Pandits Make Beeline At Kheer Bhawani, Pray For Return To Kashmir

6 June 2014
The Daily Excelsior

Tulmulla: Thousands of Kashmiri Pandits from different parts of the country today thronged to the shrine of Goddess Ragnia Devi to celebrate the annual Kheer Bhawani mela at Tulmulla in Central Kashmir district of Ganderbal. Local and migrant Kashmiri Pandits along with tourists offered prayers throughout the day. Around 42 passenger buses, hundreds of private vehicles carrying Kashmiri Pandits had arrived Kheer Bhawani last evening to participate in the mela. Hundreds of devotees reached early today to join the prayers. The devotees prayed for peace and return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley. 'It is so beautiful and people here are friendly, very hospitable and simple. I have made my mind to return. We prayed for peace and our return,' said Lalitha Goja, 65, a migrant who had come from Jammu to celebrate the festival. She said many of her relatives visited the holy place after the gap of 25 years. 'Many of our community members visited here after the eruption of militancy and we are hopeful for our peaceful return,' Goja said. Hardcore devotees consider the shrine, which houses a small white marbled temple over a spring, 'very strong'. They said: 'The shrine of Ragnya Mata is very strong and if one knows how to ask, all what he or she wishes for will get fulfilled.' They believe that the Devi earlier resided in the present-day Sri Lanka and was worshipped by Ravana. 'Mata came here with Lord Hanuman after she was unhappy with the ways of Ravana, who also happened to be her devotee. Before her arrival, a (local) sage had a vision of her arrival and Mata came here with 360 nagarajas,' the devotees said. Besides seeking blessings, Kashmiri Pandits offered milk and flower petals to Ragnya Devi during the mela. The changing colours of the spring are believed to foretell the months ahead. Scores of stalls were installed to distribute food, tea and other eatables free of cost among visitors. However, the devotees rued at the Government's arrangement. 'The Government has failed to provide necessary arrangements to us. There is no proper infrastructure for the pilgrims,' they said, adding, they had to spend night in the open sky and tents and if it has rained hundreds of devotees would have faced problems. 'Last year when it rained we had to sleep under open sky as there were no adequate rooms and tents available in the Temple campus. There is not enough shelter to accommodate pilgrims during the rain,' said S C Raina, 60. Scores of young Kashmiri Pandits wished to return here permanently only if the Government develops infrastructure and create opportunities so that they can carry on their studies and jobs similar to that of other States of India. 'It is good that this time many politicians didn't visit to the shrine, which has become a symbolic and they try to befool us. If they were serious they could have made special arrangements for us, which they have failed to provide. By their visits they try to score political points over one another,' said Moti Lal Koul.