Hindu-Muslim amity at Kashmir shrine

Hindu-Muslim amity at Kashmir shrine

The festival at the Khirbhawani temple is held every year after nightlong prayers by the devotees invoking the blessings of Hindu goddess Ragnya, the patron deity of the local Pandits.

Muslims in north Kashmir Tullamulla village, 27 km from state capital Srinagar, serve milk in earthen pots to the devotees, keeping alive the centuries-old tradition of Hindu-Muslim amity in Kashmir Valley. "Many things might have changed, but the love, affection and respect we have for our Pandit brothers will never change", Abdul Majid, 56, a resident of Tullamulla village in Ganderbal district, told IANS.

Pilgrims started reaching the temple Wednesday evening and the rush continued Thursday as well.  Phoola Raina, 40, came here from Udhampur district in the Jammu region where her family migrated after the separatist violence started here in 1990s. Since then, she has been coming regularly every year to keep up the family tradition.
Phoola, however, is not sure whether or not the time has come for the final return of her family to the valley.

"I cannot say this with surety. We belong to the south Kashmir Anantnag district, but had to migrate with other families as violence started here in 1990s. On a personal level, our relations with the local Muslims continue to be cordial, but whether we should return back to the valley or not is a matter I am not sure about", Phoola said as she dropped flowers in the temple spring.

The spring is traditionally believed to reflect the future of the valley through the changing colours of its water. "In 1990, the water of the spring had turned red. That foretold violence and bloodshed. Today, the colour of the spring water is milky. This means there would be peace and prosperity in the valley during the coming days", said Sushil Koul, 42, who continues to live at the Habba Kadal locality of summer capital Srinagar despite thousands of his neighbours choosing to migrate out of the area at the peak of the insurgency and bloodshed in the state in the nineties.

"Today is an auspicious day. The milky colour of the spring water at the temple is a welcome sign. This indicates peace and prosperity for the people of Kashmir in the days to come", Koul told IANS. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah visited the shrine early Thursday and oversaw the arrangements.

Adequate security has been deployed on the way to Khirbhawani temple from Srinagar. Fire services, health department and local civic authorities have made adequate arrangements to facilitate the devotees.

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