TULMULLA: Hundreds of Kashmiri Pandit devotees prayed at the famous Ragnya Devi temple here in Jammu and Kashmir's Ganderbal district on Monday as the Kheer Bhawani mela was celebrated amid chants of religious hymns and ringing of temple bells.
Nestled in the shade of mammoth Chinar trees in Tulmulla village, the temple witnessed a massive gathering of devotees, most of them Kashmiri Pandits, who have journeyed from across the country.
The Kheer Bhawani mela is one of the biggest religious functions of the displaced community. Walking barefoot, the devotees carried rose petals and offered tribute to the goddess as men took a dip in the stream close to the shrine.
People jostled with each other to move closer to the main temple complex and offered milk and kheer (pudding) at the sacred spring.
It is believed that the colour of the water in the spring, which flows below the temple, is an indication of the valley's well-being.
Black or darkish colour of the water is believed to be a sign of inauspicious times for Kashmir.
However, the water in the spring this time was clean and milky white.
The mela passed off peacefully as elaborate security arrangements had been made for the devotees who thronged the temple from across the country.
It has become a symbol of communal harmony as Muslims in the locality make all the arrangements for the devotees, including setting up of stalls for flowers and other offerings.
Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik paid obeisance at the temple shrine and prayed for peace in the state.
"I congratulate the people who have come today. I want the brotherhood as it is now to remain forever here. I want the state to be prosperous and develop," Malik told reporters.
Malik, who visited the shrine for the first time, said not just Kashmiri Pandits, but Muslims as well revere the goddess.
"The devotees have come in large numbers this year. This is the beauty of India that we celebrate all festivals and Urs together. This is the country's power. I was happy to know that people of Tulmulla lent their help on this occasion. I congratulate the people and the administration," he said.
National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah also visited the shrine.
"It is good that Kashmiri Pandits have come here. I hope that God will bring the Kashmiri Pandits back sooner so that they live here and so that all Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians live together," he told reporters.
BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav told media persons that he prayed for the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the valley.
"I prayed that more and more Kashmir Pandits come here," he said. The BJP leader said that the Muslims in the locality deserve appreciation for lending a helping hand for the festival.
Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee president G A Mir, Awami Ittehad Party president Sheiikh Abdul Rashid and Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Movement president Shah Faesal also visited the shrine.