IN PICS: Temple fair in Kashmir sees thin attendance as Pandits stay away out of fear

The Kheer Bhavani Yatra was closed for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, due to targeted killings in the Valley, Kashmiri Pandits have decided to postpone the yatra

Sajad HameedUpdated: Wednesday, June 08, 2022, 06:54 PM IST
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A Hindu devotee performs a religious ritual during the annual 'Mela Kheer Bhawani' festival at a temple in Tullamulla village on the outskirts of Srinagar. | Sajad Hameed

A fair is being held at Kheer Bhawani Temple in Ganderbal amid target killings in the Kashmir Valley.

A large number of devotees have reached Ganderbal to participate in the fair, which is being held after two years.

Sajad Hameed

Sajad Hameed

Sajad Hameed

Sajad Hameed

Sajad Hameed

Sajad Hameed

Sajad Hameed

Sajad Hameed

The Kheer Bhavani Yatra was closed for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, due to targeted killings in the Valley, the organisation of Kashmiri Pandits decided to postpone the yatra.

On Tuesday, a bus full of pilgrims from Jammu reached Ganderbal. This is one of the biggest religious gatherings of the displaced community at the temple, which is situated at a distance of 25 kilometres northeast of Srinagar. As is the custom with Hindu deities, the goddess has many names, including Ragyna or Rajna, along with variations in honorifics such as Devi, Mata or Bhagavati.

The term kheer refers to a milk and rice pudding that is offered to propitiate the goddess. Kheer Bhawani is sometimes translated as 'Milk Goddess'. Kheer Bhawani is worshipped universally among the Hindus of Kashmir. Most of them worship her as their protective patron deity Kuladevi.

Adequate security arrangements have been made in both the Jammu and Kashmir divisions for the successful completion of the pilgrimage.

Kheer Bhavani fairs are organised in five temples across Kashmir. The pilgrims will visit the temple on Wednesday and return to Jammu on Thursday. “Special prayers for a prosperous Kashmir and Kashmiriyat will be held during the night,” Kishor, a Kashmiri pandit, said. “Kashmiriyat is here, was and will remain for ages to come.”

“In the past 32 years, this is the first time that only 200-odd pilgrims have turned up to the mela at Mata Kheer Bhawani temple. We were expecting around one lakh people to visit this year but the targeted killings of Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs, Muslims and others have dampened the spirits,” said Avtar Singh, a resident of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Mata Kheer Bhawani temple is surrounded by a spring waterbody and is considered extremely auspicious by the Kashmiri Hindus.

Since their exodus from the Valley, the celebrations at this temple have been muted, but this is the first time that the complex has seen such a thin turnout despite special buses being provided by the administration.

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