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Akshey25 at English Wikipedia [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Large Number of migrant Kashmiri Pandits arrived at Mata Kheer Bhawani Shrine in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ganderbal district on Wednesday to attend an annual festival, officials said.

Despite speculation that a lesser number of Kashmiri Pandits would come to attend the Kheer Bhawani Mela in Tullamulla town this year, they kept their tryst with Mata Ragnya.

The annual pilgrimage to Mata Kheer Bhawani Shrine was flagged off by Jammu and Kashmir Minister Javid Mustafa Mir from Nagrota in the outskirts of Jammu city.

According to the Kiran Watal, President of Shri Mata Kheer Bhawani Temple Committee, this year the festival is expected to witness an increase pilgrims as compared to last few years. It is estimated that around 30000 pilgrims have already registered themselves for the Yatra.

Mata Kheer Bhawani Mela is celebrated every year on June 20 in the Kashmir valley. Such melas are organised at five shrines across Kashmir including Ragnya Bagwati Shrine at Tulmul in Ganderbal District, Ragnya Bagwati Shrine at Manzgam in Kulgam District, Tripursundri Shrine at Devsar Kulgam, Ragnya Bagwati Shrine ar Logripora in Anantnag and Ragnya Bagwati shrine at Tikkar, Kupwara.

Scenes of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood were witnessed in Tullamulla where some local Muslim residents came out to greet their Hindu brothers.

Kashmiri Pandits started arriving here on Wednesday in buses from Delhi and Jammu. Some of them used their private vehicles to attend the Mela and pray for peace and prosperity at the shrine. The holiest Kashmiri Pandit shrine in Kashmir Valley, Kheer Bhawani temple is dedicated to Hindu deity Mata Ragnya, who according to Hindu beliefs came to Kashmir from Sri Lanka during the rule of Ravana.

It is said that displeased with the licentious and vicious life of Ravana, the deity asked Lord Hanuman to shift her image to Tullamulla village in Kashmir.

The shrine, situated around 24 km from Srinagar, houses a spring which is considered sacred by Kashmiri Pandits. The Pandits believe the colour of the spring water on the annual mela foretells the state of events in Kashmir during the year.

Authorities have made adequate arrangements for the security and lodging of Pandits.  Most of the devotees prefer to stay at shrine for the night to engage in extended prayers. Contingents of police and paramilitary force have been placed on the route for the security of devotees.

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