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Despite fear, Kheer Bhawani Mela to be held on June 8 in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district


SRINAGAR: Even as fear has gripped the migrant Kashmiri Pandits and minority community over targeted killings by militants in the Valley, the annual Zeshta Ashtami festival known as Kheer Bhawani mela would be held at Kheer Bhawani temple at Tulmulla in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district on June 8.

Priest of the Kheer Bhawani temple Pandit Kalbushan Sharma told The New Indian Express that the annual Kheer Bhawani mela would be held on June 8 and preparations are underway for the yearly festival.

The famous Ragnya Devi temple also known as Kheer Bhawani temple at Tulumulla area in Ganderbal district is revered by the Kashmiri Pandits. Thousands of Kashmiri Pandits visit the temple every year on the occasion of the annual Zeshta Ashtami festival.

The annual festival was held in a low-key affair in 2021 with only a handful of devotees visiting the temple due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2020, the annual mela was cancelled due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic but the Aarti was telecast online.

Sharma said in view of the prevailing situation in the Valley, a lesser number of Pandit devotees are expected to visit the temple this year. “We expect 10000-15000 devotees to visit the temple on June 8,” he said.

The flow of Kashmiri Pandit devotees to the temple has declined after the killing of Pandit employee Rahul Bhat on May 12 and subsequent target killings in the Valley. In 2019, about 55000 devotees visited the temple and offered special puja at the festival.

The temple premises also has a spring and according to the Pandits, the colour of the water in the spring is an indicator of the situation in the valley. According to Sharma, the spring in the temple has changed its colour and now the water of the spring is blue colour

“The colour of the spring was pink a fortnight back and now it is blue.  The blue signifies the colour of peace,” he said and hoped that there would be peace and tranquillity in J&K. Sharma said if the spring exhibits red or black colour, it is being seen as a bad omen.

The Pandits had migrated en masse from Kashmir after the eruption of militancy in 1989. However, they have been annually visiting Kashmir since 1994 to attend the Kheer Bhawani festival.