, and Aditya Patel.
On this occasion, Deepak Ganju introduced the fully illustrated book entitled "Shaiva Thought and Art of Kashmir". Written by a noted Art Historian from Kashmir, Bansi Lall Malla. the just published book book provides a detailed account of the inter-connectedness of nature, culture and cosmology. Providing cosmological interpretation of Kashmir Shaivism and its synthesis with science, the author treats metaphysics of Shaivism in historical perspective. The book very well utilizes the primary sources of images and icons portraying Shaiva themes.
The climax of the function was a Fashion Show by the adults, with each couple and family dressing up in traditional Kashmiri attire, representing the neighborhoods where they grew up. We had Mr. and Mrs. Fatheh Kadal, The Rainawari family, and Mr. and Mrs. Badyar/Shivpoor, to name a few. The fashion showcase was a lot of fun, and elicited so much laughter from those who were around to watch it and participate in it.
Of course, no Kashmiri function is complete without a round of kahwa. Every one gathered around Samavar for some hot tea and warm roth. A group photo marked the end of the fun-filled, educative program.
All in all, the event was a resounding success! The food, music, culture, and history of Kashmiri Pandits were on full display. However. It wasn’t just a program to celebrate our roots and share it with others. It was as important for the participants as it was for the audience. It is because of events like this that our youth understand our culture. It is because of the involvement of every generation of Kashmiri Pundits that our culture, including our festivals, ritual practices, and the way of life can be carried on into the future. Kashmiri Hindu Heritage Day is a day of remembering where we came from, Yes! But, more importantly, it is a day to plan for the future. It is a day that has incredible youth involvement. Thus it bodes well for the future of our diaspora. We’re in good hands.