The Bold Voice of J&K

Tulmulla-An Abode of Mata Kheer Bhawani

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Omkar Dattatray

This year Mela Kheer Bhawani falls on 14th of June Friday 2024 and it is expected that on this occasion, people in large numbers will throng Tulmulla, offer prayers and seek blessings from the goddess and people will pray for world peace and welfare of humanity. Tulmulla is rightly an abode or dwelling place of Mata Kheer Bhawani and the feminine power resides in this picturesque village. The legend is it, that Mata Ragnya Bhagwati which Kheer Bhawani is also called was pleased on the penance of Ravana the then king of Shri Lanka and he took her to Lanka. But she was dismayed by the demonic works of Ravana and told Hanuman to lift her to Kashmir ,where she permanently resides at village Tulmul. Kheer Bhawani, Ksheer Bhawani or Ragnya Devi shrine is a Hindu temple situated at a distance of 25 Kms north-east of Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir’s Tulmulla village in Ganderbal district. It is dedicated to Hindu goddess Kheer Bhawani whose temple stands in the middle of a scared spring and it is believed that the color of this spring changes and generally it is milky, but it turns red when some big misfortune falls and thus it has been seen that on the onset of militancy in Kashmir and the resultant exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits, the color of this holy spring turned red and it was the forewarning for the big misfortune that happened in the paradise of the world. As is the custom with Hindu deities ,the goddess has many names including Ragnya or Rajna ,along with variations in honorifics such as Devi, Mata or Bhagwati. The term Kheer refers to a milk and rice pudding which is so dear to Mata and it is offered to propitiate the goddess .Kheer Bhawani is sometimes translated as Milk Goddess .The worship of Kheer Bhawani is universal among the Hindus of Kashmir and most of them worship her as their protective patron deity Kuladevi. The sacred spring here has its own attached belief and the Kashmiri Pandits hold this shrine in great reverence and veneration and it is believed that Mata Kheer Bhawani fulfills the desires of the devotees who worship her with great dedication. An yearly mela is held on the occasion of Zyishta Ashtami which falls in the Hindu month of Zaishta in the second fortnight of the month called Shukal Paksh Ashtami.
On this auspicious day ,people from far and wide visit this shrine, offer Kheer, milk, flower, water and seek blessings of goddess. On this pious occasion, KP’s and other Hindus from Delhi ,Jammu and other places visit Tulmulla and seek blessings of goddess Ragnya Bhagwati. J&K government should be commended and praised for arranging free buses, boarding and lodging for the yatris .There is great hustle and bustle on the occasion of Zyishta Ashtami and Kashmiri Pandits observe fast on this day to propitiate goddess .Kashmiri Pandits also observe fast on every Shukalpaksh Ashtami and it is peculiar that Kashmiri Pandits only observe fast on the Ashtami of Shukalpaksh throughout the year and there is a great legend associated with the fasting. The observance of fasting on Shukla Paksha Ashtami by Kashmiri Pandits is a testament to their unwavering faith and devotion to Mata Kheer Bhawani. The fast by Kashmiri Pandits is on the Shukla Paksha Ashtami of every month is not only a religious ritual ,but a proof of their unwavering faith ,devotion and communion with the goddess. .The KP’s where ever they are abstain from eating mutton ,fish ,eggs chicken ,onion ,tomato and, carrot on this auspicious day .The Kheer Bhawni mela is the largest gathering of Hindus in the region following the Amarnath Pilgrimage .Maharaja Partap Singh of Jammu and Kashmir and Maharaja Hari Singh contributed to building and renovation of the temple .Dr Karan Singh has unflinching faith and belief in Ragnya Bhagwati and he usually pays visits to this shrine off and on .There are other temples/shrines dedicated to Kheer Bhawani in Kashmir,such as Mata Kheer Bhawani temple at Tikker , Kupwara, Manzgam in Kulgam district and a shrine of Tripur Sundari at village Devsar also in Kulgam district and at all these shrines mela is held on Zyastha Ashtami and large number of devotees offer prayer at these sacred places. The Kheer Bbhawani mela or festival sees the annual congregation of Kashmiri Hindus, other pilgrims and tourists .The mela is called as Jyeshtha Aahtami mela or popularly known as Kheer Bhawani mela .It is a public holiday in Kashmir division. Kashmiri Pandits celebrate this Mela with great enthusiasm ,fervor ,devotion and dedication to Mata Kheer Bhawani .In every Kashmiri Pandit household Kheer is prepared on this day and offered to goddess and then its Prasad is taken .The mela was threatened during terrorism and Hindu exodus of 1990.Mela was restored with dedicated efforts of Indian army contingent placed at Ganderbal .Now contingent of 115 BN CRPF is deployed at temple complex for so many years. This shrine is one of the few exceptions where Hindu priests never left the Mandir despite serious terrorist threats .The mention of Kheer Bhawani is found in Kalhana’s Rajtarangini .Kalhana writes that the sacred spring of Tulmula is situated in a marshy ground .Thousands of years ago, floods inundated the spring and temple .Kashmir’s Yogi Krishana Pandit Thaploo of Bohri Kadal ,Srinagar had a dream in which goddess appeared to him and directed him to the location of the holy spring .It is also mentioned in the Bhrigu Samhita. Abu’l -Fazi ibn Mubark in his book Aini-Akbari mentions the area of Tul Mula extending over a region of hundred bighas of land, which used to sink in marshy lands during summer .Some people are of the opinion that there was a mulberry tree near holy spot of Kheer Bhawani which ,in local language ,is called tul mul .But tul mul is also derived from the Sanaskrit word atulya mulya meaning great value .The horifics of Kheer Bhawani are Maharagya Devi, Ragnya Devi, Rajni, Ragini, Ragniya, Ragnya Bhagwati , Maharagya ,After the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits,a replica of shrine Kheer Bhawani had been constructed at Janipur Jammu which is called Bhawani Nagar and annually a mela is held here and the KP’s and other Hindus visit this place on Zyashta Astami also on all Shkulpaksh Ashtami’s of the year and this Bhawani Nager Shrine is frequented by a large number of devotees .A yearly Hawan is also solemnized on the auspicious occasion of Zyastha Astami and a great number of people take part in the Hawan and partake Prasad. May Mata Ryagna bring peace and prosperity to Jammu and Kashmir and end militancy and bless people.
(The author is a columnist, social and
KP activist).

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