Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti visited the famous Ragnya Devi temple in the Ganderbal district and celebrated the annual Kheer Bhawani mela with devotees including Kashmiri Pandits on Sunday.
Mufti, who paid obeisance at the temple, said that she prayed for the dignified return of the Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley.
Nestled in the shade of mammoth Chinar trees in the central Kashmir district, the temple witnessed massive crowds of devotees, most of them Kashmiri Pandits, who made the journey from across the country.
The devotees, walking barefoot, carried rose petals and offered tribute to the goddess as men took a dip in the stream close to the shrine.
As the devotees jostled with each other to move closer to the main temple complex, the chants of hymns echoed through the temple compound and paid obeisance to the deity while offering milk and kheer (rice pudding) at the sacred spring within the complex.
The mela, a symbol of communal harmony, passed off peacefully as the administration had made elaborate arrangements, including security related, for the devotees.
Mufti says she wants Pandits to return to valley
“I came here to welcome our Kashmiri Pandit brothers who have come from Jammu and other places. We are here to pray for the dignified return of these people to their homes so that once again Hindu-Muslim-Kashmiri Pandits live together in Kashmir with brotherhood,” Mufti told reporters.
Additional Director General of Police, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar also paid obeisance at the shrine. He said, “Ganderbal Police has made very good security arrangements. Srinagar police had also deployed ROP (road opening parties). There is foolproof security and the locals have supported the police as well. I wish all of them well.”
Meanwhile, in Jammu, thousands of migrant Kashmiri Pandits on Sunday offered prayers to goddess Ragnya Devi on the occasion of ‘Zaisht Ashtami’ at Kheer Bhawani Peeth in the Janipur area.
The ‘peeth’ was constructed as a replica of the original shrine in Tulmulla after the mass migration of the community from the Valley in the early 1990’s. “We missed a visit to Tulmulla this time and decided to offer our prayers here…We are witnessing the same atmosphere which used to prevail at the Kheer Bhawani shrine in Kashmir during the annual fair,” Ratika, a devotee who visited the Jammu temple, said.
The management of the temple, Ardh Ratri Maha Regheneya Sewa Sanstha Trust, had set up several stalls for the convenience of the devotees, who thronged the tastefully decorated shrine to offer their prayers in their traditional way. A member of the trust said the sanstha, with the help of local authorities, had made adequate arrangements for the smooth conduct of the festival at the peeth.
(With inputs from PTI)