Amid Vedic chants and ringing of bells, pandits prayed for peace in Jammu and Kashmir at the temple, popularly known as Mata Kheer Bhawani temple here. (Agencies)
As devotees congregated at the temple, situated amid the majestic Chinar trees in this village of central Kashmir's Ganderbal district, on the occasion of the annual Kheer
Bhawani mela, the atmosphere was filled with fervour and brotherhood between Hindus and the Muslims.
The mela has become a symbol of centuries-old communal harmony and brotherhood as local Muslims make all the arrangements for the devotees.
The Muslims set up stalls selling flowers and other material for the devotees to offer at the temple.
Walking barefoot and carrying rose petals, the devotees, mostly Kashmiri Pandits, throng the temple every year for paying obeisance to the deity while offering milk and "kheer" (pudding) to the sacred spring within the complex.
The majority from the community left the Valley in 1990 after the eruption of militancy and some of them have returned.
However, most of the pandits continue to remain outside the Valley after their exodus but looks forward to reunite with their homeland.
"We request the Centre to help us in returning to the Valley with dignity. We have high hopes with the new Prime Minister Modi," Pushkar Nath, a devotee said.
"We have come here today to pray that Kashmir should get rid of the violence and the Pandits should return. Everyone wants us to come back here somehow. This is our motherland. We had to flee because of the situation, but we want to return," he said.
Nath, who originally hails from Fatehkakdal area of Srinagar city, now lives in Bangalore after his family migrated in 1990.
The devotees believe the colour of the sacred spring water flowing under the temple hints at the situation in Kashmir.
While most of the colours do not have any particular significance, black or darkish colour of the water is believed to be an indication of inauspicious times for Kashmir.
As a good omen, the devotees believe, the water in the spring this year is clean and pure.
"The water in the spring this year is pure. It is not blackish and which is a good omen for Kashmir. Hope the coming months will be good for the Valley," said Mata Kalyani, who runs a charitable trust in her name and has been offering langar (food) to the devotees for several years no
Amid Vedic chants and ringing of bells, pandits prayed for peace in Jammu and Kashmir at the temple, popularly known as Mata Kheer Bhawani temple here.