Tullamulla (J&K), May 28 (IANS): Scores of Kashmiri Pandits from different parts of the country gathered on Sunday at the Mata Kheer Bhawani temple shrine in Jammu and Kashmir's Ganderbal district to keep their tryst with the deity on the annual festival.
Situated 24 kms from capital city Srinagar, Mata Kheer Bhawani temple shrine is the seat of Hindu deity Mata Ragnya.
Legend says offended by the licentious ways of King Ravana of Sri Lanka, Mata Ragnya asked Hanuman to shift her seat from Sri Lanka to Tullamulla.
The shrine hosts an idol of Mata Ragnya and her consort, Bhooteshwara (A Shiv Linga) which is on a pedestal inside a pool.
Mata Kheer Bhawani temple shrine is the holiest religious place of Kashmiri Pandits and each year the deity's devotees throng the shrine temple in the month of Jeshtha, according to the Hindu calendar, to spend time in prayer and penance.
Devotees offer milk, sugar and Kheer to the goddess and light ghee lamps around the spring in the evening.
Upholding the centuries old tradition of brotherhood, Muslim residents of this town offer milk in earthen pots to the devotees on their arrival at the temple shrine.
This year, around 4,000 Kashmiri Pandits have arrived from outside the Valley on the annual festival and more are likely to join prayers in the day as the festival gets underway.
Traditionally, devotees arrive a few days before the festival day to spend time in prayer at the temple shrine.
Lodgings for devotees have been built to make their stay comfortable.
The colour of deity's spring water bears great significance for the devotees. It is generally believed that the colour of the spring water on the annual mela at Tullamulla foretells the events that follow in Kashmir.
Eye-witnesses say that the spring water was black in 1990 when insurgent violence forced local Pandits to migrate out of their homes and pushed local Muslims into unimaginable sufferings.
Authorities have made adequate arrangements of security, safe drinking water and healthcare during the Mela.
Last evening some devotees protested against inadequate arrangements. District magistrate (Ganderbal) and other officials later reached the temple shrine to ensure proper facilities.
The temple shrine complex has a number of majestic Chinar trees that provide shade to the devotees.
Lt. Governor, Manoj Sinha visited the shrine two days earlier and offered prayers for peace and development of J&K and the rest of the country.