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Kashmiri Pandits celebrate Valley’s Kheer Bhawani temple festival

Devotees wait to offer prayers during the annual festival of Kheer Bhawani Temple, amid partial relaxation in the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, at Tulmula in Ganderbal district, on Friday, June 18, 2021.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits, among them those who migrated after militancy broke out in in the valley in the 1990s, converged for the Kheer Bhawani temple’s annual festival in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal on Friday. About 3,000 pilgrims abided by COVID-19 protocols and had darshan in batches.

Pilgrims from Jammu and Delhi performed special prayers on the occasion of ‘Zyeshth Ashtami’ at the temple, which has been central to the community’s faith for many, many centuries. Special prayers, including havan, began at 4 a.m. and went on up to 1.30 p.m.

“We offer milk and kheer to the goddess on the occasion with the hope that she will accept our offering and bestow good on us,” Manohar Pandit, a local devotee, told The Hindu.

Many pilgrims said they were travelling to Kashmir for the first time in more than 30 years, and broke down on arriving at the temple. Hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits migrated to other parts of J&K, such as Jammu and Udhampur, and many others settled across the country, after militancy broke out.

Mr. Pandit said he was happy to see the colour of the temple spring water this year. The colour of the water is read as omens. “It was translucent and milky. We consider it as a good omen. The colour of water was black once and there was bloodshed that year,” Mr. Pandit said.

Sudhir Sham, another devotee, said the community had prayed for all the residents of J&K and sought an end to the pandemic.

Scores of local Muslims were seen selling paraphernalia used to perform the pujas. The festival is once again emerging as a symbol of pluralism and brotherhood in J&K.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also greeted Kashmiri Pandits on the occasion.

“On the auspicious occasion of Jyeshtha Ashtami, greetings and best wishes to everyone, particularly the Kashmiri Pandit community. We bow to Mata Kheer Bhawani and pray for everybody’s health and wellness,” he tweeted.

J&K Lieutenant-Governor Manoj Sinha said the festival “has become a symbol of communal harmony and brotherhood in Kashmir over the years”.

J&K’s regional parties, including the National Conference (NC), greeted Kashmiri Pandits. “Zyeshta Astami Mubarak to our Pandit brethren. Kheer Bhawani is a symbol of Kashmiriyat. Hope now on we all see peace and happiness and may both our communities live and bond together again as always,” NC leader Nasir Aslam Wani.

J&K Apni Party president Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari said the festival represented cultural ethos and pluralistic values, “which have always remained a hallmark for the people of J&K”.

“These festivities and celebrations have always reflected the deep roots of brotherhood and harmony among the different communities of J&K, which have lived together for centuries and continue to do so,” he said.

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 8:12:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/kashmiri-pandits-celebrate-valleys-kheer-bhawani-temple-festival/article34851855.ece

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