Kashmiri Pandits Celebrate Annual Mela Kheer Bhawani

(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer) Tulmulla/Jammu- “Faith is more powerful than fear,” said a pilgrim, who was among the hundreds visiting temples across Jammu and Kashmir to celebrate the Mela Kheer Bhawani, amid heightened security following four terroristattacks in the Union Territory.

The fair - an annual event at the Kheer Bhawani temple, dedicated to Rangya Devi, in Ganderbal district's Tulmulla - is also celebrated in other shrines and temples in Jammu and Kashmir to mark 'Zyeth Atham', or 'Jyeshtha Ashtami'.


“Everything is in the hands of God. There is some fear but people have come here in large numbers. Faith is more powerful than fear,” Sunny, a Kashmiri Pandit from Delhi, said as he and several others from the community congregated at Rangya Devi in the central Kashmir district for the Mela.

Terrorists struck at four places in Reasi, Kathua and Doda districts in the Jammu province between Sunday and Wednesday, killing nine people, including seven pilgrims and a CRPF jawan. Seven security personnel, 41 pilgrims and a villager were also injured in the attacks.

The pilgrims were attacked while they were travelling in a bus to the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu's Katra on June 9.

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Strict security measures were implemented to ensure the safety of the devotees. A multi-layered security ring was established around the temple complex and along the routes.

Several Kashmiri Pandits also thronged a temple in Jammu city to mark the start of the three-day annual mela, seeking blessings and paying tributes to the victims of terror attacks.

Kheer Bhawani Peeth at Janipur area of Jammu city was constructed as a replica of the original shrine here after mass migration of the community from the valley in early 1990's.

“This is our biggest festival which we have been celebrating here for the past three decades ... We prayed for the safety of our country, especially Jammu which has come on the terror radar,” Anu, who visited Kheer Bhawani Peeth, said.

Sunny said that the members of the Kashmiri Pandit community felt very good to pay obeisance at the revered shrine.

“It feels very good to have come here. It has been a memorable experience,” he said.

D K Kaul, another Kashmiri Pandit who visited the temple here after 20 years, said there seems to be no fear among the pilgrims.

“There are miscreants everywhere and it is their job to create disturbances and wedge between the communities. We have no fear, we have the support of our Muslim brothers. The neighbouring country does not want Muslims and Hindus to live together in brotherhood. We want to live together. We have no complaints or grudges with our Muslim brothers, they provided us shelter in their homes and kept all the facilities,” Kaul said.

As devotees jostled with each other to move closer to the main temple complex, walking barefoot and carrying rose petals, the chants of hymns echoed through the temple compound here.

The devotees offered tribute to the goddess as men took a dip in the stream close to the shrine. They paid obeisance to the deity while offering milk and 'kheer' (pudding) at the sacred spring within the complex.

It is believed that the colour of the sacred spring water flowing beneath the temple here reflects the conditions in the valley.

While most of the colours do not have any particular significance, 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.

Sunny said that he hopes to return to his homeland.“Lord Ram returned after 14 years, but our 'banwaas' is going on and we are trying to return to our home, live in our homeland,” he said.

“We pray here every time for our return. It has been 35 years that we have left the valley, but have not been able to return. Shri Ram had a 'banwaas' of 14 years, but we have been in 'banwaas' for 35 years. He was a God, we are humans. This is a failure of the government,” another pilgrim said here.

He said the community wants to live with their brothers.

“We pray to Mata Kheer Bhawani that make us live like we used to before in peace and brotherhood. We want to return to our homeland,” he said.

We are thankful to our Muslim brothers for the arrangements and facilities, he added.

Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha also paid obeisance at the temple here.

Speaking to reporters later, the LG said that over 30,000 devotees paid obeisance at Mela Kheer Bhawani this year.

“More than 30,000 devotees visited the Kheer Bhawani temple. Jammu and Kashmir administration and those who have faith in the deity, have done best arrangements. The devotees were ferried in around 200 buses from Jammu. Some people have come from Delhi also,” he said.

Sinha said a 'Yatri Niwas' is being built here which would to accommodate 1,000 pilgrims.

“Last year, when I came here, pilgrims had requested for a Yatri Niwas. I spoke to officials concerned and the Yatri Niwas that will accommodate 1000 pilgrims will be built. I am told that it will come up in the next eight months,” he said.

Political leaders, including former chief minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Abdullah, BJP's J-K president Ravinder Raina, and CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami, also paid obeisance at the shrine.

Abdullah, the president of the National Conference (NC), said he wants the Pandits to return to their homeland.

“Our brothers and sisters are praying here. They want to return to their homes. We want them to return and live together in peace and brotherhood.

We have come here to pray for the whole country, to live in peace and brotherhood and for the prosperity of the country,” Abdullah told reporters.

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