Mela Kheer Bhawani: Where the two meet

While the security agencies were on their toes on Monday to ensure that the Mela Kheer Bhawani went off peacefully, Muslim residents of Tulmulla, and surrounding areas of the Kheer Bhawani temple in Ganderbal district again set an example of religious amity. They displayed religious harmony by taking part in the mela, ensuring that the Kashmiri pandits celebrate the occasion with fervour. In fact, the harmony and the brotherhood in the locality, where  Muslim and Hindu families live, is very old and established. Mela Kheer Bhawani, one of the important festivals of Kashmiri Pandits, was celebrated with religious fervour and gaiety at Tulmulla in central Kashmir’s ganderbal district on 10th of June, Monday.

Thousands of Kashmiri Pandit devotees, particularly the migrated Kashmiri Pandits, thronged the famous Kheer Bhawani temple associated with the Ragnya Devi, a revered goddess of Kashmiri Pandits, located in Tulmulla village of Ganderbal district to attend the annual mela. The devotees held the night-long prayers to seek the blessings of the Mata Kheer Bhawani and prayed for peace and prosperity of the state. Keeping the faith alive thousands of pandit devotees had come all the way from different parts of the state and outside the state to paying obeisance.

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 belief reflects the future of the valley through the changing colours of its water.

The annual festival is held here on ‘Jeshtha Ashtami’ when pilgrims seek the blessings of the deity. According to belief, the goddess changes the colour of the spring’s waters, which are ascribed to different manifestations of the goddess. Turning of the colour into shades of black is supposed to signal approaching disaster while as the milky colour of the spring indicates the peace and prosperity for the state.

Walking barefoot, the devotees carried rose petals and offered tribute to the goddess as men took a dip in a nearby stream close to the shrine, which according to the devotees washes their sins.

Meanwhile, the decade long tradition of Hindu-Muslim bonhomie in Kashmir was visible during the festival, where Kashmiri Pandits praised the hospitality exhibited by the Muslim community.

It was an unusual event in the area, which is celebrated with the participation of many local residents providing essentials to the pilgrims. The festival is incomplete without the participation of local Muslims who set an example of brotherhood and amity in Kashmir. The devotees were given a warm welcome by the local Muslims even offering accommodation. The pandit devotees were all praise for the hospitality and brotherhood shown by the local Muslims of the area.

The Muslims of the locality at Tulmulla who greet the visiting devotees with water, milk, tea, coffee and the cold drinks seem to be equally enthusiastic about the celebration. Many Muslims had established stalls outside the temple premises where they had made the Prasad (Nuts, Sweets and other eatables as a holy gift) to the devotees. Some social groups based in the tents provide free water and other eatables to the guests.

With tears in eyes and roses in hands as a symbol of love, these displaced Pandits folded their hands and prostrated before Mata Kheer Bhawani with the motive of seeking her blessings.

Irfan Raina is Correspondent, Greater Kashmir.