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Kashmiri Pandits Take Part in Kheer Bhawani Temple Festival

Thousands of Kashmiri Pandits converged at the Kheer Bhawani temple in Kashmir Valley’s Ganderbal district to attend the annual festival of Zyestha Ashtami on June 14. Many of them had migrated to different parts of the country in the 1990s in the wake of raging militancy.

Temple of Kheer Bhawani

The temple of Kheer Bhawani is located amid chinar trees and has a natural spring, which is considered auspicious by Pandits. According to the community, water in the pond ominously turned black in the 1990s and the community had to face a mass migration in the wake of militancy. The Kheer Bhawani temple is also believed to be an icon of the Hindu-Muslim brotherhood of Kashmir. Local Muslims living around the temple complex serve milk in earthen pots to the Kashmiri Pandit devotees on their arrival in Tullamulla town.

The Crowd of Devotees

It is estimated that 80,000 migrant Kashmiri Pandits from various parts of India and abroad will likely visit the five renowned temples in the Valley during the annual fair. Over 5,000 Pandits have been staying for the past several days at Mata Kheer Bhawani mela sites such as Tulmulla, Ganderbal; Tikker, Kupwara; Devsar and Manzam, Kulgam; and Logripora, Anantnag on the auspicious occasion of Zyestha Ashtami. “This time the water is nirmal [clean and transparent]. It’s a good omen. We are hopeful of peace returning to Kashmir and Pandits returning to their homes,” Bitto Kaul, a devotee, said.

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