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Mela Kheer Bhawani: Most important festival of Kashmiri pandits

Mela Kheer Bhawani: Most important festival of Kashmiri pandits

By Abid Bashir

Tulmulla, Jun 10 (UNI) Thousands of devotees from different parts of the country joined the night-long 'Puja' on the occasion of Mela Kheer Bhawani, the most important festival of Kashmiri pandits, associated with the Hindu Goddess Ragnya Devi in the central Kashmir district of Ganderbal.

Governor Satya Pal Malik felicitated the people on the occasion of Kheer Bhawani Mela and observed that this festival is a shining example of communal harmony and brotherhood, which have been the hallmarks of the glorious pluralistic ethos of Jammu and Kashmir in the centuries past.

Mr Malik, who visited the temple on Monday, prayed for peace and prosperity of the state. The Governor also interacted with the devotees, who had come from different parts of the country to take part in the annual Mela.

BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav, National Conference president and Member of Parliament Farooq Abdullah, Congress state president Ghulam Ahmed Mir, besides other leaders also visited Kheer Bawani and paid obeisance at the temple.

An official said that a fleet of 84 buses ferrying Kashmiri Pandits to the temple in Tulmulla and other shrines including Logripora, Manzgam and Devsar in Valley to pay their obeisance on eve of ‘Zeshta Ashtami’ arrived here on Sunday. These buses were in addition to around 15 buses which had already reached Tikker, Kupwara on Saturday.

Meanwhile, at least six devotees, who were on way to Tulmulla, were injured when a bus ferrying them hit a mountain after break failure in Ramban district on Srinagar-Jammu national highway.

Undeterred by the rumours about the situation in Kashmir, thousands of devotees, including women and children, besides youth from migrant pandit families throng Kheer Bhawani temple, where it is said the spring changes its colours from time to time. It takes on various hues like red, pink, orange, green, blue and has often acquired light green, red rosy and milky white shades. Any shade of black colour is supposed to be inauspicious for the inhabitants of the valley, Kashmir pandit priests, looking after the shrine said.

The local Muslims had put up stalls outside the temple, selling milk, flowers, sugar and other articles to their pandit brethren necessary for puja for the past few days while authorities have made all arrangements, including power, drinking water, accommodation, security arrangements. A number private organisations and government departments, including health have put up langars and medical camps for the devotees.

Meanwhile, for the second successive year, the government had arranged transport service to bring devotees from New Delhi and Jammu to the temple.

A large number of youngster, who have grown up outside the valley after their parents migrated from Kashmir due to eruption of militancy, were feeling overjoyed while elderly persons visiting for the first time after 90s could not control their emotions after arriving here. “Besides religious, it was more to visit our roots which we miss outside,” most devotees said.

The number of devotees, which declined after the migration of the pandit community from here in early 90s due to eruption of militancy, has witnessed several fold increase during the past a decade. The annual Mela provides an opportunity to pandits to reunite with their Muslim brethren separated due to the turmoil.

Many times, rising of bubbles have been observed, which form the mystic Chakra on the surface of the water. Such a sacred and mysterious spring is found nowhere else in India. The spring, dedicated to Goddess Kheer Bhawani, has an irregular septagonal shape with its apex called Pad (feet) to the East. The northern and the southern sides are longer than the western side which is called Shir (Head). In the centre of the holy spring where once stood a mulberry tree, there is one marble temple which enshrines some idols found at the time of cleansing the spring.

There are many interesting stories related to this festival. One of them is that when Ravana was killed at the hands of Bhagwan Rama, Goddess Bhawani ordered Lord Hanuman to carry her to Satisar-Kashmir along with 360 Nagas.

Lord Hanuman selected the site and installed the Goddess in the Northern part of the valley. She came to be known as Kheer Bhawani or Ragyna Bhagwati as her favourite offerings consist of rice cooked in milk and sugar, and all other vegetarian forms of diet. They said there is also an interesting story about how this spring came to light among the people.

In a related story, it is said that one Brahmin named Krishna Pandit of old city Habba Kadal had a vision wherein he was informed by a Deva to offer Puja to Kheer Bhawani in the swamps of Tullamulla. The pandit was guided by a snake through the swampy and marshy land, until he reached the hollow trunk of a mulberry tree.

The pandit took the clue and after performing Puja poured milk which he had brought for this purpose. It is thus that the holy spring was discovered and was known to Kashmiries. It is believed that the discovery of the holy spring has been made on Ashadha Saptami, the seventh day of the bright fortnight of the month of June-July. Kashmiri Hindus come here every Ashtami - eighth day of the bright fortnight of each lunar month and majority of Kashmiri Hindus consider Kheer Bhawani as their guardian Goddess. The annual festival is held on Jesht Ashtami (May-June) when Kashmiri pandits visit the place in large number to offer prayers to seek the blessings of the diety.

Devotees also throng on every Shukla Paksh Ashtami round the year and perform 'hawans' to please the goddess.

The historic Temple of Kheer Bhawani was built by Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1912 and later renovated by Maharaja Hari Singh. The diety of Goddess Ragyna is decorated in a small white Marble Temple.

Meanwhile, besides at Tulmulla, the Mela is also being celebrated at Tikker in Kupwara, Laktipora, Mattan, Vessu in Anantnag, Manzgam, Devsar in Kulgam and at Kapal Mochan in Shopian district.


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