Thousands of Kashmiri Brahmans (hindu priest cast in India) come from different parts of India to the Kheer Bhawani shrine in Tulmul Ganderbal area of Kashmir. The festival is celebrated every year in May-June.
The shrine is located about 25 kms from Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. On the occasion devotees offer prayer to the Goddess Ragnya Devi. The festive is held on the eighth day of lunar fortnight of “Jaistha” month as per the Hindu almanac.
Devotees offer Milk and Kheer (milk pudding) to the deity, hence called as Kheer Bhawani. It is believed that the goddess grants all the wishes of her followers.
On the occasion of this festival that has been celebrated for centuries, Kashmiri Muslims – who represent the majority group in the region – make all the arrangements and welcome the Kashmiri Pandits with open arms. “There is a long history of brotherhood between Hindus and Muslims in the valley. The festival happens every year without any problem registered”, says Surinder Jattu a Kashmiri Pandith living in Kashmir.
The temple was constructed by Maharana Pratap Singh (Dogra ruler of Jammu and Kashmir) in 1912 and was renovated by Maharaja Hari Singh (Predecessor of Maharana Pratap Singh). Inside the temple, you will find a representation of Ragnya Devi made in white marble.
Issue of Separate Township
This year the festival is coming under the backdrop of brewing tension of a proposed “Separate Township” for Pandits and sanik colony for retired army personals.
Muslims of Kashmir welcome the return of Kashmiri pandits, who left the valley because of security issues in late 1990’s during which not only Hindus but also Muslims of the valley suffered.
“There is a difference of opinion on how the Kashmiri Pandits should be brought back, but one thing is sure that every one wants Kashmiri Pandits back to their homeland with all the dignity and respect. Those who have their land and house in Kashmir can come and live, but what about those who have sold”, Bitta Pandith, who did not left the valley in1989 said.
The issue related to the return of Kashmiri Pandits triggers almost every year and is a big concern for the peace and stability of the state. “There is a need to resolve the issue on the consensual bases and not let the wasted interests to jeopardies it, it is for sure that those settled outside would not come but large population living in Jammu are ready to come”, Jattu said.
Now the question lies on the government policies, weather they would let the tension develop and divide the people on the religious lines or make some positive steps to resolve the issue once and for all. In the meantime, festivals such as the Kheer Bhawani, prove that different religious communities have been living together in Kashmir for centuries.
Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir