Hundreds gather in Kashmir for annual Kheer Bhawani mela
Tulmulla: Hundreds of Kashmiri Pandit devotees prayed at the famous Ragnya Devi temple here in Ganderbal district on Monday as the Kheer Bhawani mela was celebrated amid chants of religious hymns and ringing of temple bells.
Nestled in the shade of mammoth Chinar trees in Tulmulla village, the temple witnessed a massive gathering of devotees, most of them Kashmiri Pandits, who have journeyed from across the country. The Kheer Bhawani mela is one of the biggest religious functions of the displaced community.
Walking barefoot, the devotees carried rose petals and offered tribute to the goddess as men took a dip in the stream close to the shrine.
People jostled with each other to move closer to the main temple complex and offered milk and kheer (pudding) at the sacred spring.
It is believed that the colour of the water in the spring, which flows below the temple, is an indication of the valley's well-being.
Black or darkish colour of the water is believed to be a sign of inauspicious times for Kashmir. However, the water in the spring this time was clean and milky white.
The mela passed off peacefully as elaborate security arrangements had been made for the devotees who thronged the temple from across the country.
It has become a symbol of communal harmony as Muslims in the locality make all the arrangements for the devotees, including setting up of stalls for flowers and other offerings.
Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik paid obeisance at the temple shrine and prayed for peace in the state.
"I congratulate the people who have come today. I want the brotherhood as it is now to remain forever here. I want the state to be prosperous and develop," Malik told reporters.
Malik, who visited the shrine for the first time, said not just Kashmiri Pandits, but Muslims as well revere the goddess.
"The devotees have come in large numbers this year. This is the beauty of India that we celebrate all festivals and Urs together. This is the country's power. I was happy to know that people of Tulmulla lent their help on this occasion. I congratulate the people and the administration," he said.
National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah also visited the shrine. "It is good that Kashmiri Pandits have come here. I hope that God will bring the Kashmiri Pandits back sooner so that they live here and so that all Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians live together," he told reporters.
BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav told media persons that he prayed for the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the valley. "I prayed that more and more Kashmir Pandits come here," he said.
The BJP leader said that the Muslims in the locality deserve appreciation for lending a helping hand for the festival.
Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee president G A Mir, Awami Ittehad Party president Sheiikh Abdul Rashid and Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Movement president Shah Faesal also visited the shrine.
Nostalgic Pandits remember ‘good old days’
Ganderbal, June 10: On the occasion of Annual Kheer Bhawani Mela, beanth a chinar three pandits reminiscence good old days before 90's.The trio used to live in different parts of Kashmir and every one had a story to tell.
The reporters nearby listening to them excused and asked them whether they may join the chorus. The Pandits heartily welcomed them.
One of the three Girdari Lal Razdan, a dentist, was overwhelmed with homecoming happiness. He had returned to Kashmir almost after 28 years.
"I am feeling as I am in womb of my mother. The spell in the air, the affection of people, the food and climate made me nostalgic," he said.
Girdari Lal used to live in Sonawar in 1990s. He along with his family had gone to attend marriage of his brother in Jammu. He had never thought that he will return back after 28 years.
"We didn't return, we just waited for improvement in the situation,” he said.
“90's changed everything, we were divided but our soul is still one," he said.
After all these years Kashmiriyat still exists. I spend very less time here so far but I found Muslims very much the same who used to care and love without any bounds,” he said.
Girdari Lal says, "I want to spend rest of my life here. Everyone has to take steps. I consider Muslims here as my own."
Another Pandit Autar Krishan Mautoo, a businessman who used to live in Baramulla town, blames fringe elements for the bad things with Pandits in 90's.
"Muslim used to protect us to the last moment before we left from here. Muslim neighbours and friends insisted us to stay but situation was turning bad," he said.
"I often come to Kheer Bhawani Mela. It exhibits amity among Pandits and Muslims which is age old. Look around, most of people here are Muslims. We have only one identity that is Kashmiri," he said.
Most of arrangements for the Mela were made by local Muslims. Muslims had setup stalls offering juice, water, pudding, Puja material and other things to devotees.
Ghulam Qadir, a local, eagerly waits every year for the Mela with an intention to serve Pandits .
Ghulam Qadir said, "It gives me lot of pleasures when I see Pandits here. Most of my friends were Pandits. We are incomplete without them. I hope one day they all will come back forever."
There was a spark on face of Bansilal a postman who was busy serving guests. Bansilal, 48, resident of Tulamulla stayed in Kashmir when most of the Pandits were leaving Kashmir. He is now very happy on his decision.
"I made a right decision to stay here. Muslims never let me down. They provided me helping hand every time I needed it," he said.
"My family decided to leave Kashmir and I was the only one in my family who didn't left. I am unmarried, it is the only difficulty which I faced .Most of the Pandits left Kashmir so I didn't find match."
Bansilal said, "Mela Kheer Bhawani symbolises harmony among Hindu and Muslims. I wish to see these scenes every time in Kashmir."
On the occasion of Mela Kheer Bawani Pandits held special prayers for peace and prosperity of Kashmir.