Ganderbal: The most important festival of Kashmiri Pandits, Mela Kheer Bhawani, was celebrated on Friday on the occasion of Jyeshta Ashtami, with a limited number of devotees offering pooja amid Covid-19 protocol in Ganderbal district.
The devotees carried rose petals and walked barefoot to the temple of the goddess. There they offered milk and kheer (rice pudding) at the sacred spring. It is believed that the colour of the spring which flows below the temple indicates the valley’s well-being.
Devotees from different parts of the country participate in the three-day pooja every year, though in 2020 the mela was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic while the aarti by the priests was telecast online.
Officials said that the rituals and aarti of the deity was conducted as per tradition by Pandits in the Kheer Bhawani Temple on Friday.
The festival also gives an opportunity for the separated Pandit and Mulsim communities of Kashmir to meet each other.
“We have been coming here every year for the last six years and it is a very important part of our lives,” said a group of devotees. They said that last year they couldn’t come because the mela was cancelled.
“Though the aarti was telecast online last year, but physically coming to this place and offering pooja gives the happiness and peace which online darshan cannot,” they said.
They said they offered special players this year for the entire world to come out of the Covid pandemic.
As devotees jostled with each other to move closer to the main temple complex, the chants of hymns echoed through the temple compound. The devotees also prayed for peace and return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley.
“It is so beautiful and people here are so friendly, so hospitable and simple. I have made up my mind to return to Kashmir. During the prayers, we prayed for peace to prevail so that we can return,” said Nand Lal, 55, a Pandit who had come from Jammu to celebrate the festival.
The district administration Ganderbal had made arrangements for the devotees, including accommodation, water, electricity, medical assistance and ration.