Gangbal (Ganderbal): Kashmiri Pandits undertook the annual pilgrimage to the 14,500 feet-high Harmukh-Gangbal lake shrine in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district amid tight security.
Several pilgrimages including those to Amarnath and Machail Mata in Kishtwar were curtailed in the wake of the restrictions imposed in the Kashmir Valley after the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir‘s special status last month.
The three-day Gangbal yatra, which began on 5 September and concluded on 7 September, was undertaken according to the schedule amid tight security, with Army, CRPF and local police guarding the pilgrims, officials said.
A group of nearly three dozen Kashmiri Pandits left for the shrine from Naranag temple here, the officials said.
The group, mostly comprising migrant pandits, commenced the 36-km journey on foot after performing “Charri Puja” at the ancient Naranag temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva on 5 September. The temple, historians say, was built by King Lalitaditya Muktapida of the Kayastha Naga Karkota Dynasty in the 8th century AD.
The pilgrimage under the banner of the Harmukh Ganga (Gangbal) Trust (HGGT) and the All Parties Migrants’ Coordination Committee (APMCC) ended on Saturday, the officials said.
King C Bharati, Vice President of the HGGT, said the Kashmiri Pandit pilgrims who arrived in Srinagar on 4 September from all over India assembled at Naran Naag in Kangan tehsil of Ghanderbal on 5 September.
He said senior officials of local police, CRPF and army and civil administration flagged off the yatra and officials of other departments also attended the holy mace (Charri Puja) ceremony at Narannag temple.
APMCC chairman Vinod Pandit, who was part of the devotees, said the Charri Puja was conducted before proceeding on foot towards Trinkhul Base from where the yatris after a night stay left for holy Gangbal lake to perform Shardha of security forces who sacrificed their lives for the nation and ancestors of the community on 6 September, on the auspicious day of Ganga Ashtami along with individual Shradha by the pilgrims. He said the pilgrims offered special prayers for an early return of peace to Jammu and Kashmir.
The Gangabal lake, located in the foothills of majestic Harmukh mountain, is about 3.5 km long, half-km wide and 80-metre deep. Kashmiri Hindus used to immerse the mortal remains of their relatives at Gangbal from time immemorial.