Heavy security arrangement ahead of Mata Kheer Bhawani festival in Kashmir

Extensive security arrangements have been made for the annual festival at Mata Kheer Bhawani temple in Kashmir’s Gandarbal district on June 14.

The Kheer Bhawani temple shrine is dedicated to Maharagnya Bhagwati constructed over a sacred spring. The temple is associated with Goddess Ragyna Devi who is also worshipped as Raginya or Kheer Bhawani and is an incarnation of Maa Durga.

The worship of Kheer Bhawani is universal among the Kashmiri Pandits. Most of them worship her as their protective patron deity (Kuladevi). The term kheer refers to rice pudding that is offered in the spring to propitiate the Goddess, which became part of the name of the temple.

After the terrorist attack on the bus of pilgrims in Reasi district, authorities have decided to take no chances with the Kheer Bhawani temple shrine festival as hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits from different parts of the country start arriving a the temple two days earlier.

Arrangements have been made to bring the devotees from Jammu to the temple in north Kashmir’s Tullamulla town of Ganderbal district. Devotees would be brought to Tullamulla in an escorted convoy and after the festival is over, the same security drill would be followed.

Deployment of security forces has been made in and around the temple complex three days ahead of the festival. Every devotee/visitor entering the complex is thoroughly checked and all items of worship being carried inside are examined by police before these are allowed to be taken in.

For centuries the Kheer Bhawani temple festival has been an icon of the Hindu-Muslim brotherhood of Kashmir. Local Muslims living around the temple complex serve milk in earthen pots to the Kashmiri Pandit devotees on their arrival in Tullamulla town.

The colour of the deity’s sacred spring inside the temple complex is believed by the devotees to foretell the events that follow during the rest of the year.

In 1990 when local Pandits were forced to migrate out of the Valley by the terrorists, the colour of the spring was black. Similarly, elders say that when the tribal invasion of Kashmir took place in 1947, the water of the sacred spring had that year also turned black.

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