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Muslims Help Pandits to Perform Puja in Kashmir

The Goddess Ragnya Devi is symbolised as a sacred spring at Tula Mula village, near Srinagar, Kashmir. The spring of Kheer Bhawani is quite large and has always been held in veneration by the Brahman population of Srinagar. The kheer Bhawani temple is dedicated to the Goddess Ragnya Devi, popularly known as Kheer Bhawani. The name 'Kheer Bhawani' is derived from the fact that thousands of devotees offer milk and "Kheer" or pudding to the sacred spring. The devotees of the Goddess have kept fast and gather here on the eighth day of the full moon in the month of May/ June (The Annual Festival, held here on 17 June 2013, is a public holiday in Kashmir) when, 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.

Be it Hindus or Muslims, devotees from all across India throng the temple during the Kheer Bhawani festival. “Devotees from all walks, places and faiths come here to make offerings and we get to meet everyone. I appeal to everyone who comprises our Kashmiri Pandit brothers too, without whom we are incomplete. That if peace is to be restored in Kashmir, then everybody should come back home. The Kashmiri Pandits, even if they revolt against us. They have all the right to do so and also to place their thoughts before everyone," said Shabir Shah, a Muslim devotee. It is at Kheer Bhawani temple that the age-old tradition of communal harmony comes to the fore front as the local Muslims set up stalls for the convenience of Kashmiri Pandits who visit the temple.

Chief Minister of the State along with various Ministers visited Kheer Bhawani Tulamulla, and inspected the arrangements made at the temple complex for the devotees and interacted with various groups of Kashmiri Pandits who have arrived here to participate in Mela Kheer Bhawani and pay obeisance at the Temple of Ragnya Mata. Kashmiri Muslims are keen to see smooth and peaceful return of Kashmiri Pandits to their native land and live in harmony and brotherhood with Muslim brethren so that the trait and tradition of communal amity is strengthened and nurtured. Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, also visited Ganderbal and attended the Mela Kheer Bhawani.

Such type of festivals promote mutual brotherhood and work for making firm the fabric of the composite culture woven by Sufis and Saints, centuries ago, in the State. A rare scene of Kashmiryat was on display on Monday when Kashmiri Muslims reached out to migrant Pandit brethren to revive the age-old bond and ensure smooth and hassle-free puja during the annual mela of Kheer Bhawani at Tulmulla in Ganderbal District. Nearly 40,000 Pandits arrived here from Jammu and other parts of the country to participate in the religious ceremony of Zestha Ashtami at the temple. Hundreds of local Muslims had lined up outside the temple to welcome their Pandit brethren to revive the age-old bonding. Muslims had set up stalls selling puja material to Pandits. From diyas (earthen lamp), to flowers to milk, Muslims had kept everything available for the Pandits to ensure that the Pandits could perform puja without any hassles. This is the real emotional moment between the two communities.

People meeting each other and displaying the composite culture. Even some migrant Pandits were staying with Muslims in their houses so that they do not face any inconvenience in Kashmir. Muslim youth in particular were in full form to help their Pandit brothers. There were young volunteers from colleges who were helping the Pandits. Some volunteers’ had set up stalls to provide water and juice to the pilgrims.

However Separatists, here also not lagging behind to provoke a handful of devotees when the chief minister visited the revered shrine to meet and felicitate the devotees on the annual festival. These elements behind mischief have, the vested interests have not done any good to the community and always brought misery for them. But full marks to Kashmir Muslims who whole heartedly welcome Kashmiri Pundits as well as tourists came from all corners of the Country.





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