ARVIND SHARMA/FARZANA SYED
In a dazzling display of communal harmony, the festival of lights, Diwali, adorned Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir with vibrant lights, captivating earthen lamps, and festively decorated houses.
Temples across the city glowed with divine illumination as devotees gathered in large numbers to offer prayers and seek blessings. Colourful patterns adorned the night sky as firecrackers lit up various areas, creating a lively and jubilant atmosphere.
The markets in Jammu buzzed with activity as residents indulged in shopping for home decor and thoughtful gifts for their loved ones.
Transforming into a festive wonderland for the past three to four days, Jammu sparkled with colorful lights and buntings that adorned homes, shops, and businesses. The main markets of Jammu City, including Raghunath Bazar, Canal Road, Jewel areas, Gole Market in Gandhi Nagar, Parade Ground markets, Super Bazar, and Purani Mandi, witnessed a delightful rush of shoppers.
Meanwhile, in Kashmir, local residents from Kashmiri Pandit and Hindu communities, donned in their finest attire, were seen engaging in sweet exchanges, visiting temples, and warmly greeting each other on this joyous occasion.
Breaking barriers of religion and community, the people of Kashmir transcended boundaries, exchanging Diwali greetings and sharing sweets with fellow citizens. The cityscape echoed with the sounds of firecrackers, and notably, members of the Muslim community visited the homes of their Hindu and Sikh neighbours, extending warm wishes and participating in sweet exchanges.
Muneeb Ahmad, a resident of the old city in Kashmir, shared, "We celebrate Diwali with our Kashmiri Pandit friends every year. We always pray that this festival of lights fosters peace and tranquillity in our valley."
The celebrations at the Gurduwara in the Baghat area added to the effervescence, with people reveling in joy and enthusiasm. In neighborhoods like Karan Nagar, Habba Kadal, Lal Chowk, and Boulevard Road, non-local residents joined the festivities, bursting fireworks in celebration.
Government buildings adorned with lights reflected the festive spirit, while bustling crowds gathered outside sweet shops in the city. Markets and sweet shops across Srinagar witnessed a surge in activity as residents immersed themselves in shopping and decorating their homes. Muslims in Kashmir actively joined the festivities, extending warm wishes and celebrating Diwali with minority communities.
A member of the Kashmiri Pandit community expressed, "This festival brings joy and peace in our lives. We pray to God for happiness and unity among us. On this occasion, we pray for peace and prosperity in the Kashmir Valley."
Reflecting on the significance of Diwali for Kashmiri Pandits, Vikas stated, "Diwali is one of the oldest rituals for Kashmiri Pandits, mentioned in Nilmat Puran. The celebration is followed by Amavasya, during which elders observe fasts and worship Goddess Laxmi after sunset. Beautifully lit earthen lamps adorn various places, and people rejoice with festivity and merry-making."
Gift shops, sweet shops, and grocery stores experienced significant footfall, resonating with the festive spirit. Government-authorized firecracker stalls near Maharaja Hari Singh Park drew large crowds as people purchased fireworks for their celebrations, with the administration ensuring elaborate safety measures.
However, the joyous occasion led to traffic jams across the city, with congestion observed in areas adjoining major markets due to the influx of people.
In Jammu, the markets were adorned itself with a festive aura, featuring colorful lights, diyas, candles, and buntings in every corner. According to Hindu mythology, Diwali symbolizes the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after defeating the demon king Ravana and spending fourteen years in exile (vanvas). In line with a tradition spanning thousands of years, people lit diyas to symbolize the welcome of Lord Rama to Ayodhya.