The temple of Ragnya Devi in Tulmulla village, 24 km from Srinagar, was agog with celebration on the occasion of the annual festival of Kheer Bhawani on Tuesday.
After the Amarnath yatra, this is the biggest Hindu festival to be celebrated in the Valley and attracts Kashmiri Pandits from all over the country.
Since the migration of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley in the post militancy years beginning 1989 the temple of Kheer Bhawani has been taken care of by local Muslims.
On Tuesday too, Pandits were seen embracing Kashmiri Muslims, who ushered them into their homes and served them milk in earthen pots — a traditional practice at this festival. A large number of stalls selling flowers and other puja items had been set up by Muslim vendors.
Muhammad Shafi Baht, 52, a local Muslim, said, “The scene at the Mela has remained unchanged despite political upheavals. Muslims in Tulmulla have always eagerly waited for the festival to be of some help to the Pandit brethren.”
Ever since security conditions in the Valley improved in 2007 the temple has seen a revival of prayers.
Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah also paid obeisance at the shrine and interacted with devotees.
Deputy Commissioner Ganderbal, Showkat Ahmad Mir said, “Around 25,000 devotees visited the temple this year. Though tents had been set up, it was possible to accommodate everyone only because Muslims opened their homes to the Pandits.”
Separatist leader and Chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, Muhammed Yasin Malik also visited the shrine. “J&K is our motherland and you (Pandits) are an integral part of us. Our culture, values and our society is incomplete without you,” he told the gathering.
With agency inputs