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Kashmiri Pandits to congregate in Valley for Jyeshtha Ashtami

Kashmiri Pandits celebrate Jyestha Ashtami at the shrine of Khir Bhawani in Tullamula, situated in the Valley, to honour their patron goddess Ragnya Devi

New Delhi: Kashmiri Pandits from across the globe will be congregating in the Valley to celebrate Jyeshtha Ashtami at Mata Kheer Bhawani temple, beginning 8 June.

Members of the community will undertake a march to the shrine, according to an official statement released by the organisers of the religious procession.

“Kashmiri Pandits and the Muslim fraternity in the (Kashmir) Valley are seeing this yatra as a step towards the return of Kashmiri Pandits to their homeland. Efforts are being made by the Governor’s office and the state administration is helping build the confidence among the exiled Kashmiri Pandit community,” the statement said.

The State administration has this year also made the necessary arrangements for travel and accommodation, it said.

The occasion of Kashmiri Pandits

Kashmiri Pandits celebrate Jyestha Ashtami at the shrine of Kheer Bhawani in Tullamula, Jammu and Kashmir, in honour of their patron goddess Ragnya Devi.

Pilgrims come from all over to assemble at the shrine, offer prayers and worship at the foot of the goddess, and sing hymns and songs in her praise.

Kheer (rice boiled in milk) is prepared on this day as a food offering.

Kheer or Kheer Bhawani is a temple dedicated to the Goddess Kheer Bhavani (originally just Bhawani) constructed over a sacred spring.

The worship of Kheer Bhawani is universal among the Hindus of Kashmir aka Kashmiri Pandits. The temple is situated at a distance of 14 miles east of Srinagar near the village of Tulmul.

Kheer or rice pudding is offered in the spring to propitiate the goddess. In due course, the offering became a part of the name of the temple.

As is the custom with Hindu deities, the deity has many names: Maharagya Devi, Ragnya Devi, Rajni, Ragnya Bhagwati, and so on.

The temple

It is the most important temple for the Kashmiri Hindus in Kashmir, known as the Kashmiri Pandits. Around the temple is an area covered with smooth and beautiful stones. In it are large, old-growth chinar trees beneath which the pilgrims sit or sleep on mats of grass. While most of the colours do not have any particular significance, the colour of the spring water changes occasionally.

When black or darkish, it is believed to be an indication of inauspicious times for Kashmir. In 1886, Walter Lawrence, the-then British settlement commissioner for land, during his visit to the spring, reported the water of the spring to have a violet tinge.

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