Chander M. Bhat 
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Village Sirhama - The Land of Rising Sun

by Chander M. Bhat

As the dark paths shed their blindness and Sun sooths to glorify its beauty, the morning dew which enlightens the face of Sun and harmonizes the veils of life. A first glimpse of such tranquility is felt in shrine place of Suryahama.

Suryahama is what we presently know as Sirhama in the Tehsil of Bijbehara. It is 10 km away from Tehsil headquarter. Morning glory of the rising sun at this place can overwhelm and inspire the poetical insanity. Morning glory of the rising sun at this place can be felt any where in area and can inspire any poetical collection in the hearts of those who value the beauties of nature.

Sirhama earned its name from the area, being the seat of Surya Shrine. This is probably that sun scatters its yeast first time in this area in its morning kiss. An idol resembling the morning sun with a baby smile stands to be the prime attraction of this shrine. The well circled idol of Devri stone was placed at the forehead of a little spring facing the morning Sun. Small drops of water from the resting wall of spring kept the idol wet. This place is also known as Gangbal. Muslims of the area also revere this shrine. However the era of militancy also fomented insanity among those who were otherwise pale at the sight of madness. The shrine is on West side of the village in the raving type little valley. Forced conversions were resorted to in this village in the times of Butshikan and Mughals. People were using to bury big earthen posts in the earth to keep the food grains and valuables away from the heartless agents of the rulers. Even valuable treasures of antique idols etc were buried under earth to save them from being desecrated by agents of Afgan rulers and Mughals. Whenever the chest of mother earth in and around Sirhama is opened for construction or other purpose, the glimpses of helplessness of those meek Kashmiri Pandits come to the fore. What a pathetic life they may have had? God! Help their souls now!

Sirhama an apple rich village of Anantnag district nurtures an affluent population. The village is divided into two segments, Hergam and Bongam and the principal divider. Sirhama has principal villages like shrine place Khiram on north-east, Mahind on South and Shaligam on West. There is a mountainous range (part of Ashdhara) which separates Tral from it and has an average height of 3000 to 4000 feet. Sirhama had a thick forest belt in the adjacent hill. Unfortunately same was destroyed by greedy and selfish people. Maharaja Hari Singh was a regular visitor to this hill station for hunting and preying wild fowls for his supper. The fowls usually took refuge in thick forests. The advisors came up with an idea of deforestation to track the fowls easily. Unsuspected Raja allowed it and the whole hill were cleared of thick forests and if anything remained untouched, the locals enjoyed that booty.

There is a Shiva Temple in this village close to the mohalla where Pandits resided. The temple is under a Chinar tree. In the background of the temple there is a Razabal and some idols of Vishnu and other deities where kept inside the trunk of an old tree. These idols were in Devri stones carved like mummy type conical images.

24 house holds were in Sirhama belonging to Kashmiri Pandits. All Pandits were affluent in education and economic prosperity. Only four families held back after mass exodus braving the odds of nineties.

Prior to migration, each family had their own lands and orchards and were fully self reliant. The renowned Tab Bhat family of Sirhama had a leading role to play in the affairs of the village. From implementation of justice to the deaths or births, the family had a role to play for both Muslims and Hindus. Be it legendary Sh. Gopinath Bhat who administered justice by holding regular adalats to decide the disputes among the people or the other namely Hakim Shambo Nath Bhat whose nursing touch is fresh in the memories of elderly people even today. None has forgotten benevolence, mark of welfare and sacrifices of great Pandit Sham Lal Bhat. He was a great name in the political circles. One Sh. Sarvanand Bhat was a yogi and adopted a Brahmcharyi life throughout. People proceeding for Haj pilgrimage used to keep their valuables with the womenfolk of this family before proceeding for the pilgrimage. The foundation stone of Khiram Muslim shrine was laid by Pt. Gopi Nath Bhat. Late Pandit Taba Bhat was a great friend of Maharaja Ranbir Singh and Maharaja Hari Singh.

A drive to this village is paradise along a mountainous path with rich natural scenery. There are number of springs in Sirhama and notable among it is sweet and digestive spring water of Koot Lum. People of Sirhama are primarily orchard owners and apple is the main source of earning. Literacy rate is around eighty percent. Dadi canal [Dadi Koul] flows along the basement of hills and provides irrigation facilities to the village.

This village has had its share of misfortunes. It is said that there was a great spring coming out of the hills of Sirhama. This spring was irrigating a large area of the village. The agents of Afgan rulers used to collect a portion of product as tax for the water irrigating the lands. A Moulvi is said to have been so heartless that even in failure of crops he used to terrorize people for payment of taxes. Once he got nothing from the village and thus ordered blocking of the spring. The spring was permanently blocked leaving no trace of it. One can easily hear the sounds of water fall inside the hill even today.

Another incident of misfortune took place in the year 1948 when a stray group of tribal intruders came to this village to unleash terror and loot Kashmiri Pandits. These ambitious marauders tried to unleash terror by lining a group of Kashmiri Pandits and shot them at point blank range on the day prior to Eid. Late Sh. Sat Lal Bhat was first to get martyrdom and two others Sh. Raghav Bhat and Sh. Tara Chand were injured. They took away ornaments and jewellery from womenfolk. Pandit Sham Lal Bhat and other family members took refuge in thick bushes while Pandit Gopi Nath Bhat and Pandit Shambo Nath Bhat took horses and proceeded to Bijbehara and Anantnag to inform Police and then federal minister Mirza Mohd Afzal Beg. The reinforcements of Police reached Sirhama on the other day. During the night the intruders looked up for Kashmiri Pandits as their target. A brave Muslim namely Sh. Gh. Qadir Rather decided to disarm the intruders and save Pandits. He with the help of some local Muslims prepared a dinner for the looters so that they can be disarmed. As he approached with a lantern in his hand near the intruders they shot at him and killed him. Salutes to his martyrdom! On the next day the marauders proceeded to Khiram for further activities. A pal gloom descended on the village on the day of Eid.

An earthquake of magnitude of over 7 rattled the village during gone by days and brought big blocks of stones from adjacent hill. A big block of stone even toady is named as Bunil Pal. Village Sirhama has variety of wild life in hills. The village is rich with farm animals besides horses and donkeys. It was Cinematographer cum Director Sivam who filmed his venture ‘Tahaan’ in village Sirhama by starring a beautiful donkey in this film. The film was acclaimed for its quality and scenery.

Sirhama in fact looks like a necklace of green diamonds and pearls when greenery is at its helm best.

Generations may come, generations may go but what will ceaselessly make the paths of history would be the glories of morning Sun on the pearl dew at its own place Suryahama.

   

 

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