Dharmarth Trust offers prayers at Kheer Bhawani, local MCs in other shrines

Kashmiri Pandit pilgrims performing puja outside the main gate of Mata Kheer Bhawani Temple at Tulamulla in Central Kashmir on Saturday. -Excelsior/ Shakeel
Kashmiri Pandit pilgrims performing puja outside the main gate of Mata Kheer Bhawani Temple at Tulamulla in Central Kashmir on Saturday. -Excelsior/ Shakeel

Excelsior Correspondent
SRINAGAR, May 30: In a low key affair, the Pujaris offered prayers at the holy shrine of Mata Kheer Bhawani temple, Tulamulla township in Central Kashmir district Ganderbal today after the annual mela which is held on Jesht Ashtami -the birthday of Mata every year, was cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic.

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The Kheer Bhawani Mela was not only cancelled in the temple of Mata Ragnya at holy shrine of Tulamulla this year, where thousands of devotees used to converge on this day for centuries together to pay their obeisance to Goddess, but also in the other shrines of Mata including Manzgam and Khanbarnan in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district, Logripora in Anantnag district of South Kashmir, Raithan in Budgam district of Central Kashmir and Tikker in Kupwara district of North Kashmir. However, pooja was performed by Pujaris and local Management Committees (MCs) in a traditional way in these shrines. At the holy shrine of Manzgam the pooja was also performed to ancient Sandal tree. Earlier Sandoor was offered to tree by the pujaris yesterday, president of the Shrine Management Committee, Kuldeep Raina said.
Besides, the Mela was also cancelled at Mata Ragnya Devi Shrine at Bhagwati Nagar, Jammu where a replica of Tulamulla shrine was constructed by the Kashmiri Pandits after their mass exodus from Valley in 1990. Thousands of devotees used to visit this shrine every year on Jesht Ashtami from different parts of Jammu to pay their obeisance to Goddess. However, the morning pooja and other rituals were performed at the shrine by the pujaris and members of the Management Committee in a traditional way which was followed by evening Aarti of Goddess also.
This year’s Mela at Mata Kheer Bhawani Shrine Tulamulla was cancelled by Dharmarth Trust which manages the affairs of the shrine for over a century due to outbreak of Coronavirus and it also appealed the devotees to cooperate.
The mela at other shrines of the Mata were cancelled by the respective management committees of these shrines in compliance with the guidelines issued by Union and UT Government from time to time.
The Dharmarth Trust in a handout issued here, today said the lockdown imposed in the wake of Coronavirus outbreak dampened the celebrations of Jesht Ashtami at Kheer Bhawani Mandir as Dharmarth Trust J&K, which looks after the affairs of this world famous religious destination has already cancelled the annual mela in compliance to guidelines issued by the Central as well as local dispensations to combat the COVID-19 contagion.
It said generally, Kheer Bhawani Mela marked the celebrations of Jesht Ashtami at the holy shrine with colossal horde of devotees and visitors converging to offer prayers and take blessings of Mata Ragnya Devi, the Deity of the Kashmiri Pandits. However, this time the usual hype around the festival was missing with temple priests offering prayers and performing rituals as per the traditions though without much fanfare.
It is pertinent to mention here that due to the outbreak of Coronavirus, rise in number of cases and lockdown restrictions enforced by the Government and local authorities, the Trust had to cancel Kheer Bhawani Yatra and Mela.
Looking into the prevailing grim situation due to Coronavirus, the priests also offered special prayers to get rid of this ‘lethal’ virus and seeking good health and welfare of entire mankind.
Adhering strictly to norms set up by the Government to break the chain of COVID-19 transmission, J&K Dharmarth Trust taking things in a right perspective, celebrated the festival as a low-key affair while observing prescribed restrictions.
Dr Karan Singh, Chairman Trustee, J&K Dharmarth Trust extended greetings on the auspicious occasion of Jesht Ashtami to the people of J&K in general and Kashmiri Pandits in particular. He prayed for peace, prosperity and well being of all.
The annual festival of Kheer Bhawani Mela falls on the auspicious day of Jesht Ashtami every year after night long prayers by the devotees invoking the blessings of Mata Ragnya Devi. The devotees observe fast on this particular day and assemble at the temple in huge numbers.
Situated amidst Chinar trees in Tulamulla, 24 km from Srinagar, thousands of devotees visit the revered temple every year, to celebrate the holiest religious festival of the Kashmiri Pandit community. The temple was constructed by Maharaja Pratap Singh during his regime from 1885 to 1925.
The Kheer Bhawani Temple, situated in the middle of a natural spring, is visited by devotees from all walks, places and faiths. They offer milk, Kheer and flowers to the deity. According to belief, the Goddess changes the colour of the spring’s waters, which are ascribed to upcoming situations.