Kashmiri Hindus preserving and passing culture to next generation in Australia

The celebrations were filled with ancient Kashmiri traditions from the land of Sage Kashyap.

The Kashmiri Pandits Association of NSW (KPA NSW) recently organised Diwali celebrations in Sydney. The celebrations were filled with ancient Kashmiri traditions from the land of Sage Kashyap (Kashmir gets its name from the Hindu Sage Kashyap).

In Kashmiri Hindu culture, auspicious occasions and events are celebrated with pious chants or hymns known as Wanwun. Wanwun is couplets or pairs of lines traditionally sung in a very slow tempo by the ladies of the household/community. Based on Samveda, Wanwun is a prayer to the Almighty for the smooth and joyful completion of an auspicious event.

Singing Wanwun is believed to induce positive vibrations that help overcome obstacles and appease deities. Thus, it has more than social and cultural significance as it serves as a way to attract peace into our lives and surroundings. The guests at the celebrations got a chance to hear the soothing sounds of the Wanwun sung by a group of talented Kashmiri ladies. Subsequently Sonia Khosa spoke about the significance of Wanwun during the event.

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Wanwun singing at Diwali celebrations

The event included a poem recital by Anjali Bangroo Srivastava written by her in Kashmiri. The poem meant – we all keep postponing things to tomorrow especially when it comes to expressing love, to our own family and friends. We have to remember what we have is Now and who knows what tomorrow will bring. Life is unpredictable and the only moment we have is now. So whatever we need to do, express love, gratitude or forgiveness we must do it now and not wait for tomorrow. We need to wake up to this reality as everything is lost if we lose our loved ones and then we regret and spend our life in “what if’s”.

The guests were also left mesmerised by Ekta Dhar’s beautiful rendition of a Kashmiri song.

Sudhir Raina, President, Kashmiri Pandit Association, NSW said “After the Covid years spent largely in isolation, we deeply felt that the human need for culture and festivities that involve large physical gatherings, will bring the community together. The first opportunity came in the form of Diwali this year”.

Ashwani Trackroo, Vice President, Kashmiri Pandit Association, NSW, told The Australia Today that the Kashmiri Hindu community within Sydney is pretty small but very cohesive and vibrant. “KPA NSW organizes at least 3-4 functions every year to bring the community together under one roof. These functions comprise religious events like Havan as well as cultural functions on the occasion of Shivratri and Diwali. We want to ensure that our kids imbibe the rich Kashmiri cultural values and ethos that need to be passed on to the next generations. Getting uprooted from Kashmir shouldn’t be an excuse to erode our culture, We need to preserve it and pass it on to the next generation”. 

“After the release of the historically accurate movie “The Kashmir Files” earlier in the year, there has been an urge in the Indian, Kashmiri Hindu community to connect, and to be given the chance to do so by celebrating a joyous festival such as Diwali, as one, was met with much enthusiasm. With both older and younger generations participating in the traditional Rouf, a retelling of Ramayan and Bollywood dance, it can surely be said that no matter which corner of the world we may end up in, India will remain an integral part of us for generations to come”, said Youth Wing Leader of KPA NSW Sheen Khar.

Women at the event were seen wearing Athoor around their ear which is made up of silver or other colourful thread. It is a tradition within Kashmiri Community and is considered to be auspicious to wear this during important events like marriage, festivals, birthdays, housewarming functions etc.

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The celebrations included the traditional Kashmiri dance Rouf. It is performed by Kashmiri women and is one of the most famous dance forms practised in Kashmir Valley. This dance has been a part of Kashmiri life since ancient times.

Indian origin Councillor Reena Jethi with Diaspora women wearing Fehran (Fehran is a traditional Indian dress worn by women in the region of Kashmir)