Devotees start arriving at Kheer Bhawani temple in Kashmir
Dozens of migrant Kashmiri Pandits started arriving at the Kheer Bhawani temple on Sunday ahead of the annual festival to be held on Monday.
Housing the shrine of Mata Ragnya, the Kheer Bhawani temple in Tullamulla village in north Kashmir's Ganderbal district is the holiest religious destination for Kashmiri Pandits.
The police said dozens of devout Kashmiri Pandits have already arrived at the temple.
"We are expecting 6,000 to 10,000 pilgrims to reach here from different parts of the country by Sunday evening. Most pilgrims are arriving in buses which have been provided with security," police sources said.
Scores of devotees are expected to arrive at the temple on Monday for the annual pilgrimage that takes place on Zyestha Ashtami, which falls on June 10 this year.
True to the centuries old tradition of brotherhood, local Muslims living near the temple offer milk in small earthen pots to the devotees coming to pray at the Kheer Bhawani shrine each year.
Interestingly, the Muslims living around the temple don't eat or cook mutton on the festival day. This is done in deference to the practice of Kashmiri Pandits who do not enter the temple complex if they have had a non-vegetarian meal before visiting the shrine.
Kashmiri Pandits believe that the colour of the holy spring at the temple foretells the events of the next 12 months.
"The colour of the spring water on the festival day foretells the events that will unfold in the next 12 months till the next festival.
"Black colour of the spring water foretells violence and suffering while milky or light green colour is the harbinger of peace and prosperity," said Ashok Kumar Koul (60), who comes each year to perform the pilgrimage.
Koul lives in Jammu ever since the Kashmiri Pandits migrated from the Valley in 1990.
J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik has greeted the people on the eve of the Kheer Bhawani Mela.
In his message, the Governor hailed the festival as a shining example of communal harmony and brotherhood, which have been the hallmarks of the glorious pluralistic ethos of Jammu and Kashmir for centuries. He also prayed for peace, harmony, progress and prosperity in the state.IANS