New Delhi: It is that time of the year when Kashmiri Pandits across the globe exchange 'Zyeth Atham' greetings with each other. The first thing in the morning on this special day happens to be 'Zyeth Atham Mubarak! Also known as Jyeshtha Ashtami, this auspicious day is the eighth day of the bright half of Jyeshtha (May–June) month.
Every year, the date varies depending upon the Hindu calendar. Devotees flock the Mata Kheer Bhawani Temple or Tulmula Mandir in Kashmir in huge numbers. The temple premises turn home to thousands of Kashmiri Pandits and other devotees who travel all the way to pay obeisance to Goddess Ragnya Bhawani residing in the temple.
On this auspicious day, a grand feast and fest is held every year at Mata Kheer Bhawani Temple in Kashmir, also known as Tulmula. It is celebrated with full gusto and vigour, as it marks the pradurbhava of the Goddess Ragnya (Kheer Bhavani or Ragnya Bhavani Mata).
Sometimes the gathering crosses a lakh at the temple. The grand affair, also known as Kheer Bhavani Mela has many devotees visiting the temple and taking blessings of the presiding goddess. Inside the huge temple premises, there are small temples/idols of other gods such as Lord Shiva, Ganesha and Goddess Parvati Mata as well.
There are separate shran or snan kunds for ladies and gents, wherein people take a bath or sprinkle the water over their face, hands and feet before paying homage to the residing Ragnya Bhawani Mata. It is considered to be auspicious, and many believe that by doing so the goddess takes away all their worries.
After that, one walks directly towards the inner temple of the goddess which is beautifully situated on an elevated temple platform with spring water across the four boundaries. The main aarti is conducted with devotees lighting diyas, buring dhup or incense sticks and offering their token of love to the goddess and Lord Shiva in the form of milk, loaf-sugar and flowers, which they offer into the spring.
Ritually no specific procedure is prescribed for the Puja at Kheer Bhavani. The Bhringish Samhita simply says that the Devi, whose mantra is of fifteen syllables, accepts offerings of milk, sugar candy and ghee only - 'sa kshira-kharuladi bhojanam'.
One takes the havan prasad which usually consists of Dal, Chawal, Dum Aloo and Kheer.
Interestingly, another festival is held at the shrine on Asharha Ashtami with equal devotional fervour. It is believed that the sacred spring of the shrine miraculously changes its colour having been discovered on the Saptami of that month.
Also, Kashmiri Pandits refrain from using Tamasic food on this day. Using onions or garlic in food preparations is a big no-no these days and only staple food of dal, chawal, dum aloo and kheer is preferred on this auspicious day.
Here's wishing everyone a happy Zyeth Atham!