Mata Khir Bhawani festival, insurmountable fortress of Kashmiriyat

Srinagar, June 8 (IANS) Despite the recent killings of Kashmiri Pandits and non-locals by the militants, scores of Kashmiri Pandits kept their tryst with Mata Khir Bhawani on Wednesday at the deity’s annual festival in Tulmul village of J&K’s Ganderbal district.
As peace has a much greater constituency than violence, local Muslims turned out in large numbers to welcome their Pandit brethren.
Carrying milk in earthen pots and showering flower petals at the devotees outside the Mata Khir Bhawani shrine, the two communities mingled with each other like the good old days.
“Who said violence can change the hearts and minds of the two communities? Hundreds of years have taught us love and co-existence. The bond is so strong that violence will only strengthen it”, said Jalal-ud-Din, 52, a resident of Tulmul.
Legend has it that Mata Ragnya Devi originally belonged to Sri Lanka. The deity was displeased with the licentious ways of Ravana and she ordered Hanuman to shift her seat to Tulmul.
The temple shrine situated inside a spring is the holiest shrine of Kashmiri Pandits. Each year, despite exodus from the Valley, Kashmiri Pandits have come to the shrine on the annual festival.
The spring inside the shrine has a history of its own. Each year, the devotees believe, the colour of the spring water foretells the events that will follow during the year.
“In 1947 and 1990, the spring water turned black like coal. The invasion of Afridi tribals destroyed Kashmir in 1947 and the insurgent violence set the Valley on fire triggering mass migration of the local Pandits and insurmountable miseries for the Muslims.
“The colour of the spring water is rose yellow this year. This foretells a better future for the two communities”, said Maharaj Krishen, 45, who comes every year on the festival day to pay obeisance at the shrine.
Authorities have made extraordinary arrangements of security this year to ensure that the festival passes off peacefully.
The entire 24-Kilometre long road stretch from here to Tulmul is dotted with the security forces patrolling the road. Senior police and paramilitary officers are supervising even the minutest detail of security to and inside the Tulmul shrine.
Different government departments, including the local health department, have set up camps at the shrine to attend to any medical emergency.
Several senior leaders of the BJP, National Conference, People’s Democratic Party, People’s Conference and Apni Party visited the shrine to interact with the devotees and offer prayers for peace at the temple.
The annual festival at Mata Khir Bhawani shrine in Tulmul has started with faith and confidence that all will be well finally.
Notwithstanding the official arrangements, the binding cement of the festival is the love and compassion between the local Muslims and the Pandits. History cannot be undone through the barrel of the gun.
Annual festival at Mata Kheer Bhawani temple shrine is a living example of that unconquerable spirit of Kashmiriyat.

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