Kheer Bhawani festival unlikely to see participation

COVID-19: This year, J&K's Kheer Bhawani festival unlikely to see any participation

Representative image.

Due to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Kheer Bhawani Mela at the famous temple of Ragnya Devi in Tullamulla village of central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district is unlikely to see any participation this year.

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Sources said the management of the Dharmarth Trust that manages the affairs of the temple, has decided to cancel the celebration of the Kheer Bhawani Mela, scheduled on May 30, citing the outbreak of coronavirus, lockdown and government advisories.

A member of the Trust said all the rituals and arati of the deity will be conducted as per tradition by priests in the Temple on May 30 and the same will be shared with the public and devotees via social media.

However, he said in the larger public interest and safety, the Mela would not take place this year.

Deputy Commissioner, Ganderbal, Shafqat Iqbal said they have not received any communication about the cancellation of the Mela yet. However, he said that it was unlikely to take place.

Situated amidst Chinar trees in Tullamulla, 24 km from here, thousands of devotees would visit the revered temple every year, to celebrate the holiest religious festival of the displaced Kashmiri Pandit community.

On January 25, 1998, when suspected Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists killed 23 Pandits in nearby Wandhama village, the arrivals of devotees in the subsequent years decreased. However, after 2003, attendance at the festival started increasing with each year.

In recent years, thousands of Pandits, including women and children, would converge at the temple from various far-off places including Delhi and Jammu to offer special prayers on the occasion of the annual holy day ‘Zyeshth Ashtami.’

Around 55,000 Pandit families left their ancestral homes in 1990 and migrated to Jammu and other parts of the country when a bloody insurgency broke out in Kashmir in 1989. Before their migration, Pandits used to visit the temple once in a month for conducting ‘havan’ and ‘puja.’ Now, it is held on Jyeshtha Ashtami (June) once in a year.

While summer unrests of 2008, 2010, 2016 and 2019 had affected all types of activities in the valley, the festival remained untouched as these unrests started after middle June and by that time the festival was over.

The Kheer Bhawani Mela has become a symbol of communal harmony as Muslims in the locality of Kheer Bhawani Temple at Tulmulla make all the arrangements for the devotees, including setting up of stalls for flowers and other offerings.

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