At J&K’s Kheer Bhawani Mandir, Muslims Warmly Host Kashmir Pandits

Despite the tense situation, Kashmiri Pandit devotees flocked to the temple for the annual Kheer Bhawani festival. 

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Cameraperson: Syed Shahriyar
Video Editor: Rahul Sanpui

It’s that time of the year again when Kashmiri Pandit devotees, from Jammu and other places, make their way to the temple of Rangya Devi in Gandarbal district of Kashmir.

The temple built over a sacred spring is about 25 kilometres from Srinagar. At the centre of the spring lies the temple, dedicated to Goddess Rangya Devi. It is also called Kheer Bhawani temple because devotees pay obeisance to the deity by offering milk and kheer (pudding) to the sacred spring.

Despite the tense situation, this year too, hundreds of devotees arrived to take part in the annual fair.

Temple of Rangya Devi in Gandarbal district of Kashmir. 
Temple of Rangya Devi in Gandarbal district of Kashmir. 
(Photo: Syed Shahriyar/The Quint)
Despite the tense situation, hundreds of devotees started arriving from far off places, days before the festival. 
Despite the tense situation, hundreds of devotees started arriving from far off places, days before the festival. 
(Photo: The Quint/Syed Shahriyar)

Sarika lived in the old city of Rainawari in Srinagar before her family migrated to Jammu. She, along with her family, were among hundreds of devotees who were attending this year’s festival.

Our Muslim brothers have been very hospitable. A man dropped my family and me to the temple and he didn’t take money from us.
Sarika, Devotee
 Sarika, a Jammu resident and a devotee, is among hundreds who are attending the festival. 
Sarika, a Jammu resident and a devotee, is among hundreds who are attending the festival. 
(Photo: Syed Shahriyar/The Quint)
Devotees sing bhajans dedicated to the deity in Kashmiri language. 
Devotees sing bhajans dedicated to the deity in Kashmiri language. 
(Photo: Syed Shahriyar/The Quint)

Local Muslims Welcome Devotees

The mela or fair has become a symbol of communal harmony as local Muslims make all the arrangements to welcome the devotees. They set up stalls to facilitate their stay and also keep items for rituals.

Falaq is helping her father at his stall inside the temple compound. Along with her father she too sold prayer items to the devotees.

Falaq helps her father in selling items to the devotees. 
Falaq helps her father in selling items to the devotees. 
(Photo: Syed Shahriyar/The Quint)

Azee Mass owns a fruit stall. She says she grew up selling fruits to the pilgrims.

We lived together. Ate together. Before militancy struck Kashmir and Pandit families left the valley.
Azee Mass, Fruit Seller

Years later, she is in touch with her Pandit neighbours. In fact, she makes trips to Jammu to visit them.

Azee Mass owns a fruit stall.
Azee Mass owns a fruit stall.
(Photo: Syed Shahriyar/The Quint)
Muhammed Ashraf sells prayer items inside the temple compound.
Muhammed Ashraf sells prayer items inside the temple compound.
(Photo: Syed Shahriyar/The Quint)
Devotees pay obeisance to Goddess Rangya Devi. 
Devotees pay obeisance to Goddess Rangya Devi. 
(Photo: Syed Shahriyar/The Quint)
Kashmiri Pandits in hundreds have descended to the Kheer Bhawani temple to celebrate the festival. 
Kashmiri Pandits in hundreds have descended to the Kheer Bhawani temple to celebrate the festival. 
(Photo: Syed Shahriyar/The Quint)
Devotees light diyas as part of the celebration. 
Devotees light diyas as part of the celebration. 
(Photo: Syed Shahriyar/The Quint)
The temple is also called Kheer Bhawani because devotees offer kheer and milk to the Goddess Rangya Devi.
The temple is also called Kheer Bhawani because devotees offer kheer and milk to the Goddess Rangya Devi.
(Photo: Syed Shahriyar/The Quint)
A little devotee offers milk to the Goddess as part of the ritual during Kheer Bhawani festival. 
A little devotee offers milk to the Goddess as part of the ritual during Kheer Bhawani festival. 
(Photo: Syed Shahriyar/The Quint)

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