The Mela Kheer Bhawani was celebrated on Saturday in J&K even as the COVID-19 threat played spoilsport by keeping the devotes off the temple at Tulmulla here.
Being one of the important festivals of Kashmiri Pandits, it is celebrated every year on Zyestha Ashtami with gaiety. On this day, thousands of devotees would arrive from different parts of J&K and outside at the temple of Mata Ragnya Devi at Tulmulla— also known as Kheerbhawani temple, one of the holiest shrines of Kashmiri Pandits, in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.
However this year due to COVID-19 pandemic there was no mass participation. A few devotees who came up to Tulmulla area of Ganderbal district were not allowed to go inside the temple shrine. SHO, police station Kheerbhawani, Syed Arif told Greater Kashmir that only the traditional puja was held at the temple shrine that was attended by the priests and a few Kashmiri pundits. He said for the safety of the people, large gatherings were not allowed.
Meanwhile, the Muslims here warmly greeted Kashmiri Pandit brethren individually as well as through video messages.
A video message compiled earlier by Kashmiri pandit and noted entrepreneur Dr Amit Wanchoo greeting Kashmiri Muslims on Eid, was shared widely on the social media featuring Kashmiri Muslims including young and old extending greetings and wishes to Pandits on the occasion of Mela Kheer Bhawani.
Many Pandits were overwhelmed by the gesture. “It is really a nice gesture from our Muslim brethren,” wrote a Kashmiri Pandit.
“This is what is required. Kashmiri Pandits sent Eid greetings to Kashmiri Muslims recently and now Kashmiri Muslims sent Mela Kheer Bhawani greetings to Pandits. This is our real Kashmir #Love #Bhaichara #HinduMuslimUnity” wrote Kashmiri Pandit and senior journalist Rajesh Raina.
Another social media user wrote, “Heartwarming especially the kids extending greetings.”
Convener civil society Ganderbal, Dr Khurshid Qureshi also extended greetings to Kashmiri Pandits. “This was a day when we used to meet and be together again, however due to COVID-19 outbreak it couldn’t be possible today. Extending my greetings and best wishes to the Kashmiri Pandit brethren” he said.
The term Kheer refers to rice pudding that is offered in the spring to propitiate the goddess, which became part of the name of this revered temple. There is also a spring flowing beneath the temple which according to the legend reflects the future of the valley through the changing colours of its water.