Pilgrims visit annual Kheer Bhawani festival

Bad weather played spoilsport as fewer number of pilgrims paid obeisance at the revered temple of Ragnya Devi on Tuesday on the occasion of Kheer Bhawani festival - a symbol of Hindu-Muslim amity - here at central Kashmir's Ganderbal district.

Tulmulla: Bad weather played spoilsport as fewer number of pilgrims paid obeisance at the revered temple of Ragnya Devi on Tuesday on the occasion of Kheer Bhawani festival - a symbol of Hindu-Muslim amity - here at central Kashmir's Ganderbal district.

Last year, about 60,000 pilgrims visited the temple. But, this year the authorities believe 20,000 to 30,000 people would pay their respects at the temple.

"There are less number of pilgrims this year and this has happened due to rains for the past few days," said Jai Kishan Rana, a Kashmiri Pandit who was paying obeisance at the temple.

Blaming bad condition of Srinagar-Jammu national highway as another factor for the fewer numbers, he said, "Government has not done anything for the highway. It is in bad condition and people avoid travelling."

Similar views were echoed by a number of pilgrims, who said the government should seriously focus on improving the condition of the highway.

"Government has been saying that the road will be made better. That there would be four-laning of the national highway, but so far nothing much has been done," Sushil Koul, a resident of Habbakadal said.

The pilgrims however praised the arrangements made by the government for the annual festival. "The arrangements are nice but the weather has been bad," Inder Kak, a pilgrim, said.

Amid chants of Vedic hymns and ringing of bells, pilgrims prayed for peace in Jammu and Kashmir at the temple situated amid the majestic Chinar trees in this village of in Ganderbal district and the atmosphere was filled with fervour and brotherhood between Hindus and the Muslims.

The fair held at this annual festival is a symbol of centuries-old communal harmony and brotherhood as local Muslims make all arrangements for devotees and even set up stalls selling flowers and other material for the devotees to offer at the temple.

Walking barefoot and carrying rose petals, the devotees, mostly Kashmiri Pandits, throng the temple every year and offer milk and "kheer" (pudding) to the sacred spring within the complex.

They believe the colour of the sacred spring water flowing under the temple hints at the situation in the Valley. While most of the colours do not have any particular significance, black or darkish colour of the water is believed to be an indication of inauspicious times for Kashmir.

However, the water in the spring this year was clean and pure, which the devotees believe is a good omen for the Valley.

Meanwhile, Moderate Hurriyat Conference today welcomed Kashmiri Pandit community participating in Mela Kheer Bhawani here.

"Occasions like Mela Kheer Bhawani have always promoted communal bonhomie in the state," a Hurriyat spokesman said. 

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