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The much-revered Kheer Bhawani shrine of Kashmir

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Tulmul or Kheer Bhawani temple, is one of the most popular and holiest Hindu temples of Kashmir. The shrine is dedicated to the worship of Bhawani, the Divine Mother or Goddess of this Universe. Tulmul is situated at around twenty-four kilometers from Srinagar in the district Ganderbal, towards the north of the city.

Mention about Kheer Bhawani Shrine is found in famous historian Kalhana’s (12th Century) Rajtarangini. Kalhana writes that the sacred spring of Tulmul is situated in marshy ground. The Brahmins of Kashmir worship this spring and pilgrims from every corner of the country visit Kashmir to have the darshan/sight of this place. The mention of this temple is also corroborated in Abu-i-Fazal’s book Aini-Akbari in which is written that the area of Tulmul extended over the area of hundred Bighas of land, which got sunk in the summer season and formed into a marsh. Swami Rama Tirtha and Swami Vivekananda also visited this place to have the darshan of this shrine. With the pouring of milk and throwing of sugar candy in the spring by the pilgrims, a thick and solid layer was formed at its bottom. When it was cleared, the ruins of an old temple and shrine slabs engraved with figures were discovered. Here many images were also found but nobody rebuilt the temple till 1907 when Maharaja Pratap Singh who was the disciple of this goddess, got a marvelous temple of marble made in the middle of the spring which shines like a pearl in a shell.

Some people are of the opinion that there was a mulberry tree near the holy spot of Kheer Bhawani which, in the Kashmiri language, is called Tul Mul. But Tul Mul is also derived from the Sanskrit phrase: Atul-Mulya- that is of great value. This means that all other pilgrim centers are of lesser value than this one. The significance of this shrine not to be found elsewhere is that the water of the Spring changes its colour from time to time. It takes on various hues like red, pink, orange, green, blue and has often light green, red, rosy and milky-white shades throughout the year. Abul Fazal in 16th century and Swami Vivekananda in the year 1894 have testified this fact. Any shade of black colour is supposed to be inauspicious for the inhabitants of the valley. It is said that this blackish color was prominent in the year 1947 when the Pakistani raiders attacked the peaceful valley and in 1990 when mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits took place.

An Annual Festival of Goddess Kheer-Bhawani is celebrated every year on the eighth day of the full moon in the month of May/June. The devotees of the Goddess Mata Kheer Bhawani observe fast and gather at this holy shrine. This year the annual festival was celebrated on 8th June with great festivity and fervour. The offerings to the Goddess in the form of milk, candy, flowers etc. are usually provided by the local Muslims to the devotees which, undoubtedly, denotes and highlights the feeling of religious harmony in the strife-torn valley of Kashmir.

It may not be out of context to mention here again that the significance of this shrine, not to be found elsewhere, is that the water of the holy spring situated in the periphery of the temple, changes its colour from time to time. It takes on various hues like red, pink, orange, green, blue and and occasionally black, too, which indicate and forecast the socio-political behaviour of the valley.

The writer is Former Fellow,IIAS, Rashtrpati Nivas,Shimla(H.P). [email protected]



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