Annual Kheer Bhawani Mela at Tullamula in Srinagar, considered to be the biggest congregation of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley and is celebrated with traditional fervor. Due to the controversy regarding the separate townships for the Pandit community, number of migrant Kashmiri Pandits have travelled from Jammu and other parts of the country to the temple of “Ragnya Devi” in central Kashmir to celebrate the annual Kheer Bhavani festival in the temple at Tulmulla in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, some 27 kms from Srinagar. The local Kashmiri Muslims community made arrangements for the fair, the Hindus hold night long prayers at the temple.
Devotees walked barefooted, ringing bells and carried rose petals. They offered milk and Kheer (pudding) to the spring within the temple complex, which is considered to be sacred and is surrounded by Chinar trees. The temple town wore a festive look with pilgrims travelling in a convoy of vehicles and is welcomed by Muslims, who had made special arrangements by providing drinking water and juices enroute for the devotees. The Muslim community has also setup flower stalls and other pooja materials for the Pandit devotees near the temple.
Kheer Bhavani festival symbolizes the centuries-old communal harmony and brotherhood between Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir. The devotees claimed that the water in the sacred spring this year is clean and pure. “It signifies good omen for the Valley.”
Pandits principal deities are mostly in natural forms. Sharika is the holy hill at Hari Parbat adjoining the great fort built by Akbar, while Ragya is the spring at Tul Mul. Ragya is one of the few Pandit deities who is strictly vegetarian and will not forgive those who enter the portals after having a non-vegetarian meal. Whereas, the prasad at Sharika is yellow rice with hot mutton liver curry and the priest even offers a sheep’s lungs to kites on the hill.
Muslims said that they will never enter the shrine’s compound after eating mutton, fish or fowl nor would anyone from the neighbourhood. It is evident from the gathering at the Kheer Bhawani, that the yearning for reconciliation is intense on both sides.
“Such festive occasions exhibit brotherhood and communal harmony among the people of Kashmir. Festivals give us opportunities to promote and strengthen the communal harmony and ethos,” said senior PDP leader and Minister for Law and parliamentary affairs Syed Basharat Bukhari.
Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department had organized a three-day Kashmiri Pandit Food Festival to promote the delicious Kashmiri Pandit cuisine among the tourists. Famous Kashmiri Pandit dishes like Dum Aloo, Kashur Haakh, Nadir Yakhni, Tamatar Chaman, Razma Daal, Chetin, Doade Al and Muj have been kept available. “We urge visitors to visit the restaurant and enjoy the ethnic delicacies on reasonable rates,” said a spokesman of the J&K Tourism Department.