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Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora in Himachal Pradesh - Bilaspur

By Upender Ambardar

Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh abounding in low hills, forests, grazing lands and rivulets comprises of the areas of Gumarwin, Nambol, Naina Devi, Swara-ghat, Jukhera and Barwana besides the new Bilaspur town. This erstwhile princely state, also known by its ancient name of ‘Kehloor’, founded by a Chandel Rajput Prince Veerchander in 697 A.D. supports a rich past. Organised as a separate state on 12th, October 1948, it was finally integrated in Himachal Pradesh in 1954. Named after the Rishi Vyas, who has penned the epic Mahabarta, the new Bilaspur town situated on the banks of Gobindsagar dam lies on the Shimla-Hamirpur-Mandi route at a distance of 85 kms. from Shimla. The beautiful old Bilaspur town lies engulfed down below in the waters of 225 metre high Gobindsagar water reservoir, the world's highest dam.

Bilaspur is famous for the hallowed spots of Vyas-Cave, Markand, about 25 kms from Bilaspur where Maharishi Markande performed penance, ancient temples of Naina Devi, Lakshmi Narayana and Radhayashyam, besides Asia’s biggest mirror-carp hatchery. It is also home to the worlds’ second highest bridge of Kandror, an engineering marvel, Barmana cement plant and medicinal plant Katha (Acacia Katechu), which is used in pan (Beetle) Bilaspur, still retains a link with the past in the form of Nalwari cattle market fair, observed every year in the third week of March.

The new town of Bilaspur is the adopted home of only four families of our community. Their determination, urge and unshaken resolve to triumph under the alien situations in the distant land has brought them achievement and recognition.

Sh. Amar Nath Mattoo, belonging to Sona Masjid, (Fatehkadal), Srinagar was the first from our community to come to Bilaspur in the year 1947, during the time of Raja Anand Chand, who was the then ruler of the Princely state of Bilaspur from the year 1931 to 1947.

Being M.A. (Hindi, Pol. Science), B.Ed, Sh. Amar Nath Mattoo, joined as a teacher at the State Higher Secondary School, located at Bilaspur proper. He served at the said school up to 1957 and was then transferred to Talai, which is known for Baba Balak Nath Temple. After serving for a few years at Berthein and Auhar, he was transferred back to Bilaspur (old town). In 1955, he was sent to Hr. Sec. School Solan, where he served for three years. Subsequently, after having rendered his services at Nahan, Chamba and Rajpora, he was transferred back to Bilaspur in 1965. His eldest son Sh. Mahraj Krishan Mattoo, being M.Sc. in Chemistry from Ratlam, Ujjain, also joined the state education department as a lecturer in the year 1968. He served at Nahan, Chamba, Bilaspur and later-on retired as Principal from the Government College, Gumarwin. His wife Mrs. Santosh Khosa (Mattoo), M.A. (English), hailing from Chinkral Mohalla, Habbakadal Srinagar, has also served as a lecturer in the state education department at Rajpora and Bilaspur.

One of their sons is married to a Bilaspuri girl, while the younger one, an engineer at Banglore has a Kashmiri speaking girl (daughter of Sh. Pran Nath Tikoo of Talab Tillo, Jammu) as his spouse.

The younger son of Sh. Amar Nath Mattoo namely Dr. V.K. Mattoo is a Professor in the Department of Biosciences in the prestigious Himachal Pradesh University located amidst the idyllic natural surroundings of Summer Hill, Shimla. After having qualified M.Sc. Zoology in the year 1977, he earned P.hd in 1982 from the Himachal Pradesh University itself on the topic of "Honey Bees" Genetic Diversities in the Himalayan Region.” Dr. V.K. Mattoo is married to Dr. Neelam, who is also serving in the Department of Biosciences at Himachal Pradesh University. Dr Neelam Mattoo has obtained her P.H.D. on the topic of 'Honey Plant Resources of Himachal Pradesh' in the year 1989. Though being a Himachali, Dr. Neelam is quite familiar with our cultural and social traits, besides being adapt in Kashmiri cuisines.

During a conversation, she shared her elation for being a part of the said family. One of the daughters of the said Mattoo family Mrs. Indu (B.Sc. B.Ed.), a Headmistress at the government school is married in a Bilaspuri family of Sankhain. Their second daughter Mrs. Shashi , B.A. B.Ed, married in a Sharma family is settled at the picturesque spot of Chail, her husband being a businessman. One more daughter Mrs. Kumud Sharma (M.A. Hindi, B.Ed) is a teacher at Government School at Arki in Solan district, her husband being an Ayurvedic doctor at Arki itself. Except for Mrs. Mattoo and her eldest son's family, who are Kashmiri speaking, the rest of the family members can only understand it.

One more Kashmiri family of Bilaspur is that of Sh. Jagar Nath Ganjoo. Hailing from Sopore, he first came to Bilaspur in the year 1950. Starting from humble beginnings of a steno, he by dint of sheer hard work and dedicated efforts, rose to become a tehsildar in Himachal Pradesh government. His wife Smt. Jaikishori also hails from Sopore.

One of their sons, Sh. Surinder Ganjoo, a Manager in UCO Bank and presently posted at Chandigarh is married in a Bilaspuri family, while another son Sh.Suresh Ganjoo is an engineer in the state P.W.D. Their daughter Mrs. Surekha is married to Mr. V.K. Upadhyay also of Bilaspur, who is a Superintending Engineer in Prasar Bharati. Rs. Sucheta, another daughter married in a Sharma family is presently settled at Shimla. Excepting for Mr. and Mrs. Ganjoo, who are still Kashmiri speaking the rest of the family members can only understand their mother-tongue. Mr. Manmohan Kath, the original resident of Anantnag first came to Bilaspur in the year 1955 and is now permanently settled here. He has served as a District Industries Officer of Bilaspur. His lone son, having a business of his own in Bilaspur is married to a Kashmiri speaking girl Mrs. Jyoti of Umanagri, Anantnag.

Mr Manmohan Kath, himself is non-Kashmiri speaking but can only understand it as he had come-out of Kashmir at the tender age of fourteen. One more family of our community at Bilaspur is that of Mr. P.N. Bhat, a Development officer in L.I.C., who is a post 1990 settler there. His lone son is also running a business of his own at Bilaspur itself.

Inspite of their cultural isolation, all the four Kashmiri families of Bilaspur still carry the nostalgic memories of Kashmir. In tune with their traditional roots, the celebration of 'Heyrth' (Shivratri), 'Navreh' and 'Pun' continue to occupy a place of pride in their socio-religious lives. Further, the wearing of the traditional 'Dejhhor', still being adored by them testifies to their unshaken veneration for their moorings.

All of them have earned success and distinction in life by sheer hard labour and efforts and in the process have carved out a niche in their respective fields in the distant land. My interaction with my community members was a rewarding experience, making me to feel proud of their achievements and success in their respective lives.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



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