Mela Khir Bahwani Attracts Impressive Footfalls In 2023

   

SRINAGAR: Ganderbal’s Tulmulla village wore a festive look as hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits reached the historic temple shrine to celebrate Jyeshtha Ashtami festival. Authorities have made elaborate arrangements as the civil society is present to greet the Pandits, mostly driving from the plains where they live post-migration since the 1990s.

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Devotees at Khir Bhawani festival at Tulmulla on May 28, 2023. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

The festival is being organised at five temples across Kashmir but Tulmulla, a village in Ganderbal on the way to Ladakh from Srinagar, gets most of the crowd.

To facilitate the pilgrimage, a fleet of 125 buses were flagged off by top officials in Jammu. The buses transported the pilgrims to different shrines, including Tulmulla in Ganderbal, Tikker in Kupwara, Manzgam in Kulgam, Logripora in Anantnag, and Martand in Anantnag. OfOfficials said 95 buses came to Tulmulla, 23 to Tikker in Kupwara, three to Manzgam in Kulgam, two to Logripora in Anantnag, and two to Martand in Anantnag.

The tradition of getting the Hindu pilgrims in convoy is a tradition that the civilian government introduced a decade back. This helps the migrants to spend many days in Srinagar and revisit their relatives and neighbours and reconnect with the society they have been part of.

In the recent years, the arrivals in 2023 would be the highest. The village within and outside the Kheer Bhawani temple was bedecked, crowded, noisy unlike the thin attendance in last few years. The visiting pilgrims admitted there were more people willing to have their prayer in the temple than before.

Sections of Kashmir society and the political class of Kashmir has always remained very attached to the smooth conduct of the Hindu festival. There were emotional scenes of reunion as some youngsters were seen presenting roses to the visitors.

“This annual festival, celebrated with great fervour, exemplifies the bonhomie and harmonious coexistence between the Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims, transcending religious boundaries and fostering communal harmony,” former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said. “It represents a unique amalgamation of spirituality, culture, and communal harmony. It provides a platform for Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims to come together, exchange greetings, and share their rich traditions and customs. The festival epitomizes the syncretic ethos of Jammu and Kashmir, where people from diverse backgrounds coexist harmoniously, united by their shared love for this land.”

“Mela Kheer Bhawani (Zyeth Atham) Mubarak to our Kashmiri Pandit brethren everywhere,” Omar Abdullah said while greeting the Pandits. “The ancient festival is a lustrous example of communal harmony and brotherhood which symbolizes the centuries past glorious pluralistic ethos of Jammu and Kashmir. A glaring symbol of our rich past, Mela Kheer Bhawani reflects the closely-knit fabric of Kashmiri culture and ethos. I hope and pray the solemn occasion further strengthens the sense of kinship and unity among the people.”

“I extend my greetings to Kashmiri Pandits on Zeisht Ashtami which is the auspicious day to be celebrated across Kashmir,” Ghulam Nabi Azad said.

Kashmir pandit women busy in laying the earthen lamps for the ceremony at Mela Khir Bhawani at Tulmulla (Ganderbal) on May 28,2023. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

“I extend my heartfelt greetings to the people, especially the Pandit brethren, on the spiritual festival of Kheer Bhawani,” Apni Party founder, Altaf Bukhari said. “For centuries, Kheer Bhawani Mela has been significant in fostering communal harmony and brotherhood between the communities of Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims. The festival symbolises Kashmir’s rich pluralistic ethos and the reason that Kashmiri people from various religious identities come together in unity to celebrate this annual Mela.”

“I extend warm greetings to the people, particularly Kashmiri Pandit brethren, on the eve of Mela and pray that the festivity acts as harbinger of peace and prosperity in the region,” former minister congressman Saifuddin Soz said. “Festival presents a perfect example of religious harmony that has been a mainstay of our centuries old culture and tradition.”

In terms of preparations, the Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir, Vijay Kumar Bidhuri, assured that fool proof arrangements are in place for the smooth conduct of the Mela. However, there were reports of protests by Kashmiri Pandit devotees in Tulmulla, claiming inadequate facilities at the Kheer Bhawani Temple. Divisional Commissioner Bidhuri dismissed these allegations, stating that adequate arrangements had been made for the devotees.

Authorities said more than 4000 pilgrims had reached the respective places on the weekend even though they have made arrangements for more people.

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