STATE TIMES NEWS
GANDERBAL/JAMMU: Thousands of Kashmiri Pandits and devotees on Sunday visited the Mata Kheer Bhawani Temple on the auspicious occasion of Jyeshtha Ashtami here at Tullamulla Ganderbal.
Every year, on this auspicious day, Kheer Bhawani Mela is organized at Mata Kheer Bhawani Temple in Tulmulla, Ganderbal and devotees from different parts of Jammu and Kashmir visit the holy shrine here.
Kheer Bhawani is considered to be the deity of Kashmiri Pandits, who have a lot of recognition there. Over the years, the Kheer Bhawani Mela has become a symbol of communal harmony and brotherhood in Kashmir.
The religious sanctity of Mata Kheer Bhawani Temple, built atop a holy spring, has a special spiritual significance among Kashmiri Pandit devotees across the world.
The Tulmulla area of district Ganderbal witnessed enthusiastic scenes as a large number of devotees arrived here, who paid obeisance and prayed for the entire humanity.
As the number of devotees this year were huge in numbers the arrangements made by the J&K Dharmarth Trust was upto the mark as many visitors praised the facilities provided during the religious congregation at the shrine.
Brig R S Langeh, President Dharmarth Trust himself took the lead and monitored the facilities being extended to the devotees ensuring that not even a single visitor faces any difficulty or hardship during the pilgrimage.
Addressing the devotees, Trust’ President said that Dharmarth Trust under the patronage of Chairman Trustee Dr Karan Singh has been providing upto the mark facilities to the devotees visiting this shrine on annual basis since last so many years.
He however said that due to turmoil and other exigencies the number of devotees was down in the past but this year the number has again swollen and hustle bustle in the shrine is back.
He praised the Government of J&K for standing shoulder to shoulder with the Trust this time in making the arrangements fool proof besides providing security for the pilgrims.
Giving exact details, he said that Kheer Bhawani Mela’s sheen is back with a good number of visitors after a gap of about five years.
He said that support by the locals also holds great significance in making this annual event successful as their support changes the dynamics of the event and people feel comfortable with enthusiastic surroundings.
He said, “As a convention since ages, a large number of Muslims also become part of this religious congregation making the event complete in all senses”.
He thanked the civil administration and the J&K Police for the support and moral boost which led to grandiose conduct of this religious event amidst Valley.
Deputy Commissioner Ganderbal inspected the arrangements and enquired about the facilities being provided to the devotees. Full attention was given to ensure that devotees do not face any issue.
Mostly Kashmiri Pandits were seen performing the rituals of the festival at the temple besides that Muslims were seen greeting pandits and making arrangements.
Pertinently, the District Administration had made necessary arrangements for uninterrupted power and drinking water supplies, transport, security, fire tenders, ration, bedding, medical camps, and medical facilities at the temple besides free transport facility was also made for the devotees on various routes.
Several NGOs and civil society had also made arrangements to provide wheelchairs and other aids for the convenience of the devotees during the Mela.
The devotees, walking barefoot, carried rose petals and offered tribute to the goddess as men took a dip in the stream close to the shrine.
As the devotees jostled with each other to move closer to the main temple complex, the chants of hymns echoed through the temple compound and paid obeisance to the deity while offering milk and kheer (rice pudding) at the sacred spring within the complex.
The mela, a symbol of communal harmony, passed off peacefully as the administration had made elaborate arrangements, including security related, for the devotees.
Gudi Zutshi, a devotee from Jammu, said their pooja’ is incomplete without visiting the temple shrine on the occasion of the annual mela held on the birthday of the deity.
“She is our deity. It is an important day for us and without her, our pooja is incomplete, so we have to come here to celebrate her birthday. The deity has taken the form of water here. The colour of the stream keeps on changing when something happens,” she said.
It is believed that the colour of the sacred spring water which flows below the temple indicates the situation in the Valley.
While most of the colours do not have any particular significance, the black or darkish colour of the water is believed to be an indication of inauspicious times for Kashmir. However, the water in the spring was clean and milky white this year.
Zutshi said last year when she was here, she had witnessed that the colour of the stream water was red, apparently referring to the several attacks on the minority community in the Valley.
“Its colour turned black when there was Corona. The same happened when the Kargil war happened,’ she added.
However, she said, this year, the colour of the water was very good. It means there will be prosperity in Kashmir, Jammu and Delhi. “We want prosperity everywhere. Today, the situation is good in Kashmir. The arrangements are good for the mela.”
Zutshi said as the situation had improved in the Valley, they prayed for the return of the community members who had left Kashmir in the early 1990s.
“We want to return to Kashmir. We miss the place. Though we come almost every year, we want to return to our homeland permanently. We have prayed for the happiness and prosperity of everyone and the return of Kashmiri Pandits to Kashmir,” she said.
Another devotee, Dileep, said there was about 80-85 per cent improvement in the situation from the 1990s in Kashmir.
“We also want to return to our homeland. We pray whenever we come here and today as well we prayed for our return,” he said.
Asked if the community was wary of targeted killings that took place last year, Dileep said that such incidents happen, we cannot say anything on that. “But the situation is good now”.
“We want that brotherhood back. Our Muslim brothers also want that,” he added. Bilal Bhat, a local, said the Muslim community welcomed the guests with open arms and wanted Kashmiri Pandits to return to the Valley.
“Every year we celebrate this festival. It is an unbelievable, unexpected crowd here. We have kept open our houses for our guests. We want this love, brotherhood and peace we see here to remain forever,” he said.
Additional Director General of Police, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar also paid obeisance at the shrine. He said, “Ganderbal Police has made very good security arrangements. Srinagar police had also deployed ROP (road opening parties). There is foolproof security and the locals have supported the police as well. I wish all of them well.”
Meanwhile, in Jammu, thousands of migrant Kashmiri Pandits on Sunday offered prayers to goddess Ragnya Devi on the occasion of Zaisht Ashtami’ at Kheer Bhawani Peeth in the Janipur area.
The peeth’ was constructed as a replica of the original shrine in Tulmulla after the mass migration of the community from the Valley in the early 1990’s.
“We missed a visit to Tulmulla this time and decided to offer our prayers here We are witnessing the same atmosphere which used to prevail at the Kheer Bhawani shrine in Kashmir during the annual fair,” Ratika, a devotee who visited the Jammu temple, said.
Raj Kumar, another devotee, said he had never visited Tulmulla shrine but is a regular visitor here. “There is a festive look with a massive gathering of pandits on the auspicious occasion of Zaisht Ashtami,” he said, expressing his desire to visit Tulmulla shrine and resettle in his Budgam home town one day.
The management of the temple, Ardh Ratri Maha Regheneya Sewa Sanstha Trust, had set up several stalls for the convenience of the devotees, who thronged the tastefully decorated shrine to offer their prayers in their traditional way. A member of the trust said the sanstha, with the help of local authorities, had made adequate arrangements for the smooth conduct of the festival at the peeth.